Saturday, 30 May 2015

Day 48 - 30th May

Desert Oaks campsite to Tropic of Capricorn campsite

Distance Travelled - 212.4 km

Woke up at 6.30 am but went back to sleep until 7.30 am feeling quite tired still. Finally got up and packed away a somewhat wet tent fly and moist tent from dew and condensation. Left the campsite about 8 am. Drove the 167 or so km towards Alice and on the way saw some eagles feasting on some road kill. Pulled over and took a few photos, getting surprisingly close. Several flew away as a truck rumbled past but one came back as I was walking up and seemed quite ok with my presence for a while before I got too close and he moved off.

Continued into Alice and did  bit of shopping and investigating of repairs to the stretcher tent. At one stage in opening it the leg caught part of the flywire and put a tear in it. No one I talked to was interested in helping so I bought a bit of cloth tape and decided to attempt a running repair later.
Made a few phone-calls and finally left about 3 pm. Drove the 30 or so km to the Tropic of Capricorn campsite where I stayed on  my first venture into Alice and set up the tent to dry out and made a few repairs. Will see how long it lasts. Had a quick bottle shower and then finished reading my book, wrote my blog and started sorting photos before getting tea and going to bed. Tomorrow I plan to drive towards Tennant Creek, stopping for photos at the Devil's Marbles - about 400 km from here apparently. Then it will be on towards Litchfield National Park and Darwin.

Friday, 29 May 2015

Day 47 - 29th May

King's Canyon to Desert Oaks campsite

Distance Travelled - 319 km

Woke up lateish -7 am - to the smell of bacon and eggs being cooked by Kim and Leanne, the campers next to me. Got out of bed and on the way to the tap to get water to boil for coffee, Kim told me not to bother as they had just boiled the kettle and cooked bacon and eggs and wanted me to join them for breakfast.

After a delicious breakfast of a bacon and egg toasted sandwich and a cup of coffee, along with a nice chat, it was time to pack away and head off. I drove out to King's Canyon and started the Rim Walk by 8.30 am. The sign says to allow 4 hours for the 6 km walk and given other walks in the area I thought I might be finished a little earlier.

The first 100 m involves climbing about 434 steps at quite a steep angle and then continues on, gradually climbing. By the end of the walk I think there is about 1000 up steps to traverse and about 400 down. The walk was amazing and in particular I enjoyed the Garden of Eden section where the near permanent water hole is and lush palms and trees grow, it was very pretty and photos just can't capture the beauty that is there.

There are wondrous stone features to see where the rock has been eroded and every stage of the walk bought something different to see. By the end of walk, including rests and photographic time, I had spent close to 4 hours getting back to the car park. I was more tired than I have been on the rest of the trip.

After a short rest in the car park to post the most recent of the photos and blog that I had, I started the drive back towards Alice Springs. Got as far as the Desert Oaks roadside campsite and decided to call it quits and the tiredness was creeping up and it was starting to get towards sunset.

Made camp, had a coffee and went to bed, asleep by 8 pm at the latest.

                                                        Rock dome on the Rim Walk

                                                 View of the canyon from the north wall

                                                View of the canyon from the south wall

                                                       Garden of Eden with creek bed

                                                       Garden of Eden with water pool

Thursday, 28 May 2015

Day 46 - 28th May

Uluru to King's Canyon

Distance Travelled - 315.4 km

Woke up at 5.30 am to the feeling of a slightly wet tent near my feet. Ignored this and went back to sleep, finally getting out of bed at 7.30 am. It appears that there was enough rain last night to make a significant pool on top of the tent and as it came into contact with the flywire inner it has slowly dripped through. The inside of the tent and sleeping bags were not significantly wet which was good.

Dried off the tent fly as wellas I could with my towel and packed in in a plastic bag and stashed it in the pod on the roof and let the tent dry for as long as I could. The sleeping bags got stretched across the back of the car to dry off as I drove. Talke dot a coule of the neighbours as most of us were packing up to leave and did some reading before doing the final pack at about 10 o'clock and had left by 10.15 am.

