Monthly Archives: May 2017

Day 35 – Alice Springs – Update No 1

We’ve been at Wintersun Caravan Park in Alice Springs for a bit over a week now, so it must be time for an update.

Wintersun Caravan Park

This is a very nice place to stay.  It is on the north end of town and is apparently the closest caravan park to town.  We haven’t tried to walk into town but we have caught the local bus a couple of times – it costs $1 each for seniors with a 3 hour time limit.  Facilities here are good and there is a large laundry.  Most of the visitors here stay only 1 or 2 nights to do some shopping and washing after being in the red dirt and then continue on their travels.  The walls around the park are topped with razor wire, and the gates are locked every night.  We’re not sure if that’s reassuring or not!  There is a small shopping centre only a few hundred metres down the highway with a good IGA supermarket, a gourmet butcher, a chemist, a bottle shop, and a large bike shop which is a bit of a surprise.

Wintersun Caravan Park – Alice Springs. Notice the gates and razor wire?

We have now moved to our previously booked site and have done a “full” set up with shade-wall side and end walls, as well as our new off-side shade wall.  We added a sail track to the slide-out and slid in a standard size shade-wall and it does an excellent job protecting us from the weather (mainly heat from the sun) in our new location.  We are fortunate to have a large concrete slab and that adds to our comfort.  Naturally there have been several “housekeeping” days when we have tried to reduce the amount of red dust from Bertha and ourselves and our clothes.

Bertha – fully set-up

The weather here in Alice Springs is wonderful.  Nights can be cold but the days are usually somewhere between 25 and 30 degrees with not much wind other than some nice cool breezes throughout the day.  Perfect weather for BBQs and generally cooking outside whenever possible.

Slaving over a hot stove, and enjoying the results.

We hired a small car for a few days to see some of the sites rather than drive Bertha everywhere, and just as well as visiting Anzac Hill in Bertha would have been a real nightmare.

We have had several happy hours with Downunda and Faye to compare notes of what we have been doing and where we have visited and have also met and chatted with many other travellers.  Amongst them was a New Zealand couple who had recently picked up a brand new Jayco Optimum motorhome in Melbourne and were doing a 6 month tour around Australia before the motorhome is shipped across to NZ.  It was interesting to talk to them about differences between travelling in Australia compared to NZ.

Anzac Hill Lookout

This is definitely a “must see” for any visitor to Alice Springs.  Just don’t try to bring your motorhome or caravan up here!  It is an indigenous sacred place which is shared with others as a place of remembrance for those Australians lost in military conflicts.  There are many plaques explaining those various conflicts – this is a very moving and solemn place.  The location provides great views down into the town of Alice Springs and the surrounding areas.

Anzac Hill Lookout

Anzac Hill Lookout

Views from Anzac Hill Lookout

Olive Pink Botanic Garden & The Bean Tree Café

The Botanic Garden is only about a 10 minute walk from town and is another “must see” in Alice Springs.  Our first stop was at The Bean Tree Café for a much needed coffee.  We also succumbed to one of their delicious cakes (we shared).  While we were enjoying our coffees, several small kangaroos (maybe wallabies) bounded through the café area, much to the delight of patrons.

Olive Pink Botanic Garden

The Bean Tree Cafe at the Botanic Garden

The “Australian Arid Regions Native Flora Reserve” was founded in 1956 after lobbying by Miss Olive Pink, who was an unconventional anthropologist, advocate for Aboriginal rights, and a botanical artist, amongst other things.  The main building here, which includes the café, is made from rammed earth and sits well in the landscape.  Some of the seating is very “rustic”.  The 3 day NT Writers Festival was to start here the day after we visited.

There are a number of walks around the gardens, and we were fortunate to see several more kangaroos, including one with a joey, bounding through the landscape.

Views along a Botanic Garden walk

Can you spot the kangaroos/wallabies?

A mystery visitor to the Botanic Garden

We found the Botanic Garden to be an interesting and soothing place to visit.

Todd Mall and the Town Centre

Alice Springs is quite spread out but the main tourist destinations are in the Todd Mall which is limited to pedestrian traffic only.  This is where the gift and souvenir shops, art galleries and the cafes can be found.  We were a bit surprised as to how “quiet” this place seemed to be, although it was probably better to visit without hordes of people around.  Most of the Aboriginal artworks on display are amazing, but they often come with a decent price-tag.  We enjoyed a casual stroll along the mall and visited several shops before stopping for lunch at The Red Dog Café.  Very good food and coffee and reasonably priced.  There are other cafes we liked the look of and plan to visit when we are back in town.

