Well that’s the end of the trip as short as it was back home and now in lock down. Not looking good for Pt Douglas I am thinking.
Well we are doing a bit of out back camping (out in the back yard) for next 6 weeks. Not a bad site we have a fire pit, a family of geese and a couple of echidnas.😷😷😷😩😫😳😳😳😵😵😵
Well went for a walk in the local (next to camp site) forest. The walk took a while came back and someone has parked next to us. I hope their not noisey. On my walk came across a wood cutter, asked what he was doing – cutting wood he said. This conversation wasn’t going far so asked Dave the wood cutter why he was cutting wood, because he was a wood cutter was the answer. Figured Dave was a man of few words so I moved on. Meet some funny people on your travels
So we are still in Swan Hill and as I said earlier our plans are fluid but with the way things are going we have decided to head back home. We will leave Swan Hill Sunday and follow the silo trail back to Avoca where we will stay a couple of nights to catch up with my niece and her new baby. Then it will be on to home for a while. We hope things will settle enough for us to head out again maybe late August early September. Who knows with things the way they are. Not to worry I have a bit to keep me occupied – redo our laundry, get use to my new camera and find a new set of wheels. I have done a bit of fishing which I haven’t done for a while – guess I should get a licence. Its been good backed up to the mighty Murray and quite cathartic and we have a resident family of ducks with 5 young who potter around the caravan most days and provide a bit of light relief with their antics. Our days have been mainly coffee, walks and sitting in the sun (when its out). My travel blog this time hasn’t been all that exciting but I might start putting some of my photos up to relieve the boredom. I had a bit of a run out to Pental Island then back along the Murray to Swan Hill actual got into low range as there was bit of mud and slush and a couple of water crossings. Will have to clean the mud of the car now before I sell it.
Well we escaped Wednesday a bit later than we expected but none the less we are on the road. Today was a short leg Bendigo to Swan Hill for 3 nights then we aren’t sure. We are proposing to do the silo trail but the plan isn’t finalised or even well defined – not that it has to be. Its bloody cold looks like it will be below zero for the next few nights. The trip up was uneventful with not much traffic and we were able to sit on 95 with ease. I think we have done the second battery in the ute which I picked up as we got into Swan Hill. It was lucky as it is running the freezer in the car. So that will dint the budget but can’t complain it’s probably 5 years old and has had a rough life.
Swan Hill is not my favourite place but we have a great site right on the river. Tomorrow night I might venture out after dark and have a bit of a play with the light sphere and a few long exposures. There is a bit of light pollution but can’t really get a way from that around here.
We will head off from here Friday to somewhere, possible Lascelles or Hopetoun – ahh the decisions we have to make.
Well as I said our plans are fluid, we have decided to stay in Swan Hill till Tuesday now as I have a meeting to sort out a few personal things but on the plus side we have retained our camp site for the extra days. Our first couple of days have been pretty much doing nothing. A few walks into town, coffee with Di and not much else. We are hoping to do a few of the silos tomorrow after breakfast at Spoons on the river to take a run up through Sea lake to Patchewollock then back own to Lascelles then back to Swan Hill.
Well we managed to get away after a great breakfast at Spoons on the Murray and did a 350k run through Sea Lake up to Patchewollock, south to Hopetoun then out to Lascelles then back to Swan Hill. We have seen the Patchy and Lascelles silos before but the Sea Lake ones are new – about 6 months old. There seems to be new ones popping up all the time.
Tomorrow is a quiet one might drop a line and we are going to the art gallery to have a look at an exhibition. There is a good chance of some mist around early morning so I might have to rise a bit earlier and try for some photo time.