Paid $1.993 per litre for a small amount of fuel and headed off towards King's Canyon. The drive was not particularly inspiring and I was quite relieved to reach the canyon at about 1.30 pm. Did the small 2.6 km creek walk which was quite pretty. Was astounded to find free wi-fi (a tourism initiative) at the canyon so made use of it and post the last 4 days worth of blog. Left the canyon and headed to the KIng's Canyon Resort, the resting place for tonight.

Was concerned about the price for tonight - had heard reports of up to $50 for a night but was relieved to find an unpowered, grassed sight for $20 per night, per person. Found a spot to camp and was almost immediately invited in for a coffee by the next door campers. Sat and chatted for a while before deciding to be totally decadent and going to the pub for a pizza dinner, which turned out to be very nice.

Spent the evening reading, writing and sorting the few photos from today. Tomorrow I will go and do the rim walk in the morning (the sign says alow 4 hours for the 6 km walk and seeing as the first part is about 100 m of very steep steps I think it could be a little tiring. After the walk I will head back towards Alice and see how far I get before I am to tired. If need be will find a roadside camping spot and then mosey into Alice on Saturday.
Uluru with rain clouds from the other day, forgot to post yesterday

                                                          Boulder from King's Canyon

                                                   View from creek walk, King's Canyon

                                               Dry creek bed, creek walk, King's Canyon

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Day 42 - 24th May

Alice Springs to Yulara (almost)

Distance Travelled - 464.7 km

Woke up, enjoying the feeling of a sleep in and got up at 8 am. The caravan park puts on a free pancake breakfast on Sunday mornings so after packing away everything except the electrical stuff I went over and had a couple of pancakes. The internet time I had bought last night was useless as the server kept cutting out so after an hour I had achieved absolutely nothing. When I explained this at reception they said it happens occasionally and quite happily refunded my internet money.

Left the caravan park and went back into town to use the free wi-fi in the town mall and discovered that the local Steiner School was having their Autumn Fair today. Spent some time wandering through the mall looking at a variety of stalls and then posted the blog. Left town and headed out towards Uluru.

The drive is all on bitumen with the turnoff at Erldunda where I topped up with fuel - although it is $1.80 here people I had spoken to earlier in the week said it had been up to $2.27 at King's Canyon and Uluru. On the way to Erldunda managed to snap a few shots of an eagle on the barely recognisable remains of a kangaroo on the highway. Unfortunately, as I was starting to close in, a car came rushing through and scared him off. I waited some time, sitting on the side of the road in hopes he might come back but I was probably a little too close and he stayed perched in a tree for some time before flying off.

On the way towards Uluru I was amazed at the sight of Mount Connor and stopped to admire that for a while. Drove through to within about 50 km of the resort (the only camping place allowed at Uluru)and pulled up at the last of the free roadside camping bays. Set up and cooked tea, looking at a bleak and overcast sky. Shortly after tea a few drops of rain fell so I called it an early night and climbed into the tent to spend some time reading and listening to music before going to sleep.
                                                 They don't seem that afraid of cars

                                                                         Getting closer
                                                 Getting closer, just before he flew away

                                                       Mt Connor on the way to Uluru

Day 43 - 25th May

Arrival at Uluru

Distance Travelled - 156.3 km

Woke up at 5 am to the sound of rain gently hitting the fly of the tent. Fell asleep again and woke again at 5.30, 6.15 and 6.45 before eventually getting out of bed at 7.30 am, not being able to remain laying down any longer. The rain was still falling, not particularly heavy but enough to be annoying when trying to pack up and keep things dry. Eventually got packed away and headed into the very Touristy Uluru Resort. Was given a powered campsite that has not been well thought out. The single power outlet pole is at least 20m from the closest spot you can park your car making it difficult to plug your fridge in. After several consultations with the reception staff they eventually agreed to store my frozen stuff in their freezer as I couldn't access the power.

