Our Central Australia trip

Our Central Australia trip

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September 1st – Howlong to Mildura: Day of rest here at Mildura after a long trip yesterday. We did about 600km from Howlong, with rest stops at Buraja roadside stop, Finley, Deniliquin, Euston and Hay then on to Mildura arriving a bit after 6pm.

We saw a lot of Emus on and near the road, and realised that between Boorabin and Balranald is a very busy Cotton growing area. There was lot of large trucks on the road but they were very courteous.

The Hay Shearer’s Museum where we had lunch was extremely impressive with a stunning garden and an excellent cafe. But we declined to go into the actual museum as it was $20 per head.

We are staying at the Buronga Riverside Tourist Park, a really beautiful park. I can’t believe how many caravanners and campers are here, arriving and leaving regularly. It’s raining lightly on and off today.

There are lots of birds and water birds and of course some paddle steamers and house boats, we can’t get away from them!

September 3rd – Mildura to Mannum: Today we travelled from Mildura to Mannum, crossing the South Australian border. We stopped for lunch at Renmark and stocked up on fruit and vegetables as we had not been able to take any through the border quarantine stop.

We passed through several pretty small towns, one that particularly comes to mind is Sedan, a very quaint village indeed!

We stopped over at a free camp on the Murray River at Mannum called Haythorpe. Again there were many water birds which showed very little fear of us and spent their time foraging very close to our camp which was right on the banks of the Murray River.

To get to the Haythorpe campsite we had to cross the river on the Mannum ferry. There are two of these ferries and one is large and even carries full-sized semi-trailers! Both are very busy running full time during daylight hours. Mannum is a very attractive small town with the very typical stone buildings that are all over this area of South Australia.

September 4th – Mildura to Burra: Today we made a late start. We first went for a walk along the river bank and looked at the resident house boats. Some were being constructed and are going to be nothing short of magnificent. Speaking of magnificent; then along the river came PS Murray Princess, and what a beauty she is! The biggest paddle steamer I have ever seen and so elegant.

After packing up we had to cross over again on the ferry and then after fuelling up drove through the pretty Barossa valley on our way to Burra. We stopped for morning tea at Kapunda and the ladies managed to grab a bargain some Opp shops there too!

We were surprised to find ourselves on a dirt road for a few kilometres but we stuck to it and enjoyed the ever changing scenery and came out at the other end at our intended destination.

We settled in at the Burra Showgrounds and although it may not be the most beautiful camp ground we’ve seen, it has power, toilets and showers and is only $15 per night. Then the caretaker arrived and told us that the scout hall (a few metres from us) is booked for an 18th birthday party tomorrow night! So change of plans. We are now heading off tomorrow after lunch.

September 5th – Burra to Port Augusta: This morning we explored the Burra copper mine (or what’s left of it). Quite fascinating that the mine actually supplied 5% of the world’s copper at one stage.

Burra has a very interesting history. We also stumbled upon the Paxton Cottages, built for the miners and their families to get them out of their hillside dugouts! The rows of cottages are now heritage listed and are used for visitor accommodation.

After lunch we headed off to a tiny village called Terowie and after a quick read it has a fascinating history with the railways. We are staying at the Terowie Railway Yard right next to some historic restored station buildings.

Our group’s four caravans have formed a circle, like in the cowboy movies!

To read more about Terowie click on the link below;

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Terowie,_South_Australia

If you are wondering why we are making relatively short trips and regular stops it’s because one of our group members has Motor Neurone Disease. Terry has about six months left to live and one of his wishes is to visit Alice Springs, Uluru and the Truckers Hall of Fame, as he was a truck driver. I have immense admiration for Terry and Janelle for making this trip.

Monday 7th September – Terowie to Port Augusta: Our trip from Terowie was very a very pretty journey. We passed through several small towns including Peterborough, Orroroo (so many quaint names!) and then over the Flinders Rangers. During much of the drive the roads were lined with brilliant yellow wattle bushes and the land is very green, although the landowners are feeding stock so the grass is not so nutritious.

Then we crested the range and over the other side and were met with a fantastic view of the Spencer Gulf.

