Free Camping

Day 98 – Peak Hill to Forbes

Once again we woke to a rather chilly morning which evolved into a beautiful clear and sunny day with temperatures in the mid-to-high teens.

After another slow start, which we are now renowned for, we headed off in Bertha to the Peak Hill Gold Mine Experience which was only a short drive from the caravan park.  Although we knew that there had been a gold mine in Peak Hill, we had never visited it before but when we got there we were most impressed.  There are several walking trails and you can actually walk right around the old mine, but we simply walked to the main interpretive information area.

Peak Hill Gold Mine

Scenes at Peak Hill Gold Mine

The Peak Hill Gold Mine produced a total of 153,000 ounces of gold between 1996 and 2002 under its current ownership.  Gold was first discovered here in 1889 but was initially recovered by underground mining whereas the more recent work has been done by open cut techniques.  Since production stopped a huge effort has subsequently gone into rehabilitating the old mine to make it environmentally safe and friendly.  This is an ongoing process.

From the gold mine we ventured back into town to the antique store/lolly shop/café for a nice hot cup of coffee by the wood fire (it was a little chilly out at the mine).  After coffee we made a short visit to a local store where we bought a few second-hand books for later.

Then it was back to the Newell Highway heading South.  The Newell is known for the high volume of trucks on the road and this was certainly the case today.  There were plenty of trucks going in both directions and a reasonable number of caravans and motorhomes going in the opposite direction to us.  The highway is, however, in reasonable condition so there weren’t really any issues with all the trucks and other traffic.

Scenes along the highway

There were some roadworks just south of Peak Hill but really, although there is some inconvenience at the time, it is great that the highway is being upgraded.  These particular works were actually realigning the road and will remove several curves from the highway and that will be a good thing!

Our next stop was at The Dish, 19km north of Parkes.  I just love coming here to look at the Dish, but also to have one of the Dish Café’s beef and burgundy pies. We’ve been here several times in the past and the views and the pies have been great every time.  We actually bypassed The Dish on our last trip so we really had to visit this time.

One thing that we had never seen before was a person actually on The Dish itself.

First sighting of The Dish

Welcome to The Dish – see the person up the top in his Hi-Viz vest?

Views of The Dish

Displays at The Dish

Visitors are requested to turn off mobile phones etc so as to avoid Radio Frequency Interference to the dish.  There are signs everywhere and they go as far as not having paywave EFT facilities in the gift shop or the café (ie you have to insert your card and manually enter your PIN).

After a delicious lunch and a good look around the displays and gift shop, we returned to Bertha and headed back to the highway.  We didn’t go through the Parkes town-ship itself but continued down the Newell which effectively bypasses town.

We soon arrived at Forbes and headed straight to the Visitor Information Centre which is located in the old railway station.  There is a statue of Ben Hall the bushranger outside.

Forbes Visitor Information Centre & Ben Hall statue

The ladies there were very helpful and supplied us with maps and some brochures.  They also gave us directions to a freecamp on the outskirts of town, but still walking distance to the mainstreet, shops, cafes, restaurants, etc.

Within a few minutes we had found the freecamp at Wheogo Park and had Bertha setup in freecamping mode.  There are a number of other caravans and motorhomes here but we found a great site and have fantastic water views over Lake Forbes (the water is only about 7 metres away).  It wasn’t long before we were sitting on a bench by the water enjoying a cup of coffee.  Several other vanners came by and joined us for a chat beside the lake.

Views of Forbes free camp

Views of Forbes free camp

After coffee we went for a walk along the path, returning to Bertha before it became too cold.  We have phone coverage, internet access, and access to 32 TV channels, so we should be set and cozy for the night.

Thoroughly enjoying the motorhome experience!

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Day 86 – Westing in Wyandra with the Kangawoos and Emus

We both slept like logs and woke up to a nice morning with clear blue skies (they’re back)!

This place is pretty much as close to free-camping paradise as one can ask for.  Plenty of space, basically flat sites, toilets and showers, fresh water, clothes lines, seating, access to power points – and all for a suggested donation of $5 per person per night.  Why be in a hurry to leave?  So we decided not to.

