Monday, February 25, 2013

7 Days ... from Adelaide to Darwin!

Mindil Beach Sunset, Darwin (pic by Pilchard)

Does it REALLY take 7 days to drive the ~3000 km from Adelaide to Darwin?

Source:  http://www.goingrank.com.au/geography.html
Only if you want to see a few sights along the way on a REAL adventure! Car hire is the best option to experience a cross-section of Australia's unique countryside from the dry south, through the Red Centre deserts to the lush tropical north!

AND come to terms with the vast distances that road-tripping in Australia demands!

So follow my rough guide from Adelaide to Darwin via Uluru – with LOADS of optional extras! BUT … be warned! It might just mean your epic trek takes a few extra days!!


Day 1: Adelaide to Woomera
 
Distance: 487 km 
Driving Time: 5½ - 6 hours (allow extra time for rest, food and sightseeing stops)
Scenery: Varied. After leaving Adelaide, drive through the scenic Clare Valley wine region; then along the edge of the Flinders Ranges to Pt Augusta. At this point, you're still on the Adelaide Geosyncline (yes, I'm showing off!)(Dad, are you reading this??) landform.

Island Lagoon, via Woomera, South Australia
It's all Outback from Pt Augusta, and the drive along the Stuart Shelf, an extension of the Adelaide Geosyncline, is unremarkable but for some unexpectedly spectacular land formations.

Points of Interest:
  • Salt Lakes and Claypans, including Pernatty Lagoon and Lake Windabout
  • Island Lagoon Lookout and Nurrungar – now closed, this joint US/OZ facility was the site of several protests, most notably by current Senator Peter Garrett, one-time front man for Aussie rock band Midnight Oil
  • Woomera Heritage Centre & Missile Park within the western world's largest land-based missile and rocket range
Enter the Woomera Prohibited Area (well … it gave ME a thrill!) 7 km off the highway from Pimba. The outdoor missile park's unusual collection of relics from rocket range days is all the more bizarre for its location.
 
Outdoor Missile Park, Woomera, South Australia
The Heritage Centre's excellent displays show the fascinating heritage of this little town on the edge of nowhere that has variously included the Rocket Range, NASA Deep Space Tracking Station and a controversial Asylum Seeker detention centre.


Options:
  • Spend an extra day exploring Woomera and nearby Roxby Downs, built in 1988 to support Olympic Dam – Australia's largest underground silver and copper mine
  • Combine Days 1 & 2 and save Woomera for another visit

Day 2: Woomera to Coober Pedy

Distance: 365 km


Coober Pedy from Lookout, South Australia
Driving Time: 4 hours (allow extra time for rest, food and sightseeing stops)


Scenery: Central Tablelands, with mesas, low hills and salt lakes before reaching the Stuart Range near Coober Pedy, where the landscape is dominated by mullock heaps.
 
Points of Interest:
  • Lake Hart – either a saltpan so white it'll hurt your eyes; or full of water!
  • Glendambo Roadhouse complex and service centre – only place for fuel and food this leg
  • Coober Pedy Mullock Heaps; Underground buildings and accommodation; and opal!
While passing Glendambo, spare a thought for Pilchard & I as we inched towards Glendambo after car trouble struck just over half way from Coober Pedy in 2004.

The most compelling argument I can think of for a) carrying water and b) having paid up Road Assistance membership, with a blown head-gasket, the car was, as the mechanic put it in technical terms, 'stuffed'.


Underground at Coober Pedy, South Australia
Road Assist paid for a) a motel unit; b) bus fares to Adelaide; c) trucking the car to Adelaide for repair; and d) general expenses. I still shudder to think how much we'd have been out of pocket – so DON'T leave home without it!

Staying in Coober Pedy's underground accommodation isn't for the claustrophobic – but IS something to experience at least once! And looking for Opal, either in the tourist 'noodling' area OR 'finding' it at the nearest opal showroom can be very rewarding!!

Options: Stay another night and tour the nearby Breakaways and Painted Desert; the underground churches; and a working opal mine. Then take a round of golf at the Coober Pedy Golf Course. It DOES offer reciprocal rights to world famous St Andrews in Scotland after all!!


