A Travellerspoint blog

Mount Isa

Mining town in the Outback

sunny 24 °C

Mount Isa is a big mining town in the Queensland North-West Outback and Mt Isa Mining produces copper, lead, tin and zinc. We enjoyed the warmer weather and I was very pleased to find biltong, braai spices and Ouma rusks in the local Woolworths supermarket. I suspect there must be a big South African commuinity in Mount Isa. The biltong tastes authentic and is much better than the Australian/Kiwi Beef Jerky.

We also visited the Irish Club which is the biggest outside Ireland and the club has a Melbourne Tram inside the pub area.

Mount Isa, not exactly a holiday destination but the caravna parks are full (mostly grey nomads) and it is a good stopover to replenish stocks and fix things.

Tomorrow we will be heading north to the Gulf Country (woodland and savanna surrounding the Gulf of Carpentaria) and our first stop will be at Boodjamulla (Lawn Hill) National Park, another World Heritage listed site.

Mt Isa town

Mt Isa town

Mt Isa, far from everywhere

Mt Isa, far from everywhere


Mt Isa Irish Club

Mt Isa Irish Club


Lekker Biltong

Lekker Biltong

Posted by KobusM 02:05 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Channel Country

Ancient flood plains in an arid landscape

sunny 23 °C

From Birdsville we travelled north to Bedourie (home of the Australian camp oven), Boulia (known for Min Min sightings or giant mirages), Dajarra and eventually Mount Isa, for 690 kms through the Channel Country. The name comes from the numerous intertwined rivulets that cross the region in channels and cover 150,000 km² of arid landscape with a series of ancient flood plains which were full of water at the time we passed through. Queensland’s Channel Country is the source of most of the water in the Lake Eyre Drainage basin, that takes up approximately one sixth of the Australian landmass.

12-16 kms north of Birdsville is a patch of Waddy trees (Acacia peuce) can be seen next to the road. These trees are about about 1000 years old and are survivors of the last ice age. They can only be found in this spot and two other patches on either side of the Simpson Desert and their wood is so hard it is known to break axes and drills when it is dry.

The Eyre Development Road to the Cluny turnoff was fine with a few muddy spots from recent rains and flood waters from the recent wet season up north. The Diamantina Development Road further north to Bedourie was not too bad but the dirt road through the Georgina River channels was muddy and slippery in places which resulted in both vehicles being covered in mud.

The Eyre Development Road has very interesting relics and junk that farmers use for sign posts and some wonderful waterholes with lots of bird life. An interesting feature of the arid landscape in the Channel Country is the gibber stones (sometimes refered to as desert pavement) that are spread over in huge areas. The stones are polished by wind and rain and form interesting patterns in the desert.

We crossed the Tropic of Capricorn for the third time and camped in a bush camp next to the Burke River just north of Boulia before travelling further north to Mount Isa where we will spend two days to get washing done, do shopping and to get a few things fixed on the Quantum (a stabiliser, some reflectors and the Anderson plug damaged by stones). I planned to get the Land Cruiser serviced here but the Toyota dealer is fully booked for the next 11 days so we have to change our travel plan to get to the next service dealer near Cairns to get it seriviced before the vehicle exceeds 20,000km too much.

We are finally back in the tropics and you can feel it in the air. It is time for shorts and sandals again.

Channel Country

Channel Country


Waddy Tree

Waddy Tree


Shoe sign post

Shoe sign post


Channel Country roadside junk

Channel Country roadside junk


Channel Country rusted truck

Channel Country rusted truck


Channel Country flowers

Channel Country flowers


Australian Cranes

Australian Cranes


Channel Country splendour

Channel Country splendour


Gibber

Gibber

Posted by KobusM 22:28 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Birdsville Track to Birdsville

Through the remote Sturt Stony Desert

sunny 19 °C

We travelled from Marree in South Australia to Birdsville in Queensland along the famous 520 km long Birdsville Track. It is very remote and passes through the Tirari and Sturt Stony Deserts which is strikingly beautiful in their harshness. The track passes close to Lake Harry and we saw a number of Black Swans on the lake. Further on we saw a mob of Emus, Australia's largest, flightless bird, very similar to the African Ostrich. The track itself was almost perfect in the south, being freshly graded and we travelled at an average speed of 90 km/h. We stopped to have lunch at the interesting Mungerannie Hotel and travelled further north to the remote campsite at Tippipilla Creek where we spent the night and enjoyed the clear night skies with the clear Milky Way displaying its splendour. The northern part of the track was more rough with hardened mud tracks most of the way but the trafffic had already flattened most of it so we could travel at a reasonable average speed of 80 km/h. With lots of recent rain the countryside is green with lots of flooded pans and flower patches along the way.

