Debbie & Geoff's

Australian Safari

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Travel Blog     -     October 2017

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Sunday 1st – Friday 6th, October 2017

 Welcome Kakadu

We have officially started to travel south but at our usual slow pace. We are still staying in Kakadu and have travelled to Cooinda well known for the Yellow Water Cruises that depart from the area. Again the heat is the biggest deterrent to our exploring but we conquer it with early morning activities and afternoons in the aircon of the van. The most delightful rain storm occurred on our first afternoon here. The lightning and thunder roared around us and the rain pelted down for about 45 minutes. I guess the rainy season is getting closer. One of the lightning strikes seemed so close that we were sure that our neighbours had been hit, and the thunder clap at the same time made both myself and Geoff jump. We also had a storm at 2am the next morning so it was a mad rush to close the overhead hatches and make sure no rain was coming in the open windows.
Our next adventure was the much anticipated Yellow Water Cruise. Having done this previously about 8 years ago when we were last in the area we were both excited to see if it still lived up to our expectations. We left at 6.20am for the early morning session and had a delightful entertaining few hours on the boat. Tim our guide was full of information about birds and crocs and the river itself. His humour kept all entertained and as he loved the birds as much as Geoff there was no problem if one was spotted that he pulled the boat as close as possible to it so everyone could have a good look. There was certainly no shortage of large salt water crocodiles that cruised across the river from one bank to another. We even saw two large males have a showdown, but the smaller of the two took a dive and disappeared so no blood was shed.

 Crocodile in the lillies     Crocodile in the sun      Crocodile hiding in the weed
Crocodile in the lillies                   Crocodile in the sun                   Crocodile hiding in the weed

Besides birds and crocs, wild horses were spotted on the grass fields along with pigs and buffalos. All of these are feral and in another week there will be a shooting expedition to try and cull a few more of their numbers. They do extensive damage to the area as we already knew but to see a whole plain destroyed by pigs really brings home how they affect the eco system.

 Frog Vs Pied Heron     Great-billed Heron      Sea-Eagle Keeping watch
Frog Vs Pied Heron                   Great-billed Heron                   Sea-Eagle Keeping watch

 Lotus flower     Black Bittern      Varied Triller
Lotus flower                   Black Bittern                   Varied Triller

Breakfast was supplied when we returned and with full tummies we took a stroll down to the billabong which was so big I think they miss named it. When we got down the walkway we spotted a chick just sitting on the ground. He was too young to fly and so Geoff picked him up and put him on a tree branch as we couldn’t find his nest. Mum and dad were flying around keeping an eye on the little fellow and then came and sat with him and fed him. Unfortunately that afternoon we went for another walk to check up on him and he had disappeared. As Geoff had spotted a Goshawk the first time we went down we think the poor little guy might have ended up as dinner.

 Varied Triller chick     Varied Triller chick       Varied Triller
Varied Triller chick                   Varied Triller chick                   Varied Triller

Another morning we headed to the Mardugal Billabong followed by the walk through the woodlands at the Gungardum Walk both easy paths to follow and took us to two different habitats at the one camping area. The camping areas are wonderful with showers and flushing toilets and if the weather was cooler we both would have preferred to stay out there, unfortunately with days now reaching 40 Celsius air condition is now a life support system and we need power as we don’t have a generator.

After our walks we headed to the Warradjian Aboriginal Cultural Centre where we spent a few hours looking at the displays and reading the information. I found the pigeon English a bit hard to follow but we both got the gist of what was going on. Unfortunately we could not take photos in there which was a shame as it was very well set up and brilliant information of survival in the region including food collection to shelter in the rain season. With this outing taking us into the afternoon it was time to return home for lunch and cool down till the afternoon where we took a drive back out to the wharf where the Yellow Boat Cruises depart. We stayed out there for the sunset and enjoyed talking to different people and spotting birds in the shallow wetland that led into the river itself. We even saw a Egret catch and swallow a little snake and marvelled at its patience as it stood and stared into the water waiting till dinner was swimming or slithering past.

 Warradjian Aboriginal Cultural Centre     Sunset Yellow Water      Yallow Water cruise boat
Warradjian Aboriginal Cultural Centre           Sunset Yellow Water               Yallow Water cruise boat

Another early morning start and we decided to go back to the Nourlangie region which we visited last month and did not get to do many of the walks. First we were going to do the Bubba walk but when we arrived we found it was closed due to shooting and culling of feral animals in the area. Geoff was not impressed as they could have put a sign up where we turned off the highway instead of us travelling the extra distance 6 km to be turned back. Our next stop was the Gubara Pools which entailed a 6 km return walk past sandstone cliffs to shady monsoon forest pools. Again Geoff managed to find a Rainbow Pitta to be photographed as it scratched around in the leaf litter. The croc warning signs were up again in the area so we only sat near the pools, drank water and ate our apples enjoying the forest that surrounded the area. They also have very friendly flies in this area and by the time we made it back into the car we were very much over them. At least these ones don’t bit but they like to fly into your ears, nose and sit on your glasses, which gives a different meaning to spots before your eyes. The temperature on the walk down to the pools and back was very hot but once we reached the shade of the gully you could get a bit of relief from the relentless sun.

