13.08.2010 - 15.08.2010
13.08.2010 - 15.08.2010
01.08.2010 - 11.08.2010 17 °C
This part of our blogging has to be recognising 3 special people with special birthdays! All with a zero on the end. That is my Mum who turns 80, Dean (our oldest boy), and Kristie our niece who turn 30 this month. To all of you we say 'rock on'. Wish we could be with you but will certainly contact you when we can get some phone and internet contact back. We saw this 'Wicked' camper with the following slogan on the back and some cruel people immediately thought of Dean.
As we were getting closer to Uluru we saw all sorts of rocks that you would think was Ayers Rock. These are some of the photos of the rocks we saw. We even saw a salt lake at one of the rocks we viewed. Finally we could see the real rock from a distance.
The rock (Uluru) is revered each morning and evening with sunrise and sunset. At sunset you would find the best spot in the car park made especially for viewings and take your chairs and nibbles to get the best photos. Needless to say we and all the other tourists here have taken thousands of photos of the rock. We hope we don't bore you with these photos and I will just pick some of the best taken with my humble camera. More are of course on the video.
We have walked around the base as well and seen sunset at various angles in the National park. Even at Ayers Rock resort where there are 4 hotels, a youth hostel and caravan park have dunes you can walk to. The rock is visible in most areas. The dunes are red with spinifex grasses on them as well as wattle trees, desert oaks and shrubs. A unique bush setting more like a semi-desert. We even saw rabbits in the dunes and thankfully no lizards or snakes.
You can also do a lot of walking around the resort and national park and rent a bike. It is pretty flat everywhere. Lucky we are getting good winter weather to make this all the more comfortable. Often it has been around 1 degree at night and around 17-20 degrees by day with wind. Fantastic! About 3 weeks ago it was both 6 degrees by night and the same in the day.
The Olgas or Kata Tjuta (Aboriginal name) are equally spectacular. There are about 34 rocks there. They are about 55 kms from Ayers Rock resort. We did a walk called Valley of the Winds (7kms) which was amazing. Check out the photos.
Most days the rock was closed for climbing due to wind but finally one of the days we were there, it was open. Check out the list of reasons it may be closed. Last year apparently it was only open for about 20 days.
Geoff and I went planning to climb the rock. I got as far as 'chicken rocks' as you will see in the photos - I was joined by quite a few fellow travellers who thought it would be possible but alas it was not (in our minds of course). There is a sizeable gap between the rocks and the start of the chain and a bit of a steep climb. The shoe traction was really good but without something to hold on to, I chickened out and Geoff who has a fear of heights had no worries. He climbed to the top. Very brave man! The word 'chicken pants' comes to mind for me.
Finally the last night we were there I treated us to 'Dinner under the Stars'. We were taken by coach to a secret location around the resort and up on a dune. It was still daylight so that we could see the sun setting on both Uluru and Kata Tjuta! Champagne in hand and canapes and a whole lot of newfound friends from overseas we shared a very special scene. After that we were shown to our dinner tables for a 6 course meal with wine and beer included (all you can drink). We tried!! We sat at a table of 10 people. Had a heap of laughs with the tourists from around the globe. Gas lamps were all around, a fire pit (it came down to 1 degree) and of course the stars. Later on we were entertained by a talk about the stars and also playing of the didgeridoo. You could get a retirement job here Matt prattling on about the stars whilst drinking all you can!
Happy birthday Dean, Kristie and Mum. The special dinner we had is to celebrate your milestone birthdays and we hope that one day you will be doing this dinner. We have loved the Red Centre and will certainly want to visit it again.
We finally left heading for Kings Canyon which was 350 kms from Uluru. Our caravan park spot is facing the canyon and every evening we have cocktails watching the sunset on the canyon. The walk here is also around 7 kms but climbing the canyon and the views/rocks were exceptional. The word 'sheer' comes to mind. Another unique location not to be missed. Check out the photos.
There are also quite a few dingoes around so we are very mindful of locking up our food. They are fortunately shy and will run away but still lurking around for an opportunity to get some food.
We left the Kings Canyon and stayed at a roadhouse called Stuart's Well. The overnight camping was free but we had dinner there and were entertained by a singing dingo. He not only sings with a various range of notes but also plays the piano. Very funny. He is world famous and has had articles written about him all over the world. As well he has made TV appearances. His name is Dinky the singing dingo. For those of you curious about this check out youtube and put in Dinky the singing dingo. A very entertaining evening.
