Posts Tagged With: alice springs

Days 36 to 46 – Alice Springs Update No 2

Ann is back!  After a week or so in cold and wet Melbourne, Ann is back in Alice Springs.  Unfortunately she bought some Melbourne temperatures with her and we have had overnight temperatures in the negatives!  The days are cooler as well, but at least we get sunshine and clear skies.

While Ann was away, I did take the opportunity to visit the National Road Transport Hall of Fame and the Ghan Legends Museum.

Rather than pack up Bertha and drive a few kilometres out to the museum complex, I booked a Half Day Tour with the NRTHF.   This included bus pick-up and return to Wintersun Caravan Park, entry to both the Truck Museum and the Ghan Museum, access to all other features at the museum complex, a guided tour of the entire complex and a light lunch.

Jeff picked me up in the bus at Wintersun and it turned out that I was his only customer for the day.  Jeff does a lot more at the museum that drive the bus and conduct guided tours.  It turned out that after the ‘formal’ guided tour and while I had plenty of time to wander around by myself, Jeff replaced a windscreen in one of the trucks currently under restoration, and dug a 20 metre trench so a water line could be extended.  He is definitely Mr Versatile.

Entry to Ghan Museum and Truck Museum

Lots to see at the Ghan Museum

After checking in at Reception, our first destination was to the Ghan Legends Museum which features the locomotive NSU58 which was one of the first diesels to take over from steam trains.  We took a walk through the train and it was interesting to see the dining and bar cars and compare what was considered luxurious then with how we regard luxury today.  The galley is so small when you consider the number of meals that it had to prepare on its journeys.  There were some very nice stained glass windows, a bit surprising on a train!

The Old Ghan

Original plans of the Dining Car

Dining car on the old Ghan

Luxury in the Bar Car

Jeff was a fount of information with plenty of interesting facts and stories.  He pointed out, for instance, that some of the open carriages at the back of the train were used to convoy troops during the war when they were referred to as ‘cattle class’.  Sitting on open wooden benches on a train wouldn’t have been very comfortable, that’s for sure.

Looking back towards ‘cattle class’ seats

We had our own Ghan adventure in November 1993, when we travelled from Adelaide to Alice Springs in a sleeping compartment – it didn’t go as far as Darwin until sometime later.  As I recall, the dining car and lounge were a little more modern than NSU58, but perhaps not very much so.

There are also several other locomotives, carriages and other interesting railway themed items.

Some of the other interesting locomotives and carriages

There is also the actual Ghan museum itself.  The building it is housed in has its own interesting story.  Apparently plans for a station were drawn up in war time, but the project was cancelled due to lack of funds and changed priorities.  The station was then built at the NRTHF some 40 years later, to the original plans.  There are some fascinating displays including a tribute to the Afghan cameleers who opened up The Centre, plus a huge collection of photos and memorabilia about railways from days long past, including the construction of the Ghan.

Old Ghan Station – built to original plans 40 years late!

Plenty to see in the Ghan Museum

Great model train diorama of the Ghan

The Ghan museum complex also houses a small gift shop with some very different and interesting items for sale, plus the Old Ghan Tea Rooms and Garden café where I later enjoyed lunch.

The garden area includes some aviaries complete with cockatiels, an oversize chess set, a pavilion where functions and weddings are held, and other play and walking areas.  Everything is very tranquil.

Ghan Tea Rooms and relaxing areas

After a good look at the Ghan complex it was time to go over to the Truckies’ Hall of Fame. This place was opened on 30th July 1995 so it has been going for quite a while and has itself built up an interesting history.  Jeff is an ex-truckie so he was really in his element here.  As we walked through the various exhibits his knowledge about nearly each and every truck was astonishing, and I soon got into memory overload.

Welcome to the Truckies Hall of Fame

Displays include world rarities including the 1934 AEC Government Roadtrain, 1957 Rotinoff Viscounts and Kurt Johnannsens’ Diamond T and self-tracking trailers.  There is a Stirling prototype truck built in the USA that after testing was not deemed capable of registration.

Roninoff Viscount powered by Rolls Royce

Lots more trucks

The actual taxi from the Michael Caton film “Last Taxi to Darwin” is on display and next to it is a donated hire car that clocked up a total of 1,000,000 kms.

Last Cab to Darwin & 1 Million Kms Limo

There are some beautifully restored trucks, and others where it has been decided that they are more valuable in an unrestored condition.  Plus there are plenty of trucks currently under restoration.  There is also a ‘grave-yard’ where trucks which cannot be restored are left to die in dignity (or cannibalised for parts for other restorations).

Lots and Lots and Lots of Trucks

Plenty of trucks inside too – including 3 wheeler

Lots of Trucks

Hall of Fame & Library

The part of the Truckies’ Museum that I was really looking forward to was next – it is the Kenworth Truck Museum and the Kenworth Dealer Hall of Fame.  I have a bit of a ‘thing’ for Kenworth trucks, probably through their association with Bolwell.  Many readers of this blog will know of my interest in Bolwell!   Click Here  to find out more!

Kenworth Dealer Hall of Fame

Walking into the Kenworth complex is amazing!  It has about 30,000 square feet of display space devoted to the history of the Australian designed and built Kenworth truck, and the dealer network that supports the trucks.  Jeff told me that there is an American built Kenworth truck in the yard that needs restoration, but Kenworth Australia won’t touch it!