Yesterday we caught up with washing and today stocked up on groceries and have been exploring Port Augusta and doing some train watching. It is fascinating watching the trains across the bay shunting their kilometre long line of carriages back and forth, and the little white “pilot” car tearing back and forth we presume directing proceedings. Sometimes it’s tearing along in reverse!

We were able to take regular pleasant walks along quite a pretty beach right next to the caravan park.

Tuesday 8th September – Port Augusta, Woomera then Lake Hart: A great day’s travel today. We didn’t leave Port Augusta until nearly 10am then had a good run to Woomera where we called in for lunch, and to have a look around.

It is a very orderly and neat town, but with very little in the way of gardens or greenery. But of course it has a lot of rockets and stuff all like that all over the place, with two museums dedicated to the history of Woomera.

My quote of the day was by a bloke exiting the museum: “there’s only so many rockets one person can look at”.

There are roadside stops along the way with camera icons where there is particularly attractive scenery and we stopped at several and took photos.

We then drove on until we got to where we planned to stop for the night, a roadside rest area at Lake Hart which is very popular for overnight campers because of it’s beautiful view of the lake and the stunning sunsets.

Apparently the lake is a air force training area but the warning sign has been stolen or taken away. There was a family travelling in a bus camped near us and they had gone walking on the salt bed of the lake quite a way out. There had been an air force plane flying over the lake for quite a while when we arrived and then quite suddenly two four wheel drive air force vehicles appeared and sped down to where the family where on the lake and ordered them off immediately.

The fellow told us later that they had threatened that he would be hearing from them! But with no warning signs we don’t see how they could enforce anything.

Wednesday 9th September – Lake Hart to Coober Pedy: Today we drove from Lake Hart free camp overnight camp to Coober Pedy. We saw several Fergie tractors pulling caravans heading south as apparently there had been a Fergie tractor rally finishing in Alice Springs. Very strange to see the huge orange tractors pulling caravans!

Apart from that our trip was uneventful, we stopped frequently to rest. Our other two companions Janelle, Terry, Dave and Marg are working their way along behind us as they are travelling a bit slower than us so we will wait here for them to catch up.

The landscape although barren has it’s own unique beauty with the red soil and mixture of colours and textures in the vegetation.

Thursday September 10th – Exploring Coober Pedy: After a leisurely brekky and a load of washing done and hung out we headed out to investigate the many mines, diggings and shops selling opals that make up the famous Coober Pedy.

After happening to chat with a local tour guide while I was waiting for Greg to come out of the information centre, I found out the best mine to go to and even a nature reserve to explore (The Breakaways) which we will do tomorrow.

Not to mention his quote of the day: “God said to the aborigines – wait here and don’t do anything until I get back”.

The Old Timers mine was quite fascinating with lots of history and even an underground dwelling and museum.

Friday 11th September – Breakaway Conservation Park: Janelle, Terry, Dave and Marg caught up with us yesterday, Terry (who has Motor Neurone Disease) is finding the warm dry air is really agreeing with him and he is feeling better than he has for a while. So we decided to stay another night and set off tomorrow and travel with them to Alice Springs.

So this morning we drove out to Breakaway Conservation Park. We had some basic information that we got from the information centre but it didn’t prepare us for the stunning scenery and amazing colours and formations of this place that we had never heard of. The photos are not going to do it justice.

At a lookout on the highest point it was very windy and it was quite amusing to see Ruff and Mia trying to keep their footing, they were very relieved to get back into their travelling crate!

There was also the famous Dog Fence which of course we had to stop and pose in front of!

Monday 14th September – Coober Pedy to Alice: Finally got round to my blog from beautiful Alice Springs where it is 30c now at 12 noon. Yesterday we did the second league of our trip from Coober Pedy to Alice Springs. We stayed over at some anonymous roadside stop which consisted of two bins and a shade cover. But the sunset and sunrise was beautiful as is normal in this part of the country.

I took the photos of the wild flowers at a mid-morning break but we had been enjoying a view of a mauve-pink flush in the landscape for about ten or so kilometres.

