Tag Archives: 4WD travel

It’s a long day trip out to Chambers Pillar from Alice Springs and definitely worth the effort.

Mr Chambers (after whom the Pillar was named) funded John McDouall Stuart’s exploration so Mr Stuart could do nothing less than name this giant clay, sandstone and silt formation after him.

Chambers Pillar 1

graffiti on Chambers Pillar

desert flowers 1

desert flowers 2

On the way out to the pillar is Ewaninga Rock Art Reserve. It is a pretty special place, with a large clay pan water source and amazing 360 degree views of the landscape.

Ewaninga panorama

Claypan at Ewaninga

Yesterday it was time for some sightseeing in and around Alice. Starting in the town centre with the Sunday morning markets and a good cup of coffee, the bougainvillea led your eyes skywards.

Bouganvilea in Alice SpringsThese rock wallabies were sunning themselves, surprisingly on the rocks, above the dry creek bed leading into Simpsons Gap.

Rock wallaby - Simpsons Gap

rock wallaby 2

Further west in the Macdonnell Ranges is Standley Chasm. Look up!

Standley ChasmFlower - Standley Chasm

Saturday 13 July (written 15 July)

After the vandemonium of the past couple of days, it was good to have our attention diverted by the race that stops Alice Springs if not the nation.

The nine-race event that is Camel Cup Day is an annual event that attracts over 5,000 spectators and international attention. This year, a television crew from the Japanese NHK network covered the race.

Here’s just some of the fun.

Camel Cup Day 6

Camel Cup Day 5

Camel Cup Day 1

Camel Cup Day 4

Camel Cup Day 2By happy coincidence, we met up with my family and our fellow travellers at the event.  Dinner at the Hanuman Restaurant in the Hilton Hotel was a fabulous collation of Indian and Thai dishes. Sweet!

11 and 12 July (written in Alice Springs Sunday 14 July)

Did I mention to you that Himself is what I will now refer to as a MIPS? It stands for Master of Improvising and Problem Solving. We should also add the letters SC as well, as in self-control.

Thursday was a long day – all bitumen and lots of kilometres to get to Glen Helen Gorge in the West Macdonnell Ranges.Glen Helen Gorge campsite

This is what the place looked like just before we set up camp for two relaxing days ahead.

Glen Helen Gorge Fri morning 12 July

This is what it looked like very next morning as we were leaving to head back to Alice Springs.

The cable that lifts the pillars when you crank up the van broke, meaning that you could not lift one of the corners without a large amount of effort. You could also not hold it at a height to fit even vertically challenged people in there without some ingenuity (see aforesaid mention of Himself).

By 9.30 am Friday we were in Alice discussing how it might be fixed.

Them: This isn’t unusual. It usually happens when someone forgets to unlatch one of the clips on the roof before cranking it up.

There you have it. A moment of inattention with consequences. I broke the van.

We had to unpack the van’s contents to let Gary (the fixer) dismantle cupboards to get into the wall cavities. As it happens, we are now waiting for a part to come from Adelaide. The contents of most of the van is in the tent with us.

Not too many happy snaps were taken on Friday. It was action stations and then a resignation to tent living for a few days.

We did manage to have a delicious meal at the Glen Helen Lodge on the evening of the incident. Himself is a very patient man. I should tell him that more often.

I should also mention the fellow camper at Glen Helen Gorge who watched the unfolding incident from a short distance and then wandered up to render assistance which went something like this. “You should get that sorted”. Thank you Sir for your kind advice.

Dear ones

Today is a synopsis, for if I gave you the details, you would be in the vehicle with us for 200 kilometres listening to the first chapters of “The Elegance of the Hedgehog” (quite brilliant BTW) and then sitting with me here as I consolidate the writing and photographs of the last few days.

We’re off out of range again for 3-4 days on the way to Alice Springs from tomorrow morning so until then.

We fueled up here and got the key to go visit …

Pink Roadhouse Oodnadatta


Railway Station Museum - O

where we read lots of interesting stories and saw this painted camel’s head.

Painted Camel Head - Oodnadatta Railway Museum

Then we drove.

O to MarlaTonight we are in Marla where they have grass on the ground, alcohol in the bar and a place where we can eat food without me cooking.

Until the next time …..