We crossed the border into Queensland, turned our clocks 30 minutes forward and stayed in Birdsville Caravan Park for two nights. Birdsville is a very small outback town (pop. 115) on the edge of the Simpson Desert. It is well known for the Birdsville Horse Races that are run here at the end of August every year. The Birdsville Hotel, established in 1884, has an interesting outback pub and we had a nice dinner there one evening.

We used the opportunity to visit the Simpson Desert and drive to the top of its highest dune, the Big Red, towering about 40 meters above the surrounding field and Lake Nappanerica, which has a lot of water at this time. Many 4WD enthusiasts flock here to drive to the top of the Big Red which is purely for fun as there are other roads around it. Lake Nappanerica has lots of birdlife and it is a nice day out from Birdsville, about 35 km away.

Birdsville Track

Birdsville Track


Lake Harry on the Birdsville Track

Lake Harry on the Birdsville Track


Black Swans on Lake Harry

Black Swans on Lake Harry


Sturt Stony Desert

Sturt Stony Desert


Emu in the Sturt Stony Desert

Emu in the Sturt Stony Desert


Mungerannie Hotel, birdsville Track

Mungerannie Hotel, birdsville Track


Mungerannie Hotel relics

Mungerannie Hotel relics


Tippipilla Creek campsite

Tippipilla Creek campsite


SA-Queensland border

SA-Queensland border


Lake Nappanerica with Big Red in the background

Lake Nappanerica with Big Red in the background


Simpson Desert

Simpson Desert


On top of the Big Red dune in the Simpson Desert

On top of the Big Red dune in the Simpson Desert


Black Swans on Lake Nappanerica

Black Swans on Lake Nappanerica


Birdsville Hotel courtecy car

Birdsville Hotel courtecy car

Posted by KobusM 20:36 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Around and over Lake Eyre

Stunning salt lake below sea level

sunny 18 °C

From Coober Pedy we set off on a 1,300 km dirt road trip around Lake Eyre and the Simpson Desert. We first travelled 168 km east on a quite a good dirt track to William Creek. First settled in 1887, William Creek was originally a support station for camel drivers building the Overland Telegraph. It became a hotel in 1943 and is today classified as South Australia's smallest town, situated in the centre of Australia's largest cattle station, Anna Creek Station (23,000 square kms). William Creek boasts a population of three humans and one dog.

From William Creek we followed a badly corrugated 60 km 4WD track to Halligan Bay on the shores of Lake Ayre North where we camped for one windy night. The next day we tackled the track to get back to the Oodnadatta Track to travel to Marree, where we camped at the backyard of the Marree Hotel. The track follows the Old Ghan railway line from Marla to Oodnadatta and then on to Marree. There's lots of ruins, mound springs and railway sidings and rubble-art at Plane Henge. We explored the natural artesian springs within Wabma Kadarbu Mound Springs Conservation Park. The Bubbler mound spring is created from water deep within the Great Artesian Basin which filters to the surface forming mounds and bubbling ponds. The wetlands created by the spring's overflow provide habitat to a variety of waterbirds.

Lake Eyre is the largest lake in Australia when it is full or the largest salt pan when it is empty. It is also the lowest point in Australia, at about 15 meters below sea level. It is actually two lakes, North and South with an interlinking channel that rarely flows. Lake Eyre rarely fills up but in the last three years (strong La Niña years) the lake flooded consistently and although it was only 30% full when we visited, it is still an impressive sight, especially from the air. We took an hour and a half scenic flight from Marree. The lake is named after Edward John Eyre who was the first European to sight it in 1840. Lake Eyre has been a site for various land speed record attempts on its salt flats, especially those by Donald Campbell with the Bluebird-Proteus CN7. It reminds me a lot of the Makgadikgadi Pan in Botswana, which we crossed with my sons in two 4WDs a few years ago.