The scenery during our journey varied from quite barren land to salt bush, mallee looking scrub and then over the border into the Northern Territory the landscape changed to red rocky escarpments and dry river beds with lots of flood signs. The dry river beds are populated with what look like ghost gums and the beauty of this landscape really can’t be captured in a photo. No wonder so many artists have painted these amazing scenes.

Our lunch stop was at Marla. The photo of the six road trains is at Marla a great service stop with a shady grassed area, the stock road train had brahman cattle on board.

We had a rest break at the dry Finke river with the company of a small copper coloured snake which passed through our camp and had everyone hopping around out of it’s way!

We finally arrived in Alice Springs and set up camp at the Showgrounds where although the facilities are basic, there is green grass and space for the dogs to run around.

Wednesday 16th September – Alice Springs & surrounds: A quiet day today after exploring West MacDonnell National Park including Standley Chasm and, Simpson’s Gap and Ormiston Gorge yesterday.

On Monday we caught up on washing and shopping. And we will probably head out after lunch to visit some other local attractions. We had to find a safe place for Ruff and Mia yesterday as we could not take them into the National Parks. We managed to finally find a friendly vet clinic who put them in their doggy day care program in a very modern air conditioned clinic which gave us peace of mind while we had a day in the parks.

It seems you have to drive long distances to get anywhere at all in the Northern Territory and we covered a bit over 300 kilometres by the time we got home, and there were a lot more places we could have visited.

Wildlife was abundant with Port Lincoln Parrots and many other birds both in the park here and in Ormiston Gorge, little Grebes in the water at Ormiston Gorge as well as several types of fish, pretty Spinifex Pigeons which were not afraid of me and came very close so I could get a good photo and it wouldn’t be central Australia without a dingo lurking in the scrub just off the walking track at Ormiston Gorge! We also saw many of the beautiful Cycads that grow wild in this area.

Some of us went for a swim at Ormisong Gorge but the water was very cold. Surprisingly there was a lot of people there laying around on the sand as if it was a busy coastal beach!

Standley Chasm was I think the most most spectacular with it’s vertical red walls and amazing variety of colours and textures.

I will say again, it’s no wonder so many artists choose to paint this landscape, it’s truly beautiful and needs to be seen in real life to be really appreciated.

This afternoon we went for a drive and purchased some levelling chocks for the caravan (nothing like rolling out of bed during the night) and drove to Anzac Hill for a great 360 view of Alice Springs. We drove into the entrance to the Alice Springs Desert Park only to be greated by the normal sigh stating that no pets are allowed. In the process of doing a U turn Greg spotted a Thorny Devil sunning itself on a log. I got out of the car expecting it to take off but he obliged by staying right where he was and I was able to creep up very close for some good photos of one fabulous example of Aussie wildlife!

There was also some Sturt’s Desert Pea growing just outside the entrance to the park and I couldn’t resist taking a photo of them too. There are Desert Peas growing as feature plants on median strips in Alice Springs!

Thursday 17th September: My birthday! I was greeted this morning by freshly made pancakes served by Mary and Fran! After that great start to the day we headed off to the National Road Transport Hall of Fame. And isn’t that an eye opener! There are heavy vehicles of all types and vintages and all sorts of conditions, from almost rusted out to brand new Kenworths in mint condition in the Kenworth Museum.

The Shell Rimula Wall of Fame is where many truckers stories are told and photos are displayed. This truckers hall of fame as it’s more commonly known is where Terry had his heart set on going and him and Janelle got quite emotional while exploring the many areas of this fascinating place. Janelle is submitting Terry’s photo and story to be displayed with the other truckies in the hall of fame.

In the same complex is the Ghan Legends Museum which was also quite fascinating. We had morning tea there. One could actually spend a lot more time in this whole mix of museums and collections.

After leaving the National Transport Museum we went into town and found a great cafe (Epilogue) and had a yummy Birthday lunch. Then did some shopping in preparation for our trip to Uluru tomorrow.

Australian Ringneck or Port Lincoln parrots are very common around this area and I finally managed to get a half decent photo of some near our campsite today.

Friday 18th September – Arrival at Uluru via Finke River: Fran and Mary had gone off with Maria and Noel to some gem fields to prospect for garnets so while we waited for them to return we packed up and walked the dogs.