Tuesday 9 July (posted Marla 10 July)

It was such a quiet night on the salt lake with only the lightest of winds making sounds in the night. The resident rabbit population added nothing to the soundscape.

Morning on Lake Eyre

The road out took the full 2 hours over the corrugations and surprisingly different landscape. A few merciless kilometres towards the end of this track (and William Creek) is a memorial to a young Austrian tourist who tragically perished one December day in 1998 after leaving her stranded car at Halligan Bay and attempting the walk back.

Halligan Bay Road 1

We took a break at a mound spring around which ducks, swallows and a lone black-winged stilt were playing. Further on are more ruins, this time at Warrinna, at a site commemorating the beginning of the Elder exploration expedition.

Halligan Bay Road 2

We have a few audio books to hand on this trip. Today we finished listening to Jack Kerouac’s On the Road. Different transcontinental treks, granted, yet an entertaining remembrance of the novel read in my youth.

Much of today’s route coincides with the Old Ghan railway line. Many remnants of it still exist, including the bridge at The Neales.

The Old Ghan - The Neales

Today was the first overcast day on the trip. Despite the stark almost washed out feel of the light for most of the day, the afternoon provided some amazing hues in the last hour before Oodnadatta.

At 2.30 pm, the light is almost dusky, with scattered clouds providing a light blanket in the sky. Crimson brown layers of sediment protrude from the gray green hills that met gibber-red flats and mounds. Around the corner, red sand dunes with mulga, then another change to black grit hills. The variety is astounding. Beach yellow sand bursts atop mounds of varying colours. Shrubs way off the road’s edge show off their true colours while their cousins closer to the traffic wear dust camouflage that will remain until the next decent rain.

Oodnadatta hills - colours

Black grit - Oodnadatta approach

The van park in Oodnadatta is red-sand based. We beat the crowd today. While Himself nabbed the only working washing machine, I got a meal started. The Pink Roadhouse provided a few provisions at prices which make you wonder how the local population manages their budgets.

Pink Roadhouse - Oodnadatta

These are the budget rooms in the van park.

Caravan park - rooms

After dinner, we headed down the road to the local.

Oodnadatta Transcontinental Hotel

Across the road from the Transcontinental Hotel, the microphone in the community hall was projecting the word of Jesus and competing with Khe Sanh blasting from the pub’s jukebox. In the hotel, the young men were competing for points on the pool table. Occasionally there would be a surreptitious rescue of one of the beers in the take-away carton located out the front. Why not? At six dollars a can at the bar, it’s a 50% or more saving.

With the Roadhouse and General Store closed by 7.00 pm, the only source of lollies and ice blocks is the bar in the hotel. Three young girls completed their transaction to their satisfaction after choosing from a range of chocolate bars.

That was it for the big night out in Oodnadatta. Nothing for it but back to the warmth of the van and a good book.

Monday 8 July (posted in Marla 10 July)

It was a big party in the house behind the road house last night.  Sound travels well across the flats and the karaoke to end the event at 4.00 am was a nice touch.

Today’s highlight on the road north-west was the mound springs, fresh water ponds of varying heights scattered across the landscape. At the Wabma Kadarbu Conservation Park are The Bubbler and Blanche Cup. The Bubbler 1Blanche CupWe had a lunch (pre-packed to foil those aforesaid flies) at Coward Springs, once a railway siding and now a privately owned camp ground. The owners manage and maintain the site and the old Engineer’s House.

William Creek boasts a pub and a non-descript caravan park. This has been my beer brand of choice on this trip. Just in case anyone was wondering….

Coopers advertisement - William Creek Hotel

We decided to back track and head down 60 kilometres of track to Halligan Bay on Kati Thandi-Lake Eyre. Road into Halligan Bay - Kati Thandi-Lake Eyre It’s an isolated spot. The fact that it took us over 2 hours to traverse those 60 kilometres may explain that few make the effort. In summary, here’s today’s journey.  For the dear reader who loves maps.

Mud map Monday So tonight we are among 3 other campers in this remote place, traditional home of the Arubunna people, on the lake in the dry season.  And this is why it was worth the corrugated road effort!

Kati Thandi - Lake Eyre sands late afternoonKati Thandi - Lake Eyre sunsetKati Thandi - Lake Eyre sunset 3

Sunday 7 July (posted in Marla on Wednesday 10 July)

It was freeeeeezing this morning. Just saying.