 Rainbow Pitta      Flowers Yellow Water camp ground      Flowers Yellow Water camp ground
Rainbow Pitta                           Flowers Yellow Water camp ground

Now we have ventured outside of the park to Mary River Road House where we have located ourselves as good access to the southern part of Kakadu. Though you might remember we stayed at Mary River at the start of our Kakadu venture but this is the southern end and is a good base one more spot at Kakadu which we had visited on our first trip many years ago. Upon arrival our host very happily told us of local places where we should visit and at his suggestion we ventured down the road to a wonderful small waterfall and plunge pool. This place was magical and we had it to ourselves so we swam a-la-natural (blush). Lucky for us we didn’t see another soul till we were driving out (blush of embarrassment). The water was cool, and crystal clear as we could see the fish swimming around us and no crocodiles which was a bonus.

 The Rock Pool     The Rock Pool       The Rock Pool
The Rock Pool

From here we drove into the park and just down from the ranger station took a dirt track. When we reached a fork in the track one road had been blocked off and this was where we were told to go and have walk. This track ran adjacent to a small creek bed and I am not sure what trees were there but they attracted lots of butterflies. The butterflies were perched on the trees surrounding us and took to flight as we walked past them. I am not sure what they were but it was lovely to watch them flitting around in the humid breeze. Back to the car we took the other fork which leads us to another lovely water hole. This had the river trickling into it which ran from pool to pool. You could describe it as lots of miniature water falls. Geoff ventured down a bit further and I went for a dip in one of the pools. Here I was cooling down when I noticed a very large (well large to me) Goanna (Water Monitor) walking across the rocks towards me. Geoff said he has never seen me get out of the water so fast in his life. Not that the creature would have harmed me but I just decided that he could have the pool to himself.

 Rock Pools     Water Monitor      Water Monitor
Nymph in Rock Pool                   Water Monitor                   Water Monitor can tast the Nymph
 
Birds of Mary River Roadhouse

 Brown Falcon with lizard     Bird bath next to Van      Northern Rosella
Brown Falcon with lizard                   Bird bath next to Van                   Northern Rosella

We were up early again the next morning to head back for our final day in the park. We drove down the highway and onto a dirt corrugated road towards Gunlom Falls where we had visited and camped on our previous visit. Not really remembering much of the camp site but I certainly remember the infinity pool and the climb to get to it. I let Geoff tackle this one on his own as I had a small fall a few days before and I was still a bit sore and uncertain about tackling the climb, especially when it said ‘steep and strenuous’ in the description. It did not disappoint him and he told me he had slipped when up there, so if my mountain goat of a husband came back damaged can you imagine his uncoordinated wife managing.

 Gunlom Falls top pool     Gunlom Falls     Gunlom Falls infinity pool
Gunlom Falls top pools                   Gunlom Falls                   Gunlom Falls infinity pool

 Gunlom Falls top pool     Gunlom Falls top pool     Gunlom Falls infinity pool
Gunlom Falls infinity pool                   Gunlom Falls mid pool                   Gunlom Falls top pool

After he returned we went down to the plunge pool to have a swim at the bottom of the waterfall. The water fall was just trickling and the pool was warm but still refreshing. We had been told that a fresh water crocodile was residing here and had a nest, but as the pool hadn’t been closed we weren’t worried. No one told us that we would actually come face to face with it. Geoff was swimming back from the waterfall towards me, I was swimming out to meet him when he spotted the croc, about three meters away head on, it spotted him. I am not sure who turned first but there was a might splash as the croc backtracked and then I saw the bubbles heading towards me so I made a quick dash towards the shallows. What a shame the Gopro wasn’t on that Geoff was carrying. But it sure made a good story we can tell everyone. We have walked through water at Tunnel Creek with crocs passing us by and now we have swum with them in natural surroundings.

 Gunlom Falls swimming pool     Gunlom Falls swimming pool     Gunlom Falls swimming pool
Gunlom Falls swimming pool

Saturday 7th – Thursday 12th, October 2017

Heading out of the park now we drove to Katherine where we will stay for 4 nights and spend time at Katherine Gorge. The aboriginal name is Nitmuluk after the noise the cicadas make. Again with the heat and humidity of the days we start out early for any adventures and our first one was the walk to the lookout which wound its way vertically up to a high point giving us wonderful views of the river below that snakes through the gorge. We followed the track to do the loop and decided that we would take a further off shoot to the southern rock hole. Unfortunately it just got way to hot so we didn’t quite make it but what we saw of the walk was enjoyable as we followed the track along a dry river bed. Walking back to the car park the trees were full of brown bats that as usual you could smell and hear before coming upon them. They were flying from tree to tree very unsettled and Geoff tried his hardest to get a few shots of them flying. They were a little too quick for him and there wasn’t enough open space to get a decent shot.