The Wyandra Camping Ground is managed by the local progress association and relies on donations to upgrade and maintain the camping area, and other community services around the town.  They receive no council funding but do a great job.

Wyandra Camping Grounds

Wyandra Camping Grounds

An added bonus here is the wild-life.  There is plenty of birdlife overall, plus a pair of emus that seem to be quite unphased by having people around and just wander around pecking here and pecking there.  Kangaroos are plentiful around here, but are a bit more wary about humans.  A mother and her joey seem to be very at home down our end of the park and there are several other adults as well.  At one stage I counted a group of seven kangaroos, happily munching.

The campground is next door to the local school, and the grounds are kept quite green for the kids to play on.  Even though there were some kids running around the school grounds the kangaroos did visit to take advantage of the greenery.

After a lazy start and a delayed breakfast and morning coffee, we went for a long walk around the camping grounds and the town of Wyandra.  We have actually stayed here before, 5 years ago.  At that time the free camp was full and there were no amenities, so we stayed at the small caravan park behind the general store/post office.  It was an interesting experience to say the least, but we were quite happy to be staying at the free camp this time.

Apart from the general store/post office/caravan park there is the Gladstone Hotel, which appears to have received a coat of paint since last time.  These seem to be the only businesses in Wyandra, and both would get a certain amount of business from the camping ground.  There is also a CMCA style dump point; a CFA/SES shed; the Powerhouse Museum (not open); a deserted service station; a church; quite a few dilapidated buildings; and some very nice buildings.  There are some relatively new walking tracks and even some exercise equipment for public use.

Views around Wyandra

Views around Wyandra

Views around Wyandra

Like many country towns Wyandra is very proud of its contribution to the War effort, and there are some magnificent memorials to fallen service men and women.

Memorials to the Fallen in Wyandra

It doesn’t take long to walk around the main town area.

After our walk we returned to Bertha and lazily filled in the rest of the day reading outside.

Welaxing with the Wildlife at Wyandra

Oh – what a life!

Another one of Ann’s excellent Sunset photos

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Day 85 – Charleville to Wyandra

When we woke this morning it was much warmer than yesterday – Bertha’s thermometer showed 6.5 degrees at 7.30 am.  Still, after having the heater on for a while, and having had hot showers, the sun started to make a difference and we were obviously off to another beautiful day.

We took our time getting started as there was no way we could leave the caravan park early even if we wanted to – vans and motorhomes and SUVs are squeezed in everywhere so we had to wait until quite a few had moved before venturing out.  We probably shouldn’t admit it but it was actually quite interesting sitting back with a cup of tea just watching as others struggled to maneuver around trees, SUVs, caravans etc in an effort to escape!  Full marks all round – not a single bingle, and only a few frayed tempers!

From Bailey Bar Caravan Park we headed off into town for a bit of a drive and a walk around.  We had stayed a few days in Charleville 5 years ago and it is always interesting to see if we can identify changes since our last visit.

Our first stop, after filling up with diesel, was at the Charleville railway station.  This is a nice old building and was apparently built in 1957 after the previous station burnt down.  It is huge and must have handled a lot of passengers and cargo way back.  Today it doesn’t even seem to be permanently manned. It was interesting to see the old pay-phone still in use.

Charleville Railway Station

Next door to the station was a major change since we were here last – the Bilby Experience attraction has relocated to the station from the Cosmos Centre further out of town.  We would have liked to go in but they were mid-way through a tour and we didn’t want to wait for the next one.

Bilby Experience is now at the Railway Station

We then found an area set aside for motorhome and caravan parking and set about on a walk around town.  There are some beautiful old buildings here; many still used for their original purpose but others which are now used quite differently.  As some of our readers will expect, we had to stop for coffee and cake at a bakery, and it was delicious!  All in all we spent a couple of hours exploring Charleville, and made a few purchases along the way.  We will almost certainly visit Charleville again sometime, but we will try to find somewhere with a bit more room to stay.