Longreach has a few things its famous for, the stockman’s hall of fame and the Qantas founders museum to name a two. Both have various packages you can do ranging from not overly expensive to a cure for the national debt. We elected to do two of the moderately priced options. Our first outing was a visit to the rail station which by chance (as if) had a coffee shop attached. The coffee was pretty good and the old station has come up a treat. We also had a wander around the town which has a pretty good selection of retail for a small outback town. The obligatory visit to the information centre for information on what’s on in Longreach and back to the van park for a planning session. A word on the van park we have been in a wide variety of parks and some pretty big ones at that. It may have not been the biggest but it was close with over 300 sites we were 309. The over thing is there isn’t much grass but plenty of red (and other colour) dust.
Next day we headed off to the Stockman’s Hall of Fame. The museum is a fantastic tribute to the stockmen and Longreach with tributes to both indigenous and European stockmen and women and also the characters that opened up the outback. We can highly recommend this to everyone. We also had tickets for the day shown which was pretty impressive. I have never seen a brahma bull with a saddle and ridden like a horse. Jigsaw was one hell of a bull. The horse of course were also quite amazing, but my favourite was the blue heelers the way they can work, intuitively, the cattle or sheep was impressive. The enthusiasm of the workers/volunteers is a credit to them.
I decided to do the Qantas founders museum with a guided tour of the DC3, 747 and 707 they have on display. Di came with me but elected only to do museum. The guided tour of the 747 is pretty amazing. It was one of the first for Qantas and was restored, after it was found in a grave yard, and flown back to Australia. It landed at Longreach in November of 2002. It only had enough fuel for 3 attempts and there was some speculation that the runway wasn’t quite long enough. The plane was also one of the last 747 to be wholly cable operated which meant that there were very few pilots who were qualified to fly it. It landed on first attempt. In the photos you may on close inspection noy=tice this one has 5 engines. The 5th engine cowl is actually how they used to transport spare or engines requiring repair around the world.
The 707 is one of 13 of that model built, it was number 13 John Travolta owns no.1. The 707 was found in England in a grave yard and has quite a history as well. The inside is not what you would expect. It was modified after Qantas initially sold it and is decked out in a style suitable for an oil sheik. Including double bed and padded toilet. It has been used in its current form by the likes of the Jackson 5 and John Travolta taped an interview in the plane. On its return journey to Australia it was taken to America to photographed nose to nose with Travolta’s plane. The museum houses a huge range of relics from a bygone era including a complete Catalina flying boat. Again this is worth the trip to see this museum.
Tomorrow it’s on to Charleville
A reasonable short run from Longreach to Charleville of 300 odd kms. We passed through???? which provided a bit of interest – the machinery mile. There is about a mile of roadside devoted to old machinery including steam engines, trucks, stationary engines, bottles, WW1 and WWII memorabilia. An incredible array of stuff and completely free of charge to view. Charleville came over horizon in time for a late lunch. We settled into our sites in a small van park, booked for the roast dinner they were putting on and headed for the info centre. The info centre is housed in the railway station along with the Bilby experience. There are a number of things to see around Charleville and with all of these you have to make a choice otherwise it becomes very expensive. Our choices were the Bilby experience, sun gazing at the Cosmo centre, a night sky stare gaze again at the Cosmos centre and a tagalong tour of the old WWII American airbase.
What can I say, the Bilby experience was just magic and the efforts a number of organisations are going to protect this small, endangered mammal from extinction are amazing. There is breeding program running which is releasing back into the wild which has had mixed success but at least is not going backwards and the success rate is improving. The biggest problem they are facing is feral animals like cats and foxes still they are pressing on.
Out to the Cosmos centre for a 1 hr session learning about the Sun and with a little viewing trough a telescope and a session on how irrelevant we are in the scheme of the universe. This was followed by a tagalong tour of the old WW!! American air force base (or what’s left of it). The size and infrastructure that was put here is incredible. It was a bomber base and also the point where bombers departed for the Coral Sea campaign. The fighter component of the base, (where they parked the fighter) stretched for 2 kms. It is also the sight where the first of the Norden Bomb sights were tested and installed into the American bombers. Much of the current hospital and air field is credited to the American contingent. The runways are still of a length that gives Charleville an accreditation as an international airport.