 Katherine Gorge     Katherine Gorge Pano.     Red Flyingfox
Katherine Gorge                   Katherine Gorge Pano.                   Red Flyingfox

The next morning we did a cruise down the gorge. The cruise goes to two sections of the gorge, we have to disembark one boat, walk down the rocky path and board the next boat. Our guide explained that sometimes the water level is so low that the boats get stranded till the rain comes and they can then be moved up the gorge. The gorge itself is beautiful and the colour of the rock walls glow. Though the morning started out slightly overcast by the time our 2 hour cruise was finished we had blue sky and vivid colours. They do have fresh water crocodiles in the river and we cruised past sandy banks where we saw signs not to venture too close as the crocs had built nests there.

 Katherine Gorge     Walk to next waterhole     Fault line in the wall
Katherine Gorge                   Walk to next waterhole                   Fault line in the wall

 Katherine Gorge     Second Gorge     Walk to next waterhole
Katherine Gorge                   Second Gorge                   Walk to next waterhole

When we were camped at Cooinda, Yellow Water, Kakadu we picked up a hitchhiker. It would make an appearance each night, it would sit on the kitchen window or on the light just above the window. During the day we were not sure where it would hide, maybe under the solar panels on the roof of the van. There was water on the roof from the AirCon so it had its own pool. One afternoon when we returned back to the van and switched the AirCon on we could hear it croaking away, not sure if it was in approval or not. We had our very own ‘Red Dog’ of the tropics. It was a Green Tree Frog. So it was with us for about 6 days and about 350km.

 Frog on light     Frog on window     Frog on window
Frog on light                   Frog on window                   Frog on window

We now had only three days to get down to Alice Springs so it was lots of driving, we spent one night at Elliott in a faulty towers type caravan park where I am not sure how it would pass any safety standards. Between the broken down shacks, besser blocks scattered in the middle of the park and peacocks and peahens strolling around it certainly made for an interesting evening. We did as usual chat to some very interesting people whom like us though the park was a bit strange.

 Peacock     Peacock     Peahen
Peacock front                   Peacock rear view                   Peahen not impressed

Leaving early in the morning we drove to Wauchope which is where we based ourselves to see the Devils Marbles. Arriving there in the middle of the day we were a bit let down by the view but planned to return once we had checked into the van park and go for the sunset. Wow, the difference in light certainly made the place become magical and you could see why this is an area that is a favourite with tourist. Geoff even managed to do a few drone shots so you could get an overall view of the amazing rock formations. They had had a big rain fall the day before and there was not only water on the road but on top of the rocks, pools of water were still visible.

 Devils Marbles     Devils Marbles     Devils Marbles
Devils Marbles

 Even truckies need sunset shot     Devils Marbles from the air     Devils Marbles from the air
Even truckies need sunset shot                                   Devils Marbles from the air

Travelling south on the Stuart Highway one thing we did notice was the amount of termite mounds that were dressed up. I have never seen so many and it makes you wonder who has so much spare clothing that they don’t mind adorning a termite mound with it. From hats, t-shirts, bras knickers, fluro working gear and children’s cloths, they were dressed in it all.

 Anthill art     Anthill art     Anthill art
Anthill art

Friday 13th – Monday 16th , October 2017

Arriving in Alice Springs late in the afternoon, we set ourselves up and spent the next full day doing chores including shopping as Geoff was in desperate need for new shorts and shirts as his old ones were rather holey. We were eagerly awaiting the arrival of our friend Brad who is joining us to do a bit of touring. It is amazing how in three days travel the difference in the night temperature. The days are bordering on 33 to 35 Celsius but the nights are lovely and cool and it makes it a pleasure to sleep. Gone is the sticky humid weather and if you keep out of the direct sun the days are beautiful. What can I say about Alice Springs? Even though it is my third time here for some reason the town looked larger, maybe because we had a few days driving around the town when we usually do the tourist things and never had a need to venture into the hub of Alice. Shopping centres with cool aircon also seemed to be the centre for the local indigenous to hang about. There was always a bunch of them yelling at each other outside and we saw a couple of altercations between a few of the brothers. Police presence was noticeable but not in excess and a few times old ladies came up and asked us for money.
Brad arrived and after a nice lunch we set out to do some touristy sightseeing. First stop was the Ghan Museum which as you can gather by the name had history of the Ghan Railway. What was interesting is how this train changed the way of lives for people in the outback. From the Ghan we made a quick dash to the Desert Park just in time to catch the bird flight show. Though the show was good we were a bit disappointed that the Wedge-tail Eagle did not make an appearance. But the park was still great and though Geoff and I had been here before it was Brads first time and the three of us thoroughly enjoyed it.