Views around Charleville

Views around Charleville

By now it was nearing lunch time so we thought that it was about time we hit the road.  Once back on the Mitchell Highway we couldn’t help but comment that for an A grade highway this road was in quite poor condition.  Lumpy and bumpy and very narrow in places – meeting an on-coming truck was a bit of a test of nerves at time.

One thing we did notice was that for most of the distance we travelled today, both sides of the road have been graded as part of water and flood management efforts.  The plan seems to be to keep any flood waters, and there are plenty of “floodplains” signs around, off the actual road surface and divert the water out into the scrub.  In this way, presumably, there is a better chance of at least some traffic getting through.

Graded Roads out of Charleville

A fair distance outside Charleville we came across some obviously quite recently completed bridge works at Angellala Creek, and the remains of what was the original bridge, and a memorial.  Unfortunately we couldn’t find a place to stop to check things out properly but subsequently Dr Google has advised us that in September 2014 a B-double truck carrying 52 tonnes of ammonium-nitrate crashed at the bridge and caught fire.  The combination of spilt diesel and the ammonium-nitrate subsequently caused an explosion that destroyed the bridge and was heard up to 30 kilometres away.  There were multiple firefighters and rescue workers hurt in the fire and subsequently a total of 15 heroism awards were made.  The new bridge was opened in May 2016 and a memorial commissioned to thank all those involved.

Bridgeworks at Angellala Creek

We eventually stopped for lunch at the tiny town of Wyandra.  There is not much to this place – a hotel, a general store/Post Office/caravan park, a ‘Powerhouse Museum’ (closed today), a primary school, and a free camp.  Oh, there were some emus and kangaroos wandering around town as well.

Views around Wyandra

Views around Wyandra

There was plenty of room at the free camp so we pulled over and had lunch.  It was such a nice quiet, open and flat space that we decided to stay here the night, so we did a quick set-up for Bertha then got out our chairs and enjoyed some reading time in the sun.  Several more visitors have arrived but there is plenty of room for us all.  Not even the kangaroos seem to mind a few visitors to their land.

This really is the life!

Sunset at Wyandra Camping Grounds

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

Day 83 – Barcaldine to Stubby Bend, Tambo

We woke to a nice blue sky with a few puffy white clouds.  The forecast top temperature today is in the low 20s.

After a leisurely start we did something unusual for us and started our day with coffee at one of Barcaldine’s bakeries.  The coffee was OK but the service was sooooo slooooooow!  We should probably have done our usual thing and got going and stopped for coffee in Bertha further along the road.

We soon came across some roadworks warning signs but fortunately they weren’t working today.  However, it looks as though sections of the highway are being widened, which would be great.  There has certainly been a lot of grading along both sides of the road.  The other alternative thought is that this may simply be drainage works for upcoming floods.

Another interesting sight along this stretch of highway are the ‘Fatigue Zone’ signs.  The theory is that if you are kept mentally stimulated then you won’t fall asleep, so the signs pose questions to drivers, offer a hint or two, and then provide the quiz answers.   The ‘Fatigue Zone’ signs are hard to ignore and they do get you in after a while.

Newly graded road & ‘Fatigue Zone’ signs

Our first stop for the day was at Blackall, where we stopped opposite the Memorial Gardens and had a light lunch in Bertha.  Blackall is celebrated as the home of Jackie Howe, the legendary sheep-shearer, and is also home to the Historic Wool-scour and The Black Stump.  We had a very good look around Blackall several years ago and actually stayed at the free-camp in town, so today we only drove around to identify any changes.

Views of Blackall

Continuing along the highway we soon arrived at Tambo, where we decided we would stay the night.  Tambo is a nice little town and its claim to fame is that is the site of the first QANTAS crash.  There is also the popular ‘World Famous Tambo Teddies’ shop.  It also goes without saying that there are a few heritage hotels and other buildings.

Views around Tambo

After scouting around town and checking out the several caravan parks, we drove a short way out of town to the free-camp at Stubby Bend.  We stayed here in 2012.