On their return at about 3pm we all headed off to Uluru. We managed to get as far as the Finke river rest stop at about 4pm, just in time for happy hour after we had set up. No snakes spotted this time but we couldn’t resist a walk in the river bed again in the morning and found a fascinating set of varied creature prints in the sand.

Saturday 19th September: We headed off again a bit before nine am and refuelled again at the Erlunda roadhouse at 10am and had short break.
Then on again until we stopped at the Mt Connor lookout for a quick look at the inselberg that is sometimes mistaken for Uluru.

It was about 1pm when we finally spotted the magnificent Uluru on our left hand side peeping out from behind the red sand dunes and 1.30 when we arrived at the Yulara resort and set up camp.

It is all very different than when Greg and I were here about 40 years ago! Except for the rock that is.

Sunday 20th September – Uluru National Park: This morning we dragged ourselves out of bed at 5am along with what seemed like about a third of the caravan park’s population and headed off to Uluru National Park to view the rock at sunrise. It reminded me of Anzac morning with a procession of cars, vans and busses all sizes. People of all nationalities then alighted from these vehicles in the large car parks and headed up well maintained red sandy walking parks to the various viewing platforms to await sunrise and the changing colours of magnificent Uluru.

Everyone was taking photos with a huge variety of cameras, from professional looking stuff on tripods to the ever present mobile phones and iPads. There was even a GoPro or two!

We headed back for a shower and breaky at 7am. We then walked to the very pleasant small shopping centre via more sandy red paths where we had a cuppa and purchased gifts for Lia and Jimmy.

This afternoon we had a rest and a swim in the pool and then headed off at 4pm to see Kata Tjuta (The Olgas). We climbed to the valley of the winds and then went to the viewing place and watched the sunset and took photos then headed back to camp.

I think Kata Tjuta in a lot of ways has more character than Uluru but probably not as spectacular.

Monday 21st September – Kings Canyon: (Bit late updating this as we’ve had no telephone service from when we left Uluru – Kings Canyon – until we arrived here at Erldunda where we are staying the night). This morning we half packed up and then waked into the resort centre again. This time detouring up to the Imalung lookout where I took some more photos and managed to capture an eagle in the frame.

At about 10.30 when Fran and Mary came back from walking around Uluru we left for Kings Canyon which is in the Watarrka National Park. Our first stop was at Curtin Springs then lunch at a wayside stop where we had the company of a female dingo who posed for photos hopefully in exchange for food. It is a very bad idea to feed dingos so we did not, but unfortunately one of the other travellers who had stopped there did give her something and apparently people often do otherwise she would not be there.

We arrived at the Kings Canyon Resort at about 3.30 and have found everyone here very friendly indeed. A bus load of teenagers from Tumut arrived about 6pm and have set up right opposite us so it will probably be a noisy night!
We were pleasantly surprised by the kids settling in by 10pm and but then all up by 5.30am and the bus starting up at 6 and then off to the Canyon.

We followed suit at a more respectable hour of 9am and after reading the descriptions of the various walks around and through Kings Canyon and looking at the 500 steps that initiated the Rim walk we opted for the Creek walk, with the company of a lady who’s hubby had chosen the Rim walk.

The Creek walk was absolutely delightful, winding our way through the base of the canyon with stunning views of the multi coloured rock formations, vegetation, birds. The walk culminated in a raised lookout platform where we could see the intrepid souls who were degotiating the Rim walk. We sat there and soaked up the atmosphere and chatted to like minded people including an AAKing bus driver who explained some of the canyon’s structure to us, then returned along the same path where we discovered even more wonderful sights and even a kangaroo.

I was amazed how some people seem to wear blinkers and fail to see what is around them in these beautiful places, some young people were actually too busy looking at their phones  and not observe their surroundings. I had spotted a small red kangaroo grazing just off the path and we stopped to watch it and take photos. While standing there pointing our cameras and talking about it, up to 20 people walked past us on the track but only two of them also saw the kangaroo and stopped to watch it, the others were either talking amongst themselves or just not observing their surroundings, Incredible!