 Old Ghan Dining car     Old Ghan Bar carage     Old Ghan Galley
Old Ghan Dining car                   Old Ghan Bar carage                   Old Ghan Galley

 Bush-stone Curlew     Whistling Kite      Barn Owl
Bush-stone Curlew                   Whistling Kite                   Barn Owl

Early the next morning we drove out to see the West MacDonnell Rangers and did the loop from Alice to Simpsons Gap. Again I love the colour of the rock walls as we strolled down to the end to a small water hole. Then to Standley Chasm where we walked along the path into the gorge. White Flannel flowers hugged the cliff walls and the chasm rock itself is made of quarts and formed by ancient seabeds of 2.2 billion years ago.

 Simpsons Gap     Diveing in Simpsons Gap      Simpsons Gap
Simpsons Gap                   Diveing in Simpsons Gap                   Simpsons Gap

 Stanley Chasm     Stanley Chasm      Stanley Chasm
Stanley Chasm

From here our next stop was the historic precinct of Hermannsburg which was where the Finke River Mission began. This was Lutheran mission starting in 1877. The village still stands and we walked into the old church, school room, plus other buildings including the tannery which was a viable business till in the late 1960’s when they could not get a tanner to work there. The leather and products from this tannery was sold all over the world and helped make the community self-sufficient. The town is also known for the beautiful pottery that the ladies create and we managed to see a few samples in the art gallery. Albert Namatjira who paints the ghostly gums in outback scens is also from this area and we saw many of his family’s pictures that were painted in the same style as their fathers, hanging in the art gallery.

 Hermannsburg Mission     Hermannsburg Mission      Hermannsburg Mission
Hermannsburg, Finke River Mission

After a picnic lunch we then travelled to Mt Sonder lookout for a quick picture and marvel at the view before heading down to Ormiston Gorge as it was time for a swim. The water was so refreshing, though slightly green, with a lovely sandy bottom which made it very easy to access.

 Mt Sonder Lookout     Ormiston Gorge      Ormiston Gorge
Mt Sonder Lookout                   Ormiston Gorge                   Ormiston Gorge

As the day was getting on and we still had a quite a travel to get back to Alice we made our last stop at Ellery Creek Big Hole and even though this is another great swimming area we just decided to have a walk down and take photos of this beautiful spot.

 Ellery Creek Big Hole     Ellery Creek Big Hole      Ellery Creek Big Hole
Ellery Creek Big Hole

Tuesday 17th – Sunday 22nd, October 2017

We have a big drive ahead as we decided to do the tar road all the way to Kings Canyon instead of cutting across the 100km of dirt road which we heard was a bit on the uncomfortable side we took the long way round, an extra 100km on tar. Arriving at 3pm at the Kings Canyon Resort we set up and met Brad who was staying at the hotel, for a drink and then organised to walk up to the sunset viewing platform. It was another beautiful sunset with the rocks changing from orange to purple as the glow of the evening appeared. Quite a crowd gathers on the platform and you can buy a drink and toast the sunset and enjoy the ambience. Dinner that night was a celebration as it was Geoff’s birthday and the food was really nice. The birthday boy had seafood pie and I chose the lamb pie. The chips on the side were the best and Geoff piled them into the creamy filling of his pie. Yum!

 Made it to the top     Brad on the Rim      Kings Canyon
Made it to the top                   Brad on the Rim                   Kings Canyon

No hangovers allowed as we had a mission to be up early and at the canyon to do the rim walk by 7.30am. This time of year the temperature at the top of the canyon reaches 38 degrees Celsius and so they close the start of the walk at 9am. We reached the canyon and started the climb and as this was the second time we had done it we knew what to expect. Though Brad had not been there before he was well informed, we all had water bottles and apples to help us through the walk. The rim walk is 6km round trip and it says it will take you 3-4 hours and it did. The hardest part was the steep walk up to the rim and from there it was relatively easy even for me. We stopped and admired the wonderful views, the rock formations and colours, little lizards posed for photos but besides those nothing else was spotted. We did the walk and then had a rest at the bottom before making our way along the river bed. Unfortunately the walk was cut short as in 2016 they had a major wet season that caused some of the canyon rocks to tumble down and crush some of the view platforms and tracks. They are repairing it but at the moment we could not venture up the canyon as far as we would have liked.

 Kings Canyon     Kings Canyon      Kings Canyon
Kings Canyon

 Kings Canyon     Debbie Kings Canyon      Kings Canyon Local
Kings Canyon                   Debbie Kings Canyon                   Kings Canyon Local

This afternoon Geoff and Brad did a scenic helicopter flight and even though Geoff had done this previously the afternoon light gave him another perspective.