Interesting sign in Todd Mall

Historic Adelaide House in Todd Mall

There are several shopping complexes near to the Mall, with Coles, Woolworths, Target and other major stores represented.  There are also some other museums and places to see within the bounds of the town centre.  Some of the architecture is of heritage value, but there are also some magnificent more modern buildings.  The Supreme Court building is a knock-out!

Supreme Court of the Northern Territory

Simpson’s Gap

On Downunda’s recommendation we drove our hire car out of town to see Simpson’s Gap.

Views along the way to Simpsons Gap

Burning off along the way to Simpsons Gap

This is a stunning natural gorge with amazing rock formations along the river/creek bed.  As we were heading off on our walk along the gorge we couldn’t help but notice a group of about 20 painters with easels and other associated paraphernalia trying their best to capture the view along the river bed through the gap.  I’ll stick with my camera I think.

Welcome to Simpsons Gap – there are guides on various days of the week.

Artists busy in the river bed

As we continued down the well-made path the views upwards and around us were magnificent.

Good walking path

Magnificent rock formations along the walk at Simpsons Gap

Magnificent rock formations along the walk at Simpsons Gap

One sign I will obey!

At the end of the path we came to a spot where there was water in the river bed through the natural gap in the mountain range.  In the right light this would be an absolutely magic spot, but it was still pretty special when we visited.

Water hole at the gap

Along the walk we saw numerous different native plants, some beautiful birdlife and a very confident wallaby with a long black tail.

Rock Wallabies

Alice Springs Desert Park

The Desert Part is a fantastic facility only a few kilometres out of town on the way to the West McDonnell Ranges.  Our first priority was for a coffee and shared cake at the cafe.  Delicious!  We then headed into the main centre where there is a great display about the general area, the native flora and fauna, and the original Aboriginal inhabitants of the area.  There is also a large gift shop where several purchases were made.

Welcome to Alice Springs Desert Park

Desert Park

Desert Park

Floor plaque

Unfortunately a couple of large tour buses arrived and disgorged their human contents so we decided to delay a proper visit to the Desert Park to another day.

John Flynn’s Grave/Memorial

On the highway close to the Desert Park we stopped at the John Flynn’s Grave Historical Reserve.

John Flynn Memorial

John Flynn was better known as “Flynn of the Inland” and was the first Superintendent of the Australian Inland Mission and the founder of the Flying Doctor Service.  He did a magnificent job initiating a wide range of services for Australians right across the country who were living in remote areas.  This is the actual site where his ashes are laid to rest.

What’s Next?

Downunda and Faye have left Alice Springs and were last heard from at Devil’s Marbles.  Neither of us knows exactly where we’ll be at any point in time but we’re sure that our paths will cross again in our travels.

Ann has actually flown back to Melbourne to attend to various matters and visit Alex and Emily our grandchildren, so I am actually on my own here for a little while.  I have a list of various jobs to do around Bertha and I have a number of other projects to work on as well.  Also, I will have the opportunity to visit a number of local attractions that don’t interest Ann at all – like the National Road Transport Hall of Fame and the Kenworth Truck Museum.

We have a list of other places we plan to visit once Ann gets back before we leave Alice Springs for destinations further north (including Devil’s Marbles).

Stay tuned for the next exciting instalment of Shorty’s RV Adventures ……………

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Day 24 – Salt Creek Rest Area to Alice Springs

It was freezing cold this morning so the diesel heater went on for a while before we got up for breakfast.  The sun soon got high enough to start warming up the day.

We soon headed off down Luritja Road towards the Lasseter Highway and turned approximately east towards the Stuart Highway. Not long past the turnoff we stopped at Kernot Range Rest Area for thermos coffee in the sun.  Another glorious day to be enjoyed.  We were a little surprised when a Wicked Camper pulled up with 3 girls to fill up water bottles.

Leaving Salt Creek

Interesting choice of vehicle at Kernot Range Rest Area

We made another quick stop at the Mt Ebenezer Roadhouse and lo and behold, there was another Wicked Camper driven by a young girl.  The photo shows the “G” rated side – I wouldn’t include the other side in this family friendly blog!  I understand that these “rude” Wicked Campers have been banned in Queensland so I’m a bit surprised to still see them here in NT.

Mt Ebenezer Roadhouse

Continuing 100 kms down the Lasseter Highway we stopped at Erldunda Roadhouse at the junction with the Stuart Highway where I refuelled Bertha (diesel was a surprising $1.759 per litre) while Ann went in to purchase two skinny caps to go – we have nice coffee in Bertha but sometimes a bought coffee hits the spot even better.  The roadhouse was very busy catering for 2 tour buses so we decided not to stop there for lunch.