Many people have died from exposure visiting Lake Eyre. One story that I will always remember also featured in one of Ray Mears' Survival episodes: On the 11th of December 1998 tourists Karl Goeschka and Caroline Grossmueller from Austria left William Creek Hotel to travel 60 km East to Lake Eyre. Before leaving the hotel the couple signed their name in the register letting the boy behind the counter know about their whereabouts. In case they would not be back within a few days he should raise the alarm. After arriving at the lake, unfortunately their campervan got somehow stuck in the sand and Karl twisted his ankle while trying to free the vehicle. They stayed at a bush camp where a large water tank provided hundreds of litres of water and the couple had enough food to survive for weeks. Karl and Caroline were confident that the hotel boy would raise the alarm and that someone would come to their rescue. But after days of waiting at the banks of the dry lake, there was no sign of help. Caroline Grossmueller, a trained mountain walker, became worried that somehow they were forgotten. As it happened, the boy had left the hotel the following day after his father returned. By mistake he had written the whereabouts of the Austrian tourists in the old register book and his father only checked the new book not finding any names in it. Caroline decided that she could not wait any longer. Leaving injured Karl behind, she took seven litres of water in two containers and headed off in the middle of the night. As an experienced walker she estimated she could do about 4-5 km an hour in the cool night, making it possible to do the 60km in less than 12-14 hours, just enough time before the heat of the day would become unbearable. However she clearly underestimated the roughness of the terrain and maybe also the weight of the water containers. She only covered half the distance and was found one day later by two German tourists. Caroline had perished at the site of the road, half way between Lake Eyre and the Hotel. She managed to walk about 30 km before collapsing. She did not die from a lack of available water as she still carried almost 2 litres of water on her. During the inquiry of her death, the coroner attributed her death to "heat exhaustion and exposure". Karl was rescued that same day. The story holds two valuable lessons for people who plan exploring the fantastic outback of Australia. First: you must never leave your vehicle, as it provides protection to the heat and a car can be found easier from the sky by search planes than people. Second: Learn about the technique of four wheel driving. It appeared that the couple’s 4WD's tyres were not deflated and it took the rescue team a few minutes to deflate the tyres and recover the vehicle. The vehicle was also in "axle-twist", meaning that the front and rear axles were at an angle to each other. Since the differentials were not locked, this meant that power was not being applied to the wheels that were in contact with the sand, and so no traction could be obtained preventing the wheels to turn. If they had known more about 4WD technique, this tragedy would probably never had happened! There is a memorial for Caroline Grossmeuller where she died.

From Marree we followed the famous Birdsville Track on the eastern side of Lake Eyre through the Sturt Stony Desert to Birdsville in South-West Queensland. I will give more details about the Birdsville Track in my next blog. We have now arrived in Birdsville, Queensland (and changed our clocks forward another 30 minutes) and plan to drive out to the Simpson Desert tomrrow to visit and drive the Big Red Dune.

We will spend the next three and a half months in Queensland.

William Creek Hotel

William Creek Hotel


Track to Lake Eyre

Track to Lake Eyre


Lake Eyre shores

Lake Eyre shores


Lake Eyre solitude

Lake Eyre solitude


Halligan Bay campsite at Lake Eyre

Halligan Bay campsite at Lake Eyre


Saltpan next to the Oodnadatta Track

Saltpan next to the Oodnadatta Track


Oodnadatta Track dunes

Oodnadatta Track dunes


Mound Springs

Mound Springs


Oodnadatta Track junk-art

Oodnadatta Track junk-art


Plane Hedge, Oodnadatta Track

Plane Hedge, Oodnadatta Track


Lake Eyre North

Lake Eyre North


Lake Eyre North shores

Lake Eyre North shores


Island in Lake Eyre

Island in Lake Eyre


Saltpans at Lake Eyre South

Saltpans at Lake Eyre South

Posted by KobusM 22:54 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Coober Pedy

Opal Capital of the World

sunny 20 °C

On the way to Coober Pedy we stopped at Kulgera Roadhouse, the last pub on the Stuart Highway in the Northern Territory, to have pies for lunch and later continued to cross the border into Southern Australia and camp at Agnes Creek Rest Area next to the Stuart Highway. It surprised us to find the free camp area secluded and well hidden from the road, with nice views of the surrounding countryside and we had a lovely evening with a campfire and campoven dinner.

Coober Pedy is well known for its opal and underground living. The first European explorer to pass near the site of Coober Pedy was Scottish born John McDouall Stuart (the Stuart Highway is named after him) in 1858, but the town was not established much later, when opal was discovered by Willie Hutchison here on 1 February 1915. Hutchison drowned 5 years later trying to do a creek crossing with cattle. Since then Coober Pedy has been supplying the world with gem quality opal. There are thousands of mine heaps, shafts and dugouts in and around Cooper Pedy and many of the mines are still in operation. There are many underground dugouts to explore, including underground homes, museums, shops, hotels, campground, churches and the Old Timer Mine. All these dugouts were built to avoid the scorching heat during summer daytime and remains at a constant temperature. In Coober Pedy they play golf at night in the summer with headlights and fluorecent balls. The golf course is completely free of grass and golfers take a small piece of "turf" around to use for teeing off. It has a desrt climate and in winter it gets freezing cold during the night and our Swedish thermals came in very handy. The name Coober Pedy comes from the local Aboriginal term kupa-piti, which means 'whitefellow in a burrow'.

We also visited The Breakaways Reserve 33km north of Coober Pedy. The reserve gets the name because the plateaus, mesas and massive rocks look like they have broken off the 'main land' from a distance. The formation of the Breakaways landscape is said to be from the evaporation of an inland, ancient, Australian sea. The Big Dog Fence also runs past the Breakaways and is 5,614 kms long, the longest fence in the world and it was erected in the 1880s to keep dingoes out of the southern part of Australia and away from sheep. The Breakaways has featured as a backdrops in many films, eg. 'Priscilla Queen of the Desert', 'Red Planet' and 'Mad Max, Beyond Thunderdome'.