 Kings Canyon from the air     Carmichael Crag      Brad and the Chopper
Kings Canyon from the air                   Carmichael Crag                   Brad and the Chopper

The next day we drove to Uluru for our 3 night stay. Even though it is my third time here and Geoffs fourth, we are always awed by the view of the rock as we drive towards it. After settling in we headed to the rock for our sunset and the scenery did not let us down. This is the first time I have seen the rock without rain clouds dimming the view. The sky was a brilliant blue and we sat and sipped our plastic glasses of wine and watched the rock change colours as the sun went down.

 Sunset on the rock     The team at sunset      The rock at sunset
Sunset on the rock                   The team at sunset                   The rock at sunset

The next morning again was an early one as we were to walk the 12km around the base of the rock and of course Geoff wanted to be there by sunrise to get the best light, but also that it stayed cool enough for our walk. The track is easy and level as it circumnavigates the rock. Taking our time and stopping often for photos and also just to be amazed by the rocks texture of granite and sandstone, colours, patterns and contours. We stopped at waterholes and took heed when we saw signs not to photograph sacred sites to respect the local aboriginal people.

 Waterhole base of rock     Sunrise walk      Sunrise walk
Sunset on the rock                   Sunrise walk                   Sunrise walk

We also visited the interpretive centre and watched a video when the rock was handed back to the local indigenous people. It was very interesting and we perused the local art in the shop and had a coffee before setting off back to the resort. I know how much we enjoy Uluru and I am so glad that Brad was as impressed as us with his first trip to the red centre.

Later that afternoon we were fortunate enough to do a private tour with a guide. Leroy was full of stories and we all enjoyed listening to the folk law of the area. Now I am not going to give you the whole 3 hours of his talks but the gist of it was the rock is not just a spiritual place but a meeting place. Many families would meet here and marriages would be arranged between other tribes. They would stay no longer than 3 days as that is all the rock could sustain them with food and water. When asking about water their philosophy is that there is always water there when they arrive. This is not saying that there is always water at the rock, but they know when and where it will be available and that is when they would travel there.
We heard dream time stories which were lessons to the children. Also how tribal punishment is still being carried out today. One of Leroy’s guides had his arm broken as he had taken alcohol into the dry community. Leroy explained they do not like begging for money and would rather sell you a painting, even if you are not in the market have a look at the artwork and praise them. Explain that it is beautiful and you know that it will sell but that you cannot buy for whatever reason. The way he spoke with such a passion certainly opened our eyes to the people that lived out in the country. As Leroy said we only see the ones that hang around in the town, outside the pubs and with no mission in life, it gives us the wrong perspective of these people.

 Wave cave with Leroy     Indigenous message board      Tech. at the rock
Wave cave with Leroy                   Indigenous message board                   Tech. at the rock

Our last full day we drove to Kata Tjuta which we used to call The Olgas. Our first stop was a lookout where we got a stunning view of the rock formation that is higher than Uluru. Then it was off to tackle the lookouts in the Valley of the Winds. Tackling the first lookout which is only 2.2km return and was a pleasant though rocky climb. The next lookout was a lot harder and as Geoff had Brad for company I decided not to do this as we had done the full circuit when we were here previously.

 Kata Tjuta     Vally of the Wind      Vally of the Wind
Kata Tjuta                   Vally of the Wind                   Vally of the Wind

Upon their return all Brad said to me was that I was the wise one and yes it was not an easy walk in fact he had a little slip over when trying to navigate his way down the rocks. Meanwhile I had a lovely time talking to other tourist waiting in the shaded picnic area for their friends also to return.

That evening we were booked in to see the Field of Lights. This is an art installation and not to be missed. We were picked up by a shuttle bus and dropped off in the dessert where we were upon a dune top looking down at the field. We were fed canapes and champagne while the sun set and the lights appeared. By the time it was dark we were down amongst the light show walking through the trails surrounded by glowing, colour changing globes.
The artist, Bruce Munro, was inspired by Uluru and his art installation has more than 50,000 slender stems crowned with frosted glass spheres that bloom as darkness falls. None of us really knew what to expect and as you walked the dark paths and look around you into all these glowing lights it really is breathtaking, as after the lights it is pitch black till you look up at all the stars.

 Field of Lights     Field of Lights      Field of Lights
Field of Lights

It is time to say goodbye to our friend, we met him at the hotel the next morning for a late breakfast. We were staying an additional night so we could have a leisurely morning and not have to rush packing up the van. We had a great time with Brad and glad he enjoyed his outback experience and the wonders of the rock and surrounds.

