Outback Queensland

Thanks to the night of cycling viewing we woke up a little bit later than planned and therefore had to get ready at speed and drive to the QANTAS Founders Museum which we were both really looking forward to. We’d decided that if we were going to do it we might as well do it properly so we booked entry to the museum, a guided walk of the airpark, and the 747 wing walk, when in Rome look at as many planes as humanly possible. We started off with the museum which was an absolutely fascinating exploration of the history of the airline. The large room was filled with information boards and artifacts that allowed visitors to walk through the creation of the Queensland and Northern Territory Aerial Services as well as learn about the founding members, the aircraft they purchased, the issues they had with receiving government funding, and I discovered it was founded on my birthday. I’d thought that I would be bored (not being a huge fan of planes) but it was so interesting, honestly, the story was incredible and if you’re not familiar with it I’d strongly recommend either buying one of the many books written on the subject or read about it on google.

Once we had finished in the museum we had enough time for a scone and a coffee in the cafe before we were called to go into the airpark. If you only do one thing in Longreach do this! Our guide took us outside and we walked through a number of planes, they were all different from a frankly terrifying machine that carried 70 people but needed a navigator who would look at the stars through a little window in the roof near the cockpit to ensure the plane was traveling in the right direction, to the amazing 747, to a fully customised private jet complete with gold plated seatbelt buckles and a bedroom with a queen bed.

Our final activity, directly following the airpark was the wing walk, the only place in the world where you can step onto the wing of a 747. We went on the tour with one other guy and the same guide that had taken us around the other planes. Rather than going straight to the wing we were taken into the cockpit and spent 20 minutes learning about the different knobs and dials as well as the roles of the staff that would have worked there. We followed the guide back down the stairs into the main part of the plane, put on some very gratuitous safety harnesses, and then walked out and onto the wing. It was a cool experience, my favourite part was when the guide got us to all jump at the same time so we could see the flex of the wing tip.


We left Longreach in the afternoon with a plan to stop in Barcaldine for the night. We were going to drive flat out to the campsite but on the way through a little town called Ilfracombe we saw a sign for a bottle and gun display. Obviously, we were both very intrigued by this bizarre combination of items so we stopped and went into a room that was completely full of bottles, and another room that was floor to ceiling covered in guns with a Nazi flag hanging on the wall. Our last stop for the day was The Tree of Knowledge, the remnants of the original ghost gum where the 1891 Shearer’s Strike occured which ultimately turned into the Australian Labor Party. In 2006 the tree mysteriously died by poisoning but was resurrected as part of a 5 million dollar sculptural art piece that opened in 2009. Matt and I were both really impressed with how the tree had been reborn, under the glass at your feet you can view the root system while overhead hundreds of wooden planks gently shift in the breeze and clank together like the biggest wooden windchime that has ever existed.

The next morning we drove into the town of Blackall and had a look around the main street. We’ve become very slack of late with our pre arrival research so we had no idea what there was to do or where we’d be staying so naturally, our first stop was the combined information center/library. The woman behind the desk was lovely and soon we had a pass to camp next to the river, a town map, and advice to see the main attraction, The Blackall Woolscour. I called the woolscour and booked in for the 1.30pm tour, while we waited we had a coffee, some delicious food from the bakery, found the second black stump of the trip and wandered around the very pleasant little town. I know absolutely nothing about sheep farming or wool so I was quite surprised at the size and complexity of the scour when we rolled into the car park. Our tour started with a video that explained the wool boom and the phrase “Australia rides on the sheep’s back”. When that ended we were introduced to our tour guide who was in the middle of a cup of tea and not at all keen to take us, in the end, he begrudgingly got up and took us on one of the most amusing tours we’ve done. The woolscour was surprisingly interesting, both historically and mechanically but honestly the tour guide absolutely made the place for us. He was probably 75 years old and just about as ocker as you could get, his sense of humor was hilarious and we had a great time. At the end of the tour it was getting pretty warm so we decided to spend the rest of the afternoon in the public pool.

Our plan for Wednesday was to cruise down the road to Tambo and spend the night at their free camp but we’d woken up early and found ourselves parking up at 9am. We popped in to see the wonderful teddies and then went down to the visitor center where we picked up a free booklet that took us on a historical walk around the town. By the time we’d finished exploring we had only killed another 2.5 hours and we really didn’t feel like sitting around on our bums until night so we decided to keep on going with a new plan to stop in Augathella for the night. Well, we reached the meat ant capital of Australia and were both so uninspired we opted to keep on heading south to Charleville. We ended up finding a brilliant little caravan park on the outside of town called the Charleville Bush Caravan Park where we met the owners Graham and Deb. It was a very welcoming place and we were soon sitting at the communal fire pit, enjoying fresh damper while Graham told us all about Lake Eyre.

The next day Graham encouraged us to join him on his 2 hour tour of the town and at $15pp it was hard to say no. The tour was a bit hit and miss for me but not in a way that left us feeling disappointed we needed something to do to fill in the day and it certainly did that but the format was bizarre. We looked at things like the kindergarten, and power poles while Graham handed out photos from the last major flooding event and explained that the old people in the town were now scared of rain. He also kept stopping at houses that were for sale and asking us to guess how much they cost before telling us and then explaining all the good things about each property…Matt and I were wondering if he might have got a commission from the real estate agents if he managed to sell one. We then went to the town weir and had a 15-minute explanation on how that functioned, the tour was very strange. During the afternoon we popped into town to look at the botanical garden and some of the historic buildings that were missed while we learned you could buy a 2 bedroom house with a nice garden for $200,000. I kept an anxious eye on the weather as we’d booked in for an astronomy tour and the clouds looked like they’d be hanging around for the rest of the day. Fortunately, they dispersed just in time and we were able to take our seats at the Cosmos Centre and enjoy the million-star views. Matt and I both agreed that the highlight was looking through the telescope at Jupiter and Saturn to see the moons/colours and rings respectively, it was beautiful.

We were a bit slow to get going the next day as our slightly late night caused us both to sleep in but we had a bit of time to kill before the WWII Secret Base museum opened. Located at the airport in an old hanger the museum explained how the Australian and American forces collaborated in Charleville during world war two and hid secret technology from the enemy side. It is currently undergoing a rebuild so the first section was much more modern than the second but it is due for completion at the end of this year so hopefully if you decided to go there it will be finished by the time you arrive. Our final activity was to visit the bilby centre which my mum had recommended that we go and see months ago. It’s directly next to the visitor information section in the train station so it was very easy to find. The tour started with a presentation about bilbies, a question session, and then we were let into the bilby house where we saw a bilby family bouncing around. They were so cute!

We left Charleville and rather than continuing to travel south we turned east stopping for the night beside a beautiful river near the small town of Mitchell.