After dinner it was off to the Comos centre again for our evening of star gazing. It was cold and very clear and well worth our time. We saw some pretty specy stuff but for me the moon and its craters were so clear and distinct. Great way to end a day. Tomorrow we move on to – well we aren’t really sure yet but either Cunnamulla or Bourke. It will be a surprise.
On the road again for another 400+kms run from Mt Isa to Winton. It is extremely dry and barren along this road and we struck bloody wind again. In spite of that we made good time stopping at a place called McKinley which, as its main claim to fame, the Walkabout Creek hotel. If that sounds familiar then think Crocodile Dundee fame. Apparently a number of films have been made here. A quick lunch and Winton here we come. Made pretty good time and pulled into the park about mid-afternoon for a 3 night stay.
A new day a new information centre which was our first stop on day 1. The Matilda centre as it’s known is a relatively new structure after the old one burnt down a number of years ago. It houses a museum, art gallery and a dinosaur museum, and a coffee shop. After collecting our info on what’s around we sat for a coffee and planning session. We meandered the main street and took in the street scape. We visited Willy Mars heritage listed Chinese market garden site which is being cared for by locals. Willie and his son apparently were institutions in Winton and highly regarded. The account of their involvement in the Winton community is quite extensive and continued up till early 2000. Next on the list was the musical fence to play a few (tuneless) tunes. By now it was mid-afternoon and time to go and relax. After dinner, for something different we discovered a nostalgic open air cinema which has been started up to demonstrate some of the early film projection technology. Was a bit of laugh the volunteers who have set it up are still learning the equipment (which is all original from the 40’s through to the 60’s) and so there were many bloopers still for $6 you can’t complain and it did keep us entertained for a while with a few laughs along the way.
Day 2 was our big day in that we headed out to the Dinosaur stampede at Lark quarry which was about 100kms out on bitumen and dirt. The find is the only known one in the world and is a major attraction. It is a public/private partnership between Queensland Parks and Wildlife, Winton Shire council and Dinosaur heritage. It is believed to be over 95 million years old and contains 3300 footprints of over 150 dinosaurs. The short story is they believe that is was a water hole and the dinosaurs were along the water and were interrupted by a lager predator which made them scarper in all directions. The prints were then somehow preserved in the rock strata and the first finding was about 1965. Well worth the trip if you are up this way.
Tomorrow it’s on to Longreach for at least 3 nights which is one of our shorter legs at 190kms.
Mount Isa was a bit of a surprise package really I wasn’t sure what to expect being a mining town but it did have quite a number of interesting things going on and a very extensive information centre. The big blue “I” is usually our first stop on any trip when we arrive at new location and helps heaps in working out our itinerary. We have 3 nights here and cannot extend due to some important rodeo that’s happening and accommodation is at a premium.
First night we took a trip up to the town lookout to take in the city lights and we weren’t disappointed. The lookout is basically in the centre of the business district and afforded great views over the town. The night was quite warm and clear and we had a bit of fun with the cameras.
Today we had ear marked a number of things we intended to do. We started off at the school of the air, then the WWII Underground Hospital and tent house and in the afternoon we were to go out to Lake Moondarra for a picnic lunch and site seeing.
The School of the Air was incredible in that our guide was extremely knowledgeable and passionate about the school. Founded by Bib ?? in the 60’s it has progressed with technology. They currently have about 120 students in this particular school. We were given access to a classroom where a teacher was in the process of delivering a lesson to 3rd graders. My hat goes off to these dedicated teachers and also to the parents/governesses (govies) and the children who seem to thrive in what is a difficult and remote environment. There was a photo of a current student sitting in the shade of a tree in the middle of a paddock with his computer and phone engaged in a lesson. There are a number of schools throughout remote Australia that perform these services. The postage cost alone for the Mt Isa school to send student work books etc out and have them returned was $40000.00 in 2017.
