Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Edith Falls to Kununurra

From Edith Falls we headed back to Katherine and spent two days at the Springvale Homestead which is the oldest homestead in the NT and is on the Katherine River. We listened to a talk on the history of the place. In the early days settlers were allowed to choose a block the only requiremnet was to stock it within 3 years. This resulted in severe overstocking which lead to degredation of the land. Lickily the manager talked the owner into cutting down on the numbers of sheep he stocked which turned out to e a good decision as the area was too hot for sheep.
Unfortunately we were camped near the camp kitchen and there was a noisy family there so it spoilt the peace and quiet of the place. There was washing and shopping to do which kept me busy and Brian changed the oil.

The next day I went to the Cycad Garden which had some very ancient and interesting plants.

From Katherine we turned west across the Victoria Highway towards W.A. The road takes you past the Gregory National Park which has some spectacular rocky ridges which are layers of rich red rocks dotted with ghost gums on a background of green. We were surprised how green it was.

We spent the night at a free camp called Sullivan Creek. A short walk down to the creek revealed a peaceful scene of greenery lining the creek banks. That night we joined with other campers for a happy hour and we laughed and laughed.
We left early the next morning for our next free stop of Saddle Creek. We knew this was a popular one so you need to get there early to get a good spot. Even so it was busy and all afternoon the vans rolled in. It is set at the foot of a rocky outcrop and the evening sun on the rocks brought out the brilliant colours.
We were starting to see some boab trees with their thick rounded trunks and fingerlike branches. Some are huge and very old whereas other grow right beside each other and create some interesting shapes.
Crossing into WA there is a quarantine station where you have to stop and they inspect your van and your car. You are not allowed to take any fruit, vegetables or honey in. We had some wood in a bag and they took that.

From the border it is only 70 kms to Kununurra – a town which we love.We were very lucky to get into the CP that we stayed in last time we were here 2 years ago.
It looks right our over the Lake which is covered in lilies. There are masses of birds here and the Buddha Rock acts as a backdrop (it looks like a reclining Buddha) As the sunsets in the evening the rock changes colour and turns red and reflects its glory on the Lake. We were in the exact same shady site we were on two years ago with a clear view of this scene.

The clock goes back 1 and1/2 hours so we had to adjust to it getting dark at 5.30 instead of 7 and getting light at 6 instead of 7.30

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Edith Falls

We decided to go to Edith Falls which is about 60 kms from Katherine even though we had been there before. It is a National Park and is absolutely beautiful. There is a very large natural pool there with a spring fed water fall that flows into it. It is a great place to swim and if you feel energetic you can swim over to the waterfall although it is a long way. The pool is flanked by huge cliffs and palms hug the edges.
There are lots of birds here and each site has a grassed area for you to spread out on so it was relaxing to sit out and read. We had at least 6 different species of birds around our campsite.

The next day we went for a walk to upper pool were you climb up and up with a good view to the surrounding countryside. Then you discover another waterfall and a lovely rock pool.
It is so refreshing to plunge into the cold water after the walk. I managed to swim nearly over to the waterfall but it was too strong to get under it.

After the swim you continue the loop walk. You had to make a steep ascent and walk through some undulating country and you gradually descent to the main camping area. It’s amazing how many wild flowers you see on the bushes if you look carefully.

Some of them are very tiny and delicate and I saw many varieties.

You end the walk by crossing over a pristine creek which is actually the outlet from the lower pool.

That evening we had a slide show in the picnic area that was presented by the ranger. He explained how they have to check the area out for at least a month for salt water crocs which can come in the wet when the water levels get very high. He also said there are six resident fresh water crocs in the swimming area but they are not really a threat and live up the creek and only come into the pool at night to feed.
We loved this place so much that we stayed an extra day.