As we only drove just over 200 kilometres today we arrived at our camp site in the early afternoon, so after setting up (not a big job at a free-camp) we got out our chairs and enjoyed coffee and reading outside.  Compared to the last time we were here this place is a lot more popular and vans have been arriving all afternoon.  Our site near the creek is, we think, one of the better sites but the vans keep coming and still keep finding places to set-up.

Views of Stubby Bend free-camp

Eventually the sun went down and it was cooling down quickly so we went inside and Ann whipped up a delicious dinner.

Sunset at Stubby Bend, Tambo

Another great day enjoying a couple of smaller Queensland country towns.

Still thoroughly enjoying the Motorhome Experience!

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

Day 82 – Longreach to Barcaldine

We woke to a slightly grey and overcast morning – never-the-less we both started the day in t-shirts and shorts.

After packing up Bertha we drove into town to stock up on supplies and to have Bertha’s windscreen checked at Windscreens O’Brien.  Over the course of this adventure the windscreen now has a number of small chips so we thought we should have things checked out by the experts.  Everything was OK and the nice chap from O’Brien’s gave us some adhesive spots in case we needed them.  This was a bit of déjà vu for us as the very last time we stayed in Longreach was so that O’Brien’s could repair a chip in the BT-50’s windscreen.

Back on the road we headed South East along the A2 until stopping at Ilfracombe.  We have driven through this little town before but had never stopped, so this time we did.  Ilfracombe is best known for its “Mile of Machinery” along the highway through town which consists of a huge number of items of farm machinery, horse drawn implements, trucks and other equipment plus several heritage buildings filled with various collections, memorabilia, and so on.  It is a very colourful collection and it was great to see so many visitors to town of all ages inspecting and enjoying it all.

Views along the “Mile of Machinery”

Ann collected a couple of tasty coffees from the Ilfracombe ‘General Store’ which she described as stepping back in time.  There is also a heritage Post Office and the Wellshot Hotel, which has been on the same spot for 120 years.  It has a caravan park next door.  There is also a rotunda which serves as a war memorial and a swimming pool with an artesian spa.

Ilfracombe General Store & Cafe

Ilfracombe Post Office and the Wellshot Hotel

War Memorial Rotunda

Returning to the Landsborough Highway we headed on towards Barcaldine.  We were amazed at the amount of roadkill on this particular stretch of highway – easily over 100 ‘fresh’ animals in as many kilometres.  The council does not remove dead bodies so there are skeletons along the road as well.

Roadkill

Threatening clouds roll in

When we reached Barcaldine we first checked out our accommodation venue at the Showground, and then headed back into town for a walk.  We enjoyed a nice hot pie at the bakery, which suited the weather perfectly, before continuing our walk.

Views of Barcaldine

Views of Barcaldine

A couple pf heritage pubs in Barcaldine

Interesting musical instrument – Thong-A-Phone

The Barcaldine street-scape is dominated by the ‘Tree of Knowledge’ which is connected to the 1891 Shearers’ Strike and is believed to be the site of meetings that led to the formation of the Australian Labor Party.  Sadly the tree was poisoned in 2006 so a sculptural cover has been created over the now preserved tree.  There are also other sculptures and murals celebrating the shearers’ strike and associated events.

Memorial to the ‘Tree of Knowledge’

Memorial to the Shearers’ Strike

We then went back to the Showgrounds and set-up Bertha for the night.  Like many showgrounds there is plenty of room for overnight campers, although power poles and taps are quite random.  Still, we’re happy with our spot.

Barcaldine Showgrounds

Excellent sunset photo by Ann

It has been a great day today – not too much driving but lots of interesting exploring.

Who knows what we’ll find tomorrow?

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

Day 72 – Barkly Homestead to Gunpowder Rest Area (Qld)

Fierce winds gave Bertha a sandblasting last night!  We woke to clear blue skies but the strong winds were still there and reduced the temperature some-what.  For the first time in quite a long time we both put on long pants and windcheaters!  We did umm and errr a bit as to should we stay or should we go, but in the end decided that it was probably going to be windy on this stretch of road anyway, so off we left the relative comfort of Barkly Homestead and hit the road.

