Alice Springs

Sunday 27th April, (Alice Springs).

After having a few days relaxing, doing a few things that need doing and meeting people in the caravan park we went on a short trip to the West MacDonnell Ranges today. We do intend to pack up the caravan and travel as far as we can along the ranges and stay at several camping areas in the area and visit the gorges, as there are many, and as much bush walking as we can. We have both bought new walking boots and are eager to put them to a full test. We have put them to a short test already by trekking up the hill behind the caravan park and were very impressed with the difference.

Tuesday 29th April, (Alice Springs).

We are still waiting to hear from the mechanic concerning the arrival of the door latch for the car that has broken and a visit to him revealed that it has not yet arrived. We will now move out on Thursday and spend a few days cruising the West MacDonnell ranges then return to Alice and have the repairs and service done next week.

For now then it is sit back and relax.

Alice Springs

Wednesday 23rd April, (Alice Springs).

We have now moved to Alice Springs, yesterday in fact, but I did not put these words down yesterday due to my being too tired, I guess all the driving over the past week or so had finally caught up with me and all I wanted to do was sleep.

Even if I have said before, I am going to say again, that both Linda and myself are in awe and wonderment at the scenery the ‘Red Centre’ has to offer. When we expected flat red dirt countryside, and nothing else, we were completely wrong. The terrain has varied that much Linda made the comment that she could not possibly get bored of the scenery on this trip, as we did in outback Queensland, as the variation has been so diverse.

Even though the earth mainly consists of that red dirt there is a large amount brush growth even up to large trees. As for being flat land; this countryside couldn’t be further from it, mountain ranges and hills are consistent through the entire area. Even though some of the land looked flat and level we were in fact on top of a mountain range.

We intend to be in this area for a few weeks, relaxing and having a good look around here before moving on. There does appear to be quite a fair amount to do here so it will take a while and we aren’t in any rush any more.

I purchased a new portable fridge today as we had over the past few days experienced a few problems with the old one. When we were camped out at freebies the problem was leaving the fridge outside running on gas and the wind constantly blowing out the pilot flame. Running on gas the fridge had to be left outside as is it is just impractical to place it in the caravan and not possible to run in the car as the heat generated was too great to risk it. The new one runs on 12Volts only and has a minimal running power usage and should not be a problem leaving it in the panel van running on the battery installed in the back. When we are at parks, as now, it does run on a 240 Volt supply so there is no problem with power usage. While we are in parks I am considering placing one of the solar panels from the caravan onto the panel van to run back up for the battery so it won’t be necessary to connect it to 240V power to charge it. We don’t use much 12 Volts while in parks so the van should survive on one panel as well.

Curtain Springs/Ayres Rock

Monday 21st April, (Curtain Springs/Ayres Rock).

Another trip to Ayres Rock today, and it only emphasised the fact that one could stay around here for a fair while and just visit the rock over and over as it is truly such a spectacle. As Linda stated, “Ayres Rock is, after all, Australia and its icon”.

We did contemplate the climb up the rock but after what I had heard about the difficulty of the climb we had no intention of exceeding about 20 feet of the climb, Linda in fact did not even get quite as far as I thought she might. I found I was having extreme difficulty in climbing because the steepness of the rock face prevented me comfortably bending my ankle far enough to firmly place my feet on the surface sufficiently to attain maximum grip, so consequently my feet were slipping on the rock. Not to say what condition my muscles on the rear lower leg would have been in if I had done more of the climb.

Below is a photo of the climb, or at least a small section of it from the bottom, and believe me it is very steep. There are no stairs at all just the surface of the sheer rock face and one has to rely on the grip of ones shoes to be able to climb. There is a chain bolted to the rock to use as an aid in climbing but it does not start for about ten feet above the small rocks near the bottom. I reckon that this is a test so if one cannot make it to the chain on ones own then they do not belong on the climb, and believe me there were a lot of people who did not make it to the chain, including us. I believe I could have made it to the chain but when Linda stopped at the end of the rocks I stopped at about half way to the chain. As I said my feet were slipping on the rocks so it was probably a good idea to stop where I did as it was.

The track up the rock.

We also stayed for the sunset to witness the changing of colour of the rock.

Curtain Springs/Ayres Rock

Sunday 20th April, (Curtain Springs).

