A Travellerspoint blog

July 2012

Atherton Tablelands

Lush tropical Queensland

sunny 20 °C

From Undara Volcanic National Park we travelled to Atherton to get the Land Cruiser serviced. On the way we stopped to view the Millstream Falls in the Millstream Falls National Park, which cascades over a bed of solidified lava and it is Australia's widest single-drop waterfall.

As soon as we reached the Atherton Tablelands the vegetation changed suddenly and we found ourselves driving through tropical forests and it felt if we arrived in a different country. The tablelands are spectacular with its rolling hills and lush vegetation and reminds me of the Natal highlands.

Atherton is a very pretty thriving town with palm trees and jacaranda trees lining the streets. It began as a timber-getters’ camp and a staging post between the tin mines and the coast.

We visited Hasties Swamp National Park just outside the town. A birdwatcher's delight, this swamp is a valuable refuge for resident and migratory birds and we saw many ducks, ibis, swans and jacanas.

Before Atherton was established there was a Chinese settlement, called Cedar Camp established here in 1879. Gold attracted thousands of Chinese to North Queensland in the late 1800s. 'New Gold Mountain' as Australia was called, was seen by many as a way to get rich quickly before returning home. As the gold dwindled and racist sentiments increased, the Chinese were forced to find work in other areas. The discovery of vast stands of red cedar and black bean, among the vine scrub of the Atherton Tablelands region, provided welcome job opportunities in timber and firewood cutting. The Chinese settled in an area known as Cedar Camp - on the outskirts of the growing town of Atherton. As Cedar Camp or Chinatown was primarily a service centre, trade in the town diminished as the displaced Chinese left the area. By the late 1920s Chinatown was almost deserted. The town left a legacy: a highly significant archaeological site and a rare form of Chinese temple, the Hou Wang Temple, which was built of local timber and corrugated iron: typical Queensland construction materials, used in a unique manner but inside the temple is typical Chinese.

From Atherton we are heading north to explore the Cape York Peninsula and we will spend about 2 months here.

Millstream Falls

Millstream Falls


'All my ducks in a row' on Hasties Swamp

'All my ducks in a row' on Hasties Swamp


Hasties Swamp birdlife

Hasties Swamp birdlife


Jacana and ducks on Hasties Swamp

Jacana and ducks on Hasties Swamp


Hou Wang Temple

Hou Wang Temple


Inside Hou Wang Temple

Inside Hou Wang Temple

Posted by KobusM 01:36 Archived in Australia Comments (1)

Undara Volcanic National Park

World's longest lava tubes

sunny 28 °C

From Karumba we travelled east along the Savannah Way to Mount Surprise, a small town along the way. We camped in one of the local camping sites where we were entertained by the campsite owner giving a snake talk and show. Both Lorraine and I ended up with his Black-headed Python around our necks and the talk was really interesting.

The next morning we visited Undara Volcanic National Park, which is notable for its spectacular lava tubes. The park contains the remains of the Earth’s longest flow of lava originating from a single volcano, which formed the lava tubes that can partly be viewed today. The volcanic activity that formed the tubes occurred approximately 190,000 years ago and the volcano Undara expelled massive amounts of lava onto the surrounding Atherton Tableland forming these tubes. In total it was estimated that over 23 billion cubic metres of lava that was released covering an area of 55 km2.

The spectacular insides of the lava tubes can only be explored on a guided tour . Some parts of the tubes have collapsed and remains of that can be seen above ground. The word Undara is Aboriginal in origin and means 'long way'.

Snake show in Mt Surprise

Snake show in Mt Surprise


Snake handling like an expert

Snake handling like an expert


Enterance to one of the tubes at Undara

Enterance to one of the tubes at Undara


Spectacular volcanic lava tubes

Spectacular volcanic lava tubes


Undara lava tube

Undara lava tube


Exploring lava tubes

Exploring lava tubes


Undara volcanic lava tube

Undara volcanic lava tube


Volcanic lava tube tour

Volcanic lava tube tour


Collapsed part of the lava tube

Collapsed part of the lava tube

Posted by KobusM 01:46 Archived in Australia Comments (2)

Gulf Country

Burketown and Karuma, popular fishing towns.....for those that can catch fish

sunny 30 °C

We stayed in Burketown for three nights although one night would have been enough as this is a very small, sleepy outback town in the Queensland Gulf Country. It only has one shop with the post office inside, a fuel station and a caravan park. The famous Burketown Pub burned down earlier this year and since then the only entertainment left is fishing, if you have a boat. But it was nice and quiet in the caravan park and I used the time to wash the vehicles (they were very dirty!!), to relax and for Lorraine to catch up with her studies. I tried to fish from the jetty in the Albert River but my reel broke, so until I have replaced it the big Barramundi with my name on it is still swimming free.