Day 3: Coober Pedy to Uluru

Distance: 750 km

Driving Time: 8 – 8½ hours (allow extra time for rest, food and sightseeing stops)

Road Train at Cadney Park Roadhouse, South Australia


Scenery: Varied. Once past the mullock heaps, red sandy soil and vegetation cover low hills, then the Indulkana range past Marla. Across the border, granite outcrops before entering the Amadeus basin, a former seabed.

Points of Interest:
  • The Dog Fence – longest man-made structure in the world!
  • Cadney Park and Marla Roadhouses
  • South Australia/Northern Territory Border
  • Sturt's Desert Peas, depending on time of year
  • Kulgera Roadhouse
  • Erldunda Roadhouse – a giant, caged echidna near the car park was once a prop for Expo
  • Mt Connor
  • Uluru and Kata Tjuta
Start early for a long day because – trust me on this – you DON'T want to drive at night! There'll be enough opportunities to hit stray wildlife during the day, when at least you can (mostly) see it coming!

Do I really have to tell you what THIS is?
Turn off to Uluru at the Erldunda Roadhouse. Mt Connor, at Curtin Springs station, is often mistaken for Uluru and is a tourist attraction in its own right. But there's no mistaking the vast bulk of the world's biggest monolith as it glows in the setting sun.


Options:
  • Stay an extra night to explore Uluru and Kata Tjuta more thoroughly.
  • Alternatively, take a detour to the remarkable Kings Canyon, and relive one of the more memorable scenes from cult Australian movie 'Priscilla, Queen of the Desert'!

Day 4: Uluru to Stuarts Well

Distance: 375 km

Driving Time: 4 - 4½ hours (allow extra time for rest, food and sightseeing stops)

Scenery: Central Desert and ranges.

Points of Interest: 
  • Uluru and Kata Tjuta
  • Henbury Meterorite Craters
  • Dinky the singing, piano playing dingo
Spend the morning exploring the amazing Uluru and Kata Tjuta formations before returning to Erldunda and heading north to the Stuarts Well Roadhouse for a bizarre, uniquely Australian experience!

Dinky, the singing, piano playing Dingo, Stuarts Well, Northern Territory

Doesn't EVERYONE want to see a singing, piano playing Dingo?



Rainbow Valley, Central Australia (pic by Pilchard)



Options:
  • Stay an extra night and take a camel tour to nearby Rainbow Valley!
  • Skip Stuarts Well altogether and stay in Alice Springs (an extra 90 km/1 hour north)

Day 5: Stuarts Well to Tennant Creek

Distance: 600 km

Driving Time: 6½ hours (allow extra time for rest, food and sightseeing stops)


Elvis Campsite, Wycliffe Well, Northern Territory
Scenery: Spectacular ranges around Alice Springs, which flatten out into the grassy plains and rocky outcrops of the Barkly Tablelands.

Points of Interest:
  • Aileron Roadhouse
  • Wycliffe Well Roadhouse complex, once proclaimed Australia's UFO capital
  • Wauchope Hotel
  • Karlu Karlu (Devils Marbles)

Wycliffe Well Roadhouse's unusual murals, strange otherworldly figurines and Elvis campsite are worth a look. Just up the road past the Wauchope Hotel are the Devils Marbles. While they're at their best at sunrise or sunset, they're worth stopping for any time!

Then it's another hour or so up the road to gold mining town Tennant Creek.

Devils Marbles at Sunset, Northern Territory
READ: More about Wycliffe Well; More about Devils Marbles; More about Tennant Creek

Options:
  • Stop in Alice Springs for the night before continuing with this itinerary. Leave Stuarts Well early, and you'll have the whole day to explore the many delights of Alice Springs and surrounds, as near as dammit to the Centre of Australia
  • Stay overnight at Wauchope for sunset/sunrise shots of the Devils Marbles. Tennant Creek is 106 km north.

Day 6: Tennant Creek to Katherine

Distance: 673 km

Driving Time: 7 – 7½ hours (allow extra time for rest, food and sightseeing stops)


Bitter Springs, via Mataranka, Northern Territory
Scenery: Barkly Tablelands grasslands and cattle station country continue to Newcastle Waters. Tropical vegetation hides many relics from World War II, before the lush tropics of Mataranka and its thermal pools.