What an eventful few days we have just had. We have spent the last few days camping out on our way to Ayres Rock, and while in the area of the rock. We met up with a family, 2 +1, at a rest area on the way and as they were on the same travel plans as we were we kept bumping into them whenever we stopped. We even met them again at the rest area we decided to camp at, along with another couple who were only waiting for someone else to pull up to make up the numbers for security. This rest area was at Marryat/t, not sure one or two tees, and enjoyed the night.

We had a long days travel that day and the following one, and with travel to the rock today and again tomorrow, we are looking forward to a couple of restful weeks at Alice Springs.

Speaking of the rock, Ayres that is, here is a saga; We had almost decided to stay at a roadhouse, Curtain Springs, 100k or so from Ayres rock as it has a free camping area and we decided that it would be in daily travel distance to the rock. As we approached the area where the roadhouse is Linda exclaimed, “look, there is Ayres Rock”, and sure enough at a distance to the south, out left, was Ayres Rock. I did comment at the time that I wouldn’t have expected to see it so early as we had 50-80k to go before I thought we would be able to see it, but there it was. I was a little disappointed that there was no spot to stop and have a look at and take a photo of our first glimpse of this spectacle that we are sure everybody would like to visit at least in there lifetime, but about 10k down the road this disappointment was overcome by a lookout on the side of the road. I did also notice that this lookout was called Mt Connor lookout and seeing we were standing on relatively flat ground I questioned Linda, without trying to sound too stupid, as to whether Ayres rock is also known as Mt Connor because there does not seem to be any other mountains around. The answer, as one could imagine, was a very emphatic NO! Don’t be so stupid. I did leave it at that until later that afternoon when I studied my map and decided that what we saw wasn’t in the position that Ayres rock should have been. Further enquiries revealed that this mountain was in fact not Ayres Rock, but was Mt. Connor; Ayres Rock was 100k further down the road. It took a little convincing Linda of this and when I finally did she was absolutely disillusioned and shattered, as she was so thrilled that she had finally seen Ayres Rock. She did explain to me how she felt, but I find it very hard to put into words.

My main reaction to this startling discovery was that how could it happen that there could be another large rock, actually larger than Ayres Rock, so close to Ayres rock and never be mentioned in any teachings we both had ever heard. We were not the only ones to fall into this trap as enquiries revealed that about 95% of people think the same thing. I wonder what the other people that keep travelling to the rock think when they get there and the one they are seeing is actually different. Ayres Rock by the way is much more magical.

We did have a day trip to Ayres rock today; by the way we did decide to stay at Curtain Springs as previously mentioned, and it was truly an awesome sight. I won’t include photos because I’m sure everyone has seen them before.

We also went a little further west to visit another rocky outcrop called The Olgas, these are also in the Uluru national park and we had heard of them before.

Coober Pedy

Thursday 17th April, (Coober Pedy).

So much for the boring countryside: The scenery we have seen over the last two days is something to be seen. A walk around town yesterday revealed the unique beauty this Coober Pedy has to offer. The fact that there are quite a few buildings actually underground, including houses, is unique in itself. The other aspect is the way the miners, prospectors, have extracted the soil from the ground and left it in piles after fossicking through it. There are piles of dirt wherever one looks and a trip today revealed that it is for miles around.

An underground house.

Linda summed up another aspect of the town today, concerning the presence of aboriginals; even though we have not experienced there presence of an evening, she said they even give the town its own bit of character.

We went for a trip to the Breakaways today. These are a series of hills and formations said to have broken away from the Stuart Range, hence the name. This was the location for filming of movies such as Mad Max and Ground Zero. The scenery in this area is just simply breathtaking. Let’s just see if I can show it in pics.

One other thing we have noticed in the area is the plague of grasshoppers, locusts, or whatever they are. The main problem is they are all over the roads and as one could imagine they make one large mess on the car and front of the caravan. That was one of Linda’s jobs when we first arrived the other day, to clean them off the caravan. I got to clean them off the car. We have collected another batch of them on the car today but it will be pointless cleaning them off as when we move tomorrow we will only collect more.

Coober Pedy

Tuesday 15th April, (Coober Pedy).

I have decided after spending last night at Glendambo that if we are only staying overnight in an area that there is little, if not nothing, to see or do, which would be the case being overnight, then we will stay in free camp areas if possible. Staying in parks like we did last night was basically a waste of money.