Campsite Reviews

Lloyd Jones Weir – Just outside the town this small but peaceful campground has clean toilets, picnic tables, and an excess of turtles. We were very amused by the pretend grave for “people that steal toilet paper”. There is a couple of long-term campers set up here but they were friendly and considerate. $5pn – 6/10.

Barcoo River Camping Area – Thanks to Blackall for setting up this lovely little camp. Public toilets a short walk away and free showers in the amenities block in the main street of the town. $10pn – 7/10.

Charleville Bush Caravan Park – The perfect caravan park, awesome hosts, free information talks and damper in the evening, communal fire pit, good washing machine, great showers and toilets, and really nice fellow campers. $25pn – 9/10.

Fishermans Rest – There are two campsites in Mitchell and this is by far the better one. It’s quieter, more secluded and the river is absolutely beautiful, bring your bug spray though they were thick. $Free – 7/10.

Australian Dinosaur Trail

Australian Dinosaur Trail

Rather than leaving at our usual 9am departure time from Julia Creek we decided to hang around until mid morning so that we could go to the visitor centre and see the fat-tailed dunnart be fed. Entry was $5 and it was well worth it to see the adorable little marsupial munch into some mealworms as well as learn some more about the dunnarts of Australia.

We hit the road and headed to our first stop on the Dinosaur trail at Richmond, Kronosaurus Korner. Because we’d made quite good time getting into Queensland we were actually a day ahead of ourselves and booked into visit the museum the next day so we occupied ourselves exploring the very pleasant town. I don’t know if it was the isolation of the Northern Territory or not but our appreciation of small towns has increased exponentially and Richmond was particularly nice with long wide streets lined with bougainvillea. The main highlight of the town for us was a large man-made lake right next door to the caravan park we were staying at. It was very warm again so we paddled around in the water until it was late enough to walk into town and have dinner in the pub. That night we had the worst sleep we have had on the road so far, it was oppressively hot and we had the most inconsiderate family park next to us. Not only did they pull up ridiculously close considering the amount of space available but their children were an absolute nightmare. When they weren’t getting into our campsite and going through our stuff, they were screaming and running around until well after midnight. At 1am after getting completely fed up of having the little turds shining torches directly into our van Matt yelled at them to shut up.

Despite the lack of sleep we woke up determined to enjoy the dinosaurs and walked into town to the museum. Matt jumped into the mouth of the kronosaurus for a cheeky photo and we had a second coffee in the cafe to ensure we were properly awake and ready to take everything in. Richmond is a hot spot for marine fossils so the museum was filled with the bones of huge carnivorus ocean reptiles down to perfectly preserved shells. It wasn’t a huge display with two main rooms but there were that many things crammed in we managed to spend over an hour wandering around and then watching the short documentary in the attached theater. Afterwards we strolled back to the caravan park and had a walk around the lake so I could take some bird photos before we had yet another dip, cooked dinner, and turned in early for what turned out to be a wonderful noise free sleep sans horrible kids.

The next morning I woke up early and went down to the lake to watch the sun rise, the water was so still and the only sounds were of the birds flying from their roosts and out to the bush for breakfast. We made our way to Winton through the disturbingly flat and dry farmlands reaching the town in time to grab some rolls from the bakery and make lunch in a park next to the local pool. We walked up and down the main street enjoying the art deco architecture and looking in a couple of opal shops that were more than a bit of a rip off ($10 for a piece of potch what a joke). We decided not to fork out $32pp for the Waltzing Matilda Centre but did go in to use the amazing toilets and visit an exhibition at the gallery attached to the museum. I really liked the art despite it’s weirdness, it was a series of portraits of boss drovers by Robert MacPherson  who drew them while taking on the persona of a year 4 student of St Joseph’s Convent, Nambour, Queensland named Robert Pene. They were drawn on kids sketch book paper, signed like a child, and then had “great work” and “you’re a star” stamps put all over each piece. There was also an interactive area where you were able to make your own poem using language from Banjo Paterson’s poetry which Matt and I enjoyed. That night we camped at a local waterhole and were kept company by a bunch of friendly cattle and emus.

The drive to the Australian Age of Dinosaurs museum took about 20 minutes from our camp and even though we left quite early by the time we reached the Jump Up (a sort of mountain think above the flat farmlands) it was already pushing 35 degrees. I was feeling very glad that I’d booked one of the first available tours at 9am. Our first stop was the dinosaur laboratory where we saw the volunteers preparing numerous bones found on digs throughout the local area. We also met Kim, a fellow delica owner who contacted me through instagram and asked us to make sure we said hello. He was working on the sacrum of a sauropod dinosaur and explained what he was doing inbetween chatting about our vans, great guy! Our next tour was in the main museum area and was more like a lecture in that we sat in a theatre area and were shown a documentary about the area and how the fossils were found. After the video one of the guides explained each of the fossils that were particularly special such as Matilda (Diamantinasaurus ) and Australias most complete carnivorous dinosaur (my favourite) Banjo (Australovenator wintonensis). The final tour was of the dinosaur foot prints housed within a specially designed shed at the top of the museum site. We learnt how the slab of prints were moved from their original location when they were deemed at risk of deterioration and how they were put back together. After the talk we were set free to wander the area and enjoy the dinosuar sculptures.

It was early afternoon by the time we’d finished but we decided to make our way towards the Dinosaur Stampede at Lark Quary because our tour the next day was booked for 9am and it was a 110km drive. About 80km in I realised that I’d made a significant mistake believing that we’d be able to spend the night in Opalton before driving across to see the footprints. It turned out that there were two roads, completely seperated, one went to Opalton and the other went to Lark Quarry, they were 40km apart as the crow flies, 130km away by road. Bugger. We decided to go to the conservation area anyway and ask the tour guide if there were any campsites near by. Our misfortune was quickly turned around when he gave us directions to a spectacular spot overlooking the valley below. The following morning we were able to get ready at a leasurely pace and cruise the 500m down to the stampede, we were confused when we arrived as there was no one around and nothing was open. After sitting under the shelter feeling puzzled for 15 minutes I realised that both of our phones had changed over to daylight saving time and we had arrived 90 minutes early instead of 30 minutes early. We occupied ourselves by going on a bush walk until we were forced back to the centre by the unbelivable heat, it hit 35 degrees at 8.30am again! The tour of the stampede was nothing short of outstanding from the enthusiasm of the guide to the shear spectical of the hundreds of footprints, we both agreed that the 220km round trip was 100% worth it to see the only record of a dinosaur stampede on the planet. Amazing.

The rest of the day was boring, we drove back into Winton and then on to Longreach stopping for the night in a hot and dusty free camp on the side of a river. We set up our laptop and watched the Paris Roubaix cycing race into the early hours of the morning.

Campsite Reviews

Lakeview Caravan Park – You know it is a good caravan park if we fork out for a two night stay and still enjoy ourselves with a sleepless night. Perfect location, lovely shower block, and really well priced. $20pn – 8/10.