Erldunda Roadhouse

A further 30 kms or so up the highway we stopped at the Desert Oaks Rest Area (63 Camps 9).  This is a large and tidy rest area with new amenities and would be a good choice for an overnight free-camp.

Desert Oaks Rest Area

Observation:  While we have stopped at some great rest areas – a warning to fellow travellers that many have large pot holes at entry and exit, mainly where the bitumen meets the dirt.  Desert Oaks was no exception. So just take care when venturing off the road into any rest area/free-camp.

Back on the highway we drove through the Seymour Range hills and then the landscape turned flat again through the Palmer River Valley.  All streams and rivers we crossed were bone dry.

Driving through the Seymour Ranges

Some big trucks on the road

We drove on past the Ernest Giles turnoff and noted the Finke River Rest Area (61 Camps 9).  This seems to be a very popular free-camp with good facilities – it was pretty full and it was still early in the day.

Finke River Rest Area

We drove on through the Finke River flood plain and through a constantly changing landscape.

We stopped briefly at a historic marker which was a memorial for the 2 drivers and 2 officials killed on that spot in the inaugural Northern Territory Cannonball Run on 24 May 1994.

Cannonball Run Memorial

Back on the road our next stop was at the pay phone at Stuarts Well Roadhouse where Ann rang family to assure them that we were OK after several days “off-grid”.  This is an interesting place with a camel farm and an emu enclosure as well as a roadhouse and a bar.  There are powered camping sites for a fee and unpowered sites free of charge if you buy a drink or meal at the bar.  We had considered staying here overnight but then realised that it was Saturday night and things might get a bit interesting later on, so we decided to continue another 90 kms to Alice Springs.

Camel Farm at Stuarts Well

Stuarts Well Roadhouse

Ann had previously made a booking at Wintersun Caravan Park but we were a couple of days ahead of schedule.  No matter, they found us a temporary site until our booked site became vacant.  This is a very busy park and we are fortunate to have a site here.  As we pulled onto our site we were greeted by long-time friends Downunda and Faye. We knew that they were planning to be in Alice Springs about now but without phone and internet neither of us knew where the other was.

Setting up Bertha at Wintersun Caravan Park

We joined them for a very pleasant happy hour catching up with our respective travels and tales from the road, before heading back to Bertha for a light meal and settling in the for the night.

It has been a great day and we are happy to be back in civilization.

We are settling here at Wintersun for a couple of weeks – there is a lot to see and do.  As is our usual practice, we won’t be doing daily blog updates while we are here but will post summaries of all major and exciting events and activities.

Still living the dream!!!!

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Day 23 – Kings Canyon Resort to Salt Creek Rest Area

Still no internet or mobile reception, and no TV.

We woke to glorious weather yet again.  Bertha was packed, empty things filled and full things emptied and we bade our farewells to Kings Canyon Resort.  It has been great staying here and it has certainly been popular with fellow travellers – even the camping areas have been packed every night.

We headed down the Luritja Road towards the Lasseter Highway and turned off at Kathleen Springs as we had heard that there was a walk worth taking here.  With Bertha parked, we slip, slop slapped, and Bushmanned and off we set.   At the car park there is a solitary toilet and a large covered area with gas BBQs (not working unfortunately).

Start of the Kathleen Springs Walk

The Kathleen Springs Walk is about 2.6 km, is rated Easy, and is sealed its entire length, so it is actually disabled friendly.  It sure made walking easier for us.

This is completely different terrain to Kings Canyon and spectacular in its own way. There are quite a few interpretive signs along the track which explain some of the features along the track, like the Trapping Yard, the man-made Watering Hole plus information about the traditional owners and their hunting and survival strategies in this area.

Trapping Yards and Waterhole

Scenes of Kathleen Springs walk

Scenes of Kathleen Springs walk

Apart from the man-made features, the majesty of the rugged cliffs is outstanding.

Scenes of Kathleen Springs walk

At the end of the track, accessible from a boardwalk, we came to Kathleen Springs which is a peaceful spring fed waterhole at the head of the Kathleen Gorge.  Although dry and arid along the track, the vegetation is a lot greener around the waterhole.

Scenes of Kathleen Springs walk

Kathleen Springs spring fed waterhole

Although not a particularly long walk, it actually took us quite a while as there was so much of interest to see.

Back at Bertha it was great to be able to have a proper wash and a cool drink.  We thoroughly recommend motorhome travelling!!!  It wouldn’t be nearly as comfortable visiting remote places like this in a car or SUV.

Back on the road we continued past Kings Creek Station where our thoughts of having another of their delicious coffees were dashed by the arrival of a tourist bus, so we headed on back to Salt Creek Rest Area.