Not only the dingo entertaining us but also his owner who is a pioneer of this area and discovering the Kings Canyon. He is part of the Cotterill family and there is a whole history of how Uluru and the Canyon tours started and the accommodations during the 50's and 60's. Also the misfortune that happened at his resort of Wallahra. He also talked about dingoes and how they are not the vermin that we make them out to be. They do have a use in the Australian country. Certainly dingo was a perfect ambassador for his breed. Obviously domesticated but still has dingo behaviours. They are more a wolf than a dog believe it or not. I will leave you with photos of Dinky. We are heading off to northern parts of Australia next in about 2 days time. Kakadu, Lichfield NP and Darwin. This means we may be out of range for a few days until civilisation.
PS Also a big hug for my niece Tanya, who also has a birthday this month and luckily is not as old as the others!
22.07.2010 - 30.07.2010
This blog has to be dedicated to my 2 lovely sisters who both had a birthday at the end of July. Sorry we couldn't call you but we were out of Telstra range and also socialising on the town last night. Will be calling tonight!
Apart from travelling, socialising and sightseeing we are quite often out of range to do any blogging/emailing/interneting and hence the gap in blogs. The photos in the blogs can be clicked on to enlarge them a bit.
Who would have thought you would be wearing beanies and winter woollies in the Alice. Nicky is in heaven - it means no reptiles around. It is after all winter in the west! We arrived in Alice late afternoon did some shopping and I had to have my latte before heading to our caravan park for the next few nights. Across the road I spotted a shop selling paintings and didgeridoos, so I thought I would wander in to check out the prices. I have heard that didgeridoos are good to help you stop snoring! Met a guy there who showed me how to play his huge didgeridoo! He was good and I wish I had the camera with me when he was playing it. Minds out of the gutter please!
He is a white guy who learnt to play from the Aboriginals many years ago when he was young. He suggested that we go to a bar that night if we wanted to see a really good band with a good didgeridoo player. So we did. And you wouldn't guess it was him playing with some fellow band players. They were fantastic.Bought their CD. We had been warned not to go out in Alice at night but we never felt unsafe. Having said that we weren't wandering the streets but were in the Rock Bar for the time the band was playing.
We really like Alice Springs. Had to walk around town the next day whilst Kea campers checked out our van problems and hopefully able to diagnose the problem for us. This he did very successfully for the central locking part and we wished he had the time and resources to fix it for us. Unfortunately this was not going to happen so we have to go to Ford and start again.
Whilst in Alice Springs we went to a place called Desert Park. Geoff didn't want to go due to cost. When a lady here told us you can get 2 for 1 tickets he suddenly decided to come along. He didn't regret it and would now have paid the full price of $20 each. It was an open air park all about life in the desert and was fantastic. Spent about 4-6 hours there looking at all the amazing life in a desert. You would think that it was all sand but it's not. We even got a recorded guide with headphones to explain stuff. All this for $16 for 2 (seniors discount). Basically the park is divided into 3 areas - desert rivers, woodlands and desert sands. There are also guided talks about bush tucker, aboriginal culture etc. Check out the views and the things we saw.
There was also a nocturnal museum with live animals in a very dark theatre which you can see once you get your 'night eyes'. Will have to leave that to the video because my still camera couldn't pick up anything except the lit up windows when you first come in and see all the lizards - small ones that is. At least they didn't focus so much on the reptiles. Mostly there were a lot of mammals - possums, quolls, desert rats and mice etc.
We also learnt why the dirt is red in the 'red centre' and probably in WA as well. It is due to erosion over many years from the mountains, which are full of minerals. One of these minerals is iron. Iron eventually rusts (oxidises) due to the elements and hence the red colours. Amazing!
We decided to go to the East Macdonnell Ranges which is about a half day trip to see various gorges and rockpools. It looks really nice and one of the camping spots we loved - Trephina gorge, was cheap to stay in, so if we have more time then we may stay at Trephina Gorge. The dry river beds with the gum trees are quite spectacular as are the granite cliffs surrounding it.
The Todd river is also well known for the Todd on Henley which is held in Aug. They make cardboard boats, bath boats etc and race in the Todd river because it is dry. I have seen it on TV and now it means something after seeing it.