We stayed three days to get rid of all the red sand of the Red Center, for Lorraine to complete her study assignment, to explore this facinating little outback town and to get ready for the next trip through the desert. We will be travelling on desert dirt roads and 4WD tracks for the next 1,300 kilometers to get around Lake Eyre to Birdsville, Boulia and Mount Isa in Queensland. We will be travelling to William Creek and from there on the Oodnadatta Track and Birdsville Track around Lake Eyre and will only be able to update the blog when we get to Birdsville in about 5-6 days.

People ask us what our route is, not noticing that it can be viewed on this blog by enlarging the map above (clicking the + several times) and dragging it. Hovering over the dots displays the place name. The route does not follow roads but gives you an idea of the places we are planning to visit and the general route.

Kulgera Pub

Kulgera Pub


NT-SA Border

NT-SA Border


Coober Pedy mine dumps

Coober Pedy mine dumps


Coober Pedy town

Coober Pedy town


Tunneling Machine

Tunneling Machine


Coober Pedy blower

Coober Pedy blower


Coober Pedy Old Timers Mine

Coober Pedy Old Timers Mine


Opal seam in the Old Timers Mine

Opal seam in the Old Timers Mine


Underground Catholic Church

Underground Catholic Church


The Breakaways

The Breakaways


White Dog- Brown Dog hills in the Breakaways

White Dog- Brown Dog hills in the Breakaways


Breakaways mesa

Breakaways mesa


Dog Fence

Dog Fence

Posted by KobusM 02:01 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Kata Tjuta

The Olgas, living in Uluru's shadow

sunny 16 °C

Kata Tjuta or Mount Olga (or colloquially referred to as The Olgas) is about 50 kilometers to the west of Uluru and although not as famous as Uluru, in my view it is even more spectacular than Uluru. It is a group of 36 domed rock formations and the highest point, Mt Olga, is 546 meters above the surrounding plain, almost 200 meters higher than Uluru. The Pitjantjajara name Kata Tjuta means 'many heads'. Kata Tjuta and Uluru are both in the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park.

We did the Valley of the Winds walk and the track takes you through the valleys and creek beds to the two lookouts, Karu Lookout and Karingana Lookout, from which there are breathtaking views over the Olgas and valleys. We also saw many Zebra Finches up close for the first time.

There are many Dreamtime legends associated with this place and it is as sacred to the Anangu people as Uluru. One legend follows the great snake king Wanambi who is said to live on the summit of Mount Olga during the rainy season and stays curled up in a waterhole on the summit. During the dry season he moves down to the gorge below. He also uses the various caves on Mount Olga. The hairs of his beard are the dark lines on the eastern side of the rock. His breath is the wind which blows through the gorge; when he gets angry it can become a tornado.

Archaeological work suggests that Aboriginal people have lived in the area for at least 22,000 years.

From here we will travel further south for a brief visit to Coober Pedy and Lake Eyre in South Australia before heading north again to warmer weather in Queensland.

Kata Tjuta sunset

Kata Tjuta sunset


Kata Tjuta during the day

Kata Tjuta during the day


Kata Tjuta from a distance

Kata Tjuta from a distance


Karingana lookout

Karingana lookout


Karu lookout

Karu lookout


Kata Tjuta views

Kata Tjuta views


Kata Tjuta with Spinifex grass

Kata Tjuta with Spinifex grass


The Valley of the Winds

The Valley of the Winds


Zebra Finch

Zebra Finch


Valley of the Winds walk

Valley of the Winds walk


Kata Tjuta rock face

Kata Tjuta rock face


Road to Kata Tjuta

Road to Kata Tjuta

Posted by KobusM 04:22 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Uluru

World Heritage Ayers Rock

sunny 16 °C

Uluru is probably the most iconic Australian land feature and seeing it in person makes it live up to its reputation and its status as a World Heritage listed site. It is the world's largest monolith, or more accurately inselberg, and stands 348 meters high above the surrounding desert landscape covered with spinifex grass. It appears to change colour during the day and is most spectacular at sunset when it glows a stunning deep red that contrasts with the surrounding landscape. The most remarkable feature of Uluru is its homogeneity and its solitude in the surrounding plain, but looking closer at the detailed features in this massive rock it becomes even more interesting and mysterious. The place is heaving with tourists throughout the year and the sunset car park is possibly the busiest car park in Australia at sunset.

There is a walking rail attached to climb to the top of Uluru but it is not favoured and discouraged by the Aboriginal owners, but apparently many people do climb it anyway. It was too windy when we were there and it was closed for climbing.

A fascinating site!