These old trucks grace the camping area at Mungerannie.  It was our introduction to Mr E G (Tom) Kruse, a legend in these here parts, who delivered the mail in often extenuating services between Birdsville and Marree over many years.

Chevrolet 1Chevrolet 2Chevrolet 3 

First stop today was the old Mulka Store and Homestead Ruins.

Mulka Ruins 1Mulka Ruins 2Mulka - windmill pieceMulka Ruins 3

The mirages on a desert afternoon are quite something. It’s as if the mesas up ahead are sitting on a bed of sky.  There were road clean up crews out this afternoon.  Each of the utes had large soft toy mascots either on the bonnet or riding shotgun on the ute cage.

Behold our first water crossing.  Baby steps people.

First water crossing

We pulled up in Marree where the van park owner is also the tyre fixer and the roadhouse and general store owner. So thanks Lyle and Sandy for a place to stay tonight, a repaired tyre and a few provisions to get us through the next few days until Oodnadatta.

Marree was the end of the line for the Old Ghan train.  There is an outdoor museum at the old railway station which includes another of Tom Kruse’s trucks.

Royal Mail truck - Tom Kruse

Marree panorama

Heritage photo - Marree 1900

Marree Railway Station

The Marree Hotel has a room dedicated to Tom Kruse and his contribution to communication in this remote part of the world.  The stained glass windows are a feature of this solid old pub.  If only the walls could talk, as they say.

Marree Hotel

Last mail truck from BirdsvilleMarree Hotel - public barMarree Hotel - stained glass 2Marree Hotel - stained glass 3Marree Hotel - stain glass 1

A bottle of Annie’s Lane Shiraz was a take away treat (we are in South Australia after all).

Another feature of this historic town is a memorial mosque and park dedicated to the memory of pioneering Muslim cameleers and the families of Marree (or as it was called in earlier days – Hergott Springs).

Memorial to Muslim cameleers : mosque

Just as we began the drive down the Birdsville Track with a little country and western music, so it ends today as the voice of Jimmy Barnes fills the town on this Sunday night.

End of the day - Marree sunset  So be it.

Saturday 6 July (posted in Marla SA on Wednesday 10 July)

Friday ended with a rendez-vous with friends with whom we’ll next catch up in Alice Springs so we can travel together across the Tanami Desert to the Kimberley. On a cool night, we opted for the outdoor barbecue at the Birdsville Hotel.

If you’re going to wake up in Birdsville, one shouldn’t be surprised to hear the songs of Slim Dusty streaming forth. I would have hoped that the fan might have drawn the line at a 5.00 am start. Cold as it was, by 7.30 we were watching six planes take off over our lodgings in short succession.

After a fuel and milk stop, we set off for the Inside Track on another dry, sunny, big blue sky day. “Just turn left after the stockyard”.

The early stages south are sandy tracts.

Birdsville Track - sand hills

It wasn’t too long before the landscape changed. It’s a little odd to be describing a dry season landscape as reedy with occasional bulrush, but that’s what it was.

The track boasts few signs, so I guess you had to pay attention to this one.

Reduce speed - Birdsville Track

Before long it was time for the serious business of Sturt’s Stony Desert – a wee bit of gibberish if you like. It’s said that the gibbers are the biggest risk to tyre health on the track. I went for a walk at this point with the GoPro to capture the rig going over the red surface on wide angle video.

A bit of gibberish - Birdsville Track

Lunch stop-overs are a race between the sandwich-maker and the bush flies. We pulled over at Flaggy Creek and found a suitable spot under a tree. Flaggy Creek proved more saggy than flaggy as we watched the front left tyre deflate. Needless to say, that break lasted a little longer as we (I say we as I proved a useful assistant to the tyre changer) managed what will no doubt not be the last tyre event on the trip.

Day 11 - first casualty of the rubber

The remainder of the trip to Mungerannie Roadhouse/Hotel camp site may have been a little quiet as both of us contemplated the prospect of another tyre injury with only one spare remaining. That second spare is on the roof and not a light and easy lift.

Some wildflowers diverted my attention.