After seeing the East Macdonnell ranges we also had to see the more touristed part of the West Macdonnell ranges. There are about 7 turnoffs to see things and at the end was our 2 night stay at Glen Helen gorge and resort. We were facing the cliffs and it was really beautiful. Dinner under the stars and sunset on the cliffs - how romantic! Only thing was that I had to cook and wash the dishes?? Matt we wish you had been here to explain all the stars and planets to us??? Geoff was missing your commentary!
We spent another half day in Alice Springs again waiting for Ford to diagnose the van problem with doors and air con. The time was well spent going by bus to the School of the air. It's a wonderful school covering a huge area about 1.3 million square kms. Only 140 students who live on stations in the outback. The school is as much about socialisation as it is about learning. You can see the teacher/s behind a glass panel giving lessons on computer a bit like skype but a special program created for the school. The kids also get one on one lessons so are really keen to learn and don't have the discipline problems that you would get in a normal school. It was really interesting to see how it works live. You can see the photo.
Crossing borders and seeing Red!
20.07.2010 - 24.07.2010
I visited Mt Isa many years ago and went into the real mine. You are not allowed to do this anymore. We decided not to go into the tourist mine which was made just like the real thing. It was called the 'Hard Times' mine but it was not so hard times regarding tourism. We did finally relent and go on a mine tour but an above ground one, whereby you are taken on a coach around Mt Isa mines. This was after spending more time there than we had intended. It actually was very interesting. They mine copper, lead, zinc and silver. Check out the photos..
We thought it would be a male oriented town but there are now lots of females there as well and lots of babies. It's a thriving community and most people make good money in the mines.
After being stuck in Mt Isa for about 11 days we are happy to be leaving. Won't bore you with the details but parts take a long time to get here even though it is a biggish town. On top of that we paid a whole lot of money for parts and labour and left with nothing fixed! We will try our luck again at Alice Springs!
We did meet a couple at the caravan park and after telling them our sob story they told us theirs. Basically their brand new caravan and 4wd rolled due to some brake failure of the caravan. Both had to be 'written off'. All their stuff was sitting outside their motel unit and they had to buy a very expensive 2nd hand campertrailer! A tent on a trailer. It belonged to a 'hobo' and it was filthy. They had to clean it up big time and somehow piece their belongings and trip back together again. Makes us look silly with our small problem!
This blog will be dedicated to our good friends Mike and Marilyn who crossed a border of sorts and got hitched last weekend. We are very happy for you.
We finally made it to the border for a top-up of petrol at Camooweal. This is farming and droving territory. The landscape was open plains and dry looking.
We got the tail winds which apparently save on fuel costs and is the best way to travel around Australia. The people in the opposite direction actually run out of petrol if they don't allow for this. At least that was what some guy told us.
There are huge gaps between roadhouses for petrol so you had better know what the price of fuel is and fill up wherever it is possible and cheapest. The roads are long and good so far. People are so friendly in these open spaces. Most of them wave to you when passing by including the truckies. Anyone is happy to have a chat, compare notes about campsites, where they come from and what you do. Most are older than us and have already done the whole of Australia and have bought some sort of caravan to take off whenever they feel like a change from home.
Campers all love their crocs and wear them everywhere including in the shower. We are guilty of this as well even though they are not attractive, they are damn comfortable and good for everything. Finally starting to see a lot of motorhomes now which was lacking in Queensland. Most people there had caravans and we felt left out! These homes come in all shapes and sizes. Will try to show some as we go along without looking like a pervert!
We also came to the junction of Barkly Highway and Stuart Highway. The junction is aptly called Threeways and there is a roadhouse with caravan park there. Looked quite nice too. The 3 ways being Darwin, Alice Springs and Mt Isa.
There are also free camps along the roadside where people stay. No toilets, showers etc but some of them are really in beautiful spots even though they are near the roadside. Basically you can park your home wherever you like. We might try one at this place called Devils Marbles. Check it out - quite spectacular.
We stayed the night at a roadhouse called Wycliffe Well caravan park. This area has apparently had the most claimed UFO sightings in Australia. Loved the park and will write no more about it and let the photos tell all!
We also know now why the middle of Australia is called the Red centre. The red soil is everywhere, even the rocks. It is quite different and really beautiful. Finally we arrived in Alice Springs and are currently staying here for a few nights. I know it is hard to believe but everyone here is complaining bitterly about the cold windy weather and the unprecedented rain they had last week. We are all wearing multiple layers of clothing - beanies and scarves included. We plan to drive to Ayers Rock (480 kms from Alice) when the weather is fine. It is raining there this week and very windy. Not a good time to view Ayers Rock. Instead we will visit the West and East Macdonnell Ranges first. They are also impressive as we have been told and a must do!