Today was always going to be a driving day with the aim of making good progress along the Barkly Highway towards Townsville.

Our first stop after struggling with the cross-winds was at Wonarah Bore, just to stretch our legs and have a quick walk around.  This is quite a big area but is a bit exposed to the road if you were to stay here overnight.

Wonarah Bore rest area

Views along the way

The next stop, for coffee and a break from driving, was at Soudan Bore rest area.  This is another good sized area with 24 hour camping permitted and has some facilities including shelter, fire-pits, a water tank, etc.  We found a nice semi-sheltered spot in which to park Bertha and we enjoyed our coffees out of the main force of the wind.

Soudan Bore Rest Area

For lunch we stopped at the Avon Downs Rest Area, which is somewhat unique in that it has its own police station over the road.  From that perspective it should be a safe place to stay overnight.  This rest area has toilets, shelter, a water tank, and more, and 24 hour camping is permitted.  Ann whipped up an omelet with muffins for lunch – we do eat well while we’re travelling!

Avon Downs rest area has its own Police Station

Cairn and Plaque about the history of Avon Downs

Lunch at Avon Downs

So far today we have seen a lot more livestock in the paddocks beside the highway.  We have seen a number of horses and lots of cattle, including some full cattle-yards presumably waiting for a truck to collect the cattle and take them to market.

Livestock

About 55 kilometres from Avon Downs we reached the Northern Territory/Queensland state border.  Not exactly a huge occasion but worthy of a photo anyway.  This also means that all our clocks are now incorrect and must be changed forward from SA/NT time by 30 minutes.  It also means that we can no longer drive Bertha legally at 130 kph!  Damn!

Qld/NT Border

The road surface seemed to improve once we were on the Queensland side of the border, which was a bit of a surprise, but a pleasant one. The winds also seemed to be less obvious – another good thing.  There were even more signs of cattle in the paddocks, and we noticed a roadside sign we had never seen before – it does make its point quite obvious.

We soon arrived at Camooweal, where we had intended free-camping at the Billabong rest area.  We saw the area coming into town and there was plenty of space still available, and it looked pretty enticing.  The first thing we had to do in town was fill up with diesel ($1.599) – the strong winds have played havoc with Bertha’s fuel economy.  We then took a quick drive around town before heading back past the hotel, and the caravan park behind the hotel – it was bursting at the seams!

Heading down the track to the free camp we soon came across a huge rut across the track (wish we’d taken a photo).  We weren’t going to even attempt to continue past that point and we’re sure that not many other vanners would have either – hence so few people in the free camp and so many in the caravan park.  What a missed opportunity for Camooweal as we weren’t the only vans or motorhomes that had to bypass the town in search of overnight accommodation.  It would only take a couple of Utes full of gravel to fix the problem!

Options in Camooweal

Views along the way

So that was that for today’s Plan A and Plan B.  Plan C was to go further along the highway to the Inca Creek rest area (Camps 9 Q320), but we both missed the turn-off.  Plan D was to stop at the David Hill rest area even further along the highway.  This is a nice big area but apart from one caravan leaving just as we arrived, there was no-one else there, which doesn’t usually bode too well, so we didn’t stop there either.

Plan E was to continue along the highway all the way into Mt Isa if necessary!  Fortunately we didn’t have to go quite that far and found a great place to stop at Gunpowder Rest Area (Camps 9 Q318), which is only 50 kms from Mt Isa.  This is a huge area with plenty of level camp sites, toilets and even a dump point.

Approaching Gunpowder Rest Area

Bertha and Shorty at Gunpowder Rest Area

It was nearly 5.00pm when we arrived so we still had time for a cup of coffee before catching the sunset.

Sunset at Gunpowder Rest Area

It’s been a longer day than we had expected and we’ll both sleep well tonight!

Still enjoying the motorhome experience!