Long Waterhole – Dusty site under the trees next to a waterhole. Aparently the locals swim there but after watching a seemingly endless herd of cattle wade in and do their buisness in the water you couldn’t pay me to go for a dip. Nice spot though and we enjoyed the friendly cows walking through our camp in the afternoon. $Free – 6/10.

Jump Up Lookout – I actually had the pleasure of popping this site on WikiCamps which is a first for our trip. It had clearly been used before with a couple of sites and a fire pit already there. Amazing view down off the Jump Up and the perfect spot to visit the footprints. $Free – 8/10

Apex Riverside Park – Grim, just so grim, but there were limited options in Longreach and we wanted somewhere cheap for the night. On the bright side it was quiet and the toilets were clean. $5pn – 5/10.

Onto the Sunshine State

Onto the Sunshine State

On the map the drive to Queensland looked boring. More tarmac up to Three Ways then turn right at Tennant Creek and continue along the highway to the border, snooze city. We looked for an alternative and found a route through the Davenport Ranges including a section of the Binns Track and then maybe an exit to the highway in the north along a private station road. On the map this detour looked tiny, like a drive to the shops and back, so it was with a degree of dismay we came upon a sign that indicated our campsite was a whole 160km away turning it into a 340km drive on corrugated dirt roads, oh well, still better than the highway! On our way to our spot for the night at the Old Police Station Waterhole we stopped in at Epenarra Station for initially some petrol which then turned into some travel advice, some lunch, and having some local indigenous kids play with my hair. There is something joyous in coming upon what looks like a shed on Google and finding friendly locals and good food in literally the middle of nowhere.

We set up camp much earlier than normal because we made reasonable time so we put on our swimmers and made our way down the sketchy track to the waterhole which contained water that wasn’t freezing. We spent a couple of hours swimming around and enjoying the huge numbers of birds flying around the banks and as the sun set went back to the van and started on a tasty dinner of bugs. Well…it was meant to be curry but by the time I’d finished cooking there were so many insects in it the ratio was definitely swinging the way of the bugs. The next morning rather than driving back out the way we came in we decided to take the 32km Frew River 4WD track through the National Park. It was a nice drive, a lot of the reviews online said it was challenging but there were only two hills where I had to move a couple of rocks and jump out to give Matt directions, the rest was a nice stony track through the, well I guess they used to be mountains but they were eroded to the point of being low lying mounds. Spinifex grass and ghost gums dotted the landscape and occasional lizards ran across in front of the van, it was quite, beautiful and looked like we were the only ones to drive the track in a long while.

Back at the station we tucked into a slice of moist chocolate cake and worked out a plan for the next few weeks in Queensland, we’d initially planned on meeting my sister in Rockhampton but the flights and timing didn’t work out so we had a bit more time to play with than we had thought we would. I was sad not to catch up with family but excited to see a bit more of outback Queensland. With permission from the station owners we got back in the van and continued up to the highway, turning left and making the long drive across to our first stop in the Sunshine State in Camooweal. The highlight of the sleepy town was the campground, a number of free sites nestled along the most beautiful waterlily filled waterhole. We went to sleep listening to the weird trumpeting call of brolgas.

The next morning it was hot, 30 degrees at 7am hot which only means that it would be pushing 40 when the sun got higher. We filled up with fuel and left the town in our dust continuing down the highway for 40km until we came upon a man waving with disturbing enthusiasm at the side of the road. We pulled over and he ran up to us explaining that their coaster bus had a tyre blow out and would we be able to help? Keen to assist a fellow traveller we went and looked at the bus and what was left of the tyre. Matt asked the guy if he had a spare, he said no, Matt then looked under the back of the bus and found that they did have a spare (which the couple didn’t know about) but the tyre looked like it hadn’t been replaced since the bus had been built (1970). Matt then went about trying to get the spare down while I talked to the woman and discovered that they were also from Tasmania! How good! Unfortunately they were missing part of the mechanism to get the spare down so that wasn’t going to be an option and we decided the best course of action would be to get them to Mt Isa and arrange for either a tow truck to pick up the van or a tyre person to go out and fix it. We hailed down another couple of cars to see if anyone had a spare seat, they didn’t so we ended up driving the woman the 130km to Mt Isa lying in the back of the van, the bloke had a slightly more comfortable ride sitting in the boot/back of a 4WD containing a family travelling from the NT. We reunited them in the town and went to find lunch.

Because it was so hot, and we had arrived much later than we’d intended to due to the flat tyre issue we didn’t end up seeing very much of Mt Isa. Just the visitors centre, the main lookout, and then the local pool where we hid for 2 hours and partook in our first shower in longer than I’d like to say. From what we saw of it though it was a pretty interesting town, I couldn’t get over that they had a massive mine in the CBD, it was pretty surreal. We decided to keep travelling and set up for the night in the fascinating ghost town of Mary Kathleen. In 1954 a significant uranium deposit was discovered by local prospectors following a trail of radioactive boulders, the mining licence was sold to Rio Tinto Mining which created Mary Kathleen Uranium Ltd and the architect designed service town for the large mine. The life in the small community seems to have been ideal with nice houses rented at a cheap cost, no bills for the tenants, and local pool, cinema, school and hospital. We drove in and explored the remnants of streets, gutters, roundabouts and foundations. Here and there was an abandoned front yard filled with flowers, scattered power poles and other various pieces of town infrastructure. By far the weirdest thing we saw was a bloke in a caravan with a full karaoke set up singing a number of songs at full volume, fortunately he was really good.

The next morning we woke up and drove to the mine site to explore. The building slabs in this area were much bigger and more industrial looking, there was also a lot more left. It was interesting that there was such a lack of rehabilitation, Matt and I were able to walk up to the open cut mine and over the tailings and even though the last ore was removed nearly 50 years ago it was very obvious where everything was. The pit was the highlight with the vibrant blue waters and towering cut cliffs it was impressive and slightly vertigo inducing. After we’d finished poking around we took a weird track back to the highway which lead us into a private mine road, we only discovered what it was after we drove out past all of the no entry signs. Because it was another boiling hot day we ended up spending most of it in the car driving to Julia Creek. We stopped briefly in Cloncurry to visit the bakery and have a quick walk around town but there wasn’t much to see or do so we kept moving. Julia Creek Caravan Park is on the bucket list for a lot of travellers because of the fancy baths but it was another stinking hot day so we opted for a free entry to the community pool and floating around there until dinner time.

That night after dinner we ended up hanging out with our fabulous neighbours and having a good chat, unbelievably karaoke guy from Mary Kathleen had followed us to Julia Creek and completed an hour long performance for the caravan park.

Campsite Reviews

Camooweal Billabong – Such a well set out free camp on the edge of the river. Beautiful birds, waterlilies, and considerate fellow campers. $Free – 8/10.