Points of Interest:
  • Kunjarra (The Pebbles), a smaller version of the Devils Marbles
  • Cattle Stations, Roadhouses and small towns including Banka Banka, Renner Springs, Elliott, Dunmarra, Larrimah
  • Daly Waters Pub – a popular traveller stopover with meals and entertainment
  • World War 2 Memorabilia and outposts
  • Mataranka and Bitter Springs Thermal Pools - once part of Elsey Station, where the events of Mrs Aeneas Gunn's classic Australian memoir 'We of the Never Never' took place.
Busy Katherine, on the edge of Nitmiluk National Park (also known as Katherine Gorge), is a crossroads and stocking-up point for travellers heading west to Kununurra or east to the Gulf of Carpentaria. The thermal pools just out of town are a popular gathering point at the end of a long day on the road.

Katherine Gorge, Northern Territory



Options: Stay 100 km south of Katherine at Bitter Springs, and soak in its famous thermal pools. Who could resist seeing the world's biggest man-made termite mound in Mataranka's main street? It even TALKS!


Day 7: Katherine to Darwin

Distance: 316 km

Driving Time: 3½ - 4 hours (allow extra time for rest, food and sightseeing stops)


Litchfield National Park, Northern Territory (pic by Pilchard)
Scenery: Tropical

Points of Interest:
  • Nitmiluk (Katherine Gorge)
  • Historic Pine Creek
  • Adelaide River's Historic Railway and War Cemetery
  • Batchelor – Gateway to Litchfield National Park

Take a morning tour to Katherine Gorge or nearby Cutta Cutta Caves before completing the drive to Darwin. Although there's lots to tempt the inquisitive along the way!


Options:
  • Stay an extra day to explore the Katherine Region more thoroughly, including a trip to the marvellous Edith Falls just north of Katherine, for swimming and bushwalking.
  • Take the scenic route through Kakadu National Park to, with its distinctive landmarks, walks, tours and scenic attractions to Jabiru, then via Mary River and Humpty Doo to Darwin.
  • Stay an extra day in Batchelor and explore the natural wonders of Litchfield National Park!

Red in Darwin Botanic Gardens, Northern Territory (pic by Pilchard)


Darwin is an adventure in itself – you might want to consider an open-ended car rental arrangement – but it all depends on how much time you've got. It'd be easy to spend a further week exploring this Top End wonderland – but that's a whole new blog post!

Now all you've got to do is fly or drive somewhere else!

Saturday, February 23, 2013

The Next BIG Thing! Glenrowan, Victoria


Big Ned Kelly, Glenrowan, Victoria
Living in a landscape populated with giant fibreglass representations of fruit and animals is quite normal to many Aussies.
Irrespective of whether or not such objects are in good taste!

Commemorating criminals by building statues and devoting whole tourism campaigns to the bushrangers who dominated the early days of colonialism is also an intrinsic part of Aussie-dom.

Irrespective of whether or not such objects are in good taste!

But I'd never seen a tourist attraction combining BOTH these Australian obsessions. Until we passed through tiny Victorian town, Glenrowan!

The giant statue of Ned Kelly dominates the main street in a town devoted to the man who is arguably Australia's most notorious bushranger.

And in the crowded tourist market capitalising on Australia's favourite anti-hero, Glenrowan stands apart. For it was here that Ned Kelly's career came to an end. His legendary capture in the epic police shoot-out that killed three of his gang members, including brother Dan, is known as the 'Last Stand'.

Bread-tin Ned, Jerilderie, New South Wales


The Kelly Gang's only foray across the border to Jerilderie, commemorated with stylish sculpture 'Bread Tin Ned' at the local bakery (how do you think I found it?!), resulted in the famous 'Jerilderie Letter' written by Ned to defend his gang's actions in the notorious Stringybark Creek shoot-out a few months earlier.

And although Ned was subsequently held and tried in nearby Beechworth Gaol before being taken to Melbourne for execution, it the Siege of Glenrowan and Last Stand that draw the crowds!