We are now at Coober Pedy, and this town, being an opal mining district, is very much like Andamooka but on a bigger scale and in a bit cleaner state; Meaning this town is more acceptable to stay at. We have booked in for three days, which should give us plenty of time to see what we need to.

We had a warning from a fellow traveller last night about the aboriginals in this town and when we arrived here we could see what he meant. This led us to chose a caravan park other than the Top Tourist or the Big4 that are in town. These parks were either too close to the town centre, or possibly troublesome locals, or too close to the actual mining centres, so we chose the Stuart range park that is on the approaching outskirts of town. Another traveller that we had words with today on the radio during out travels, who is also staying in town at a friends place, visited us on his motor bike this afternoon and said he had checked out the other parks and assured us that we had picked the correct one. What he actually meant in his statement he did not elaborate, but I would agree that he is correct.

The awesome aspects of our introduction to the centre has ended, as far as today’s travels, as the scenery was about what we had expected of it all, although the countryside was reasonably green due to the recent rains. I guess this was a reminder that we can expect boring monotonous trips from now on.

Glendambo

Monday 14th April, (Glendambo).

We have now moved to Glendambo, a couple of houses and a couple of roadhouses, one with a caravan park, on the side of the road. I think for some reason that I had already decided that we would stay at this park, and now wonder why. The park is not at all what we expected; it is surprising how they can over sell something in advertising brochures. Being a Top Tourist park is what convinced me, I think, but it is not of the same standard as the Top Tourist parks we have been used to. The park is nothing more than a large gravel paddock with, what looks like, horse tying up rails with the occasional power box, scattered through the paddock and one is expected to back vans up to them as if they are horses. There are no water taps or drains, so apart from the amenities one is paying only for power and seeing we have our own, we would have been just as well off in a rest area. The fact that this would have been only one night in several weeks we would have camped out probably had an influence on choosing to stay here.

Oh well it is probably not really all that bad and it is only for one night.

We are both still at awe over the lakes, dry with salt flats or with water, in the district. The highway passes several and provides a lookout, rest area, looking over several. Looking at the map there does not seem to be any more, or many, from here on north.

This is another lake.

Roxby Downs

Sunday 13th April, (Roxby Downs).

More on Roxby after a walk around town today, it was left for today because yesterday was too wet and we were tied down to the caravan. We summed up the township as being an oasis within a desert. The mine must have placed a lot of thought and spent a lot of money in setting up this town as it is, because it is too well laid out to be built as it goes, like most towns.

The walk we had today was a pre marked tourist walk around several park in the town and it became apparent that the town is set up so all houses are built in the low areas between the sand dunes as there are no houses at all above the level of the dunes, which are not very high.

A contrast to this town is another small one to the east called Andamooka. This is an opal-mining town and it was obviously built as, and how people personally wanted, as it grew.

The town is also dirty and messy. The main road is bitumen and all the others consist of the local red dirt, and after the rain we had yesterday it seems as though one would need a 4-wheel drive vehicle to negotiate them. As a result of this the bitumen road is hardly recognisable, covered with the red dirt.

This town was an eye opener to us as in these times one would not expect to find a town anywhere in this condition, unless they intend it to be a tourist attraction.

Roxby Downs

Friday 11th April 2003, (Roxby Downs).

We started on our journey up the red centre today. We, especially Linda, are quite surprised at what we have seen so far of the centre as we expected it to be rather baron, dry and sandy, even though we are not far into the centre. It is sandy, red, but it is rather picturesque with varying scenery, which is fully unexpected. One sight to be seen is a lookout over Island Lagoon just before Pimba, on the highway at the turnoff to Woomera. The lagoon is actually an inland lake and like most of them at this time is dry and covered with a layer of salt on the lakebed.

We are now at Roxby Downs 80 odd kilometres north of Woomera. We have been taking note of this town name in watching for temperatures in this district over the last few weeks so we decided that we should at least visit. There may not be much to do here but at least we have been here. It is not such a bad little town actually, a housing community for the Olympic Dam mine a little further north, laid out rather well and while in the town one forgets what the surrounding terrain is actually like.

Port Augusta

Friday 11th April, (Port Augusta).

We have had our overnight stay at Port Augusta and are now on to our first leg of our Red Centre trip.