The photo of Greg is him hanging out the washing, the fly net is a popular fashion accessory in NT as the flies are numerous and very persistent!

The photo of the magpie I just couldn’t resist. We were sitting outside our caravan watching new campers arriving and setting up and hoping the male puppy or big female dingo who have been regular visitors, trotting around the caravan park, would come by again so I could get a photo of one of them. I finally got lucky with the female, but she was very street-smart and quick. In the eucalypt tree shading our campsite there had been a Magpie for some time and warbling as only Magpies can warble. So I snapped a photo of him. I think Magpies, Pee Wees and Crested Pigeons are the only birds that we’ve had in common everwhere we have been. Although down south in Mildura and Port Augusta it was the white backed Magpie as a southern variant.

On Tuesday evening we walked to a lookout point just beyond the camping ground to watch the sunset over the George Gill Range (where Kings Canyon is). These sunset viewings become quite the social event with people chatting about their trips, comparing notes on the best places to stay and visit and this one even had a portable bar!

Thursday 24th – Leaving Kings Canyon and heading to Broken Hill: We set out from Kings Canyon destination Coober Pedy. We had morning tea at the border of SA and then lunch at Marla. We are fascinated at the number of wedge tailed eagles feasting on road-kill all over NT and SA. I’m sure the number of these amazing birds is boosted by the amount of dead animals for them to feed on, I just wonder where they make their nests as large trees are few and far between.

We stayed overnight in the same caravan park in Coober Pedy that we did on the way up and topped up our groceries at the IGA.

Friday 25th 8am: Bright and early we set out from Coober Pedy to Port Augusta. We had a quick stop at Ingomar at 9am, then morning tea at Glendambo. This time we remembered to stop and take a photo of Lake Dutton.

Saturday 26th: We left Port Augusta at about 8am and travelled through varying South Australian landscape until our morning tea stop at Orroroo. This is a very nice little town with a grassy median strip and plenty of facilities for travellers. An interesting shop sells all types of kangaroo products and they had beautifully made bags but they were very expensive.

We stopped for lunch at Yunta which is a roadhouse then onwards and through several places with fascinating names such as Cockburn and Thackaringa!

We arrived at Broken Hill at about at about 3pm and set up camp along the track fence along with about 30 other campers and caravanners.

The showers are in the jockey’s room under the grandstand which is quite quaint but there is plenty of space. And we can exercise the dogs in the mounting yard. First thing in the morning we have been woken by the pounding of hooves on sand as the trotters are exercised on the track just metres from our beds! There is something different to see and do every time we set up camp.

Sunday 27th – Sightseeing around Broken Hill: Our first visit this morning was to the very comprehensive information centre where there just happened to be a Gloria Jean’s coffee shop which we took advantage of.

We then headed off to Silverton where Mad Max2 was made. Although it’s quite famous for this movie it also has other interesting and much older and relevant history plus about five fascinating small galleries, one of which I am going to give a very bad report on TripAdvisor as the owner was extremely arogant and rude!

This was made up for by the other galleries and the Mad Max museum all being quite fascinating and the owners very friendly. We had lunch at the Silverton pub.

This afternoon we drove up to the miners lookout, shop, museum, restaurant and miners memorial, so sad to read of the deaths of the miners. Quite a strange place as it is built on the top of what appears to be a pile of rocks!

Greg was very happy, he had been told that there was a giant chair that Billy Connelly had been photographed sitting on somewhere in Broken Hill and there it was! So he sat on it and I took his photo.

Monday 28th September – Living desert sculptures: Today we did more touristy things around Broken Hill. There is so much to see around this very old but very interesting place. First off we visited two of the most famous artists in Australia, Pro Hart and Jack Absalom. Apart from both the galleries displaying truly breath-taking works of art, both these men have absolutely fascinating life stories to tell.

Jack actually wanders around his gallery chatting to visitors, and Pro Hart’s receptionist realising that Greg was waiting outside with our dogs whilst I took my turn exploring the gallery went outside and insisted he come inside with the dogs! Apparently Pro was an animal lover and as a youngster used to bring home all sorts of stray creatures.

We also visited the Royal Flying doctor at the airport which has an excellent display.