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

Day 69 – Pine Creek to Warloch Rest Area

We were woken during the night with Bertha seeming to be full of smoke. We checked and it seemed that a fire that had been burning in scrubland on the other side of the highway the evening before had moved to the other side of the highway across from the caravan park where we were staying.  No one seemed very concerned so we turned on the exhaust fans to get rid of the smoke and once it was all clear, we closed the skylights which we normally leave open during the night in warm weather.  This was not a pleasant experience but I guess fire is an issue that vanners should be acutely aware of.

View behind Lazy Lizard Caravan Park

The morning was hot but sunny through the smoke haze.  We headed south down the Stuart Highway and turned off and drove approximately 20kms on a sealed road to explore Edith Falls (Leliyn).

Scenes along the way

We loved this place 20 years ago and although it has been upgraded in a very environmentally way, Edith Falls (Leliyn) is a truly calming and restful place to visit.  After walking to the falls along well maintained paths and admiring the views, we returned to the kiosk for coffee.  They don’t serve take-away cups here (as we said – they’re very environmentally friendly) so we were served our coffees in nice mugs complete with fabric holders as the mugs were hot.  Very thoughtful!

Welcome to Edith Falls (Leliyn)

Edith Falls Kiosk

Views of Edith Falls (Leliyn)

There is a small campground here and if we ever come back this way we would love to spend at least a week here.

There have been a lot of fires along the highway and we are a bit over the sight and smell of burnt landscape pretty much all the way south to Katherine.

Scenes along the way

We pulled in to the RV parking area behind the Katherine Information Centre and topped up our supplies at Woollies.  Bertha told us that it was 40 degrees outside when we returned and it felt like it too.

Scenes at Katherine

We continued south along the Stuart Highway and just before Mataranka there was a very loud bang at the driver’s window – it sounded like a cricket ball at full pelt but the feathers jammed into the window surround indicate that we were hit by a grey bird.  We were a bit worried that there may have been damage to the fibreglass panel behind the door but there was no trace of damage other than the feathers.

We pulled in to Mataranka, known as the Capital of the Never Never.  We parked under a magnificent Banyan Tree while we inspected Bertha.

Short stop at Mataranka

After a cool drink we continued south to Warloch Rest Area (Camps 9 NT 95) where we stayed for the night. This is a lovely camp area and we were amazed that about 20 vans were set up there at dusk with more arriving later.  We sat outside talking to our neighbours and enjoyed our dinner under the stars.

Warloch Rest Area/Free Camp

No TV, Internet or phone tonight.

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

Day 53 – Tennant Creek to Elliott

We woke to blue skies and sunshine but quite strong winds which had howled through the night.  Ann even got up at one stage and wound down the TV aerial.  After packing up and giving Bertha a bit of a clean we headed north.  This has been a good stopover to catch up on things, including communications.

Our first stop was at the Tennant Creek Telegraph Station some 11 kilometres up the highway.  The Telegraph was an essential communications line before central Australia opened up and we have seen many restored telegraph stations on this journey to reflect this.  This one was especially remote and was, in effect, a mini-village with most needed service, like butchers, food storage etc on site.  The Tennant Creek Telegraph Station closed in 1935 but the property was used by linesmen until 1950.

Tennant Creek Telegraph Station

Tennant Creek Telegraph Station

Tennant Creek Telegraph Station

From Tennant Creek our next stop was at the Three Ways Roadhouse.  Three Ways is so named as it is the intersection of the Stuart Highway with the Barkly Highway which heads east into Queensland.  The roadhouse was extremely busy with very long queues for fuel so we had coffee in Bertha.

Three Ways Roadhouse

Sometimes we know exactly how these guys feel!

Another 50 or so kilometres along the highway we stopped at the Attack Creek rest area (Camps 9 #84) for a quick look around.  This is a big space with a drop toilet and other basic facilities for travellers.  There were several travellers happily set-up here, with washing lines and one van had a generator going.  This would a good place to stop overnight.  There is also an interesting story about this place featuring our old friend John McDouall Stuart and his various expeditions.  This place is the site where the native Waramungu People attacked Stuart’s expedition party and successfully defended their traditional lands.  The stories continue with gold being found in the area and later with the Warumungu People’s fight for native title.  An interesting place to visit but you probably wouldn’t make a special trip just to get to Attack Creek.