Thursday, June 24, 2010


From Mataranka to Katherine is only a short drive. Katherine is quite a busy centre (it even has traffic lights) as it is the point where you either go north to Darwin of west to WA. We are not going to Darwin as we have been before so we will be heading West. We had heaps of shopping to do and then we settled into the caravan park. You just walk out the back gate to the Hot Springs so you can guess where I went as soon as we were set up. This one is long and narrow and a cooler than Bitter Springs. I love the way you meet people while in the Springs and I met a lovely couple who we had drinks with later on.
The car races were on Sunday which Brian wanted to watch so I decided to go on a cruise on the Katherine Gorge. We have been here before and we hired kayaks but we only went to the first gorge.
I chose the 3 gorge cruise and was lucky enough to get a lift out there with a couple I met in the hot springs.
The cruise was amazing. We all boarded the boat at 9am and headed up the first gorge. The cliffs tower above you on either side.
It is interesting to see how the trees grow out of little cracks and crevasses in the rocks. We came to the end of this gorge we all disembarked and walked up to view some rock art. Our guide explained the meaning of the drawings which are thousands of years old. We then walked over the rocks to board the next boat to cruise the second gorge. This gorge is spectacular and is narrower than the first one.As you pass by the huge cliffs you are awed by their magesty. There are lots of sub gorges that are full of trees which give some protection to the wildlife in the floods of the wet. As we came to the end of this one we disembarked and climbed onto some smooth rocks
which have all been weathered by the force of the flowing water to form holes and small caves. From here we could look right down the second gorge.
I was sitting next to a lovely couple who really appreciated the beauty of the landscape and it was nice to find someone with similar ideas to me.
Back on the boat and after a short time in the third gorge we clambered over some rocks to a beautiful waterhole and waterfall.
The water was very refreshing and very clear. When you swim in these water holes surrounded by huge cliffs and hear the splashing of the waterfall you really appreciate the beauty of this country of ours.
After the swim we had a snack and climbed back over the rocks to the waiting boat. On our way back our guide pointed out the different plants used by aborigines for bush tucker, weaving and spears. We also saw a freshwater crocodile sunny itself on the sandy banks. These crocodiles mainly eat small insects and small animals so are not really a threat to us unless you provoke them or it is their breeding season. They lay their eggs in the sandy banks that appear now and then. There normally aren’t any salt water crocs in here but when the water levels rise in the Wet the salties get washed down and we passed a croc trap on the boat trip. Every year the rangers have to check the area for the evidence of salt water crocs. At the moment there is one in the Gorge and so far they haven’t been able to catch it so you cannot go kayaking.
We arrived back and everyone thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

Back at the campsite I went exploring on bike to the Springvale Homestead which is one of the oldest homesteads in the NT.
There are some huge trees here which were planted in1876. On the way there it I passed the Low Level crossing across the Katherine River. There a lovely picnic area here but unfortunately you can’t swim because of the crocodiles.

Peddling back the five kms back to caravan park I just had time for a quick swim in the Hot Springs before joining some friends for drinks. What an energetic day!

We are enjoying typical Top End days of blue skies and 30 degree days – shorts and t-shirt weather.

Bitter Springs: Mataranka

Mataranka was an important military base for supplies and many troops were based here in the war. It was also the place where the famous book “We of the Never Never” was based. Jeannie Gunn, the author, was one of the first outback pioneer women who lived on Elsey Station which is now Elsey National Park.
Mataranka is renowned for its hot springs, Rainbow Springs which were made into a cemented pool by the troops when they were here, and Bitter Springs which is very natural and this one is our favourite. Bitter Springs is a flowing stream of hot water and is surrounded by palms and bulrushes. It is so clear and blue you can see the bottom. Birds are everywhere as well as lots of tiny bright blue dragonflies. It’s so relaxing to sit and chat in the pool although you do have to keep moving (great exercise) to stop yourself from floating down the stream. However a delightful thing to do is to let yourself gently drift down so you can observe the palms and greenery and listen to the birds.

There are some steps further downstream where you can get out and walk back to the main swimming area. It was also great fun to snorkel down the stream and see the amazing underwater world here. There are only a few little fish and the odd turtle as the sulphur content of the water is too strong for them. However there are lots of logs and old palm fronds that are covered in a bright green slime as well as some light green leafy underwater plants and these are all waving in the current. It is magic.
We stayed in a caravan park right near Bitter Springs (which is in the National Park) I would ride my bike down and spend hours just chatting, floating or snorkelling. It is one of my favourite places. We stayed an extra day here as we liked it so much. The day we were leaving I went down early in the morning and the steam was rising off the water. What an amazing scene!!

We rode our bikes into town twice to buy a famous Mataranka pie which are ENORMOUS (they had run out the first day) – about 6 cms high packed with delicious meat. We shared one and even that was nearly too much. I also had a look at the museum which had lots of interesting war memorabilia as well as info on Elsey Station and the early pioneering days.
We also went to the Mataranka Homestead where the other hot springs are as well as a large caravan park. They have a replica of the original Elsey homestead here which was used in making the film, We of the Never Never. We walked down through a palm grove to Rainbow Springs and you can also further down to the Roper River where some people were swimming even though there are freshwater crocs and the chance of a salty because all the recent rain can cause them to be washed down.
We were now enjoying warm days so shorts and t-shirts are the order of the day although the nights are still coolish.

