Day 111. Finke Gorge National Park to Kings Canyon

Up and packed early to drive the Mereenie Loop Road around to Kings Canyon. We were told by another camper that it took them 7 hours to do this 204km drive yesterday as the roads were so bad. We left expecting the worse, but I should have realised to take this latest piece of information with a certain amount of scepticism as he also told me he had seen a wedge tail eagle that was easily bigger than his kids. Those children were both taller than Sam. Wedgies can get big but not that big. His kids were just as annoying, they had been travelling for a whole week and a half and they were trying to compete with our boys in how many animals they had seen.

The road was fine! I sat on between 80 and 100kph for most of the drive and we were in Kings Canyon and set up camp by lunchtime. This was quite a relief as a week or so earlier this road was closed, and the week before we had heard reports of people doing a fair amount of damage, including broken axels. Once again, our timing was perfect.

111 Road smallThis was not the Mereenie Looop but the road leading up to it. Continue reading

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Day 110. Finke Gorge National Park

110 Finke NP camp small

Tom is still feeling sick so we have decided to stay here for another day. Not really a problem as it is so beautiful here and the weather perfect. I do hope that the penicillin kicks in quickly though.

The boys and I went for a walk to Kalarranga Lookout, with views over an area known as the amphitheatre. As the name suggests it is a semi circle of dramatic sandstone formations. With Tom in bed I did my best at impersonating him, taking lots of photos. Ben said although I was trying I still was not up to dads standard.

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Day 109. Glen Helen to Finke Gorge National Park

With a couple of slightly dusty heads, we packed up the camper and then backtracked a little to Ormiston Gorge. There we did the Ghost Gum walk; this took us to Ghost Gum lookout, which had magnificent views across the ranges and over the gorge109 Ormiston Gorge 5 small. The walk continued along the rim for a while before dropping into the gorge and returning along the gorge floor. We spotted a couple of black footed rock wallaby, who are amazingly well camouflaged, and can get up some seriously steep and rocky crevices.109 Ormiston Gorge 1 small109 Ormiston Gorge 2 small109 Ormiston Gorge 4 small Continue reading

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Day 108. Alice Springs to Glen Helen

This morning we left Alice Springs and hit the road again this time to the West MacDonnell Ranges, the more famous of the MacDonnell Ranges. They are not particularly high but stretch on for kilometres and the variation in colour made them quite beautiful. This is the land of Namatjira, and you really can see his paintings in the landscape. Apparently he was criticised for his use of colours in his landscapes, they obviously had not travelled to the red centre and the MacDonnell Ranges.

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First stop of the day was Simpsons Gap, a very impressive crack in the ranges gouged out by Roe Creek. Ben and Sam joined a ranger tour ‘The Secrets of the Gap’. It was all about the plants and animals of the area. So on the following few stops they were showing us which plants we should take for a headache or to rub into infections if needed, as well as many other tit bits. Tom, Patrick and I just enjoyed the walk.

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Day 107. Alice Springs

It’s Sunday and a lazy day. We started with pancakes put on by the caravan park and then packing up the car and camper ready to be on the road again tomorrow. That done and by lunchtime I was a bit antsy to do something so we went to the Araluen Cultural Precinct. This complex houses museums, galleries, a craft centre and a sculptural garden.

The two parts of the Araluen Arts Centre we liked the best were the Albert Namatjira Gallery and the display of the beanies from the Alice Springs Beanie Festival. The beanie festival is held in June each year, and after the festival most of the beanies are for sale. You are able to try on any that are not already sold. This was lots of fun and there were some amazing beanies. My favourite was a knitted teacup. Patrick tried on quite a few, the first of the ones below is a telephone and the second had a similar face on the back.

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The Albert Namatjira Gallery has a focus on Aboriginal art from Central Australia. There were numerous pieces by Albert Namatjira himself, and other Hermannsburg School artists as well as early Papunya works. These Papunya pieces were amazing; they are examples of the first time that indigenous artists painted on a hard surface with acrylic paint using the traditional style of body and sand ceremonial art. This happened in the early 1970s when Geoffrey Bardon, a schoolteacher at the community encouraged the children to paint a mural. The elders at the time thought it was more appropriate for adults to paint the stories and thus the western desert art style was born.

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Day 106. Alice Springs – Camel Cup

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Today was the Lasseter’s Camel Cup we went there with the Foxes and another family. This family are friends of the Foxes from Adelaide; they had come up to travel with them for the 2 weeks of the South Australian school holidays. The cup was held at the showgrounds about a kilometre walk from where we were staying. We did want the locals do, cross the dry Todd riverbed and then walk down the railway tracks.

 

The camel races are advertised as temperamental, terribly unpredictable and very entertaining, and they definitely lived up to the press. The ridiculously gangly running style and unscheduled u-turns had us all laughing. One of my highlights was the Honeymoon Hump. This is where the ‘Groomsmen’ begin the race as usual, but halfway around the track they have to pick-up their ‘brides’ and then the sprint to the finish. The kids all thought it was hilarious when I told them of my past life as a camel jockey in the honeymoon hump. True story, but maybe for another time.

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Day 105. Alice Springs – East MacDonnell Ranges

Today we ventured out to the East MacDonnell Ranges, we had not planned on going out his way and it seems that not many people do, but friends recommended we go. Luckily we did, as it was fabulous, equally as good as the West MacDonnell Ranges but no one there. The drive was dramatic and beautiful, with high red ridges and sandy creek beds lined with river red gums. A lot of places for Tom to stop for a photo.

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Day 104. Alice Springs

We opted for a day of very little driving so decided to see the sights in Alice Springs itself.

First stop was the Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS) Base. 104 RFDS smallThe RFDS originated in Cloncurry, Queensland in 1932 and was set up in Alice Springs in 1939. It now operates from over 20 bases all over Australia except in the north part of the Northern Territory; they for some reason have their own organisation. The museum explained how the service runs now and also the history of it and the development of the pedal operated radio that was used in the early days as the stations at that  time didn’t have electricity, and batteries were no good. Continue reading

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Day 103. Devil’s Marbles to Alice Springs

All but Patrick were up early to watch the sunrise over marbles; Tom disappeared off taking photos…

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… so Sam, Ben and I took our own.

103 Devils Marbles sunrise Emmas small Continue reading

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Day 102. Daly Waters to Devil’s Marbles

Today, after a slow start, was mostly taken up with a long drive down the Stuart Highway, just over 500km. Not much to report about the drive, except that the further south we went we could notice the change from tropical to a drier flatter landscape.

Aghhh I looked at the weather report and radar for Alice Springs, maximums in the teens and bucketing down. We are not at all pleased about this. We have not had rain since the start of the Gibb River Road, about 2 months ago and cannot remember the last time we had temperatures that low.

102 Devils Marbles our camp smallWe arrived at the Devil’s Marbles mid afternoon to find the camping area already filling up but there was enough room for us. The Devils Marbles or Karlu Karlu which literally translate as ‘round boulders’ are a collection of gigantic rounded granite boulders, many of which are precariously balanced on top of one another. They were formed from molten rock that cooled and became solid beneath a layer of sandstone. Vertical and horizontal fractures occurred creating rectangular blocks. Over time, the extreme desert temperatures forced the expansion and contraction of these blocks and slabs to flake off like the skin of an onion. Voila a photographers delight. We walked around and over the boulders. There are more than I thought there would be and spread over a wider area. The boys had a fabulous time disappearing into gaps and suddenly appearing on top of a group of rocks, Tom had a fabulous time taking photos.

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