Monday 23rd – Sunday 29th, October 2017

After a long day drive we hit a free camp at Maria to break our journey to Coober Pedy. It comes from the Aboriginal name meaning non indigenous person in a hole. So white man living in a hole, makes sense to me at this place. We stayed in a quirky van park that was more like someone’s back yard with a big dog that barks and keeps an eye out for everyone. Our host Gary was full of information and at $10 for the first night and $15 after that for power and water it was a bargain.

 Coober Pedy
Coober Pedy

After set up we drove into town and visited two churches. The first St Peters and the next was the Serbian Church. Being dug underground kept everything at a constant 25 Celsius and very pleasant compared to the outside being 38 degrees. What amazed me was the colour of the walls. The rooms and halls had been bored and the colours were creams, with veins of orange, pinks and red. This was also reflected in the mounds of dirt that we had passed when driving into town. You cannot compare this to Lightening Ridge which was the other opal mining town we visited at the start of this adventure where the earth was orange and red.

 St Peters     Serbian Church      Serbian Church
St Peters                   Serbian Church                   Serbian Church

 Serbian Church     Serbian Church      Serbian Church
Serbian Church

Our second day and we visited the museum which explained about the inland sea over 20 million years ago. We had a look at some beautiful opal, not just black opal but crystal opal and boulder opal. They also had talks with a miner but unfortunately I was sick so we missed out, but our host Gary was able to answer any questions that we might have had.
That afternoon we took a drive to the Breakaway which is named as it looks like it broke away from the Sturt Range. We have come here for sunset and paid our permit at the visitors centre before heading off. This area is not far out of town and we drive a loop on dirt road to see some wonderful hills and colours of the earth. We stopped in one area as the rock service changed and glistened so needed investigating. What saw was like a silica that was in chunks all over the surface, first off we thought it was safety glass but on closer inspection could see it was a clear sheet of some sort of stone.

 Silica     Silica      Silica all over the ground
Silica                   Silica all over the ground                   Silica all over the ground

One area was known as the two dogs and though the hills are joined they have weathered differently so one is white and the other brown. The aboriginal people say it looks like two dogs sitting down and non-aboriginal people call it the castle or salt and pepper because of the similarity of the colour.
We made it up to the sunset lookout and watched the shadow creep over the plain below as we had a glass of wine to toast the end of day before heading back into town.

 The Breakaway     Two dogs      Two dogs
Breakaway                   Two dogs                   Two dogs

 Coober Pedy at Sun-rise     Coober Pedy at Sun-rise      The diggings
Coober Pedy at Sun-rise                   Coober Pedy at Sun-rise                   The diggings

Now it’s time to go back to the dust as we head down the Oodnadatta Track . The road just keeps going and the country side is so flat that you could see why the area would be prone to flood, if it ever got rain. Our first night we stayed at a town called William Creek where we had a beer in the most northerly pub in South Australia. This town had a population of 12, and had once been a thriving community where the Ghan railway stopped. The Oodnadatta Track follows the old railway lines of the Ghan and as we travel we see remnants of its history. This little town also had a museum and an airfield. The whole town is owned by one man who owned a large cattle property and he has the pub, scenic flights and caravan park. And that my friend made up William Creek.

 William Creek road     Two dogs      Two dogs
William Creek road                   William Creek road                   Oodnadatta Track

 Oodnadatta Track     Rockets fired from Woomera      William Creek Hotel
Oodnadatta Track                   Rockets fired from Woomera                   William Creek Hotel

Today was a big drive and the sky became overcast and the wind had picked up, but the files stuck around and were really annoying. Welcome to the outback! Today we were heading to Lake Eyre and had a few stops planned along the way. As we travelled we stopped at a few rail station buildings that were still standing. They were old sandstone dwellings and each stop had the same structure. Long building separated into about three dwellings with three rooms each. One containing a fire place the other two rooms bare and all had a front and back door. Some still had their rooves on and others open to the sky. Curdimurka Railway Siding dating back to 1888 is the last remaining station yard of significance left intact on the old Ghan Railway and is the location for the Outback Ball held since 1986.

 Hema map     Beresford Siding      Margaret Siding
28 meters above sea level                   Beresford Siding                   Margaret Siding

 Margaret Siding     Curdimurka Railway Siding      Curdimurka Railway Siding
Debbie Siding                   Curdimurka Railway Siding                   Curdimurka Railway Siding

We also detoured of the track to visit Blanche Cup Mound Spring and The Bubbler which is where the artesian basin rises up in the desert and forms a mound where water comes to the surface. The Bubbler was my favourite as the water bubbles up from under the sand into a little clear pool. Geoff felt it and we were surprised that the water was cold. I stood and watched as the bubbles appeared in different spots, some with enough force to create an actual spout just like our bubblers.