Uluru sunset

Uluru sunset


Uluru during the middle of the day

Uluru during the middle of the day


Ayers Rock and white spinifex grass after sunset

Ayers Rock and white spinifex grass after sunset


Traces of waterfalls on Uluru

Traces of waterfalls on Uluru


Tjukatjapi one of Uluru's sacred sites

Tjukatjapi one of Uluru's sacred sites


Uluru crowds at the sunset carpark

Uluru crowds at the sunset carpark


Walking rails to the top of Uluru

Walking rails to the top of Uluru

Posted by KobusM 17:32 Archived in Australia Comments (1)

Kings Canyon

Watarrka National Park

sunny 16 °C

Kings Canyon in Watarrka National Park is the Australian version of the Grand Canyon; not as big but certainly as spectacular. The canyon is a huge chasm that cleves the earth to a depth of 270 meters, with sheer red rock faces that soar more than 100 meters over dense forests of palms, ferns and cycads, sheltering from the harsh, surrounding desert conditions.

We did the 6 km rim walk that took us to the top of the canyon after a steep climb, but rewarded us with spectacular views of the surrounding weathered sandstone, lush hidden forests and breathtaking sheer rock faces of the canyon.

We stayed at the Kings Canyon Resort and thought it would be a very nice place to stay, especially at $38 a night for an unpowered site. But we were disappointed with the neglected, overcrowded facilities. We tried the local BBQ restaurant and entertainment and that was also overpriced and mediocre. The conclusion: Kings Canyon itself is great but avoid the Resort, rather stay at Kings Creek which is on its way to the Canyon.

Kings Canyon

Kings Canyon


Kings Canyon sheer rock face

Kings Canyon sheer rock face


Kings Canyon northern rock face

Kings Canyon northern rock face


Kings Canyon southern rock face

Kings Canyon southern rock face


Kings Canyon strange rock formations

Kings Canyon strange rock formations


Windy and cold!!

Windy and cold!!


Kings Canyon splendour

Kings Canyon splendour


Garden of Eden

Garden of Eden


Kings Canyon cliffs

Kings Canyon cliffs


Solidified ancient sand dunes at Kings Canyon

Solidified ancient sand dunes at Kings Canyon


400 year old West MacDonald Ranges cycad

400 year old West MacDonald Ranges cycad


Stunning scenery at Kings Canyon

Stunning scenery at Kings Canyon

Posted by KobusM 03:55 Archived in Australia Comments (1)

Rainbow Valley

Spectacular red and white sandstone cliffs

sunny 17 °C

We stayed a couple of days in Alice Springs to get the Quantum serviced, to restock and get acclimatised. It got significantly colder (at least 10 degrees) when we passed the Tropic of Capricorn.

From Alice Springs we travelled 100km south to Rainbow Valley, which was not on our original travel plan but Paul Frigne recommended it and we are very pleased he did, as this isolated place is breathtaking. The 24km unsealed road was corrugated but easy compared to some of the 4WD tracks we have travelled so far.

Rainbow Valley Conservation Reserve features scenic sandstone bluffs and free standing cliffs that form part of the James Range on the edge of the Simpson Desert. The cliffs are particularly attractive at sunset when the rainbow-like rock bands are highlighted. The cliffs stand right on the edge of a claypan which makes the cliffs even more spectacular.

The multi-coloured bands in these formations are caused by laterisation, a process whereby underground iron oxide is dissolved by water in wetter times and then drawn to the surface and higher rock levels by capillary action in dry seasons.

The mercury dropped to -4C overnight (-1C inside the Quantum) and we could not use the airconditioning heating as no generators were allowed in the reserve. It was a very cold night!! But we enjoyed a lovely evening around the campfire baking damper (traditional Australian pot bread) in the campoven.

Rainbow Valley

Rainbow Valley


Rainbow Valley moonrise

Rainbow Valley moonrise


Rainbow Valley gap

Rainbow Valley gap


Rainbow Valley sunset

Rainbow Valley sunset


Rainbow Valley campsite

Rainbow Valley campsite

Posted by KobusM 23:36 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Devils Marbles

Karla Karla

sunny 26 °C

Karla Karla Conservation Park (Devils Marbles) is a perfect place to stop and overnight along the Stuart Highway, 400km from Alice Springs, so we camped there for one night. It features amazing colossal red boulders of granite, some balanced precariously upon each other and some split open like glass marbles. The reflection of the sunset and sunrise light make the boulders appear even more stunning.

The local Warumungu people believe from their dreamtime stories that the Rainbow Serpent laid its eggs here and it turned into stone. This is a sacred meeting place for four different Aboriginal language groups, who come here to perform ceremonies.

Sunrise at Devils Marbles

Sunrise at Devils Marbles


Sunset at Devils Marbles

Sunset at Devils Marbles


Devils Marbles campsite

Devils Marbles campsite


Devils Marbles

Devils Marbles


Push!!!

Push!!!