Mary Kathleen Town – I doubt that there is a more interesting campsite in Australia and I can’t recommend visiting enough even if you just pop into explore and don’t stay the night. The area is huge and hundreds of people would be able to camp there with reasonable space. $Free – 9/10.

Julia Creek Caravan Park – Not an amazing unpowered area as there was next to no shade and not many sites but the amenities block was really clean, owners were lovely, free access to the community pool, and the washing machine didn’t put stains or more dirt on our clothes so definitely worth the stop. $28pn – 7/10.

Check the Pouch

Check the Pouch

Our last few days in the Northern Territory flew by. We got back into Alice Springs in the early afternoon, it’s amazing how far you can drive in a day when the road is smooth tarmac rather than a bulldust and hole riddled mess. As soon as we got back into reception Matt booked the van in for a wheel alignment and suspension check to see if we could locate and fix the disturbing banging that has been plaguing our drives. That evening we drove out to the convention center and waited to be picked up to go to The Kangaroo Sanctuary. Matt was really looking forward to this after listing to a podcast by Chris (Brolga) he had been keen to visit since we first began to dream about our trip around Australia.

The bus ride to the sanctuary was pretty fast but we had time to watch a little bit of the documentary where Chris was being chased around the sanctuary by the massive red kangaroo called Roger that was one of the first 3 joeys he fostered. It was entertaining but Roger was more than a little bit scary standing on his tail and trying to box with his human carer. Chris greeted the bus and showed us the shed where he used to live. When he first set up the sanctuary he had no money having spent it all on fencing and the land so he couldn’t afford a house so he slept and cooked in a small tin shed, it wouldn’t have looked out of place in a suburban backyard. He took us out the back, talked to us about his work, and showed us a couple of beautiful baby kangaroos, one of his adult rescues kept coming up to the group and he explained that sometimes, despite their best efforts, the kangaroos don’t become wild again so rather than releasing them he keeps them in the sanctuary. We then took a walk around the grounds.

The sanctuary was huge with dog proof fencing on all sides to keep the roos safe from harm. We learnt about red kangaroos and euros and how their family structures work and Chris told us about the importance of checking the pouches of road kill as often the babies are still alive after the mother has been hit by a car. We looked at Rogers memorial and then made our way back to the bus. Both of us were so happy that we’d waited around to be able to visit, it was an amazing place. For dinner we went to the Alice Springs Brewery and had wood-fired pizza as well as sampling a few of their beers before heading back to our transport museum camp and hitting the hay.

On Friday morning we woke up early and packed up the van so we could drop it off for the wheel alignment and suspension check. The mechanic very kindly drove us to the Alice Springs Desert Park so we could spend the morning looking at animals and wandering around the gardens rather than sitting in a stuffy office. We’d heard mixed things on the road about the park but after visiting we both thought it was really well done particularly their bird enclosures and the nocturnal house. There were mala, bilbies, heaps of different birds, as well as the standard dingos, emus, and kangaroos. We went on a couple of the ranger guided talks at different enclosures but I got bit frustrated with the ranger because she kept misidentifying birds and mispronouncing names so we ended up walking around on our own most of the time. It took us 4 hours to get around the whole park with our finish perfectly timed to go and pick up the van.

We were both entertained by the findings at the mechanic or lack of. They’d taken the van out driving multiple times, confirmed we weren’t hearing things and that there was a weird noise but they looked everywhere and couldn’t find the cause. The poor bloke that had been assigned our van seemed pretty frustrated that after all the work he hadn’t found anything but it was sort of reassuring that there isn’t something majorly wrong. That afternoon we went back into town and looked at the small but fascinating mega fauna museum, did our groceries for the next few days and went back to park amongst the tractors and trucks for one more night.

I was excited when we drove out of the town and started to travel north up the Stuart Highway, we both loved exploring the southern part of the NT but it was fun to get on the road and head towards a new place. We stopped in at the Tropic of Capricorn for a couple of happy snaps and then continued on our way until we stumbled across, of all things, a Mango Farm. Both being a bit perplexed we walked into the tiny cramped shop and bought a mango ice-cream and mango sorbet which we ate under a tree out the front. It was bizarre sitting on a lush green farm, next to a vineyard, in the middle of the desert. Back on the road we made two more stops, Barrow Creek to look at the old telegraph station, and Wycliffe Well. Despite me telling him that I was certain the “UFO Capital of Australia” would be terrible Matt was still very keen so we rolled in to have a look. After peering around the kitch, and let’s face it pretty shit alien themed art Matt turned to me with a look of disappointment on his face and said “is this is?”. Sorry love, that’s it.

It was almost dark when we reached our campsite for the night at the Devils Marbles (Karlu Karlu) so we felt quite lucky to get a spot as the site is notorious for filling up in the early afternoon. We got the chairs out, set up our camp in our little site, and then went on a wander through the rocks finishing up on the lookout as the sun had started to set. It was a beautiful place. On our way back we met a couple who were playing Monopoly Deal in the picnic area and had a great chat with them. They showed us photos from their trip and we asked them about their experience on the Telegraph Track up the cape, something we were planning on doing but after chatting with them and seeing the videos will not being doing haha (it was the most riddiculous 4WDing I have ever seen). The next day I woke up early to photograph the sunrise, and what a sunrise it was. Because there have almost been no clouds while we have been in the NT the sunsets and sunrises haven’t been very inspiring but this morning it was perfect. I spent an hour snapping away and then went and picked up Matt so we could do the 4km walk around the park. By the time we’d finished I felt like we’d definitely covered Karlu Karlu and our last “tourist” destination for the NT.

Campsite Reviews

Central Australian Transport Hall of Fame – You all already know how I feel about this one but if not see Flats and Budgie Rescue.

Karlu Karlu – One of those amazing places that you can’t quite believe is a campground let alone one that is $4 per night but then you come crashing back to reality when faced with the bunch of arseholes that are the people you’re camping with. We had, not one but two people parked over multiple sites, kids climbing on literally the one spot in the park where the traditional owners ask people don’t go, a fat bloke drinking beer and breaking off branches to use a fly swats, a woman walking her dog, and multiple people not paying. The marbles were amazing but the people did ruin it for me a bit. $4pp/pn – 6/10.

Chasing the Bushman’s Ruby

If I have one regret on this trip so far its that we did not spend nearly enough time in the East MacDonnell Ranges. The guidebooks and information pamphlets I read said things like “enough to fill a day trip” and “where the locals go to ger away from the tourists”, they did nothing to explain the rugged and remote landscape that we barely scratched the surface of.