We decided to avoid this short-cut and stay on the bitumen

Scenes on the way to Salt Creek

To our amazement it was chock-a-block with caravans, SUVs, campervans, and us in a motorhome.  We found a place to stop as it was lunchtime and were relieved when most of the others packed up after their lunch and headed off to destinations unknown.  So we decided to stay here again tonight, without the luxuries of TV, phone or internet.

Salt Creek Rest Area

It was lovely sitting in the shade reading in the relative quiet, which was disturbed at intervals by the sounds of flocks of cockies – referring to our Morcombe’s “Field Guide to Australian Birds” we believe that they are Major Mitchell Cockatoos, and young ones at that.  But boy can they make a noise!  All the campers here got out their cameras and took multiple photos, and even a tour bus pulled up long enough for the passengers to get out and take some photos before heading on to Kings Canyon.  We suspect that this particular spot must be part of an annual mating ritual or something like that.

Photogenic cockies at Salty Creek rest area

In the interests of keeping Bertha clean, we made sure that we didn’t park under any trees!  Our solar panels got a good workout and the batteries were looking very healthy.  It was about 30 degrees but still very pleasant.  We would definitely recommend this place to anyone travelling through to Kings Canyon.

Just before dinner, a large dingo arrived in camp, and had everyone scampering for their cameras and iPads.  He, definitely a he, didn’t seem at all worried about being close to humans and wandered from vehicle to vehicle looking for something to drink.  He had a good drink from the end of our grey water hose before wandering off again but another group of people put out a bowl of water for him and he took his time having a good long drink.

Dingo at Salt Creek Rest Area

Our grey water hose was a good source of nourishment

There are about 10 groups here tonight, in varying types of accommodation.

We are looking forward to a quiet night’s sleep tonight prior to heading back to the Stuart Highway towards Alice Springs tomorrow.

Categories: 2017 Up The Centre Adventure, Free Camping | Tags:

Day 22 – Kings Canyon Resort

Yet another cold morning morphing into a glorious day.  Cloudless blue skies and a top temperature of about 28 degrees.

As mentioned yesterday, dingoes and wild dogs are a problem here.  There are signs all over the place warning about feeding or in any-way encouraging them.  They turn up at mealtimes and you can hear a voice saying “Shoo – go away!”  Unperturbed the dingoes simply move on to the next van and the next van says “Shoo – go away!” and so on.  Just like a verbal Mexican wave.  Hilarious!!  Sometimes other words with the same meaning are used, but this is a family friendly blog so I won’t repeat them here.  There were some upturned rubbish bins about the park this morning and it is pretty obvious who the culprits were.

Scrawny dingo/wild dog at Kings Canyon Resort

We got off to an early start this morning as it felt a lot warmer than the last few days.  Bertha was packed up and we drove about 10 kms to Kings Canyon.

Views on the way to Kings Canyon

We parked in a section of the car park set aside for the “big boys”.

Big Rig carpark at Kings Canyon

There is a very impressive metal information structure with lots of information about the geology of the area, and about the different walks available.  There are also water stations with (hopefully) fresh water so that visitors can have a drink, fill water bottles, and so on.  Toilet facilities are nearby, but are the only ones servicing walkers and visitors to Kings Canyon.

Information Area at Kings Canyon

We had a look at the rock stairs at the start of the Rim Walk, which is the most difficult walk.  It goes for about 6 kms, takes 3 to 4 hours to complete, and is rated Moderate but with a hard section at the beginning – that would be the rock stairs.  I did the Rim Walk 24 years ago but decided not this time – the years have left their mark!

Stairs at the start of the Kings Canyon Rim Walk

Stairs at the start of the Kings Canyon Rim Walk

Instead we headed along the Kings Creek Walk which is a lot easier, although it still means scrambling over rocks and such so a reasonable level of fitness is required.

Start of the Kings Canyon Walks

Start of the Kings Canyon Walks

It was an absolutely beautiful walk, in parts along a dry creek bed, but the contrasts in the colours of the vegetation against the clear blue sky and the amazing rock formations make it particularly special.

Scenes from the Kings Canyon Creek Walk

Scenes from the Kings Canyon Creek Walk

Scenes from the Kings Canyon Creek Walk

Scenes from the Kings Canyon Creek Walk

Scenes from the Kings Canyon Creek Walk

Scenes from the Kings Canyon Creek Walk

Scenes from the Kings Canyon Creek Walk

Scenes from the Kings Canyon Creek Walk

Scenes from the Kings Canyon Creek Walk – can you see the man doing the Rim Walk?