Went for a drive to the Rock and was truly amazed at it's size and majesty. Spent a bit of time exploring around, looking for potential places to take photos and then went back to set up camp, taking a few shots on the way. Spent the rest of the day at camp, sorting a few things out, visiting the local Fire and Rescue station and appreciating a cool and very cloudy day.
                                                                 The first shot of Uluru

                                                   One of the many dead trees in the park

Day 44 - 26th May


Distance Travelled - 108 km

WOke up early and drove out towards the rock for sunrise photos. Was joined by about 200 others in what can only be described as an Anzac Dawn Service mood - sombrer, expectant, emotional, sacred - people barely whispering, standing silently as sentinels ot the new day. The occasional click of cameras could be heard and that was about it.

Surprisingly, within no more than about 10 minutes after sunrise I was the only one left at the viewing platform as everyone else seemed to rush off and go about their daily program. I spent about another half hour watching the sun rise higher and enjoying the serentiy of the location.

After leaving the sunrise viewing area I headed to the rock itself to do the base walk - a 10.6 km walk around the entirity of the rock, allowing you a close up persepective of the formation and an opportunity to see some of the amazing effects erosion has had on the rock. The walk took about 2 and a quarter hours and was thoroughly enjoyable. I visited teh cultural centre for a while before heading back to the sunrise platform for some more photos and then back to the campsite for lunch.

Had a shower and then spent time chatting to Brian and Vanessa, a couple from NSW camping just near me in the tent gorund. After chatting for a while we got ready to head out to the sunset viewing area despite the fairly cloudy and overcast conditions. We decided it was either going to make it fantastic or a flop. The place was absolutely packed with people all abuzz with expectation. Whilst not spectacular, it was certainly pleasant and I stayed until I only had enough time to drive out before the park is closed at night. Whilst the last shots didn't turn out as I wanted maybe tomorrow will bring a better sunset and evening sky.

Got back to camp about 7.45 pm, cooked some tea and got ready ofr bed. Tomorrow I will be at the Olga's for sunrise - about 50 km from the campground.
                                                 Panoramic of Uluru from the base walk

                                          Aboriginal drawings in one of the caves in Uluru

                                                     The effects of erosion on the rock

 Weird and wonderful rock formations making part of the overall rock

                                                                   Uluru at sunrise

                                                                    Uluru at sunset

                                                                     Uluru at sunset
                                                                     Uluru at sunset
Day 45 - 27th May


Distance Travelled - 169.3 km

Woke up and left by 5.30 am and started the slightly late starting trip to the Olga's. Fortunately the viewing platform is about 3/4 of the way to the Olga's so I was able to make up for my late start. Once again a very cloudy and overcast morning led to a less than ideal sunrise but it was still nice to be there and see it happen. There was a different mood here today, less people, slightly more chatting and the emotional atmosphere was not as intense. One thing that was the same though was the speed in which the platform was vacated almost s soon as the sun was up. Once again, I was the last to leave.

Drove the rest of the way to the Olga's and did the Walpa Gorge walk - 2.6 km in fairly easy conditions - and spent 20 or so minutes just laying down and taking in the silence (absence of human noise) and listening to the sounds of the bush - birds, crickets, frogs, wind, leaves rustling.

After walking out went to the Olga's proper - very inspiring. The highest point is actually several hundred feet taller than Uluru and the Olga's is made up of 35 individual domes hence where the Aboriginal name of Kata Tjuta comes from - Kata = many, Tjuta = heads.

I did the Valley of the Winds walk - 7.4 km in what they call difficult conditions - grade 4 walk level. There were a few steep sections and a few places where you had to scramble over rocks but on the whole I did not think it was too bad. They say to allocate 4 hrs to do the walk and I was back in just over 2 so it can't be too bad. There were some spectacular views and taking photos did not really do justice to the height, colour or texture of the domes.

After the walk I went back to the Uluru sunset viewing section and took some post midday photos before heading back to camp for a 2 pm lunch. Had a shower and then downloaded and sorted photos before getting ready to head back to the sunset area for another attempt at sunset over Uluru photos.

Very few people out there today and with very overcast conditions and the rain threatening to fall I guess people decided it would be a non event. I set up and took a few shots and again waited as long as I could before leaving at closing time. Don't think there was too many good shots tonight. Came back to camp with rain falling, had teas and went to bed rather tired.