 Artesian spring 'The Bubbler'     Blanche Cup Mound Spring      Frankenia
Artesian spring The Bubbler                   Blanche Cup Mound Spring                   Frankenia

Blanche cup was also an oasis with grass reeds surrounding this perfect little pool. Though we didn’t taste it we are not sure how briny the water might be. We also had bunches of pretty pink flowers that dotted the salt pan and later learned they were Frankenia a hardy salt tolerant perennial growing around mound springs.

Now we weren’t going to travel this far today but our plans changed due to the overcast conditions and high wind. We did stop at Lake Eyre which we knew was going to be dry but without the sun Geoff decided not to stay in the area and the wind was too ferocious to launch the drone so it was a bit of a disappointment to him as we were hoping to camp nearby and do some sunrise and sunset shots.

 Lake Eyre     Lake Eyre      Frankenia
Lake Eyre South, 12 meters below sea level

So it was off to Marree for our accommodation and we stopped a few times on the road for more photo opportunities including a colourful salt pan that had water seeping into it and a field of sculptures that we have no idea about but gee they were cool.

 Sculptures     Sculptures      Sculptures
Sculptures by the track

Marree has a population of 70 and is another town that was a thriving community till the Ghan Railway line was moved. Now they survive on tourists and as we there was only one other couple staying at the van park with us I hope they manage to keep going. We bought fuel and had a chat to the owner and spent nearly $200 in the little town so I guess it will keep going as it has a lot to offer. Oh and the Marree Camel Cup is on Sat 7th July 2018 if anyone wants to go. They are also the home of the Lake Eyre Yacht Club and have a pub that was around since 1888.

 Marree Camel Cup     Debbie training for the Camel Cup      Marree station
Marree Camel Cup                   Debbie training for the Camel Cup                   Marree station

 E.G (Tom) Kruse mail truck     Lake Eyre Yacht Club      End of an era
E.G (Tom) Kruse mail truck                   Lake Eyre Yacht Club                   End of an era

The last train To Alice Springs left Marree in November 1981 after a new rail line was built following a more direct route from Port Augusta to Tarcoola, and then north to Alice. This ended a 100 year romance with rail in Marree and changed the town forever. As the last train was pulling out of Marree there was a huge celebration and despondent locals repeatedly disconnected the carriages preventing the train from leaving.

Not far down the track we hit the historic town of Farina where we decide to stay the night in the campground. What a lovely spot this is though we did expect a bit more of the town to have been reconstructed. It reminded me of Pompeii with ruins everywhere and notice boards showing what were originally there. The Town was proclaimed in 1878 and became the railhead from Port Augusta in 1882 and was closed in 1980s. In its heyday there was a population of approximately 300 residents including Afghans and Chinese who came to Farina as construction workers on the railway and some stayed on as gardeners.

 Entrance to Farina     Farina from the air      Emu family
Entrance to Farina                   Farina from the air                   Regular visitors Emu family

 Ruins of Farina     Debbie found the pub      Old time grader
Ruins of Farina                           Debbie found the pub                   Old time grader

Geoff decided to stay and do a bit of birding and as there was green grass and emus wandering around plus some interesting walks we were both happy with this lovely spot. The breeze is still blowing so it has managed to keep the temperature down as sometimes it is way too hot to even think of camping off the grid and we enjoy the creature comforts of power for air con.

 Black-brested Buzzard     Black-brested Buzzard      Black-brested Buzzard
Black-brested Buzzard

Geoff had found a Little Eagle in a nest with a chick so was over the moon when he returned from his walk. In the meantime I had gone up to the War Memorial and read about the boys that had served in the first and second world wars from the town. The Memorial was well set out and a credit to the volunteers who have started with the restorations. I also talked to Ron who was travelling on his own and later that evening we both went over to share a drink and chat with our fellow traveller.

 Little Eagle     Little Eagle chick      Little Eagle
Little Eagle                           Little Eagle chick                   Little Eagle

The next morning before the wind started up we went for a walk to the old cemetery of the town which was located on top of a hill. We walked amongst the tomb stones and crosses of the people of Farina and admired the view from this vantage point. Upon returning we took a further walk along the river and old railway lines, both different gauges and where the Ghan had travelled.

 Farina cemetery     Farina ANZAC Memorial      Farina town plan
Farina cemetery                           Farina ANZAC Memorial                   Farina town plan

When we returned we were the only ones left in the park and ended up having it all to ourselves for the evening, except for the emu families that kept strolling past our van.

Monday 30th – Tuesday 31st , October 2017

Time to head off again towards Arkaroola which is in the Flinders Ranges. It was our intention to stay here with our friends from Mariners Cove in April when we went to Wilpena Pound, but due to rain we missed this side of the ranges. After leaving Farina we stopped for a quick photo at the Ochre Pit which had brilliant colours in the clay and except it was blowing a gale it would have made a great drone shot, but photos will just have to do.