After the heat of the Fink we were both surprised to find ourselves driving into the ranges in our jumpers. A cool little breeze popped up after the storm with occasional patches of drizzle thrown in for good measure. It was blissful. We ticked off Emily & Jessie Gaps quickly and enjoyed the beautiful rock art depicting the caterpillar ancestral beings of Mparntwe (no photography allowed). 40km down the road was the poorly named Corroboree Rock where it is likely there were never any Corroborees there, instead the signs informed us that the dolomite outcrop was part of the Perentie dreaming story. We pulled up for lunch at Trephina Gorge Nature Park, I could have spent a week there. It’s a bit hard to describe the purple and red mountains, the sandy white river beds, green cool rock holes and towering ghost gums in a way that would give you a fair indicator of what it is like so I normally take a heap of photos, in this place with the light and the weather I couldn’t do it justice, it is the most beautiful place in the West Macs. We tragically spent all of 2 hours there, we had lunch, hiked to John Hayes Rockhole, hiked into the gorge, marveled at the biggest ghost gum in Australia, and on the way out came face to face with a perentie. It was getting late when we pulled up at our campground in Glen Helen but we had just enough time to do some bird watching before dinner and bed.

The next day was as packed as the first so we left early and drove into the NTs version of Sovereign Hill, Arltunga Historical Reserve. After the disastrous failure of Ruby Gap (more on that later) explorers discovered several gold reefs and went about another attempted resource boom. While there was a reasonable amount of gold it wasn’t even remotely the size or value of the Victorian Fields so the number of people was small but a town still sprung up complete with processing plant and police station. Matt and I spent the morning wandering in the ruins and then climbing into the mines (with encouragement from the visitor centre). This is a fantastic example of the looseness of the NT, they point at a mine, say “take your torch” and away you go, no lights, no signs, no handrails, just climbing over the piles of tailings into a hole. It was great. That afternoon we drove into the aforementioned Ruby Gap.



In the late 1880s a bloke going by the name of David Lindsay was exploring the East MacDonnell Ranges when he stumbled upon beautiful red stones glittering in the bed of the Hale River. Being a calm and logical man, he thought he had stumbled on the motherload of all rubies and promptly started the first gem rush of central Australia. For 18 months 200 miners worked to extract the stones which resulted in flood of “rubies” flowing into the market. The jewelers in London became both annoyed and suspicious and had the gems examined closely finding that they were in fact the more common, much less valuable garnet. I felt sorry for him, I really did until we reached the gorge and I picked up a handful of garnet in a few minutes. I’m not a geologist but if I was to find a stream full of beautiful clear stones my first thought would be oh look quartz not oh my god a stream full of diamonds. The value of precious stones tends to be based on the rarity of them therefore huge amounts of nice rocks = probably not that valuable.

The drive into the gorge started with another warning sign about the dangers of the road and what you’d need to survive it. After the ease of Fink I wasn’t too worried and the track turned out to be even easier as the sand was more gritty and there were more sections of solid stone. We also ended up in an accidental convoy with a family group including a couple of Tasmanians we had a chat with. They took up most of the space in the official campsite so we drove down the river and found our own isolated patch of sand for the night.

The next morning we woke up reasonably early and started the walk to Glen Annie Gorge. The hike was easy, mostly flat and the end was determined by when we wanted to stop and turn around. After around 2km we reached the most spectacular gorge in the MacDonnell Ranges, the red cliffs rose from the base of white sand in the riverbed that sparkled with thousands of garnets. As we moved through, we came across waterhole after waterhole surrounded by lush green reeds with birds darting in and out for a drink. Unfortunately, even my best efforts of capturing the beauty of it were thwarted by the horrible lighting so you’ll just have to go and see it in person for the full spectacle. That afternoon we drove north through another notorious 4WD route The Binns Track. The first 40km through cattle stations was fine but after that and where the NT government took on responsibility for road management it went to crap. The corrugations were so big at one point they looked like someone had lined up speed humps next to each other, we crept along at 20km/h with a concerning mechanical banging sound developing under the drivers side floor.

It was a huge relief when we pulled into the caravan park at Gemtree and things got even better when they had a spot for us to camp in and a place on the garnet fossicking tour the next day. We celebrated by getting fish and chips delivered to our van for dinner! What a great place.

Garnet fossicking was my first bucket list item for the trip so I was more than a little bit excited when we went and picked up our shovels, buckets, sieves, and water the next day. We followed a bloke out to the private mining lease and he showed us the ropes. I picked a hole and we got digging and found…nothing. After 20 minutes and not even a spec of red we decided to move to another hole and began chipping away underneath a tree. Almost instantly it started paying off and after 4 hours of work our tin was completely full of stones ready to be evaluated by the in-house gemologist. We managed to get the most stones out of any of the groups and had a couple of people come up to us afterwards and ask if they could use our spot for the tour tomorrow, we wouldn’t be around so had no issue with that. All our work and 1kg of raw garnet returned 6 cutters (stones with enough clarity and no imperfections that can be used to make into gems for jewelry) 3 x 4mm and 3 x 3mm. I picked the best one and had it sent away to be faceted as a beautiful memento of our trip. For afternoon tea we celebrated with scones and coffee and Matt conceded that maybe fossicking wasn’t too bad.

I’d have liked to spend a week at Gemtree and in the Harts Ranges but we needed to get back to Alice Springs for Matts first special activity of the trip. We went on the nature hike around the caravan park in the morning and spotted a few birds and some dingo pups rewarding ourselves when we got back with yet another round of scones and coffee before getting back in the van, turning on our tail and driving back south.

Campsite Reviews

Ross River – Beautiful campsite with our first grass in weeks and the bird watching was phenomenal. The entire resort was a bit of a strange set up, it had a feeling like it had been really touristy in the past but had partially closed. $30pn – 8/10.

Ruby Gap – Stunning, quite, secluded and beyond peaceful. If you want to visit you will need a high clearance 4WD. $Free – 8/10.

Gemtree – Man I loved it here. Devonshire tea, fossicking tours, fish and chips delivered to your van. I wish we could have stayed longer. $27pn – 9/10.

Mr 4X4 and a Most Unexpected Storm

Mr 4X4 and a Most Unexpected Storm

We had a shocking sleep in Fink Gorge, it was muggy and hot which turns one of us into a star fish resulting in the other being squashed against a window all night. Trying to make the most of the cooler start in the morning we fired up Egg early and attempted to put a dint in the track before it warmed up too much. By 9am it was 35 degrees, by 11am it was easily pushing 40 and rather than setting up at our planned campsite for the night we decided to continue our drive and enjoy the air-conditioned comfort the inside of the van offered us. I’m a bit ashamed to admit we literally drove all day until 130km later in the afternoon we pulled up at the Henbury Meteorite Craters. If you think 130km in a day seems like the slowest drive ever please remember we were on a 4WD track for half of that where I think we averaged 10km/h and then spent the rest of the day on a sandy, corrugated, nightmare of a road where the speedo crept over 40km/h maybe once. I hope I’m painting an accurate picture of how grim it was. Needless to say, until the sun dipped over the horizon we hid under a picnic shelter and did a fantastic job of sweating everywhere and trying not to move.