From there we headed off to the Underground Hospital which was built during WWII. The site has been maintained and hosts a plethora of medical instruments, utensils and hospital furniture as well as the underground hospital. We had one of the volunteer ladies take us underground and provide some informative dialogue as we went. She was a real card and her and her cronies were throwing one liners around. The hospital was built by miners who volunteered their time to construct the facility which was tunnelled into the bed rock. It has not been restored just maintained and is a credit to all those concerned.
We ended up so late with these two activities (and the wind was blowing yet again) we decided to have lunch in Mt Isa and head out in the afternoon to Lake Moondarra for a drive. This lake was built as a result of the mine and its need for water and is huge. It’s about 60ft deep at the dam wall.. We found a few interesting birds on our meanderings around the lake which helped top of a great day. Tomorrow it’s on to Winton –home of the Dinosaurs.
We spent 2 nights back in Alice Springs basically to replenish or supplies as from here we are heading to Mt Isa in Queensland. It will be 2 nights 3 days of the grid. We left Alice early and continued north. We weren’t too sure how far we would go to day as the wind has come up again but notionally we aimed for the Devils Marbles. We gave up about 40kms shy of the marbles at a place called Wycliffe Wells which it would seem is incredible famous for UFO sightings. Interesting place which has clearly capitalised on the UFO thing in the past although I think its wearing off now.
Reasonably early on the road again this morning as we continued north, stopping off at the Devils Marbles. Really interesting rock formations and we walked around them for about half an hour. They are significant geological formations and quite amazing in the way they have formed roundish shapes and the way they have split, almost like someone hit them with an axe. Back on the road we went through Tenant Creek and about 20kms north came to Three Ways. This the point at which you head to Darwin or turn east to Queensland. We turned east so we have reach our furthest extent for this trip – it’s all downhill from here. Out through Mt Barker Homestead and on to Woonarah Bore for our overnight stop in a roadside rest area. There were quite a few other travellers at the site and went really quiet after a bout 9ish so we managed a good night’s sleep. We were treated to a fantastic sunset and it felt great to just sit there a watch it.
Awake at a reasonable time again this morning and back on the road by 8.30 for our last leg, through Camooweal and on to Mt Isa. We stopped for coffee/drink at Camooweal and it wasn’t too bad for an out back whistle stop. We got into Mt Isa about 3ish. So far we have clocked up about 3950kms.
People need to get out an experience some of Australia, the people out here do it tough and from my observations a lot of people expect the same standard as they get in the larger cities. It’s the outback, it’s hard on people and infrastructure and cost significantly more to provide basic services. At Mt Barker for instance all power comes from generators to provide power to the Roadhouse/camp grounds etc etc. Their generator uses 500ltrs of diesel every day. Oh and the road trains, we have been pretty lucky and haven’t encountered too many but at 56 mtrs long I’m not sure I want to. Most of the time they pass us and after the second of the four trailers pass you wonder when it’s going to end.
We headed out for our 3 nights in the West MacDonnell ranges, which was a bit of a test for the vans on how they performed “off grid”. The outcome pretty good we reckon 3 nights is achievable with our water capacity – batteries weren’t a real problem with the sun during the day. Nights were very cold but not intolerable. We camped at a place called Ellery Creek Big Hole which was a little bush camp (about 15 or so sites) a couple of hundred metres from Ellery Creek. This was to be our base for the next 3 nights. What a magic place and it’s a bit of like “what another gorge” out here. They are incredible sites and absolutely magic to access to these places. I keep saying we don’t know how lucky we are in Australia. We got there about midday and soaked up the place for the rest of the afternoon.
Next day we back tracked about 40 kms and then headed to Hermannsburg and then out to Palm Valley. Hermannsburg is a mission settlement with very little in the way of facilities. There is a famous indigenous choir here based at the Lutheran church who have translated and sing many of the hymns in their indigenous language. It didn’t feel a welcoming place but then we didn’t have a lot of time. It was a 44 km off road trip from Hermannsburg out to palm valley and back so it ended up a long day. Palm Valley is unique in that it is the only place in Central Australia that a specific variety of palm exists and then only in this couple of km stretch of gorge. In addition the walls of the gorge are covered in cycads. The trek in whilst not extreme proved challenging and this makes the place even more interesting because not many people have the capability to get to the site.