 Ochre Pit     Old Arkaroola Homestead      Arkaroola Village
Ochre Pit                       Old Arkaroola Homestead                   Arkaroola Village

Now how can I describe the ranges? The red soil and the scrub contrasting with each other as we drive towards the range the land is flat for miles, I kept thinking of the song “Home, Home on the Range” anyhow you all know how it goes but we didn’t see any deer or buffalo but a lot of Emu’s. So many dead ones lined the road and as drove we could see why as they would cross the road in front of us then turn around and dart back the way they came. Others would just casually walk in front of the car then go to a slow jog before veering off in any direction. If you see one then maybe there are more and we were always on tender hooks especially as one ran straight into the side of our van but lucky with just a puff of feathers he kept running after he hit us.

 Wildlife on the road     Long winding road      North Flinders Ranges
Wildlife on the road                       Long winding road                   North Flinders Ranges

The wind finally abated and our first day we drove to Bararranna where we undertook a 7km circuit walk. The scenery is always changing along this winding route, as it crosses shaly hills and passes between the walks of Arkaroola Creek. As there was a slight breeze and the air was cooler we enjoyed our walk which took us about 4 hours. I can see why this is a geologists delight, as we noticed all the different layers of the hills and the rocks in the dry creek bed were so pretty. I even found myself a pet rock which was white and sparkles in the sun. There was so many rocks that looked like they had fairy dust sprinkled on them but in fact it was the quart that shined through.
We came across a waterhole that had a few birds drinking in the green water but there wasn’t as much bird life around as we expected. We also learnt about ripple rocks that were formed millions of years ago and saw Yellow-footed Rock-Wallabies bounding away from us. We also noticed the remnants of the Coper mine that the area was known for and Geoff kept picking up pieces of rock still stained with copper.

 Copper ore in the rocks     Ripple rock - Ancient sea bed      Yellow-footed Rock-wallaby
Copper ore in the rocks                   Ripple rock - Ancient seabed               Yellow-footed Rock-wallaby

After our walk it was time to do a bit of four wheel driving and took a track which crisscrossed our walk. We headed out towards Arkaroola springs and after a lot of bumpity bumpity driving we arrived at our destination. The water was very green and not something I would like to dip my toes into but the wallabies that surrounded it and were lying in the shade must have thought it was an ok place to be.

 Old Copper smelter     Arkaroola creek      Wildlife on the road
Old Copper smelter                   Arkaroola creekd               Wildlife on the road

Our next morning we again headed off to do the Mawson – Spriggina. This was an 8km circuit and follows Mawson Valley and returns along the Spriggina ridge. This gave us good views of the surrounding country.
Again we were heading up hills and down valleys and the track were more like a goat track which was not very wide and covered in lose shale so I kept eyeing off the edge which was so close and very steep. This track circled away from the resort and gave us another view of the ranges. Curly Mallee is characteristic of the region and also tea trees and Cyprus pines dotted the hills.

 Sitting Bull     model of Spriggina      Wildlife on the road
Sitting Bull? not sure which angle?                   Model of Spriggina               Wildlife on the road

We saw the rock formation called Sitting Bull, named by Douglas Mawson (he must have been on drugs to work that one out) and we circuited the Pinnacles and the Needles also named by Mawson. We climbed up towards the lookout and noticed a landscape model of Spriggina one of the fossilised ‘segmented flatworms’ discovered by Dr. Reg Sprigg. Most details of the worms structure were lost in the fossilisation process, but Spriggina appear to have had a front and rear end as shown in the much enlarged model.(Yes I read this in the brochure)

 Observatory Dome     Rocky back track      One of the few waterholes
Observatory Dome                   Rocky back track               One of the few waterholes

Climbing higher we came upon the domes of the observatory that has been set up for night viewing stars. There is spectacular star gazing here but on our three nights we had a full moon which lit up the sky and made it hard to see any stars. From the observatory it was a slow walk down back to the road and camp ground.

After a quick lunch we took another drive to Nooldoo Nooldoona (used up all the o’s in that name) Waterhole stopping on the way at the 1870 Bollabofana Copper smelter. Geoff was trying to work out why the smelter was so far from everything, it seemed to run on coal power for heat and we were not sure where the mines were located.

 Nooldoo Nooldoona waterhole     Nooldoo Nooldoona waterhole      Nooldoo Nooldoona gorge
ONooldoo Nooldoona waterhole                   Nooldoo Nooldoona waterhole               Nooldoo Nooldoona gorge

The waterhole did have water in it and again it was rather green but very clear. It was located in a lovely spot with the gorge walls rising above. As the gorge went round a corner Geoff took the drone for a fly to do a few aerial shots of the water course. More emu families were spotted on our drive back and we were so wary of them encase they decided to dart out at us again. It was another long day and both of us were pretty tired by the time we returned to our van.

 

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