If we slept poorly in the Fink it had nothing on Henbury, with the back of the van open to the non-existent breeze the inside didn’t get cooler than 32 degrees. It was less than ideal. Both completely shattered from two nights with next to no kip we decided to drive straight to Rainbow Valley to sit back and do nothing for the better part of the day. We were that exhausted we even stopped and had a coffee at a less than salubrious roadhouse. Yummy. It all wasn’t doom and gloom though because the dramatic landscape of Rainbow Valley woke us both back up with multicoloured spires of sandstone arching across the horizon. We claimed our spot, set up a bit of a camp under a picnic shelter and went for a walk through the dunes and amongst the stone formations. Back at camp we completed our goal of doing nothing, I lay around in my hammock, Matt sat in his chair reading and occasionally ran off to catch a lizard or two. The area was very quiet with maybe two or three cars visiting during the entire afternoon. Around 4pm, just as dramatic dark clouds were rolling in, 3 groups rocked up in flash 4WDs. Matt and I watched on in amusement as they set up 2 cameras (one proper TV camera and one expensive DSLR) and busted out a drone. Matt loudly said to me “do you think they’re shooting an episode of Neighbours out here?” which the guys seemed to find very amusing. One came over and explained they were filming a 4WD show.

We spent the entire afternoon watching the team run around getting shots of a bloke in a fancy hat and a button-down shirt while making snide comments. As the clouds rolled in further the light clearly got too bad to shoot so they all came back into camp. I’d started on dinner and noticed some rain on the horizon so also brought all our belongings in undercover. To our surprise instead of driving back out to Alice Springs the guys started setting up swags and cooking dinner on the fire, that’s when it started to rain properly. Because of the rain they all came under the shelter and asked if they could sit with us for dinner, we were more than happy to shuffle over and had a great chat with them all. Turns out the show they were filming for has been running for 14 seasons on channel 10 (whoops) that the main guy Pat Callinan is known as Mr. 4X4 and is a bit of a four-wheel-driving celebrity (also whoops). They were a great bunch and didn’t mind in the slightest we didn’t have a clue who they were. Conversation flowed easily about their plans, our plans, whether they’d been to Tassie, things about our van and their cars, camping set up, all while watching a thunderstorm roll over the desert and pouring rain wash the dust off Egg. What a great night.

The rain continued into the evening and brought the temperature back into the low teens so needless to say we slept like logs. We said goodbye to Pat and his crew, promised to start watching his show (at the time of writing this we’ve seen 2 episodes and they’re great) then got back on the road heading North East.

Campsite Reviews

Henbury Meteorite Craters – Hot, dry, minimal shade and not particularly exciting but it had picnic areas and a nice loo. The walk around the craters would have been amazing if we hadn’t seen the Tnorala site the day before but because they were so much smaller it was a bit underwhelming. Do Henbury first and it’ll be much more excting – $4pp/pn – 6/10.

Rainbow Valley – Even without the excitement of a film crew this was a beautiful spot and had possibly the nicest smelling drop toilet in the NT. $4pp/pn – 8/10.

West Macs

West Macs

Thanks to Mr Budgie we weren’t even remotely near where we’d planned to be on the date that we departed Alice Springs so we sat down and worked out an alternative route for the next 10 days. Instead of backtracking to the Fink Gorge we decided that it would be better to drive out to the West MacDonnell Ranges (Tjoritja) and go the long way around back to the gorge.  

The Macs, as they are known locally, are a 644km long series of mountains that cut Alice Springs almost perfectly in half (divided into East and West). They were named after Sir Richard MacDonnell (a previous governor of South Australia) by the explorer John Stuart who “discovered” the range in 1860. The ranges lay claim to the 5 highest mountains in the NT and are approximately 300-350 million years old. Realised pretty quickly they are also an incredibly popular tourist location and the busiest place that we’ve been so far this trip.

Because there is so much to see in the area we decided to keep it simple and just work our way across from right to left stopping at the destinations that interested us. We skipped Simpsons Gap with the intention to visit it later making our first stop Angkerle (Standley Chasm). We were more than happy to fork out the entry fee of $12pp to the traditional owners as Angkerle is the most dramatic of the numerous chasms in the range. The red quartzite walls towered 80m above us with the gap itself only 8m wide. Continuing along the road we came upon our campsite for the night at Ellery Creek Big Hole intending to go for a swim in the beautiful waterhole amongst the cliffs and trees. Despite the warm and sunny weather it wasn’t to be, enthusiastically splashing into the water we were greeted by the most freezing liquid I’ve ever put my feet into. I used to surf in Tasmania in winter and have had numerous ice baths in my time and it had absolutely nothing on this water. It was that cold it made my bones ache. I managed to get up to my butt and Matt hit the middle of his shin. We decided to spend our time more wisely by sitting on the sand and reading our books in the sun until it was time to go back and make dinner then head to bed.

The next day we woke up reasonably early and made our way back to the waterhole to watch the birds come into drink. We saw grebes, painted finches, budgies, a kingfisher, various honeyeaters, and some very nice Black-fronted Dotterels. After breakfast we went on the Dolomite Hike an enjoyable short but varied walk. Our first stop for the day was Serpentine Gorge, as the name would suggest this narrow and shady gorge snakes its way through the range and towards the horizon. We were feeling a bit lazy so we did the lookout walk and wandered into the waterhole. On the way back Matt spotted a Little Button Quail and I spent 20 minutes trying and failing to photograph the tiny, speckled bird. We popped into the slightly uninspiring Ochre Pits for lunch (the Lyndhust ones are so much better). By this point I was feeling pretty rubbish, tired with body aches thanks to my second Pfizer vaccine I’d had the day before so instead of going into Ormiston Gorge for another hike we pulled up at a stunning little campground called Big Gum. I’d just got comfortable in my hammock for a bit of R&R and Panadol when Matt pointed out a group of women that were struggling in the soft sand a couple of campsites over. Matt wandered across and suggested that they reverse into a bit of harder track. Well they floored it in reverse and wedged themselves straight in a dune. Thinking that we might have to tow them out we drove Egg over and set about digging in and placing our recovery boards. Matt jumped in the drivers seat and got the car out and back on the track, with a push from me and the girls. So much for a restful afternoon!

Following a peaceful night on the river we ended up back tracking to Ormiston Gorge. At one of the other campgrounds we’d been told that the Ormiston Pound Circuit hike was one of the best in the ranges and couldn’t be missed. It was stunning. I feel like I’m saying it every single post but this walk was and remains my favourite of the trip so far. We started quite early as the temperatures are pushing into the mid thirties most days now. The first part of the walk followed a creek and then climbed over a short rise where about 20 Spinifex Pigeons called home, we continued climbing steeply to a lookout then around a ridge, down the other side, and a bit further along into the gorge. The final part of the hike is a wade through the waterhole and then an easy stroll back up to the visitors centre. We ended up having lunch in the little attached café which was great, the food was nice but a Western Bowerbird popped in for a visit and I managed to get a photo of the bird that I’ve been looking for during the past 2 weeks! A short drive down the road we made camp at Redback Gorge, a clean site with an outlook directly onto Mount Sonder. The campgrounds were quite small and close together but almost all the people staying there were getting up at 4am to climb to the summit making it a very quiet evening.