Beechworth Gaol, where Ned Kelly was tried, Beechworth, Victoria


Today, to be considered 'as game as Ned Kelly' – roughly translating as brave, determined and enterprising – is high praise for an Australian.

He really IS big! RED and NED!!
And his last words – 'Such is Life' – are part of the Aussie lingo.

Perhaps the first true Aussie larrikin, it may be why he's the subject of many books, films, poems, songs and art. Why his distinctive home-made body armour is instantly recognisable.

And why a larger-than-life Ned Kelly towers above the landscape.


Read MORE:
Have YOU photographed or blogged about an Australian 'Big Thing'? Link it up below!



Tuesday, February 19, 2013

5 Reasons to visit Broome in July!

Rock formation, Broome, Western Australia




Blue and red landscapes are often associated with other planets, abstract art or young children.

But head to remote Broome in Australia's north-western corner, and the gateway to its Kimberley region, for a distinctive real-life landscape in which red and blue form a predominant part of the scenery.

The ocean's characteristic blue hue from white clay in the water combines with the red Pindan rock and soil in a gob-smacking hit of colour that ensures a visit to Broome will be unforgettable - and if you haven't already been, inspiring you to compare the cheapest flights online!
 
Red Tide at Broome, Western Australia

While the colour is intrinsic to experiencing Broome in July when temperatures are at their glorious best, it's not the only reason to visit.

But I defy you to experience these 5 fabulous Broome attractions WITHOUT respect to its marvellous colours!!
 
 
1 The Beaches:

Cable Beach with Gantheaume Point in the distance, Broome, WA


The chances of finding a spot for yourself on Broome's world famous Cable Beach are better than average.

This stunning curve of sand so white it hurts your eyes stretches for 22 km so despite the Australian winter tourist season influx of travellers jostling for position at the cafe above, there's more than enough room on the sand below.

But if even the sight of other tourists on the beach is too much, go for absolute solitude just a few kilometres north, through the laid back community of Coconut Wells and over the dunes to the beach.

Coconut Wells Beach - with Dune Buggy Track!  via Broome, Western Australia


Oh, all right.

There's a Dune Buggy track or two. And a couple of people WAAAAAY further down the beach. And a few shags* on a rock.

But you've got several kilometres to yourself. OK?

2 The Bay:

Roebuck Bay at Broome Bird Observatory Western Australia


It's a long hike through the mud to the Catalina float-plane wrecks that only emerge from Broome's Roebuck Bay at very low tide.

So I didn't do it.

But I didn't need to. A drive to the world famous Broome Bird Observatory on the shores of Roebuck Bay, where thousands of migratory wading birds flock along the bay's RAMSAR-listed shores along with the twitchers** trying to spot them, uncovered something FAR more intriguing.


After a couple of dunkings ...
In the rapidly rising 9 metre tide, one of the Southern Hemisphere's highest, we spotted what looked like a car roof down amongst the mangroves. It WAS a car roof. Actually, two! In retrospect, it's possible that the person driving an uninsured 4WD along the sands of the bay at low tide couldn't have anticipated being irretrievably bogged up to the axles. But the person who tried to pull him out???


But watching the unfolding drama of a double-car-extraction from soft sands between high tides was just a distraction from the pleasures of the Bay. And the Bird Observatory.

A tour to see Yellow Chat, one of Australia's rarest birds; a dawn ramble to the ocean through a dense tropical mist; scenery so superb even the most amateur*** photographer's shots look good; Snub-fin dolphin sightings from the observation platform; and an array of shorebirds so dense it takes a telescope to sort them out!

Rocks at Roebuck Bay, Broome Bird Observatory
Back in Broome watching the world reknowned 'Stairway to the Moon', where the moon rises over the Bay is a must see! Initially sceptical – it's just the moon rising over the sea as seen anywhere else in the world where the moon rises over the sea, right? - the real thing stopped my cynicism dead!

And if there's no car in the bay for entertainment, maybe the Catalinas are worth a visit instead! They're probably just as interesting. No, REALLY!


3 The Point:

Rocks at twilight, Gantheaume Point, Broome, Western Australia


There's no best time of day to visit iconic Gantheaume Point, just up the road from Cable Beach, but with its red Pindan soil and rock forming a dramatically different landscape.