Devils Marbles split

Devils Marbles split

Posted by KobusM 23:34 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Pub crawling the Stuart Highway

sunny 28 °C

We headed further south after Mataranka and stopped at the Larrimah Inn (only for a look, not a drink), the first of a series of quirky pubs and inns on this part of the Stuart Highway. The Larrimah Inn is famous for being the highest pub in the Northern Territory, a mere 181.04 meters above sea level. Is that measured on top of the pub's roof? It also has a large Pink Panther and a huge replica of a stubbie (small beer bottle), as well as a microlight in front of the pub. The inn served as an officers mess during WWII.

The next pub is the famous Daly Waters Historic Pub where we stayed overnight in the caravan park, which was packed to capacity and beyond. The current corrugated iron pub dates from 1934 and began as a service to Qantas customers on the nearby runway and terminal which was the first international airport in Australia and a refuel stop to Singapore. There has been a Daly Waters Pub on site since 1893, which offered a watering hole to drovers on the track. The inside of the pub is very interesting with lots of paraphernalia hanging from the ceiling and pasted to the walls, including shirts, caps, banknotes, ID cards, licence plates, sandals and underwear!! We enjoyed a delightful evening in the pub, eating Beef & Barra BBQ and listening to the live entertainment led by singer/poet/comedian Chilli with Reflections of an Aussie Spirit. I checked the elevation in Daly Waters and it is confirmed to be 212 meters OSL, so it is unclear how Larrimah could claim status as the highest pub in NT. Maybe they mean its the highest in Larrimah....

The next day we headed further south and stayed for one night at Banka Banka but first stopped at Renner Springs for pies. Renner Springs also has a characterful roadside pub crammed with memorabilia. After Banka Banka we headed for Devil's Marbles (see seperate blog). After Devils Marbles we stopped at Barrow Creek Roadhouse to look at their 1929 pub plastered with banknotes and had pies there as well. We briefly stopped at Wycliff which has a UFO pub, being the top UFO spotting place in Australia and also at Ti Tree which host the Ti Tree Roadhouse and Pub which boast being the most central pub in Australia and that is for real.

Our last stop was at Aileron which hosts the Glen Maggie Bar, but the main attraction here is a 17 meter iron sculpture of Ammatjere Man an Aboriginal local rainmaker Charlie Quartpot, towering over Aileron.

Our favourite pub? Daly Water Historic Pub by far!! We crossed the Tropic of Capricorn, having travelled 1,900 km from the top of the Northern Territory, leaving the warm tropics for a couple of weeks to explore Alice Springs and the Red Center.

The Stuart highway is 2,834 km long and stretches over the continent from Darwin, Northern Territory to Port Augusta, South Australia. The highway is named after John McDouall Stuart who was the first European that crossed Australia from south to north, but only on the 6th attempt. The highway approximates the route Stuart followed in 1862. There is a memorial of Stuart next to the Stuart highway at a point which is almost at the geographical centre of Australia.

Larrimah Pub

Larrimah Pub


The only shop in Daly Waters shop

The only shop in Daly Waters shop


Daly Waters Historic Pub

Daly Waters Historic Pub


Daly Waters Pub licence plates

Daly Waters Pub licence plates


Daly Waters Pub

Daly Waters Pub


Chilli at Daly Waters

Chilli at Daly Waters


Renner Springs Pub

Renner Springs Pub


Barrow Creek Pub

Barrow Creek Pub


Wycliff

Wycliff


Ti Tree Roadhouse

Ti Tree Roadhouse


Aileron statue

Aileron statue


Stuart Memorial

Stuart Memorial


Tropic of Capricorn

Tropic of Capricorn

Posted by KobusM 23:06 Archived in Australia Comments (1)

Elsey National Park

sunny 28 °C

After Katherine we visited Elsey National park a few kilometers east of Mataranka and stayed in the caravan park at Mataranka Homestead which is also the home of many orphan wallabies which have been hand raised at the homestead, many of them with joeys. The movie "We of the Never Never" was filmed here and the replica of the original homestead is still part of the attractions here.

The main attraction is the amazing Rainbow Springs and the popular Thermal Pool. Rainbow Spring's crystal clear water rises from 100 meters underground at 300 litres per second at a temperature of 34 degrees Celsius, the temperature of the rock at that depth, which is then contained in a pool in a palm tree forest. Like at Douglas Hot Springs, a nice place to relax and sooth the sore back and legs from all the hiking in Kakadu, however, compared to Douglas the water temperature significantly cooler and the setup much more commercialised, so Douglas Hot Springs remains our favourite hot spring so far.

In the morning we were woken by tens of thousands of Little Red Flying Foxes (although they are not that little, about the size of eagles) flying over the campsite to rest in the palm trees for the day after their night out feeding.