A lot of dust and bull!
01.07.2010 - 11.07.2010
For those of you who have emailed response to our blog thanks and welcome Maws. Sorry we can't respond to you all individually (unless it is required) but the blogs take a fair bit of time to keep up and that is our contact to you. Hope you are all well and wish we could take you all on a trailer at the back of our van. In particular, I know Matt is really jealous and would love to camp out!
If you wish to see more photos of our journey just look on the right hand side of our blog under the photos and there should be a link saying 'more photos'. We can't put them all in the blogs. You can also click on the photos we have put into the blog to enlarge them somewhat. Comments can be made at the end of our blog if you feel the desire to say something! You should be able to click on the link saying 'comments'. Love to hear from you all and what you are up to if anything.
This blog will be dedicated to our youngest angel Michael who turned 27 on 4 July. Sorry Mike we really didn't forget your birthday. We were busy mustering up the animals at Windermere station??? You are getting a bit old but that means we are getting much older. Enjoy every day and 20 something is a good place to be. We wanted to get a big present with your inheritance money that we are currently spending!! Maybe not when you read what happened in Mt Isa??
Geoff got a High Distinction for his thesis subject so the lorikeets were his lucky charm!
There was no mistaking that we were heading west. The Capricorn Hwy was a long straight road to the west and it went for miles. There was a lot of road kill once we left Carnarvon Gorge. Kangaroos of all shapes and sizes. I would hate to have hit one of the really big ones. Large road trains are now starting to appear as well like 3-4 carriages long or 53 metres.
LongreachDiscovery Caravan Park
We finally arrived in Longreach anticipating the offerings here such as the Australian Stockman's Hall of Fame and the Qantas museum. We were also told to see the Cobb & Co shop/cafe/horse and cart and do the horse and cart trip around the place. What appealed to me was the freshly baked damper and coffee - forget the horse and cart!
After staying at Sapphire we were spoilt because the caravan park at Longreach was nothing like it. It was a huge impersonal 'dust bowl'. After you had your shower and walked back to the van you were dusty again.
Even the conveniences weren't cleaned often as far as we could see. We also arrived in the freezing cold. The park is from the Discovery chain and it would have around 500 caravan/camp sites. It was huge. Not only that, the neighbours we had, liked to chat during my quiet time, which is the cuppa in the morning. I love my pot of tea and just to look around - talking is the last thing I like to do at that hour. I know some of you will laugh when you read this. Just building up my word arsenal for the day to use on Geoff or anyone who is happy to listen to me. Anyway enough said - it was not our favourite place to stay. Not sure we will see Longreach again.
The Australian Stockman's Hall of Fame was impressive and interesting. One has to be seen wearing the cowboy hat there to be part of the theme. There was lots of stuff about the early days living in the country and about the droving days. It is well worth the visit because it is well done. The drovers are represented by a plaque on the walls telling a story about them. The family provide the information and the funds for the plaque to be shown. We have a friends whose father was a drover but is not shown on the walls. Managed to get a printout of his history. I used to enjoy fishing and crabbing with Henry and had a lot of fun with him. He was a true bushy!
The stories of early days were really interesting and so was going onto the old plane. Can't remember what type it was. We also did a tour of an unused jumbo which allowed us to see the cockpit and first/business classes. It also explained the workings of the jumbo in a simple way. What was cool is the picture we had taken inside one of the engines.
I also have to mention that it was freezing cold in Longreach day and night. Howling winds and freezing temperatures forced us indoors wherever possible. We did however, have to stand outside the jumbo for the tour guide to explain the workings on the outside. I love the cold but couldn't wait to get inside the jumbo. Also saw what a 'black box' looks like - it is orange and housed at the rear of the aircraft. I know where I will want to sit in future!
The Cobb & Co people did a beautiful and delicious damper and we had lunch the next day there with stew and damper. Also watched a 'horse and cart' show which I enjoyed and Geoff disliked. For a man who says he is a natural horseman you would think he enjoys all things horsey! Alas my cowboy was not impressed.
Winton Windermere Station farm stay
We happily left Longreach onto the next adventure. Had decided to use one of the many free camping spots on offer and one of them was in Winton. This is because the caravan park was fully booked. Yes all the grey nomads we hear about are in full force. Everywhere we go we have to book ahead. So much for freedom and going where the wind blows! When we arrived at Winton, we checked out the pub where Waltzing Matilda was first played. Behind there was a camping site and the offer of shower and toilet. It was full of people and when I checked out the amenities, I was horrified. It was not clean. We found a pamphlet offering a farm stay on a cattle station called Windermere. It was about 10kms out of town and it sounded like something we were after.