At high tide, watching swimmers leaping from the red rock into a sea so blue it looks like it sucked all the colour from the sky looks like a scene from a movie set. And at low tide – approximately 9 metres lower – the rock platforms emerge from the sea, exposing strange rock gardens full of exotic corals and dinosaur footprints.

Blue and Red at Gantheaume Point, Broome, Western Australia


The brightness of day where the sea sparkles against the rocky Bingle Bingles around the Point from the lighthouse contrasts with the incredible twilight as the orange sun plunges into the Indian ocean and the rocks turn to fire.

There's always something happening at Gantheaume Point.

So visit any time. BUT ... be warned! The High tide/low tide/daylight/twilight scenes are SO different you'll want to experience all of them.

HHHMMMmmm... perhaps it'd be easier just to spend the whole day there?!

Sunset at Gantheaume Point, Broome, Western Australia




 
 
 
 
4 The Pictures:

If like me, you're a sucker for world exclusives, have a night at the movies in the world's oldest operating picture gardens – where the entertainment isn't all up on the big screen!

After admiring the movie memorabilia lining the walls since its official opening as Sun Pictures in 1916, cinema-goers take their seats and don their jackets. The relative coolness of a Broome evening shouldn't come as too much of a surprise.

Because despite the ~29°C July daily maximum temperature, is IS winter!

Cinema Patrons take their seats, Sun Pictures, Broome


But after the sun sets and darkness falls over the open-roofed theatre and the show starts, there's another surprise in store. WARNING: Skip the next paragraph to avoid spoilers …

Watching the generally unremarkable cinema advertising is interrupted without warning as a low flying passenger jet only a few metres above the screen screams into Broome airport. Accompanied by the odd shriek – or two – from patrons unaware of the special acoustic qualities of this unique combination of landing jet and open-roofed building!

Photos? C'mon! Do you REALLY think my shutter-button finger was THAT quick?

Luckily, one of Australia's most intriguingly scenic public amenities blocks with an ever-changing backdrop is right at hand below the big screen!

Don't miss it!!

5 The Pearls:

Willie Creek, via Broome, Western Australia


Visitors unaware of Broome's history can get a clue to its heritage from the many dead giveaways pointing to its previous life.

Like the pearl showrooms and sales outlets jockeying for position in the main shopping precincts. The well preserved pearling lugger in Chinatown's main street. The Japanese and Chinese cemeteries where hundreds of pearl divers are now at rest and commemorative statues and plaques in the main street. The inclusion of pearl meat at some of the eateries And the staggering array of pearl-related products on offer at the weekly markets!

Yes, it's impossible to ignore the rich pearling heritage of this beautiful city, the jewel of the Kimberley coast.

Blockade en route to James Price Point, Kimberley Coast, Western Australia

So when we were thwarted by an anti-mining blockade from our drive north up the coast to controversial hot-spot and whale nursery James Price Point, Plan B kicked in and we arrived at Willie Creek Pearl farm ready for action.

Which it delivered!

Although, as a recovering aerophobic, my scenic helicopter flight over the magnificent estuary system glowing with colour and light could have ended badly. But distracted by the staggeringly picturesque landscape unfolding beneath, my amateur*** photographic instincts completely counteracted any lingering thoughts about crashing to the ground and dying a horrible death.

Willie Creek and surrounds from the air, via Broome
Euphoric after the successful touchdown, I just had to buy myself a little reward souvenir! Who knew (or cared!) that the $9 black seed-pearl ring I selected was from the children's section? While it might not be to everyone's taste, the showroom had plenty of REAL jewellery and pearl-related artefacts for pearl purists!!

After a snack from the Willie Creek cafe, I was ready for another helicopter flight ...

… but decided to wait until next time!
 
Port Jetty, Broome, Western Australia
 
 

I see a repeat performance of ALL these experiences somewhere in my future. But don't leave all the good times up north downunder to me! Start right here, right now! Compare the cheapest flights online … and I'll see you somewhere up there on a sunny July Aussie winter's day!!

It's a date!!

Read More:
PS If you haven't yet seen quite enough photos of Broome, there's more HERE on Flickr!