Scenes from the Kings Canyon Creek Walk – can you see the bridge for the Rim Walkers?

Our walk came to an abrupt end some distance before the anticipated end at a viewing platform where you can see stunning views of the sheer canyon walls. In May 2016, during severe storms, some boulders came loose from the canyon walls and destroyed the viewing platform and it is still being rebuilt, so the Rangers have had to fence off the end of the Creek Walk.

Abrupt end to Kings Canyon Creek Walk

Abrupt end to Kings Canyon Creek Walk

We really enjoyed the walk and stopped several times to just sit quietly and soak in the ancient, mystical atmosphere.  Like at Uluru, you can feel the spirituality of the land and can completely understand why these areas are so special to the traditional land owners.

After a refreshing cool drink in Bertha we made our way back to Kings Canyon Resort and reclaimed our site.

Lunch was “Wombat, Roots & Leaves” vegetarian pizza at The Desert Oaks Bistro, which I washed down with a Lazy Yak.  Delicious!  We were going to have coffee there but a tour bus arrived and disgorged a million visitors so we headed back to Bertha for coffee instead.

This afternoon has just been a lazy afternoon, soaking up the magnificent vista that surrounds us.  This truly is an awe inspiring location and we have made the most of our stay here.

Thoroughly enjoying the motorhome experience.

Goodnight from Kings Canyon Resort

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Day 21 – Salt Creek to Kings Canyon

We woke to a cold morning and turned on the diesel heater before breakfast.  The sun soon warmed up the day.

It was interesting to see dingo/dog footprints all around the camp area.  Perhaps what we heard last night was a rallying call to come and hunt for some food scraps from the tourists?  I suspect that they would have been disappointed as we were a very tidy bunch.  The rubbish bins have heavy metal grill lids on them too.

Not in any particular hurry, we soon headed off along Luritja Road towards Kings Canyon.

Scenes along the way

Scenes along the way

This was not an enjoyable drive.  Although the road surface itself is generally very good, the road needs to be at least a metre wider – it is 2 very skinny lanes and overtaking can be a real issue.  The sides of the road are very jagged and deep and would do some real damage to tyres if you went off the main road surface. Remnants of tyres along both sides of the road are a testament to this problem.

Ragged edges to the road

The situation is made worse by there being no opportunities to pull off the road for any reason for about 75 kilometres at Kings Creek Station.  This place was a very welcome stop.  We bought a couple of very tasty coffees and had a look around.  They offer various types of accommodation, sell fuel ($2.13 for unleaded, $1.98 for diesel), have a café and gift shop, and offer tours of the immediate region, including helicopter tours.  The pet cockatoo Charlie was very photogenic.

Kings Creek Station

Charlie the Cocky at Kings Creek Station

Chopper getting ready for take-off

Camels and Donkey at Kings Creek Station

Some further 40 kms along the road we arrived at Kings Canyon Resort.  This is a lovely secluded complex – there is no TV, mobile or internet but that’s the whole point.  They offer “a private audience with an ancient land” and that is exactly what you get.  It is so peaceful here – loaded with views, shaded areas, and hundreds of happy birds.  There are signs everywhere warning not to feed the dingoes, and there are special dingo doors on all the amenities blocks as well.  I did see a very healthy dingo wandering around but didn’t have my camera at the time.

Kings Canyon Resort

Beware of Dingoes at Kings Canyon Resort

After checking in at Reception we found our site, set up Bertha and had a good walk to explore the complex.  The facilities are great and the views are amazing.  This resort is nowhere near as big as Ayres Rock Resort, but it does have its own, peaceful feel.

Today is Tracey’s birthday so we found a pay ‘phone and called her.  Our grand-daughters first question was “what’s a pay ‘phone” so we have included a photo for Alex and Emily.

What’s a payphone Nana?

We continued our walk around the resort and stopped for a welcome cold beer at the Thirsty Dingo Bar.  There are several catering options here including the “Under the Desert Moon” 5 course degustation under the stars, Carmichael’s contemporary restaurant, the Outback Bar & Grill, and the Thirsty Dingo Bar.  There is also a general store with quite a wide range of goods and souvenirs, a fuel station, and very importantly, a dump point.  Other facilities in the resort include a swimming pool and tennis courts.

Thirsty Dingo Bar at Kings Canyon Resort

Thirsty Dingo Bar at Kings Canyon Resort

Back at Bertha we had a quiet sit before heading out to the Sunset Viewing Platform.  This is a good vantage point and quite a few people gathered there to see the sunset.  Champagne, wine, beer and other cold drinks were on sale too – how civilised!