Scenes along the way

Attack Creek

Further up the highway we slowed down to have a look at Banka Banka Station (caravan park).  This is a very popular stop and we stayed here in 2013.  It was very rustic and not very organised then but things appear to have changed. We did see some new facilities and they are really packing the vans in now.

Scenes of Banka Banka Station

We continued up the Stuart Highway – this highway is also known as ‘Explorer’s Way’ because of the way that McDouall Stuart and his several expeditions trekked from the Southern Ocean to find the ocean in the north.

Scenes along the way

Large cattle yards along the way

Sunday lunch was at Renner Springs Desert Hotel/Roadhouse.  Being a Sunday we thought that we would treat ourselves to a roast lunch, but there were no roasts on the menu so we settled for a steak sandwich with the lot.  They were huge and we could possibly have shared one between the two of us.  Absolutely delicious though, and not overpriced for what we were served.  This is an interesting place with a large collection of caps on the ceiling in the shop.  We also had a friendly peacock come to share some lunch with us as we watched the constant flow of travellers and truckies coming in to refresh themselves and refuel their vehicles.  There is also a caravan park out the back.

Renner Springs Desert Hotel/Roadhouse and caravan park

Sunday Lunch at Renner Springs

Friendly peacock at Renner Springs

We skipped their coffee after lunch, as they only had instant, and continued north through the town of Elliott, which was pretty dead given it was Sunday afternoon.  We did notice a sign to an historic WWII Staging Area, which we assume is associated with the Staging Area at Barrow Creek – we weren’t game to follow the dirt road this time!

Views of Elliott on a Sunday afternoon

We eventually stopped in a gravel pit about 20 kilometres north of Elliott and did a basic set-up.  There are no facilities here but we are fully self-contained so that’s not an issue.  We even have 4 bars on our phones.  There are about a dozen different caravans and even a huge Winnebago Nullarbor A Class motorhome.

Gravel pit outside Elliott

We’ll just have a relaxing evening and catch up on some reading as we don’t expect to have TV reception.

Ann found some beautiful wildflowers

Another of Ann’s wonderful sunset photos!

Wonder where we’ll be tomorrow night?

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

Day 51 – Gemtree to Barrow Creek WWII Staging Area

It was cold but not freezing last night, although a strong South-Easterly wind blew up overnight.  We woke to clear blue skies and warm sunshine but the wind-chill factor made being outside quite uncomfortable.

After packing up Bertha and a quick stop at a very rural dump point we drove back 70 kms down the single lane Plenty Highway.

Track to the Gemtree dump point

Just love single lane highways!

We were surprised by the number of SUVs and caravans heading east so early in the morning but had no trouble moving off the road so we could pass each other safely.  This stage of our journey was quite uneventful except for a small mob of cows that casually sauntered across the highway.  We had plenty of warning so there were no dramas.

Cattle crossing the Plenty Highway

We stopped for thermos coffee at the junction of the Plenty Highway with the Stuart Highway, before turning north up the Stuart Highway.  There was quite a lot of traffic on the highway; caravans, trucks, SUVs, etc, but pretty well zero motorhomes or campervans other than the hire variety.

Coffee stop at corner of Plenty and Stuart Highways

Some roadworks sent up huge clouds of red dust as they were grading the sides of the road.  This makes great sense as it reduces feed for wildlife so close to the road, and assists with drainage should storms arrive.  Having wide edges also makes it a lot easier to see other traffic on the road.

Roadworks means lots of red dust

Nice wide edges to the highway

The speed limit on most of the Stuart Highway is 130 kmh so it did seem a bit strange to be asked to reduce speed to 100 kmh, then to 80 kmh and 60 kmh.

Scenes along the way

Ant hills have started to appear on the roadside in this stretch of our journey.  Occasionally they are dressed up with hats, singlets, and so on.  Hopefully the ant hills are a sign that the weather will warm up soon!  Today the winds are keeping temperatures down a bit.