Gantheaume Point by Day!  Broome, Western Australia


* Shag (in this context) = Cormorant
** Twitcher = Bird Watcher
*** Yep, that's me!

Saturday, February 16, 2013

The Travelling Stones Roll On ... Goolwa Beach, South Australia

The Travelling Stones at Goolwa Beach, South Australia



I see a lot more crowds in the Travelling Stones' future!

But that's because I know something that only two of you don't – YET!

So for their last day in Australia – on this visit, anyway – I gave the stones the gift of Australia'sMagnificent Emptiness!

Goolwa Beach, looking towards the Murray Mouth


And an experience that many overseas – and local – tourists never have.

Apart from a 4WD mostly obscured by the sea spray and mists of the Great Southern Ocean right down the end of Goolwa Beach on a mind-blowingly awesome South Australian summer day, we were alone. Just Pilchard, me and the two Travelling Stones.

The Travelling Stones at Goolwa Beach, South Australia


That's if you don't count the pelicans. Or the seagulls!

But behind the dunes, the narrow neck of the Sir Richard Peninsula separates the ocean from the mighty Murray River, as it nears the end of the long journey from its headwaters near Mt Kosciuszko, Australia's highest mountain.


And at the end of the beach is the Murray mouth – at times one of the most controversial places in a country where state and territory water rights are a political battlefield that ends in the driest state of the driest continent on earth.



The Murray River Mouth, via Goolwa, South Australia


Watching the politicians line up to wring their hands and bleat about the dying river system during every drought; or at election time; or as a launching pad for climate change policy would be comical if it weren't so tragically predictable.

But thankfully, there are no politicians in sight on this bright February day. And as we farewell these tiny dots in the vast and empty panorama of Goolwa Beach, the Travelling Stones spend their last moments together.

The Travelling Stones


For now.

Because the purple stone is already winging its way to Solitary Wanderer Aleah in the Philippines, where she'll be taking them to India!

And the pink pearl is en route to Texas where Not Just Another Mother Blogger Tina is ready and waiting, with great plans afoot!!

Where will they go next? Who will they visit?? Will they return to Australia??? And – most significantly – will they EVER meet up again????

Crossing the Sir Richard Peninsula dunes, en route to Goolwa Beach, South Australia


For the answers to these and other questions, follow the Travelling Stones' journey on their very own blog – The Traveling Stones - where each host gets to add a post about the latest stage of the Stones' adventures.

Keep checking Aleah's and Tina's blogs – once the stones reach their destinations, they'll be blogging about them and requesting new hosts before posting on The Traveling Stones.



Looking towards infinity, Goowa Beach, South Australia
Meanwhile, farewell from Australia – and if you ever get to host the stones, you'll know where those tiny grains of sand came from …

Stay tuned for the next instalment!


Read more:

Friday, February 8, 2013

My Top 7 Things to Do - Ormiston Gorge, Central Australia

Mt Sonder from the Larapinta Trail, via Ormiston Gorge, Central Australia




For a good time, spend a few nights at Central Australia's Ormiston Gorge and surrounds – like we did for 6 fun-filled days (and nights) in June 2012!

A geographer's fantasy, the long line of Central Australia's Western MacDonnell Ranges stretches out across the desert plains from Alice Springs full of spectacular scenery, gorges, rivers, mountains and rock formations.

135 km west of Alice Springs, Ormiston Gorge's 300 metre (985 feet) walls tower above Ormiston Creek. The doubled-over double layer of quartzite folded into itself has made the gorge's walls significantly higher than those of the other gorges in the region, and its location in the surrounding ranges means superb panoramas, wonderful walks and a marvellous base from which to experience the region.

Here's my guide to 7 FAAABULOUS experiences to have within a 10km radius of Ormiston Gorge!


1 Sunrise at Ghost Gum Lookout:

Ghost Gum at Ghost Gum Lookout, Ormiston Gorge
'Oh, you've missed the sunrise,' she said, smirking with a particularly smug condescension that almost – but not quite – masked the unfortunate inanity of her claim.

Wouldn't I have noticed if I'd been climbing the steep, narrow and rocky track to the lookout in the total darkness of the pre-dawn night?