Sunset at the Viewing Platform

Sunset at the Viewing Platform

Sunset over the rocks was very impressive and we could see the rocks changing colour.  What was even more impressive was the fast rising moon.

There’s a Pale Moon Arisin’

Then it was back to Bertha for a light tea before some reading and an early night.


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Day 20 – Yulara to Salt Creek Rest Area

We woke to another beautiful morning and did a full pack-up of Bertha as we were heading off today.  With water tank and jerry can full and grey water tank empty, we drove a short distance to the fuel station to fill up with diesel, and then on to the dump point to empty the cassette.  So, with everything full that needed to be full and everything empty that needed to be empty, we headed back to the Lasseter Highway.

Our first stop for coffee was at Sandy Way Rest Area (71 Camps 9).  We commented on this stop on the way in.  Overnight stays of 24 hours are allowed, and there is water (not sure exactly how fresh), shelter, rubbish bins, and a mobile ‘phone “hotspot”.  As advised previously, this could be a reasonable place to stop overnight on the way to Yulara and then only have a short drive the next morning.

Sandy Way Rest Area

Back on the highway we passed a “wandering animals” road-sign and sure enough, we almost immediately came across some cattle right on the edge of the road.  They looked peaceful and happy enough but it would only take a few steps out into traffic to cause chaos!

Stock near the Road

We stopped for lunch in Bertha at Curtin Springs.  It was very busy while we were there with a couple of coaches stopping but it’s simply too expensive for us to make any purchases here.

Scenes along the way

From Curtin Springs we continued along Lasseter Highway to the Luritja Road where we turned North towards Kings Canyon.

Interesting sculpture at the junction of the Lasseter Highway and Luritja Road

Scenes along the way

We soon made our way to Salt Creek Rest Area (67 Camps 9) where we will be staying the night.  It’s a great free camp with shelter, rubbish bins, a water tank, etc but no toilet facilities.  There were a couple of groups here when we arrived but it has since been filling up all afternoon.

Salt Creek Rest Area

After a basic set-up I went for a walk to see if I could find any trace of Salt Creek.  No luck at all, but there is a large sand-dune behind the camping area and a number of driving tracks over the top.  The dirt here is very fine red dust and obviously some vehicles had experienced some difficulties driving through the dust.  Over the sand-dune however was a fantastic place to camp with lots of flat ground, trees, etc, but no man made facilities.  Late this afternoon a chap in a Land Rover and off-road camper stopped and checked it out – he happily drove over and is now set-up on his own over the hill.

4WD track and area over the dunes at Salt Creek Rest Area

On the way back from my walk I noticed some interesting tracks in the dust – no idea what they are though.

Tracks in the Sand

This place is great.  There is a pleasant cool breeze, no TV, no internet, no mobile phones, just peacefulness.  What else could we do but get out the chairs and enjoy some reading in the shade?

There are about 10 groups here tonight, so it has got a lot more crowded since we arrived.  We fired up the BBQ for dinner and then sat inside with the doors and windows open, reading and enjoying the breeze without the flies (yes – they are a real problem out here).

BBQ at Salt Creek Rest Area

After a while someone in one of the other groups started playing guitar – very well too!  What a lovely way to spend the evening.  We went to sleep to the sound of dingoes/dogs howling somewhere near-by.

Categories: 2017 Up The Centre Adventure, Free Camping | Tags: ,

Day 19 – Ayres Rock Resort

Another gorgeous day.  We were both feeling a lot more stiff and sore than we had anticipated, so we again took things quite easy today.

Although we regularly walk the distance we did yesterday at Uluru and Kata Tjuta, it isn’t usually on gravel, stones and boulders.  If anyone is contemplating the walks, we strongly suggest that you wear good quality hiking boots, preferably with ankle support.  Sneakers or runners just aren’t really good enough for the terrain.

After doing a few chores around Bertha and having lunch in the sun, we caught the shuttle bus to the Desert Gardens Hotel for a look around.

Our actual destination was the Wintjiri Arts & Museum area.  This is a new Indigenous art gallery that exhibits the works of various “Artists in Residence”.  The retail area showcases local indigenous products including weapons, tools, clothing with local designs, quilting material packs, books and souvenirs, and so on.  The most interesting aspect of Wintijiri however is the information about the local area, history, inhabitants, wildlife, and so on.  There were a number of displays of native flora, fauna and bugs with taxidermy specimens, which was fascinating.  Unfortunately photographs are prohibited.

From Wintijiri we walked through the resort to the Town Centre and did some shopping at the IGA supermarket before catching the shuttle bus back to the Campground.