Tomorrow I will pack up camp and head to King's Canyon and spend the day there before heading back towards Alice on Friday.
                                                                   Olga's at sunrise
                                                                   Olga base walk

                                                                Uluru afternoon shot

                                                                       Nearly home?

Saturday, 23 May 2015

Day 38 - 20th May

Alice Springs to Ormiston Gorge

Distance Travelled - 173 km

Woke up and packed the car after a coffee and read and finally left the campsite about 8.30 am. Drove to town and rang my brother Craig to wish him a happy birthday and then went and did a bit of shopping and visited the Information Centre. After talking to them for a while I decided that I would go out to Ormiston Gorge today and camp there for a few days and then head back in to Alice visiting some of the other gorges along that route on the way back. When I get back to Alice I will refuel and head out to Uluru / the Olgas for a few days and then visit Kings Canyon etc before heading back to Alice and off towards Darwin.

The drive to Ormiston Gorge, whilst not spectacular, was quite pleasant and I arrived there about 3 pm. Found a camp spot in the surprisingly full and busy camping section and then went for a walk. The Gorge is very pretty, with lots of rocks and some brownish water in the near permanent water hole. There is a lot less water in here than there was when Ken Duncan took his photo that I saw in one of his books.

Went back to camp, set up the solar panels to give the batt-pack as much charge as possible and then read for a while. About 5 o'clock went back to the gorge and did some photography in diminishing light and spent time just looking and enjoying the beautiful sight.

Cooked tea on the gas BBQ provided at the campsite and then laid down to wait for night proper to do some star photography but fell asleep before that happened.

                                                             View of Ormiston Gorge

                                                           View of Ormiston Gorge

                                                             View of Ormiston Gorge

                                                             View of Ormiston Gorge

                                                           Ormiston Gorge river bed

Day 39 - 21st May

Ormiston Gorge

Distance Travelled - 0 km

Woke up at 2am (having fallen asleep before 7 pm last night) and got up, contemplating walking to the Gorge and doing photography but decided not to as the noise of getting ready may not be appreciated by the other campers. Went back to bed and finally fell asleep about 4 am.

The eerie, mournful and yet somehow tranquil howl of a dingo woke me at 7 am. I peered out of my tent to see him sitting about 8 metres away, under a small tree. I watched him for 15 minutes or so as he let out repeated howls, answered by distant howling in the background. He eventually trotted off.

Got out of bed and went to the gorge to do some photography and then about 8.30 am came back, had breakfast, set up the solar panels and went back to bed. Slept in until lunchtime which was very cool and relaxing.

Spent the afternoon reading, listening to music, occasionally meandering down to the waterhole to see what was happening and then back to the campsite, adjusting the solar panels to make as much of the sun as possible and generally just chilling out.

Went to the waterhole about 5 pm and sat, just watching the birds and soaking up the peacefulness when along trotted a lone dingo. As I sat, perched on my rock, he cautiously wandered along the edge of the waterhole, stopping intermittently to drink and catch something to eat which he did at least once successfully. He got to within about 5 metres of me when a small movement I made to adjust the camera caught his attention and he lightly trotted off away from me and over the rocks. In all I think we spent about half and hour in each others company.

After he left I wandered back to camp, cooked tea and wrote the blog, determined not to lay down in case I miss my night photography opportunity again. Tomorrow I am planning to leave the campsite at 5 am and start the Ormiston Pound walk which should get me to the lookout over the pound by sunrise which, according to a ranger i was talking to, can be very spectacular from that vantage point. The whole walk takes about 3 hours so hopefully I can be back and have a little snooze before heading off towards Alice just after lunch.

                                                           Dingo at Ormiston Gorge

                                                           Dingo at Ormiston Gorge

 This bird had just caught a fish from the gorge and was eating it in the tree

                                                        Ormiston Gorge in the morning

                                               You find trees growing in the weirdest places

Day 40 - 22nd May

Ormiston Gorge to Ellery Creek

Distance Travelled - 57.6 km

After going to bed at about 10 pm I woke at 12, 2 am and 4 am, obviously conscious of not wanting to miss the alarm. Woke up at 5 am and was off walking the 9 km by torchlight in the dark by 5.15 am. The trail was reasonably easy to follow with the reflective markers occurring fairly often. The only drama that occurred was missing the difficult to see turnoff to the lookout. By the time I was thinking I should have found it I had arrived in the pound to be greeted by a fabulous sunrise, painting the clouds a delightful pink colour. The walls of the gorge had a real look of warmth about them as early light transformed them from darkness to life. Took several photos hoping to get the feel of the warm look being generated.