No, the sun-drenched landscape was a dead give-away. I clearly HADN'T missed the sunrise!

I'd just experienced it in a different spot...

Secure in the superiority that one-upmanship brings to the uninformed, the couple descended into the chill of the Gorge, hung about with the several thousand dollars worth of photography paraphernalia that would prove their sunrise claims and show off their 'serious traveller' credentials.

Unused to such mindless competitiveness before breakfast, I got out my trusty single lens/single SD card/single battery/no tripod camera.

Even though the sun had ALREADY RISEN, the fine view from Ghost Gum Lookout above the towering walls of Ormiston Gorge was just begging for some amateurish clichéd landscape shots ...

As the ALREADY RISEN sun continued to ascend, the chill of the cold Central Australian desert night wore off. I wondered if the Camp Bore had left yet. The previous night, after setting everyone straight about a number of diverse topics at the communal Barbecue area, he'd inadvertently 'entertained' everyone in the campground with a DVD on 'Super-loud' setting presumably to counteract his deafness. And early this morning, he'd regaled a fellow camper who'd foolishly admitted to not hearing the dingos the previous night with a howling dingo impersonation.

Then way down in the gorge beneath us, I sensed a movement. After the Camp Bore's strangled yodelling (sadly not literal) it was quite a surprise to see the dingo moving so quietly and surely along the water's edge.

Hunting for fish.

No, really. Every year as the waterhole dries out, more and more fish compete for less and less oxygen in the shrinking pools. Then along comes a dingo in search of some easy pickings and scoops them out!

We may have 'missed the sunrise'.

But in a superb combination of poetic natural justice AND childish satisfaction (that gave my inner child a sadistic shiver of glee) WE saw the dingo.

Na na nana nah!

2 Ormiston Gorge and Pound Walk

Ormiston Gorge Walls, Central Australia


Part of the fun of this extraordinary ~7km loop trail through a cross-section of Ormiston Gorge's scenic highlights is the possibility of swimming or wading through the ice-cold water of Ormiston Creek towards the end of the trail.

But don't let this – or anything else – stop you from attempting this 3-4 hour hike. In my opinion, even though we didn't spot the Spinifex Pigeon family that EVERYONE ELSE saw, it's one of the best medium length walks in the country!

If this teaser pic isn't enough, click HERE to see what happened when WE did the walk!

3 Larapinta LITE:

Spectacular though it is, the Ormiston Gorge and Pound walk is a mere detour on the 223 kilometre/12 section hike along the West MacDonnell ranges that forms the demanding Larapinta Trail. Difficult terrain, extreme weather and remote location mean it's not for the faint-hearted – or under-prepared.

But lack of training, portable camping equipment or energy needn't prevent a 'Larapinta Lite' experience! A segment of an official section of the trail connects Ormiston Gorge with Glen Helen Gorge, a few kilometres away by road, and is quite probably one of the easier sections of the trail to attempt.
 
Just can't have too much spinifex ... Larapinta Trail, between Ormiston Gorge and Glen Helen Gorge
 

We ventured a few kilometres down this part of the track past staggering views of Mt Sonder and the Pound to a lookout point with the stunning red cliffs of Glen Helen gorge in the distance. After a fruitless search for Rufous Crowned Emu Wren, we returned the way we'd come vowing that next time we'd organise a pick up at Glen Helen Resort and walk all the way.

BUT … far more importantly, now I can add the Larapinta Trail to the list of walks I've 'attempted'!

Because no one takes my list seriously anyway!

4 Glen Helen Gorge:

Glen Helen Gorge Walls, Central Australia


In a region so crowded with spectacular gorges, time-pressed travellers wishing to avoid the risk of become 'all gorged out' can be tempted to bypass a couple of them!

Glen Helen Resort Piano
But skipping Glen Helen Gorge would be a mistake.

Not just because of the spectacular Gorge itself, either. The Glen Helen Resort offers meals and accommodation, as well as tours, helicopter flights, fuel and gas. As well as a well stocked bar.

And you can't have too much RED Rock, right?? There's more about Glen Helen Gorge HERE!