Not being as enthusiastic about mountain climbing in 35 degrees as our fellow campmates Matt and I decided to complete the cheats option and rather than going the whole way up walk the first (and hardest) 2.5km to the saddle of the mountain. Due to the shorter length rather than starting at 4am we commenced the climb at 8am and what a climb it was. 2.5km of stairs made from stones without more than 100m of flatish track to shake out the legs was much harder than I thought it would be. Sweaty and pooped we reached the top and were rewarded with outstanding views of the range and the summit of Mount Sonder, it was worth the effort. Back in the carpark we barely had time to catch our breath before we were back on the road and driving towards Tnorala (Gosses Bluff). The 4WD track into the reserve was just corrugated enough to make things difficult and we bounced along until we drove through an opening in the cliffs and into the comet crater. We were both completely taken by how big the hole in the ground was, how obvious it was that a comet had smashed into the earth and that we were allowed to drive directly into the middle of it! We did a hike around the middle and a small, short climb to a lookout.

I’d really like to write that we didn’t visit Hermannsburg for a third time, especially since we had more of enough of it the first time but we did…and we went back to the biased mission for lunch. It’s almost become a routine for us now, Hermannsburg, fill up with fuel while trying to work out if the other cars are parked or abandoned, fill up the water next to the footy oval without a single blade of grass while dodging the rubbish, then go and spend money at the mission that did so much to “help” the local indigenous population. If I never visit there again it will be too soon and the government should be disgusted that there are towns in Australia that look in worse condition than those in third world countries, it’s honestly disgraceful. Anyway, enough of my political ranting we left town, turned left and finally returned to the Fink Gorge. I turned to Matt and said “should I just try and avoid looking at animals so we don’t have to rescue any this time?” he responded with a resounding yes.

At the entry to the Fink Gorge is a sign, it says something along the lines of do not attempt this 4WD track if you are inexperienced, don’t have a PLB or EPIRB, don’t have enough food or water for several days, don’t have recovery equipment and so on. It is a very scary sign that made me want to turn around and go in the opposite direction even though we have all of the required things listed. You’d think the track would be an absolute nightmare based on it but no, as far as 4WD tracks go it was pleasant and easy, I drove on worse things doing my course in Tassie. The hardest part was that the soft sand combined with the very slow speeds and heat meant Egg was getting very hot and bothered by the time we pulled up. With the smell of hot engine in our noses we took our chairs down to the river and sat in the cool water while the gorge walls turned red and the birds came into drink. Lovely.

Campsite Reviews

Ellery Creek Big Hole – The waterhole was lovely but the campsite was squashy and there were some idiots the night we stayed. One guy was blasting music from his car and then went and slept on the ground next to the waterhole, another wouldn’t stop flying his drone around. $4pp/pn – 6/10.

Big Gum – 4WD only and I can not emphasis that enough, we were watching people in 4WDs get bogged not only on the tracks but in the actual campsites. Powder soft sand but worth it for the river, trees, and whistling kites. $Free – 8/10.

Redbank Gorge – If you enjoy campsites with a view this place is for you. Mountains and more mountains with a gecko in the toilet and very considerate fellow campers. $4pp/pn – 8/10.

Morwell Fink River – Beautiful, peaceful next to our own private bit of river/waterhole. There were a lot of bugs at night but we got rid of them with a decoy light and the rest were eaten by a resident bat that flew over us multiple times. $Free – 8/10.

Flats and Budgie Rescue

After the awe of Uluru-Kata Tjuta you’d have thought we’d have had enough of massive geological wonders? Well think again the next spot on our hit list was Kings Canyon. While it looks small on the map the drive between Curtin Springs and the canyon was almost 300km so we decided to tackle the main rim walk the next day and just take our time heading up to camp. We did end up going on a small walk after lunch at a spot called Kathleen Springs where at the end of a short 1.3km trail we found a beautiful little waterhole. We parked up early at the Morris Pass Lookout free camp and while I told myself I’d use the time to catch up on my blog and write some post cards, in reality I ended up spending hours alternating between reading my book and looking out over the spectacular view of the ranges, by far the most scenic site we’ve stayed at.

The next morning after a healthy porridge breakfast we drove into the canyon and commenced on what turned out to be the most offensive beginning of a hike I’ve ever experienced. The “stairs” to the top if you can even call them that were so steep it felt more like rock climbing than hiking. We reached the summit eventually, but I can’t imagine how horrible that would be in summer, the defibrillator located at the top gives a decent indication of how challenging it is. The rest of the hike was wonderful which is very high praise from me due to my fear of heights and most of the walk circulating around a massive cliff with a short dip into an area called the Garden of Eden. The rock features looked like miniature versions of the Bungle Bungles and the cycads added to the otherworldly feeling on the place. If there is one thing I can say about the NT in the few days we’ve been here is that the colours are so vivid it’s like someone has turned the saturation up in the world. Because the rim walk was only 6km we decided to do the canyon floor walk after lunch as well. It was nice but not particularly interesting so if you’re there and limited on time I’d give it a miss.

On our way back to camp we stopped in at the information centre tided up to the caravan park and bought our $6.50 pass to drive on the Mereenie Loop road. Matt only realised we’d need one going over the maps the previous night. We’d heard a lot of bad things about the section of road but driving on it the next day it was honestly fine, the last 15km were very corrugated but it wasn’t any worse than Arkaroola so we made pretty good time. We filled up for petrol in a town called Hermannsburg which Lonely Planet describes as “an appealingly run-down and sleepy place” which I think may be their attempt of a politically correct description of a mainly indigenous town that Matt and I would describe to you as a shit hole. We were running very low on water and petrol so there wasn’t much of an option than to suck it up, dodge the feral dogs and rubbish and head on in. To be fair we did also end up visiting the Historical Mission which was interesting and served a reasonable lunch of scones with jam and cream but the information given throughout the complex seemed to be weighted heavily in the favour of the church rather than giving a more balanced view of what was happening there at the time.

After refueling and another short drive we pulled up at Palm Valley and mad ourselves at home. We ended up chatting to a nice bloke from Sydney who turned out was on first name terms with Moose, the publican from Copley. He also massively rated the town, small world. That afternoon we hung around the campground, enjoyed the river and the abundance of amazing birdlife including Major Mitchell Cockatoos!