It is a working cattle station run by a young couple. We stayed there for 2 nights and the plan was to check out the dinosaur museum.
The trip to the dinosaur museum was 110 kms and took us about one and a half hours to get there because of dirt road. We are not much into dinosaurs but it was really amazing because the footprints were many and in particular the large ones showed one of the 'sauruses' running across a flood plain. Also many smaller prints of small 'sauruses'.
The museum to preserve these prints was equally impressive and eco designed. It had won architectural awards. Unfortunately the builder is currently being sued because one of the earth walls inside had collapsed. It was quite humbling to see these prints.
CloncurryGilbert Park caravan park
We left Winton and at this stage I didn't want to wash my hair because of the salt bore water. I would have looked worse than not washing it at all. I have to mention the road after leaving Carnarvon Gorge. Apart from the road kill, we started to see a lot more dust in all sorts of colours and it has come into our van as well. There are parts where we have driven through locust plagues and all this is in winter. Hate to think what it would be like in summer. Yuk!! The scenery went from bushes and trees to open dry looking plains and cattle country and then back to scrub. Lots of termite mounds are starting to appear everywhere and rocky outcrops.
We are heading further north and I expect it will get a bit warm but have heard that Alice Springs is really cold and rainy so we are preparing ourselves.
People in this caravan park are also very friendly. There is always a sharing of 'little gems' for our trips especially the good caravan parks to go to. Also the sights that are 'must see'. Tonight we will go and cocktail with them and see a female country and western singer do her thing. She is supposed to be really good according to one of the people here who is not into country and western music. She also doubles up as the park hairdresser and has 'manscaped' my man!
We have had a lot of rain and it started on the night of the entertainments. On top of this we have also had a 2 day cold snap and probably longer. Have enjoyed the cold but not the rain. At least our van is warm inside. Check out the cold and bleak scenery on the way to Mt Isa.
Our next destination is Mt Isa where we will have to get the air con and oil checked and collect our mail. May go into one of the mines if Geoff is not too claustrophobic!
Mt IsaSunset Top Tourist Park
We heard that Mt Isa has never had such cold weather since 1929 so when we arrived it was still very cold. Fortunately no rain and the weather is getting a bit warmer now. Unfortunately we have come into some mechanical difficulties. Had checked in our van with Ford for a diagnostic test, in particular to get the air con checked. Other minor things were to be checked as well such as a light showing that our doors are open. Geoff and I went off to maximise our time at the museums on offer whilst they looked over the van. When we got to the centre Origin energy were going to shut down the power to do whatever between the hours of 8-1. We arrived at 8.15am and the power went off 8.30am and never came on until 1. Saw the museum in the dark and also walked around town to do some shopping, eating etc. We decided to ask for a refund due to the power outage after we had seen both museums. They happily obliged and that was the goodluck for the day.
After that we still hadn't heard from the Ford people so Geoff rang. They were typing up a history of the checks done and we could come after 1.30pm. At this stage Geoff was worried about his long pockets leaking (big time) by the work possibly being carried out. I suggested to him to think of a suitable figure and program that into his mind. Remember we still have to buy Mike a nice present for his birthday!
When we got there we were surprised to find that only a diagnostic test had been done and nothing else. The cost was relatively cheap. The bad news is that our air con has a compressor failure which will cost around $2000 to get the parts from Bris and get fixed. Worse still, that stupid little light that showed the doors were open and flicked on and off was more of a problem. We now can't lock up our van and that little part/labour would cost a further $800. Naturally the car is only just out of warranty! it was suggested we call the service centre in Melb hoping their goodwill would cover the expenses! Geoff has called and as it is a weekend we are in a holding pattern waiting for a response from Ford. Luckily we are in a very nice caravan park which is easy to relax in.
In the meantime we have gone to look at other things around Mt Isa. The dinner venues don't seem to be much except for pokies and clubs and RSL. Hate to be single here. Not much around. We were told to go and see the lake 15 kms from Mt Isa and the peacocks there. We did this and the photos will show what we saw. Very beautiful scenery and it is a river dammed up for the town water supply.
I had better send this blog now and there are developments with our van which I will post in the next blog.