Walked the rest the trail without incident arriving back in just over 2 and a half hours - not bad for a 3-4 hour walk according to the sign. Had a shower and some breakfast and then went back to bed for about a half hour snooze before heading back to the gorge to see if there was anything interesting happening, which there wasn't, so went back to camp, packed and headed off toward Ellery Creek.

Got to Ellery Creek and found an absolute oasis in the desert, a large basically permanent waterhole with a small amount of grass, lush green reeds and decent sized ghost gums. Took some photos and went back to set up camp for the night. Went back to the waterhole several times before tea as the light changed to try and see if photos were worth taking.

Spent the evening after tea sitting around a campfire talking to a couple from Qld about all sorts of thinks from schools to politics to camping, finally going to bed about 9.30 pm feeling rather weary.

                                                   Ormiston Gorge pound walk, dawn

Ochre pits
                                                               Ellery Creek Big Hole

Day 41 -23rd May

Ellery Creek to Alice Springs

Distance Travelled - 103.4 km

Had a group of late arrivals at the camp last night who came in at about 8.30 pm and set up not far from me and started preparing tea. They had just finished eating when I went to bed. At 12.45 am I got out of bed and went over to where they were sitting, chatting away in their very loud voices and asked them politely to tone it down as some people were trying to sleep. They quite quickly settled and within 15 minutes all was quiet and they were in bed.

Awoke a 7 am and went to look at the waterhole for photographs and then had a quick breakfast and packed. Headed back to Alice Springs to refuel, do some shopping, make a few phone calls and find a caravan park for the night to recharge batteries, collect water, shower and generally sort myself for the trip to Uluru.

Was horrified at the $44.00 price for the one person at a powered sight but had no option really so went in and set up. Spent the rest of the afternoon sorting out photos and blogs and emails. Was devastated to find that I had forgotten to set the lens back to auto focus after the night photography I had done, so nearly all the photos from the pound walk are out of focus.

Cooked tea and settled down for a hopefully blissful and restful sleep.

                                                              Ellery Creek Big Hole

                                                               Ellery Creek Big Hole

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Day 37 - 19th May

Alice Springs

Distance Travelled - 64.2 km

After getting the sparky at 8 am waited for a while until they were ready to sort the car and after about half an hour they came up with the answer that there is nothing wrong with the cigarette socket. Final discussions decided that the problem was with the plug hitting the edge of the socket on the battery and causing the short. So by only unplugging the cigarette end we should be alright.

Leaving the sparky did a little bit of shopping and then went back to the campsite just after lunch. Spent the afternoon reading and chatting to a few different people as they turned up to camp for the night.

Very little photography today except for a few sunset shots, nowhere near as good a sunset as yesterday. Tomorrow I will go in to town and see about permits etc for Uluru and Ormiston Gorge and then sort plans for the next day or so.

                                                  Another nice sunset in Alice Springs

Monday, 18 May 2015

Day 36 - 18th May

Alice Springs

Distance Travelled - 130.5 km

Woke up around 6 am and spent the morning just slowly getting ready for the day in town. Had breakfast, packed away, read for a while and then finally wandered off about 9 am.

After successfully finding the auto electrician and getting fuses, took the Engel, batt-pack and lead to the Engel dealer and left it with him to sort the problem. Went into the main mall and looked around for a while then went off in search of the Subaru dealer. According to them the next service isn't due for another 5500 km so that was good news. Went looking in a few book shops and other places whilst waiting for the Engel dealer to get back to me. Around lunchtime I went back to the dealer only to find that he couldn't find anything wrong. He had plugged the lead into a cigarette outlet and into the battery then run the Engel off the battery and no issues at all. This suggests that the problem is with the cigarette outlet in the car. Went back to the auto electrician and they couldn't do anything today but it is booked in for 8 am tomorrow. We will wait and see.