Pick out out van!(Blue spare wheel)

An army of the pointed red pinnacles (anthills) were guarding our caravan park

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Alice to Mataranka

We overnighted at a free camp and had on the highway and we met a couple from Mudgeeraba who shared our fire with us.
Leaving early the next morning we headed to the Devils Marbles which is a very popular stopover.
We were amazed how green it was round here. They must have had lots of rain. The Devils Marbles is rocky outcrop of rounded rocks that seem to balance on at precarious angles. They are a reddish orange and the beauty of staying the night here is you get the changing colour of the setting sun on the rocks.
They are granite rocks and as the molten rocks cool cracks are formed and the get filled with dirt and weathering of the rocks occur until they eventually break down to gravel. The marbles occur over an extensive area and you can walk all around them to get some good shots. I had fun experimenting with my new camera. We witnessed a magnificent sunset that night.
It was still very windy and cold as we left for Tennant Creek which is an old gold mining town. We had a brief stop here for some supplies but were anxious to get away from the blustering wind so we went north to Banka Banka. This is a cattle station that has set a tourist operation by providing a lovely grassy area for caravanners. As you approach you see signs on the road “Hot Showers, Green Grass” which is very enticing after being in red dirt county for some time. You can never get it out of the van. They have an endless supply of beautiful spring water so I did several loads of washing which dried very quickly in the windy weather and Brian washed the car and caravan. They put on a slid e show at night and as the place has just been sold to the aboriginal council the show was all about the history of Banka Banka. A couple who stuck gold in Tennant Creek bought it and spent a lot of money but he died and his wife ran it for years and really helped the aborigines who live there – over 200 of them and she even set up a school on the property. She was awarded an OBE for her work with the aborigines.
An early start for Daly Waters as it is a popular stopping point for the grey nomads. It is old pub full of memorabilia and quirky things. They put on their famous Beef and Barra Smorgesbord and have evening entertainment. We have been there before so we knew to get there early and we were pleased that the wind had died down and the temperature was warmer.
On the way again to Mataranka we passed through Laramath where we looked a free zoo, saw some relics from the war- old crashed aeroplane engine etc. This area was a huge airfield in the war. There were a lot of troops sent to the Northern Territory in the war because of the treat pf invasionfrom Japan.
We also enjoyed Fran’s scones and coffee. Fran is an outback character who has set up a thriving business making fresh scones, pies and pasties for us weary travellers. A very popular spot.
We arrived at Bitter Springs at Mataranka before lunch. These are beautiful natural clear hot springs and there is a caravan park nearby.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

East MacDonnell Ranges

We were anxious to get back into the bushland and interested to compare the East to the West MacDonnell Ranges. Jessie Gap and Emily Gap have aboriginal art work to look at. At Emily Gap there were a group of birdwatchers trying to capture the hundreds of zebra finches that come to the waterhole. As soon as you move they all dart off very quickly so how anyone can get a good picture is beyond me. Much easier to take the budgerigars that were nesting in the hollows of a great river gum.
We were heading to Trephina Gorge which is about 85 kms out of Alice as we had heard how beautiful it is. As we headed out the mountains ranges get bigger and bigger. Once again you can see rugged outcrops of rock caused by amazing upheaval that took place millions of years ago. We arrived at Trephine Gorge after crossing several creek crossings that had been washed out by a recent 150 mls deluge in 24 hours- a very unusual happening here. The rivers are wide and sandy and when this happens there is an enormous force of water which washes out crossings and this time it even washed away the toilet in the second campground evidence of which you can see in the creek. Fortunately the creek crossings were repaired last week so we were able to come in.
Trephina Gorge towers either side of the wide sandy river and is made up of layers and layers of red sedimentary rocks.There is also a large ridge of rock ending in bluff that stretches alomg the road There are several walks on the rim of the gorge which gives you and idea of the height of the cliffs.
The campsite was very small (ten sites) and Trish and Jack who we met when we came out from Kings Canyon, had just pulled up before us.
The campsites are set among the bushes and the bird life is amazing with birds tweeting away and darting here and there while we are viewing the great massive outcrop of red rocky range with a backdrop of blue blue sky. A delightful place to sit in the sun, relax and catch up on the blog.
That afternoon we went for a stroll along the creek bed with its river gums and patches of water and then decided to go on the gorge walk that took us to the top to look down and across to the steep red cliffs. There was some honey grevilleas and wattle out to add to the scene.
We had a fire that night and Trish and Jack joined us. We were glad of the warmth of the fire as it was very cool.
We had a relaxing morning and enjoyed the views surrounding us. That afternoon on the panorama walk we had to cross the creek at the beginning of the walk so Brian gave me a piggy back across so I didn’t have to get my feet wet. The panorama walk took us up and up a steep hill where we had a 360 degree view – the river meandering through the rugged gorge,some green gray slopes on the other side with craggy mountains in the distance and then as we descended we came down a gravelly path to the creek bed there were masses of yellow cassia bushes showing off their glory.
We went outside the park to find for some wood for the fire that night. Brian tried his hand at a damper on a stick but it was a bit too sticky!!!