Some of the signage at Kenworth Hall of Fame

Alice Springs has long been a transport hub for one of the remotest regions in the world and has a special place in the Australian Road Transport Industry as the birthplace of the road-train.  Several new Kenworth models have been launched in Alice Springs.

Some of these trucks are massive

Kenworth Trucks

The Kenworth Museum includes the very first Kenworth truck made in1971 in Australia at Kenworth’s Bayswater, Victoria factory.  There are also examples of many other Kenworths, plus displays of engines, truck seats, and other truck components.

There are details of all the Kenworth dealers around Australia, and displays celebrating the Dealer of the Year as well as Supplier of the Year (Bolwell has won this award twice).

Supplier of the Year Awards

Jeff told me that many of the trucks in both the Truckies’ Museum and the Kenworth Museum are actually donated by their owners, often after a long life on the road.  There are also trucks that have done 4,000,000 kms but looking at them on display they almost look brand new!  Some trucks are left there on a loan basis and others are purchased outright.  Many of the trucks have a special story and in some cases there are interpretive plaques to tell that story.  Many trucks were owned by characters of the outback!

Kenworth Trucks

The bulk of the work here is done by volunteers and there is an active volunteer program.  Grey Nomads and other travellers passing through Alice Springs are encouraged to volunteer for a few weeks and in return they can park their RV for free and still have plenty of time to see around the area.  When I first arrived I met one the volunteers, Bev, who is also a motorhomer, and we had a great chat about the museum complex and volunteering.

Eventually after several hours at the NRTHF complex, after Jeff’s tour and a good walk-around on my own, and lunch, it was time for Jeff to drive me back to Wintersun.

What a fantastic day.  I took way too many photos and only a few are included in this blog post.

If you would like to learn more about the National Road Transport Hall of Fame, you can visit in person, or maybe visit their website at

On Friday we took our very big car out for a drive.  First stop was the parking area allocated to RVs near to the centre of town and we walked into Todd Mall for coffee and toast in the sun.  There was a busker nearby so we bought him a cup of coffee as a thanks for entertaining us.  We then walked over to Woolworths to stock up before going back to Bertha to put everything away before heading off.

Todd Mall in Alice Springs – where’s Nana?

John Flynn Memorial Church in Todd Mall

Our next destination was the Old Telegraph Station.  It was very different to when we were here in 1993.   We parked Bertha in the large carpark and walked down new paths towards the new café/shop where we met a dingo!  This is where you pay your entry fee, and can join a free guided tour if required.  One very interesting feature at the café is an original letterbox where each letter posted there receives a special souvenir postmark from the Old Telegraph Station.

Dingo greeting us at the Old Telegraph Station

Cafe & Shop – part of the Alice Springs Mountain Bike Trail

Entry to the Old Telegraph Station precinct

Also new is the inclusion of the Telegraph Station into a very active cycling network around Central Australia.  Hire bicycles are available and during our walk around we came across many cyclists out enjoying the sunshine.  Not all of the cyclists should have been wearing lycra though.

The Old Telegraph Stations is located next to the original ‘Alice Spring’.  It was named in March 1871 by the Overland Telegraph Surveyor WW Mills after the wife of Charles Todd, who was the Postmaster General and Telegraph Superintendent.  Alice Springs isn’t actually a spring at all but a depression that collects water, and it was certainly bone dry when we visited.  This is why the actual town of Alice Springs moved!

The original Alice Springs – very dry!

We enjoyed a very pleasant walk around the old buildings and then returned to the café/shop for a nice hot toastie and coffee.  It had been -1 degrees overnight and the day was taking a while to warm up.

Views around the Old Telegraph Station

After that we followed a walking track to the old Cemetery.  There are two stone enclosures and five graves in the cemetery.  The first person buried here was Ernie Flint in 1887, but the largest memorial is for James Bradshaw who was buried in 1901.  He was the brother of TA Bradshaw who was the telegraph station master at the time.

Old Telegraph Station Cemetery

Old Telegraph Station Cemetery

Back in Bertha and a much warmer day, we went for a final scenic drive around Alice Springs before returning to Wintersun Caravan Park where we bunkered down for a forecast -2 degrees overnight.

We’ve spent the last couple of days preparing for the next stage of our 2017 Up the Centre Adventure.  Maps and tourist guides have been perused and potential routes and destinations considered.  Bertha is very clean and so are clothes and shoes.  Tanks are full or empty as required.

Downunda and Faye might be interested to see the ‘new look’ camp kitchen here at Wintersun.  It’s been out of action most of the time we’ve been here but apart from some minor electrical work, it’s all systems go.  I cooked lunch over there today!

Wintersun’s Upgraded Camp Kitchen

We head off from Alice Springs tomorrow.

We did have a question as to the population of Alice Springs.  The answer is always vague, as so much of the population is transient and we haven’t come across a realistic number.  Jeff, my chauffeur a few days ago did make the point, however, that the town population is limited to 50,000 as the water supply won’t cope with any more people than that.

Final note: we have discovered a new word – “Coddiwomple”.  It means “To travel purposefully toward an as yet unknown destination”.

So, from now we will be Coddiwompling!

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

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 ……………

Categories: 2017 Up The Centre Adventure | Tags:

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!!!!

Categories: 2017 Up The Centre Adventure | Tags:

Blog at