Our second full day in the West MacDonnell’s Di, Wendy and I took the short trip Glen Helen, again another gorge and walk, we even managed a coffee. On our way back we went into Ormiston Gorge and what can I say another fantastic place. It also has a small camp area and we have marked this down for a future trip. Our last stop on our return was the ochre pits, which is the area where the pigments for the various indigenous rock art were mined.
This morning we packed up and said good bye to Ellery Big Hole and headed back to Alice Springs for a couple of nights to replenish our stocks and get prepared for the next leg from Alice to Mount Isa
Our first full day in the Alice was pretty quiet catching up on some washing and a bit of shopping but not much else. The weather wasn’t all that pleasant being warm (around 30) but very windy which kicked up a lot of dust. We planned our day for tomorrow which was out to the East Macdonald ranges and that was about it. By then it was beer o’clock and time for a drop of red or beer.
Our second full day dawned a fair bit cooler and the plan was to do the Ross Hwy/Ross river loop. Around about 150km loop into the East MacDonnell ranges with a mix of on road and off road sections. We decided also to take one car so with our lunch prepared off we went. Our first stop was Yeperenye/Emily and Jesse Gap reserves. Emily Gap had quite a bit of rock art but photography of the art was frowned upon but the gorge, like most of them, was spectacular. The rock art depicted the three caterpillars which were the ancestral beings from which the local tribe descended. Jessie’s Gap forms part of or continues that story line and was our next stop. Again the gorges are spectacular and we went a walking once more. Next stop was Corroboree Rock and we took the 20 minutes’ walk around its base. Back out onto the blacktop and we continued on to Trephina Gorge Nature Park and a bit of lunch. We also took a walk along the dry river bed into the gorge. Here we were able to photograph some of the rock art. There is a significant amount of rock art throughout the various gorges some of which is actually carved into the rock. It is also good to see that most of it has escaped the graffiti artists.
After lunch we continued the loop to N’Dhala Gorge. This was the final gorge on our trek for today. We followed the path in for about 750 mtrs which took in 2 of the viewing places. Here the most prominent is the carved rock representing the caterpillar dreaming story. From here we came back to Alice on BInns Track which is a track that starts of in Queensland. It goes through a number pf private properties but is a public access rd. It wasn’t too bad but lots of dry creek crossings, rocks and bulldust. We arrived back at camp about 3.30. Life is pretty hard. Tomorrow we head out to the West MacDonnell ranges for 3 nights.
After our 2 night sojourn at Burra Gaz was feeling a little better. So we decided to press on – may have not been out best decision as it blew an absolute gale from the time we left until we arrived a Glendambo. We had 50 to 70khm winds all the way and for most of it side or head on. It was a shit of a trip. For the most part I was in 4th gear and watching the fuel gauge heading south at a rapid rate. Thank god for long range tanks but 480kms and 90 something ltrs of diesel I was pretty happy to put down stumps for the night. Glendambo is basically a roadhouse/pub/camping/motel and we were happy to see it. We spent a pleasant evening in front of a very nice open fire and a drink to end the evening and few prayers the wind would go away.
Next morning we woke to no wind and the sun shining, what a difference a day makes and it was on the road again to Marla for the night. The amount of road kill was incredible and we saw quite a number of wedge tail eagles. These majestic birds are just amazing but a few had been hit and killed because they feed on the road kill and aren’t quick enough to get of the road. Not much to report except no wind. Marla we are well acquainted with, and very little exciting to talk about. We were looking forward to dinner in the restaurant as in the past these have proven to be pretty good. We left a little disappointed this time round but at least we didn’t have to cook.
We left around 8.30 next morning for Alice Springs with a stop for lunch at Stuart Wells which was enjoyable and arrived in Alice about 2.30ish, booked in and set up now we can relax for a little bit.