Elsey was certainly not our favourite national park but it was worth the visit and we enjoyed the Skippys. Skippy was a popular Australian TV series in the 1960s, telling the story of a boy with his intelligent pet kangaroo. It became very popular in Australia and many other countries but in Sweden it was banned, where psychologists feared the show would mislead children into believing animals could do things they actually could not.

Thermal Pool

Thermal Pool


Rainbow Springs

Rainbow Springs


Skippy

Skippy


Skippy and her joey

Skippy and her joey


Skippy having a nap in the sun

Skippy having a nap in the sun


Curious Skippy

Curious Skippy

Posted by KobusM 21:25 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Cutta Cutta Caves

sunny 28 °C

On the way from Katherine to Mataranka we stopped at the Cutta Cutta Caves National Park for a visit to the limestone caves.

In Cutta Cutta cave you venture along the caverns 15 meters under the surface for a few hundred meters. The major part of the cave system is inaccessible and goes for 700 meters until it enters the water table. The cave is only accessible during the dry season as it gets completely flooded every wet season.

Cutta Cutta is a Jawoyn name meaning many stars; it was taboo for Aborigines to enter the cave, which they believed was where the stars were kept during the day. The stars are the reflection of crystals in the stalactites when you shine a light on it.

Cutta Cutta cave mid section

Cutta Cutta cave mid section


Cutta Cutta Caves end section

Cutta Cutta Caves end section


Leaf-like stalactites in Cutta Cutta cave

Leaf-like stalactites in Cutta Cutta cave

Posted by KobusM 22:17 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Kakadu Aboriginal rock art

A picture into the pre-historic and recent past

sunny 31 °C

Kakadu National Park contains the highest concentration of Aboriginal rock art in Australia and the galleries at Ubirr, Nourlangie and Nanguluwur are spectacular and interesting. The fact that some of these paintings are as old as 20,000 years, but still part of a living culture, makes it even more interesting to view.

At Ubirr we saw many examples of the more recent x-ray style paintings, about 2,000 years old, showing the internal organs and bone structures of creatures like Barramundi fish and Long-neck turtles. There is also an excellently preserved example of the Mabuyu hunting figure which is estimated around 2,000 years old. According to local lore, Mabuyu was a fisherman. One day, he caught a lot of fish, but some other Aborigines cut his line and stole the fish from Mabuyu. Mabuyu found out who the thieves were and went to their cave. He rolled a rock in front of the opening, trapping them in the cave. The men who stole the fish and their wives died because they could not escape from the cave. This story is used in Aboriginal lore to demonstrate morality and the consequences of stealing. There was also an interesting, more recent painting of a man with a gun, documenting the contact with westerners.

At Nourlangie the rock art galleries are very impressive with different styles of paintings and amazing stories. The story of Namarrgon, the Lightening Man. Violent electrical storms occur on the Arnhem plateau and according to Aboriginal Dreamtime explanation of this work, Namarrgon and his family came from the sea and traveled Australia for many years. He uses the stone axes that are mounted on his head, elbows and knees to split the dark clouds and strike the ground, creating lightning and thunder. In addition to his axes, he also has a band wrapped around his body. This band belongs to thunder and works side by side with the axes to shake the earth and the heaven. Barrinj is Namarrgon’s wife and she is the mother of all grasshoppers.

There is also an excellent painting of Nabulwinjbulwinj, a dangerous spirit that eats females after striking them dead with a yam, a type of vegetable….weird!

The story of Namanjolg is a story of incest. It is said that Namanjolg and his sister had sex and later eloped. Ashamed of what they did, Namanjolg's sister told their family. Upon hearing of their sin, Namanjolg's family sought him out to punish him. When they found him, he was on top of what is now known as Feather Rock, dancing around a fire. A member of his family then pushed him into the fire. Namanjolg, covered in ash, dove into a nearby billabong and became a crocodile. Namanjolg's sister took a feather from his headdress and placed it at the site to remind others of the Aboriginal laws regarding incest which she had broken with her brother. Namanjolg's sister later becomes the Rainbow Serpent, Ngalyod, the subject of many Aboriginal stories from the Dreaming lore.

Also at Nourlangie, are paintings of kangaroos who are not present in Kakadu for thousands of years (only Wallabies and Wallaroos), dated at least 20,000 years old.

At Nanguluwur there is an interesting painting of a tall ship, evidence of the interaction with early settlers. The amazing part is that the site is 200km from the sea and shows the importance of these paintings to convey messages. There are also interesting hand paintings and x-ray style paintings as well as paintings of Namarnde, powerful ancestors that created the earth, live in caves and eat human flesh. Also at Nanguluwur is a painting of Algaigho, the Fire Woman, who planted the yellow banksias in the woodlands and used their smouldering flowers to carry fire.

These rock paintings are world heritage jewels and should be preserved for generations to come.