After lunch Fran and Mary babysat Ruff and Mia and Greg and I drove out to the Living Desert Sculptures and Sanctuary. It was quite different to what I had visualised as the sculptures are all quite closed together on top of a hill.

This beautiful place and the sculptures can only be described as awe-inspiring and must be seen to be appreciated.

Tuesday 29th September – Broken Hill to Gol Gol: This morning we left Broken Hill bright and early at 8.15 after watching the trotters early morning workout. We then had the most entertaining trip of all our holiday.

Morning tea was at Menindee were we bought coffee at a corner store. A very quiet and small town indeed.
One thing that was glaringly obvious today was the lack of roadside rest areas, in direct contrast to the many available in both South Australia and Northern Territory, there are none at all in this area of NSW. The country is still very arid with the low scrub but some areas have been cropped and it does seem as if they have had recent rain as it is fairly green.

The road from Menindee to Pooncarrie is dirt and some of it very rough and it was on this stretch of road that we had some fun! There were many photographic opportunities (or so we thought) and since we were travelling a fair bit slower and and there was very little traffic, we made many stops to try and capture photos of Emus, kangaroos, wild flowers, magnificent gum trees and whatever else took our fancy!

Many times we braked to a stop then dived out of the cars and stalked the kangaroos or emus and tried to get a good photo in the twenty seconds or so we had before they took fright and bounded away! One particular poor Emu raced alongside us for about five kilometres!

There were many areas were the ground was covered in everlastings, giving a wonderful flushed effect to the landscape. I was also enchanted by the many huge gum trees, many with their branches hanging so low they touch the ground. Each one is a masterpiece in itself.

We were quite pleased because we had finally got to drive quite some distance on a dirt road, but then we came to some road works and had to drive through mud too.

We joined the Darling River along this road and were disappointed to find it very muddy and low and inundated with weed. We stopped for lunch at Pooncarrie in an area by the river so it was very nice to be by water again.

We stopped again for a rest break at Wentworth on the Darling and this time it was a very pleasant place and the river was clean and I found it quite a charming little town.

We refueled at Mildura and continued through to Gol Gol State Park where we are staying for the night. A lovely serene place. Some cheeky Apostle birds came right up to us and tried to get us to feed them, very cheeky they were!

Wednesday 30th September – Gol Gol to Echuca: We were up early again marvelling at our magic four star camping spot and soaking up the serenity, how luck we are in Australia.

When we got up at sunrise there was a large grey kangaroo nibbling a green pick of grass just next to our van and if we pretended we hadn’t seen him he stayed there until we got a bit too busy for his comfort and he moved away.

The reflections on the river as the sun rose were so pretty I took a photo. I had never tried to photograph reflections before so I am pretty happy!

I also got a good photo of a bird of prey sitting on a high branch over the river hunting for his breakfast, possibly a Little Eagle?

We also identified the cheeky birds from last night who returned this morning as Apostle birds. This time they also came very close demanding food again with their funny chirping calls. For a moment we thought one of them was going to get into our car.

We had morning coffee at Wood Wood and a rest stop at Swan Hill. Here we visited the Big Cod. Fran’s husband Ian used to live in Swan Hill and was one of the people who instigated the idea and construction of it.

About 50 kilometres from Echuca Greg informed me that the odometre had just turned over 7,000 kilometres since we left home!
We celebrated our second last day on the road with lunch together at the Star Hotel in Echuca which was very enjoyable, even if it was slightly delayed at 3pm.

Our companions Terry and Janelle are following along slowly. Terry developed another infection and is on antibiotics so is travelling bit by bit.

We are staying at the Moama Waters caravan park here and it is a superb place, only very new and they are still adding to it, but when it’s finished it will be a beautiful resort style park.

In the morning we head home. It will be sad to end our journey to central Australia with the fantastic friends who have accompanied us some all the way, some part the way, and some for a few days. Fran and Mary, Terry and Janelle, Dave and Marg, Marie and Noel. But it will be great to be home and to see our family and of course our other dogs again.

Terry and Janelle headed down to SA where they stayed until the first week in October enjoying the fishing and the beach.