5 Mt Sonder Lookout:

Mt Sonder Lookout, via Glen Helen, Central Australia


Mt Sonder isn't the Northern Territory's highest mountain – that honour goes to Mt Zeil – but it's (arguably) the most picturesque!
 
Finke River from Mt Sonder Lookout
And as a real Larapinta trekker told us after climbing the mountain on the previous day's hike – 'it's a better view OF than FROM'!

Although there's something about its Namatjira-esque blue folds that draws one towards it, we (fairly easily) resisted the impulse to climb it and instead opted for the Mt Sonder Lookout a short distance west of Glen Helen.

Although it's a fine view in its own right, looking across the ancient bed of what is known as the world's oldest river – the Finke – is an added bonus.

6 Ormiston Gorge Campground:


Ormiston Gorge Campground, Central Australia
Call it coincidence, but the collection of campers coming and going at the Ormiston Gorge campground during our 6-night stay in June 2012 would have defied any B-grade movie casting director to create a better ensemble.

So much so that hanging out at camp was as entertaining as anything else the gorge had to offer.

Well, almost!

I guess you know you're getting older when just listening to the young couple 6 months into a year travelling Australia gives you a whole new perspective on young-love-speak. Sure, the “'Hi Baby'/'Hey sweetie!'” combo wasn't that unfamiliar – but after spending only 5 minutes apart??

Then the dialogue as they prepared to leave.

'Hey sweetie, have you packed the bedding?' 'Sure, babe.' 'There just seems more room than usual.' 'Well, maybe I just folded them differently.' 'You must have packed them in a particularly awesome kinda way!' 'Yeah sweetie.' 'So do you fold them up, honey?' 'No, I just throw them in, babe.' 'I'm flabbergasted!' 'Hey, why don't we make X's favourite meal when we catch up?' 'Babe, that's a GOLDEN idea!' Education and entertainment all in one, we were sorry to see them go.

But replacing them was Broken Hill artist, Eric McCormick whose vibrant works beautifully capture the magic of the desert. Eric took our breath away with a catalogue of his works inspired by a visit to Spain's Rio Tinto and we enjoyed several entertaining chats over the communal barbecue.

The aforementioned Camp Bore spoke so loudly we all knew that he and his longsuffering wife had spent the best part of 5 years on the road. And at the rate of one new campsite every few nights, my mind boggled at how many people he'd potentially annoyed and irritated during that time …
Campground & Amphitheatre from Ghost Gum Lookout Trail, Ormiston Gorge



Then there was the couple with such a faulty sense of direction that in trying to find the Gorge and Pound walk they'd ended up somewhere else altogether. We tried to explain how to access the Larapinta segment we'd done, but they couldn't find it. I wonder whether they even knew they were at Ormiston Gorge??

With hot showers and free barbecues, the $10 per night per person rate seemed quite reasonable for a site within cooee of the gorge and all its attractions. But the camp hosts still spent a good part of their day in a losing battle to keep the freeloaders from hogging the amenities the rest of us had paid for. In a vain attempt to keep the solar-heated hot water for those who'd paid for it, the showers were locked from 10am – 4pm each day.

Except on the hosts' day off when the amenities were left open all day. Word gets around – a steady stream of campervans and clapped out old cars headed in, showers apparently ran hot all day and the water was well and truly cold by the time we returned from our daily adventures ...

Ghost Gum Lookout Trail, Ormiston Gorge


Is it something in the air? Or water?? Or does this strange and magical place attract the quirky, off-beat and downright bizarre?

And if so, what does that make US????

7 Ghost Gum Loop at Sunset:

Ghost Gum Loop Trail at Sunset, Ormiston Gorge, Central Australia


The Ghost Gum Lookout is part of a longer loop walk along the Gorge's western wall, descending into the gorge and returning by rock-hopping along the creek bed. Whether or not you attempt the whole loop, it's well worth reaching the lookout in the very late afternoon.


Ghost Gum Lookout - and sign!  Ormiston Gorge, Central Australia
Because looking across the gorge from the lookout is very different to the sunrise ALREADY RISEN SUN view as the setting sun lights up the Eastern wall.

But … far down the gorge and deep in the silence of sunset, the dingo lurked again!




Still Life with Dingo, Ormiston Gorge Sunset
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