Rock art at Ubirr

Rock art at Ubirr


X-ray fish

X-ray fish


X-ray paintings at Ubirr

X-ray paintings at Ubirr


Man with a gun

Man with a gun


Long-neck turtle

Long-neck turtle


Mabuyu hunting figure

Mabuyu hunting figure


Barramundi x-ray style painting at Ubirr

Barramundi x-ray style painting at Ubirr


Namarrgon (right), his wife Barrinj (left bottom) and Namanjolg (top)

Namarrgon (right), his wife Barrinj (left bottom) and Namanjolg (top)


Nabulwinjbulwinj the dangerous spirit that eats females

Nabulwinjbulwinj the dangerous spirit that eats females


Nourlangie Rock Art

Nourlangie Rock Art


Tall ship painting next to a Barramundi x-ray painting at Nanguluwur

Tall ship painting next to a Barramundi x-ray painting at Nanguluwur


Namarnde

Namarnde


X-ray style paintings

X-ray style paintings


Algaihgo, the Fire Woman, in the center of the painting

Algaihgo, the Fire Woman, in the center of the painting


Hand paintings at Nanguluwur

Hand paintings at Nanguluwur

Posted by KobusM 04:11 Archived in Australia Comments (2)

Kakadu National Park

World Heritage site with splendid waterfalls, pools and rock art

sunny 30 °C

World Heritage listed Kakadu National Park, covering almost 20,000 square kilometers, is a place of contrasting landscapes. Rugged cliffs of the Arnhem Land escarpment hide deep sandstone gorges and pockets of monsoon rainforests with vast low-lying wetlands and deep billabongs invested with saltwater crocodiles. Waterfalls cascade into crystal clear plunge pools fringed with paperbarks and pandanus.

A number of Aboriginal clans reside in Kakadu National Park and the exquisite rock art galleries at Ubirr and Nourlangie Rock are witness to the long history of the Aboriginal people occupying this land (see the next blog about Kakadu rock art)

We stayed in Merl campsite, close to the East Alligator River crossing, for one night before our trip to Garig Gunak Barlu National Park and visited the Ubirr rock art galleries close by. After our trip to Garik Gunak Barlu, we returned to Kakadu and camped at Muriella campground in the center and also at Kambolgie campground in the south.

Kakadu is spectacular but the fact that it is World Heritage listed and easily accessible with most of the roads sealed, makes it very crowded and commercialized. Huge tour busses transports masses of tourists to places like Nourlangie. There are, however, some more inaccessible places like Jim Jim Falls and Gunlom Falls that require a 4WD to get to it, although we saw the odd (stupid) tourist attempting to drive these heavily corrugated roads with saloon cars.

Twin Falls was still closed with the rangers attempting to remove a 2,5 meter crocodile from the plunge pool, but Jim Jim Falls, Gunlom Falls and Motorcar Falls were all open and we enjoyed them all. The two kilometer return hike to get to Jim Jim Falls was challenging over rocks and huge boulders but we made it worse by taking a wrong turn which turned into a very steep climb to the top of the escarpment before we realized we were on the wrong track. To get to the top of Gunlom Falls was easier than the Jim jim Falls hike and the 8km return hike to Motorcar Falls was pleasant and although the falls were just a trickle, the turquoise plunge pool was spectacular and refreshing. We met a Swedish family there and an Australian that lived in Olshammar close to Askersund for 5 years, so we renamed it Volvo Falls. It is nice to enjoy the refreshing pools in the middle of the winter and I am glad that our friends are also enjoying good weather during their mid-summer celebrations.

We are in Katherine at the moment to get recharged and restocked before we head south to the Red Center and Lake Eyre. The reason why we are heading south with nice days but freezing mornings is that we want to travel through the Red Centre and the deserts (Simpson, Tirari and Sturt Stony Desert) in the winter.

More photos in the gallery

Views of Kakadu National Park

Views of Kakadu National Park


Views of Jim Jim Falls downstream

Views of Jim Jim Falls downstream


Jim Jim Falls

Jim Jim Falls


Jim Jim Falls plunge pool

Jim Jim Falls plunge pool


Jim Jim Billabong

Jim Jim Billabong


Muirella campsite

Muirella campsite


Ducks at Yellow Waters

Ducks at Yellow Waters


Yellow Waters wetlands

Yellow Waters wetlands


Yellow Waters splendour

Yellow Waters splendour


Gunlom Falls plunge pool

Gunlom Falls plunge pool


Gunlom Falls and plunge pool from the top

Gunlom Falls and plunge pool from the top


Gunlom Falls

Gunlom Falls


Pools on the top of Gunlom Falls

Pools on the top of Gunlom Falls


Top of Gunlom Falls

Top of Gunlom Falls


Swim at the top of Gunlom Falls

Swim at the top of Gunlom Falls


Motorcar Falls (2)

Motorcar Falls (2)


Motorcar Falls

Motorcar Falls

Posted by KobusM 22:11 Archived in Australia Comments (1)

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