Yellow buds on the Birdsville Track

We pulled in to camp at Mungerannie, where good facilities including hot bore showers are available for campers. It was clear from the graveyard of tyres out the back that we were not the only ones who’d suffered a sharp rock incident.

Mungerannie Roadhouse - back yard tyre pile

Australasian Shovelers - Mungerannie

The birds on the water were active at this time of day. It was peaceful and noisy at the same time. These Australasian Shovelers were dabbling about across the way. Just near and above us were flocks of corellas and galahs.

Corellas at Mungerannie

Corella at Mungerannie

galah 3 - Mungerannie

galah 1 - Mungeranniegalah 2 - Mungerannie

At dusk, there was an all-out turf/tree war over roosting spots where the galahs had the numbers both on site, and in flocks of reinforcements against the out-numbered sulphur-crested cockatoos.

After my Slim Dusty wake-up call, once the birds settled down, sleep came earlier than usual.

We are about to embark on the trip south on the Birdsville Track. Whether we take the Inside Track or the Outside Track is yet to be determined. As with all stories that pass from driver to driver, there are different versions of the current condition of both roads. Currently the Inside Track has the inside running.

It will take 2 days to arrive in Marree. This post is for the dear reader who asked for a map to be included in future posts as she has apparently lost her atlas and Google Maps is unavailable at her residence. BTW, the map and aerial shot in this post are courtesy of Google Maps. In this topographic visual A = Birdsville, in Queensland, just north of the South Australian border.  The drive south to Mungerannie is through the Sturt Stony Desert, and all things being equal may take us up to 7 hours to drive 320 odd kilometres. You do the maths dear reader on the speeds likely to be attained. B = Mungerannie Birdsville to Marree via MungerannieC = Marree in South Australia.  The big blue mass on the left of the ‘track’ is Kati Thanda-Lake Eyre. Lake Eyre - Google MapWe’ll take our time heading to Oodnadatta (probably next ‘on-air’ town) from Marree.  I’ve scheduled a post for your edification to appear in 2 or 3 days time while we are out of range. Enjoy.

A visit to the Birdsville Race Track on a brisk breezy morning. While the wind was whistling through the steel pipes at the track, it was tearing down our awning back at the park. Some very kind people tied it down in our absence.

Birdsville races 1Birdsville races 2Birdsville races 3Off to Big Red and associated sand dunes 35 kilometres out of town. While Himself was readying for a dune climb, I took photos of some pretty flowers….
tyres down - Big Reddesert flowerwattle flower

He made it up the top while I felt the necessity to document from below.
Rob - top of dune

Further along the dune system, there was a waterway attracting birds. These dabbling ducks in a row are Australasian Shovelers that filter the muddy water for aquatic invertebrates with their spatula shaped bills.Australasian Shovelers 2Australasian Shovelers in a row

Here’s the view up to the dunes and around the watercourse before we left the water’s edge and headed up.
dune vistawatercourse panoramadirectionsheading up the dune

Made it! on top of the dune - Big Reddune view 2dune view 1dune panorama 2dune panorama 1

down the dune

Sunrise over Cadelga Homestead RuinsThis is how the morning sun looked at Cadelga Homestead ruins.  I cannot lie, it was a wee bit chilly, but leaving the warm bed to see this light was irresistible.

Morning light at Cadelga Ruins

Old car - morning at Cadelga Ruins

As I was photographing the structures and the amazing old abandoned car, for a brief moment I thought I heard an engine start up. Except it wasn’t an engine. It was a large flock of galahs leaving their night’s roost and tearing up the river with only their wings making sound through the cold air.

Morning galahs - Cadelga Homestead

On the road again and in just over 2 hours we were in Birdsville, home of the Birdsville Races, the Birdsville Hotel and the Birdsville Bakery, prize winning baker of fine pastries such as Camel Curry, and Kangaroo and Claret pie.  They also tend a blooming garden of Sturt’s Desert Peas.

Approaching Birdsville

Birdsville - Google Map

Birdsville panorama

786466a6e3b211e293ab22000a9f1919_7Sturt's Desert PeaBefore heading for the pub, we walked along the billabong and found this dart sunning itself.  Across the river a feral cat was on the prowl for birds in the river grasses.

The beer is good and cold at the hotel in case you were wondering.

Dart on the Birdsville billabong