Wintjiri Arts & Museum

Before long it was time to get changed as we were excited to be going to the “Field of Light” art installation at Uluru.  This was one of our “Bucket List” must-do items.

Field of Light information booklet

The tour bus collected us near the Campground entrance 30 minutes before sunset and took us to a “secret location”.  After a short walk to the crest of a sand hill, we were greeted with formally attired waiters and waitresses who served us champagne and a variety of canapes with distinctly outback flavours, including beetroot, crocodile, prawns and kangaroo.

Enjoying the Field of Light

Field of Light – Early

From our vantage point overlooking Uluru, as the sky darkened we could see lights coming on along pathways, and then a huge area lit up in different colours.  The “Field of Light” is an art piece by UK artist Bruce Munro who has done 17 of these mass installations across the globe.  This is the first to be solar powered and the biggest installation to date.  There are 50,000 individual blown glass globes, covering 49,000 square metres.  The globes, which are on different height stalks, are connected by 380 kilometres of fibre optic cable to 36 portable solar panels.  The artist, Bruce Munro, happened to be at Uluru tonight, although we didn’t recognise him in the dark.  We were allowed to wander freely along the paths through the globes for a considerable period of time.

Field of Light

Field of Light

Field of Light

SENSATIONAL !!  That really is the only word to describe it.  My photos totally fail to capture the impact of this place, but hopefully provide some sort of indication as to the experience we felt.  There are a variety of different tours from the resort to see the “Field of Light” including a full gourmet dinner.

If you are coming to Uluru in the next 12 months or so, do yourself a favour and make sure to visit the “Field of Light”.

Eventually the bus collected us and dropped us off at the Campground where we happily walked back to Bertha and settled in to watch Q&A on TV.

Very happy campers today!

Categories: 2017 Up The Centre Adventure | Tags: ,

We have internet! Travel updates to follow shortly! Stay tuned …..

Categories: 2017 Up The Centre Adventure

Day 18 – Uluru & Kata Tjuta

It was yet another glorious day as we got going early, packed up Bertha, our big car, and headed out to Uluru.

First stop was the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park Entry Station where we bought the minimum 3 day pass @ $25 per person.

Entering Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park

Our next stop was at the Mala Walk Car Park where we parked with the Long Vehicles and Buses.  Smothered in sunscreen and Bushman’s insect repellent we set off on the Lungkata Walk to Mutitjulu Waterhole.

Views around Uluru

Please respect the Rock

Please respect the Rock

There are many different ways to tour around Uluru

Its 24 years since we last visited Uluru and there are some obvious changes.  Today the rock climb was closed because the wind was too strong.  There is a lot more signage asking that people do not climb the rock, although it isn’t forbidden unless the climb is officially closed for the day.  I did climb to the top in October 1993 but I wouldn’t do it again now, mostly out of respect for the Anangu traditional owners.  Plus I’m a lot older now!

History Fact: On 26 October 1985, title deeds to Uluru and Kata Tjuta were handed back to the Anangu traditional owners.  Since then the Anangu have been working with the Director of National Parks to jointly manage the Park.  During this time the park has been recognised as a World Heritage Area for both its natural and cultural values.

The walk was awe inspiring.  Whilst Uluru looks like a smooth single rock from a distance, up close there are sheets of rock coming off, large boulders, caves, cracks and crevices, and more – it certainly isn’t smooth.  It is however majestic and spiritual – there is no yelling and screaming here – people even tend to talk in whispers.  Interestingly, there is no litter either – another mark of respect for this sacred place.

Views around Uluru

Views around Uluru

Our walk started in the shade but eventually the sun caught up to us and it became quite hot and sticky – and zillions of flies.  We did this walk 24 years ago but since then fences and barriers have been erected in places to keep visitors at a distance from the more sacred places.  There are more designated walkways and boardwalks and a lot more interpretive signs.  In other words its being more properly managed now.  Much of the area is under a revegetation program and places we went so long ago are no longer accessible and/or visible.  With recent rains Uluru is very green and there is plenty of long grasses and other shrubs and trees surrounding the place.  There is a surprising amount of vegetation growing on even the highest parts of the rock.

Views around Uluru

Views around Uluru

Views around Uluru

Mutitjulu Waterhole

If you are planning to walk around Uluru, you do need to do a bit of forward planning as there are no toilets except at the car park and they are 300 metres away.  There are only a couple of spots where you can access fresh water so you need to carry your own with you.  The overall Uluru Base Walk is a loop of around 10.6 kilometres.  We walked to the Mititjulu Water hole and back, which was about 5 kms.

It was great to be able to return to Bertha where it was cool, we had toilet facilities, and we could have a good cold wash – red dust sticks to sunscreen!  We then had a light lunch in Bertha before heading off to the Cultural Centre.