Visited the old telegraph station ($9.50 entry fee thank you very much) and did a little photography on the way back to the campsite to be greeted by a dazzling red sunset.

Tomorrow I will waste some time in town while the sparky looks at the car and then make decisions from there in regards to travel over the next day or so.
                                                 Old Telegraph Station - Alice Springs

Location of the original Alice Springs site
It was thought this was a natural spring site but turned out not to be.
Sunset at camp

Sunday, 17 May 2015

Day 34 - 16th May

Coober Pedy to Desert Oaks Rest Area

Distance Travelled - 539 . 3 km

Woke up at 5.30 am and went back to sleep until 6.30 am and then listened to music until 7 am before finally succumbing to the need to get up and get moving. Showered, cooked bacon and egg sandwiches for breakfast and packed, leaving the caravan park by 9 am. Drove around town and took a few photos before going to the community bazaar at the local oval (which opened at 8 am and by 10 am there were still only 4 stalls opened with lots of other empty tents) and then headed off.

The drive was terribly uninteresting, going up the main highway with not a lot to see. Very much reminded me of many stages of the drive from Southern Cross to Coolgardie. Didn't really even stop for any photography. Stopped at Marla - the last town in South Australia - and at the S.A / N.T border and again at Kulgera - the first town in the Northern Territory - each for a quick stretch and then on again. Stopped at Erldunda to send a message or two and then kept going to the parking bay about 167 km south of Alice which allows overnight camping.

On arrival was a little surprised at the number of caravans here - about 30 - all set up for the night. Found a spot to squeeze in and made a yummy Thai Green Curry with chicken, peas, corn, capsicum and noodles for tea. After tea spoke to Brad and Joy from Qld about their trip and their photography and then used their fire for some photos shops after they went to bed about 7.30 pm. Finished my photography, wrote the blog and sorted photos before heading to bed.

Tomorrow I will drove to Alice Springs (hopefully with some photography on the way) and camp there the night. Monday morning I will hit the shops to try and get the cigarette lighter / batt-pack problem sorted and then work out what happens from there. Uluru and Ormiston Gorge are definitely on the cards but what else is yet to be seen.

                                                                Stuart Pea -  Coober Pedy

                        Stained glass windows in the Serbian underground church - Coober Pedy

                                              Dunes of dirt, the by-product of opal mining

                                                     An eagle on the way to Desert Oaks

                                                     Northern Territory Border Sign

                                                             Milky Way by campfire

Day 35 - 17th May

Desert Oaks to Alice Springs

Distance Travelled - 276 km

Woke up to a very cold morning, others at the campsite think it hit 0 degrees last night. At 7.30 am when I finally got out of bed after being awake for quite some time the car said it was 3 degrees. Whilst waiting for things to dry I went for a walk, talked to Brad and Joy again and eventually after a coffee and some reading left at about 9.30 am.

Brad and Joy showed me a photo they had taken yesterday of an eagle sitting on a dead kangaroo. They said it was about 10 km towards Alice form the campsite and described the location in reference to a bore with solar panels etc. Decided there was no rush to get to Alice and that I could probably spend a few hours waiting for the eagles to feed if they were not there when I went passed. Well, found everything they had described except the kangaroo. Took a few photos of eagles in some trees but nowhere to be seen was the kangaroo. Drove back and forwards a few times but to no avail. Finally gave up and continued towards Alice.

The rest of the drive was very uninteresting, much the same as yesterday. Got to Alice about 1 pm and had a quick look through town and the tourist centre before continuing out of town toward Darwin for about 25 km to the next campsite. Spent time reading, listening to music and going for a walk before cooking tea and then heading back towards town to get phone reception.

Got back to camp, set up the tent and started to plan for tomorrow. I will try and get a few things sorted with the car - it is nearly due for its next service, and I need to rectify the problem with the batt-pack, lead or cigarette lighter and a few other little things.

One of the eagles I spotted
                                         Tropic of Capricorn Sculpture at the overnight rest stop

                                                           Tropic of Capricorn Marker