Palm Valley, as its name indicates is famous for one thing…palms, specifically red cabbage palm trees (9,000-15,000 of them) that are found nowhere else in the world. On the 5km loop walk the following morning we read about the palms and learnt that no one knows how they got there. The hike was lovely up and down hills, through valleys full of…well palms, and around an area that a few months before probably would have been quite wet. We had another lazy afternoon back at camp hiding from the ever-increasing heat. I think we will soon be restricted to morning outdoor activities as hiking in 35 degrees isn’t much fun. On our last day camped up in the valley Matt picked two more walks in a different area of the park. One was a short and steep lookout hike (1.6km return) and the second was the Mapaara loop. Along the way of the second walk we learnt a dreamtime story about a tawny frogmouth man and his son. I won’t actually repeat the story here because it was really disturbing and involved eating family members, we were both a bit flummoxed by it. At the end of the walk we ran into another couple in a Delica so we had a massive chat and compared vans, they had a long wheel base diesel and exactly the same roof racks that we managed to break. We gave them the heads up and told them where to check for issues to try and prevent theirs from filing which they were very appreciative of.

This is where our trip got derailed for the second time, we were on our way to our next campsite down in the Finke Gorge when I spotted a little budgie flailing around on the side of the track. We got out and Matt managed to catch it. On closer inspection it was a very cute baby budgie with one wing that looked like it had been plucked rendering it unable to fly. It would die if we left it so we packed it into an ice-cream tub and drove out the way we came to find some phone service and the nearest vet. Of course, being the middle of nowhere the nearest vet/animal rescue was Alice Springs so off we drove on a 120km detour. Things continued to go wrong for us when a roofing nail buried into the back tyre and gave us a flat 70km later along the highway. We both jumped out ready to put our tyre changing skills to work and in retrospect probably feeling a little bit too confident. Matt jacked up the van and I got the spare down, we pulled off the flat and discovered that the jack wouldn’t go high enough to get a fully inflated tyre back on. We tried to put the flat one back on so we could adjust the jack but even that wouldn’t go on. What should have been a 5 minute job turned into a 45 minute ordeal of hailing people on the side of the road to see if anyone had a second jack so we’d be able to move ours to the correct spot (we jacked up the body of the van accidentally), after several groups of grey nomads, one bloke that was running late for an appointment, two motorcyclists, and another couple a bloke that had a jack stopped, helped us out and got the tyre changed. We learnt a lot from that one.

In Alice Springs we dropped the very sweet budgie to a wildlife carer, grabbed some dinner and parked up the van at the Central Australian Transport Hall of Fame campsite.

We ended up spending two days in Alice but they were two very boring days of laundry, groceries, tyre repair, post office, and booking the van in to get a few things looked at so I don’t have any interesting photos or stories. We will be coming back to Alice Springs in about 10 days to do something on Matt’s bucket list so I’ll write more about it then. The one thing we did was visit the Reptile House where we saw, held, and learnt about scaly friends. Things like, what’s the main difference between a lizard and a snake? Lizards have ears.  

Campsite Reviews

Morris Pass Lookout – Another free camp we found because of the disgusting prices being changed at caravan parks. The Kings Canyon “Resort” wanted $50 per night for an unpowered site, you can shove that right up your proverbial mate. Stunning scenery and would have been perfect if on the second night we hadn’t been parked up next to the Von Trapp family who felt like the campsite needed to listen to them sing…poorly for 90 minutes. They only shut up when Matt started blasting a finance podcast at their van. $Free – 8/10.

Palm Valley – Yet another one of those sites where we pull up for one night and end up staying 2. Beautiful red cliffs, river, birds, and showers. $4pp/pn – 9/10.

Central Australian Transport Hall of Fame – Not sure where to start with this one. Imagine a gravel car park but instead of normal cars it is full of rusty tractors and trucks, now visualize two toilet blocks, one is in an elevated shipping container and looks like something that would be used at a music festival, the second is in a run down shed and instead of walls between the toilets/showers you have those old, carpeted, office cubical dividers. Yeah. Why did we choose to stay there? Because once more the caravan parks are stupidly expensive. Nothing under $38pn unpowered, ludicrous. $15pn – 4/10 (pretty grim but we’ll go back).

Big Red Rock

Big Red Rock

After a few days of enjoyable ignorance we decided to check the news on our last morning in SA . We were both surprised when we got there that we were able to travel straight though unchecked and it was only another 20km up the road where we ran into the police. Much more relaxed than the SA lot we showed our passes, IDs, and were immediately let in. Another 100 clicks up the highway and we reached our spot for the night Erldunda Roadhouse. We picked this meeting point of highways to enable us to reach Uluru the next day and still have time to see a bit of it. From the outside and our dusty campsite it didn’t look too encouraging Erldunda turned into a bit of a desert gem, with a free washing machine, pool, and pizza for dinner.

The next morning full of anticipation and excitement (well I was anyway) we entered Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. Even though I’d visited before it was no less incredible watching the enormous red monolith appear on the horizon and grow as we drove towards it. I wish I’d taken a picture of Matt while he was driving around the base and the way he was tottering on the edge of his seat and peering through the screen to try and see the top. We looked around the cultural center, went on three short walks (Minymaku, Watiku, and Dune Viewing), and set up our van in the sunset viewing carpark to watch what turned out to be a bit of a dud sunset and cook up some snags. Following dinner, we went into the town/resort of Yulara to catch our bus to the Field of Light art installation. I’d booked our pick up spot as the fanciest hotel I could find with the intention of having a drink before hand in a nice bar but it wasn’t to be, because Matt an I opted not to pay $45 per night for an unpowered site and stay up the road we couldn’t get served, not even one beer. After the disappointment of the booze denial the Field of Light more than made up for it. We had a 40 minute allocation to explore the 50,000 handmade, light emitting, bulbs and it wasn’t nearly enough. Photos do it no justice, it was just stunning.

Day two started with our second running over belongings event when Matt decided to shift the car and promptly ran over the washing up bucket containing 2 plates, a knife, the tongs, and my cup. I was stoked that it wasn’t my fault this time but was less happy to lose my insulated cup. Matt gave me his as compensation, so I was in a good mood again by the time we got to the Camel Farm. After hearing some great things about the Uluru camel tour we booked in for the 90 minute short version ($80pp rather than $135). We got introduced to our camel Kahn, had a quick safety chat, were shown how to mount a camel, and away we went. Riding on camels was very relaxing and the guiding was fantastic. We both learnt a lot about the camel farm, capturing feral camels, training them, and a heap of camel facts.

The afternoon was spent completing the 11km circuit of Uluru and learning more about the Anangu and the Tjukuritja (creation period when ancestral beings created the world/traditional law). It was interesting to see the complexity of the rock face up close and the lines and shapes within. There were a couple of places where artwork had been drawn on the roof of overhangs and small caves and areas where campfires had blackened the stone. Our favorite spot was the waterhole where we saw birds drinking and I saw a hopping mouse.