Nearing the Cultural Centre

Nearing the Cultural Centre

The Cultural Centre is a beautiful building made of mud bricks and natural timbers and provides a wealth of information about traditional Anangu people.  Unfortunately photos aren’t allowed.  We spent more time there than we should have – it was so fascinating.  There is also a gift shop and a cafe.  We were perhaps hoping for some traditional bush tucker but settled for a true blue Aussie lamington with our coffees.

It was then back to Bertha and head west on the 50 km trip to Kata Tjuta (The Olgas).

First stop was at the Kata Tjuta Dune Viewing Lookout.  After a considerable number of steps up a large red sand dune I came to the viewing platform.  This was to the only time that we could feel reasonably close up to Kata Tjuta and capture the size of it in a single photo.

View of Kata Tjuta from the Dunes lookout

We then continued to the Valley of the Winds carpark and started up the very rocky pathway.  It was rough and difficult terrain and after what we estimated was about a kilometre, with a lot further to go, we retraced out steps and returned to Bertha.  Even though we didn’t make it all the way to the Karu Lookout, we still got up close enough to appreciate the size and majesty of this incredible rock formation.

Start of the Valley of the Winds walk

Views around Kata Tjuta

Views around Kata Tjuta

Leaving Kata Tjuta

After a cool drink we drove to the Walpa Gorge Walk carpark.  We did this walk last time we were here and remember it as being very beautiful. However, today we were tired and there were busloads of international tourists to share the path with, so we decided against even attempting this walk today.

We then drove back to Ayres Rock Resort and set-up Bertha before collapsing in our chairs with a cold beer.

What a great day we have had!  We walked nearly 11 kms according to our fitness trackers and had great close up encounters with some of the world’s oldest and most majestic scenery.  Plus we learnt a lot more about this country and its traditional owners.

We were too tired to bother with cooking dinner so we caught the shuttle bus around to the Outback Pioneer Kitchen where we had a delicious meal and a glass or two of a very nice red.  Extra bonus was when a live musician, Stu Harcourt, came to the stage and blew us away with his song arrangements featuring guitar and didgeridoo.

Stu Harcourt at the Outback Pioneer Lodge

Lessons Learnt Today:

  • Touring in a motorhome to places like Uluru and Kuta Tjuta is fantastic, especially as fresh water, toilets, and other facilities are hard to come by in the remote outback
  • Don’t try to do too much in one day. We would have been better to have visited Uluru one day and Kata Tjuta on another day – after-all the Native Park Pass is for 3 days so why not use it.
  • Wear appropriate footwear. We both wore good quality walking shoes at Uluru and that was OK as the pathways were mostly fine red dust/gravel.  At Kata Tjuta, however, the paths were very rocky and uneven, and proper hiking boots, preferably with ankle support, would be ideal.


Categories: 2017 Up The Centre Adventure | Tags: ,

Day 17 – Ayres Rock Resort, Yulara

We decided to have a quiet non-driving day today.

It was beautiful weather again today, and it felt a bit hotter than we have felt so far.

After a leisurely start we enjoyed a cup of plunger coffee in the sun with our books, on the benches behind our parking spot.

Bertha happily parked

Looking out our backdoor

It was then time to do some more exploring of the Ayres Rock Resort, which is a lot more than just a Camping Ground.

Map of Ayres Rock Resort

We were starting to feel a bit hungry so we caught the shuttle bus to The Town Square where we had a delicious lunch at Gecko’s Café.  Other eating options at the Town Square include the Ayres Wok Noodle Bar (clever name) and the Kaluta Academy Café where we had coffee yesterday.  The Town Square also has a range of speciality and gift shops, a newsagent, a post office, an ANZ bank, an IGA supermarket and a large tourist information and tour booking centre.

Ayres Rock Resort Shuttle Bus

Views around Ayres Rock Resort

Views around Ayres Rock Resort

After browsing the Town Square we then caught the shuttle bus back to Bertha.  It was quite hot by now and there were a zillion flies so we put the cooler on and caught up with a bit more reading inside, without the flies.

At close to 6.00 pm we headed off, with plenty of Bushman’s spray, to the Naninga Lookout to catch the sunset over Uluru.  There were quite a few other people there to watch the sunset including one young couple who obviously decided to make a night of it and bought up chairs, wine glasses and wine, and a roast chicken to enjoy.

Views of Sunset from the lookout

Then it was back to Bertha for a spot of TV before having an early night.  We have a big day planned tomorrow!

Categories: 2017 Up The Centre Adventure | Tags: , ,

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