We’re starting to see bigger ant hills

We took a minor turn off the highway to Aileron where there is a roadhouse and some very impressive sculptures, but we didn’t stop.

Scenes from Aileron

We soon stopped at the Prowse Gap Rest Area (Camps 9 #26) for lunch beside Bertha.  This rest area has drop toilets and allows 24 hour overnight camping.  It also has a mobile phone ‘hot spot’ so Ann called our son Phil to assure him that we were fit and well and would update the blog as soon as we had proper mobile and internet coverage.  Ann was also able to download email on her phone.

Prowse Gap rest area

After lunch we drove another 45 kms to Ti-Tree Roadhouse which we had thought would be our overnight destination.  There were caravans everywhere, including the truck parking area so we decided to keep driving up the highway.  It was still early so we had plenty of time.

We continued up the Stuart Highway to the McDouall Stuart Memorial Reserve rest area (Camps 9 #24) for a stretch in the sun.  This is a quite large area and overnight camping is allowed although there are no facilities other than a Telstra ‘hot spot’ which was getting quite a workout from a car full of young people.

McDouall Memorial Stuart Reserve

There are also two memorial plaques here.  One is for Ian Dahlenburg who founded Ti-Tree Grape Farm and Red Centre Mango Farm in the early 1970s.  We had passed the farm earlier at Ti-Tree and had commented at the size of the vineyards and the fact that they were here in central Australia.  At one time Ti-Tree farm was the second largest horticultural business in the Northern Territory.

Memorial Plaque

The second memorial monument and plaque is for John McDouall Stuart who ascended and named Mount Sturt in April 1860 – the mountain was later renamed Central Mount Stuart in honour of the explorer.  Tennant Creek, where we will arrive in a few days, is located in the McDouall Ranges, also presumably named in honour of the explorer Stuart.

Back on the Stuart Highway we headed for Barrow Creek Roadhouse as another option for our overnight stay.  We drove through what seemed to be endless mulga scrub until we came across some roadworks for line painting.

Scenes along the highway

Not unexpectedly we had to stop at the Stop sign where the road reduced to a single lane until the flag-lady waved us through.  What we didn’t expect, and have never seen before, was a pilot car escorting us along the 3 kilometres with a flashing sign asking us to follow the pilot car as there were wet lines.  Quite amazing!

Roadworks – line painting

Roadworks – line painting

Arriving at Barrow Creek we were a bit disappointed.  The entire place looked run down other than the restored heritage Telegraph Station, and we couldn’t see any caravans or motorhomes anywhere, so we decided to continue on our quest for overnight accommodation.

Barrow Creek Roadhouse & Caravan Park

Barrow Creek Telegraph Station

Is this Coddiwompling?  We are certainly “travelling purposefully toward an as yet unknown destination”.

Camps 9 came to the rescue with a reference to a rest area at the Barrow Creek WWII Staging Area (#22) some 20+ kilometres down the highway from the roadhouse.  Turning off the highway we were completely in the hands of our Garmin GPS as we headed down a dirt track in reasonably good condition into the unknown.  After about 1 km we came across a sign and a number of caravans and a motorhome came into view.

Welcome to Barrow Creek WWII Staging Area freecamp

We soon found a great site on a nice wide concrete slab, with a fire-pit nearby.  Most other vans here are also parked on slabs so after setting up Bertha we went for a walk to understand more about this place.  The sign we had seen explained that this was one of the military staging areas for troops moving north from Alice Springs to Darwin in WWII.  According to the map on the sign, Bertha is currently parked on the site of one of the original mess halls.  There are other slabs that have the remnants of walls and fireplaces, but we do wonder where all the bricks and other materials went after the war.

Parked at freecamp

Back in Bertha, we settled in for a night of freecamping.  Ann cooked up a delicious dinner, only popping outside quickly to take a beautiful photo of the sunset.

Sunset at Barrow Creek WWII Staging Area Freecamp

Yet again, no mobiles, no TV and no internet.  Updating the blog will have to wait another day.

Still thoroughly enjoying The Motorhome Experience!

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

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:

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