The next day eight people moved out of the park so we moved the van into a sunny spot and enjoyed another relaxing morning. That afternoon we went for another walk called the rim walk. We went up and up and were even higher than the panorama walk and of course the view gave amazing vista of the surrounding ridges and really gave you an idea of the massive upheaval that occurred in the area. We were almost as high as the huge Bluff outcrop that runs along the creek.

That night Trish made a damper and as we had no camp over so she put it in foil. It was a bit hard to tell when it was done but it was delicious.
We left the next morning after a delightful time and it was windy and freezing in Alice Springs so after stocking up on a few groceries and were glad to head north for some warmer weather.

Trephena gorge

The bluff looking dowm to campground

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

West MacDonnell Ranges

As you approach Alice Springs you enter through a narrow gap in the ranges which is just big enough got the road, the railway and the river. The West MacDonnell Ranges extend from here 150 kms west and very beautiful. This is the area where the artist Albert Namatjira lived and painted and many of the scenes are familiar from his paintings.
We visited the Desert Park on our way out of Alice which is a wonderful park that shows all the aspects of plant and animal life that occur in the desert. It was so interesting and well presented. We saw a bird of prey show and heard a talk on how the aborigines survived in this harsh climate where it can get up to 50 degrees in the summer and is very cold in the winter. We were given audio headsets that you could listen to information at given relevant points around the park. After a very interesting and informative morning we headed out to the West MacDonnell Ranges.

A large ridge of rocks towered beside us on the left and often you would swear someone has built a stone wall. As you go further the hills become very undulating and the mountains become a series of undulations that become bigger and bigger. There has been so much upheaval here millions of years ago which has created these beautiful mountains and rivers have carved out huge gorges. The rocks are full of iron oxide so they are very red especially when the sun shines on it in the evening sunsets.

We found a lovely campsite in the national park at Ellery Creek Waterhole which is a permanent waterhole surrounded by huge red cliffs and huge river gums flank the banks of the waterhole. It is a very popular swimming hole in the hot summer for Alice Springs residents.
There were many people camped here and in the evening everyone gathered around a communal campfire to share stories.
We decided to have a “day off” the next day and spent the time relaxing, reading and catching up with the blog. It was a beautiful day and I took my chair down to the waterhole which was bathed in sunlight and soaked up the scenery. Lots of people passing through come to waterhole so I had plenty of people to chat to and didn’t get much “work done”
Our neighbours at our campsite just happened to be camping next to us at Uluru and they had some kayaks. They went for a kayak down the gorge and then offered me to have a turn which I gratefully accepted.
It was magnificent to get so close to the fascinating rocks and the sun was shining on the massive cliffs to emphasise their beauty. Another night around the campfire revealed some travelling tips and lots of laughs.

The next day we went on a day trip to Ormiston Gorge and Glen Helen Resort which offers motel style accommodation with a lovely cosy dining room, an open fire and a wonderful outlook onto massive sheer red cliff.
On the way we visited Serpentine Gorge(named as is winds around like a serpent) and the Ochre pits – a large area of different coloured ochre
which was used by the Aboriginies to paint their bodies for their ceremonies. It was also very valuable to trade.

Then to Ormiston Gorge for a walk to the creek bed to view the beautiful ghost gums and then a walk to the lookout on top of the cliffs. From the lookout we could view the whole beauty of the gorge and we watched people down below trying to find their way back across the rocks to avoid wading through the water

We also spotted some dingos trotting along the river bed looking for prey. I and another couple decided to go back the longer way which took us down into the creek bed. This involved a lot of clambering over rocks (which had the most amazing colours), down onto the creek bed but then we had to find our way across the rocks and slither down a very steep part trying to find footholds. Luckily I had some assistance from someone down below otherwise I would still be stuck on the rocky outcrop.
The drive out to Orminston Gorge was so beautiful with mountains on both sides – one side jagged and the other rolling undulations. Even the road was up and down for mile and miles, Hues of blue from the mountains and blue from the sky as well as green grassy slopes made a very pretty scene.
That evening we returned to our campsite to find it crowded out with tents and camper trailers and they were a rowdy mob so our gathering around the fire wasn’t funny more so most of the “old crew” retired early.

Driving back to Alice the next day you felt as if you were immersed in one of Albert Namatjira paintings with picturesque mountains whizzing by on either side.

We stopped at Standley Chasm about lunch time to crane our necks to see the narrow towering chasm lit up by the midday sun. The chasm is very tall and very narrow so you feel like a miniature person in this work of grandeur by Mother Nature.
Back to the hustle and bustle of Alice Springs, we needed to do washing, emails and shopping so overnighter in a caravan park but it made us appreciate our last few nights of camping out.

(If you click on the images you can see them full size)