From Burketown we travelled the Savannah Way (mostly relatively good unsealed road) to Normanton where Lorraine took a photo of me with the local huge Barramundi in case I don't get the opportunity to catch the real one. On the way to Normanton we drove through savannah grassland with patches of woodland and occasional termite mounds and crossed both the Leichardt and Flinders Rivers. There were huge flocks of pelicans feeding in the shallow water of the Flinders River close to the causeway. Normanton is a small but characterful town and the Purple Pub seems to be the center of activity. From Normanton we travelled to Karumba, located on the coast of the Carpentaria Gulf at the south-western base of the Cape York Peninsula, where we stayed for three nights. Karumba is also a very small town but very popular with grey nomad fishermen and both caravan parks were packed to capacity. It has excellent facilities to go fishing in the Gulf of Carpentaria and I did a half day fishing trip with Kerry D Charters but dissapointlingly only caught a catfish......, and the fact that the other fishermen and woman caught lots of mackerel made it even more frustrating. I have now consoled in the fact that I am a scuba diver and not a fisherman. I am destined to look at and photograph fish, not catch and kill them.

The Sunset Tavern in Karumba is a nice place to have a sundowner and to enjoy the spectacular sunsets over the Gulf. It also serves delicious local seafood.....especially for those that can't catch fish. Karumba also has lots of birdlife, pelicans, sea eagles, white ibis and kites, as well as the odd mob of wallabies to enjoy.

From Karumba we will travel more than 700 km to the south-east of the Cape York Peninsula to get the Land Cruiser serviced in Atherton and from there we will set off on our two month long Cape York Peninsula tour. On the way to Atherton we plan to visit Undara Volcanic National Park.

Leichardt River

Leichardt River


Savannah Way termite mounds

Savannah Way termite mounds


Flinders River

Flinders River


Pelicans on the Flinders River

Pelicans on the Flinders River


Let's take off

Let's take off


Barramundi in Normanton

Barramundi in Normanton


The Purple Pub in Normanton

The Purple Pub in Normanton


Karumba Point sunset

Karumba Point sunset


Juvenile White-bellied Sea Eagle

Juvenile White-bellied Sea Eagle


Gliding pelican

Gliding pelican


Wallaby in Karumba

Wallaby in Karumba


Wallaby with australian White Ibis

Wallaby with australian White Ibis

Posted by KobusM 20:53 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Lawn Hill National Park

A few fossils and a spectacular gorge

sunny 23 °C

Boodjamulla (Lawn Hill) National Park has two parts that we planned to explore. We first stopped at the Riversleigh Fossil D Site after travelling more than 300 km from Mt Isa, mainly on reasonably well maintained unsealed road and 4WD tracks. Riversleigh is a World Heritage listed site and the expectations were high but for us it was a big disappointment. There is an information shelter and a 800 meter walking trail that only has three fossils identified, a turtle bone, a freshwater crocodile bone and a giant flightless bird bone…….that’s it! Apparently paleontologists have found fossils of carnivorous kangaroos, ‘lion’ marsupials, giant crocodiles and many more, dating back 25 million years, but it must be at one of the other sites that are not open to the public. You can see many fossil fragments in the rocks that appear ancient but only the three mentioned above are identified. This might be a very significant site for paleontologists but certainly not worthwhile travelling 300 km to get to for a visit.

50 km north of Riversleigh is Lawn Hill Gorge and we camped at Adels Grove under a thick canopy of Ghost Eucalyptus and Carpentaria Palm trees on the banks of the Lawn Hill Creek. We liked the campsite and decided to stay for three days. One of the days we hiked about 8 km to the Upper Lawn Hill Gorge and enjoyed the spectacular views of the Gorge and Indarri Falls.

The gorge part of Lawn Hill National Park is certainly worthwhile visiting but I would not recommend the Riversleigh fossil site.

After Lawn Hill we travelled further north into the Gulf Country and will visit Burketown and Karumba on the Gulf of Caprentaria for three days each. Hopefully I can finally catch my big Barramundi here.

Riversleigh fossils in Lawn Hill National Park

Riversleigh fossils in Lawn Hill National Park


Giant flightless bird bone fossil

Giant flightless bird bone fossil


Lawn Hill Gorge

Lawn Hill Gorge


Lawn Hill Upper Gorge

Lawn Hill Upper Gorge


Lawn Hill Gorge canoeing

Lawn Hill Gorge canoeing


Indarri Falls

Indarri Falls


Indarri Falls lookout

Indarri Falls lookout


Indarri Falls - an oasis

Indarri Falls - an oasis


Strange bark pattern on Ghost Eucalyptus

Strange bark pattern on Ghost Eucalyptus


Strange patterns of the gorge walls

Strange patterns of the gorge walls


Adels Grove campsite

Adels Grove campsite

Posted by KobusM 20:32 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

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)

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