NT Camping

West MacDonnell Ranges – Part 2

Ok, prepare to be Gorge’d out!  There are sooooo many beautiful gorges in the West Mac’s!!

So – we will work through them from the Westernmost ones through to those closest to Alice Springs, starting with Roma Gorge (kids thought it was cool that this Gorge was the same name as their cousin!  Hello Roma!!).

Roma Gorge was a pretty long drive in and only accessible by 4wd.  Here we got to see some Aboriginal Petroglyphs which are carved into the rocks in the gorge.  It was 8km’s in along quite a corrugated and rocky creek bed track.  We enjoyed it as we had the whole place to ourselves but you do need a good couple of hours!  The walk into the gorge is only about 250metres from the car park, so not far once you have made the drive in.

Roma Gorge

Roma Gorge

Aboriginal Petroglyphs

Aboriginal Petroglyphs

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Short walk in to the gorge

Short walk in to the gorge

Toby getting creative inspired by Roma Gorge

Toby getting creative inspired by Roma Gorge

The next gorge you come to is Redbank Gorge and this was my favourite.  It was only a 2km walk in but was quite slow going for us with Toby and Lex and their little legs walking over rocks – definitely worth the walk though and we think the National Park campground here was the pick of them with quite secluded sites with your own fire pit, table and plenty of pit toilets around.

Walk in to Redbank Gorge

Walk in to Redbank Gorge

Still walking in to Redbank Gorge

Still walking in to Redbank Gorge

Nearly there!

Nearly there!

Beautiful Redbank Gorge

Beautiful Redbank Gorge

Photographer in action

Photographer in action

Family potrait done using the camera timer as we had the gorge to ourselves up until just before we left

Family potrait done using the camera timer as we had the gorge to ourselves up until just before we left

Next is Glen Helen Gorge and this was the gorge closest to our campsite at Finke 2-mile – pretty much just over the road from where we were camped.  There is a resort/pub and campground there so one night we splashed out and spent some of our treat money on dinner and a shower there.  It was such a great night!  We couldn’t believe how much cleaner we all looked after a shower – we hadn’t realised how dirty we had gotten in 3 days bush camping!  We had crocodile and kangaroo spring rolls to share to start with and then Matt had the Kangaroo steaks which really were very delicious!!  The kids were in heaven to choose their own dinners from the kids menu and it was an extra special night as Lexi had gone her first whole day without sucking her fingers (a habit she has had since she was born and we are aiming to break on this trip!) so the whole family was rewarded with icecreams for dessert! Matt and I had a wine each and there was a lovely roaring fire going in the bar along with an entertainer who was fantastic!  It was the best night we have had so far – we all really enjoyed the treat!  And Trice – check out Matt on the spoons – I took the video just for you hehehehe!

Glen Helen Gorge

Glen Helen Gorge

The view from the back deck of the Glen Helen Resort Pub

The view from the back deck of the Glen Helen Resort Pub

Our 'treat' dinner - soooooooo yum!

Our ‘treat’ dinner – soooooooo yum!

A fire - so lovely and warm as a change from our freezing camper at night!

A fire – so lovely and warm as a change from our freezing camper at night!

Lex with her hard earned icecream for not sucking her fingers for the whole day!

Lex with her hard earned icecream for not sucking her fingers for the whole day!

Tobes just got tuckered out - so we put him on the floor with a pillow from one of the lounges and he was happy!

Tobes just got tuckered out – so we put him on the floor with a pillow from one of the lounges and he was happy!

Ormiston Gorge is the largest of the gorges in the West Mac’s and one of the most popular, so it was quite busy here.  We managed to be there for a Ranger talk which the kids loved as he showed them how to identifiy animals from their tracks and scat (poo!).  He had heaps of cool things for the kids to touch and look at as well – the Northern Territory National Parks are fantastic with their facilities and ranger information sessions.  We also did the Ghost Gum walk here which is about a 3km walk around the rim of the Gorge – pretty easy walk and lots of amazing views!

Ormiston Gorge

Ormiston Gorge

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View down into Gorge from lookout

View down into Gorge from lookout

View from Rim Walk

View from Rim Walk

Great ranger talk

Great ranger talk

We did do a drive in to the ruins of the old Serpentine Lodge chalets which was quite interesting.  The track in is only short but quite rough (4wd recommended) and we enjoyed reading about the lodge being the halfway point for tourists to stopover in the West Mac’s in the days before comfortable 4wd’s were invented!  Unfortunately it closed due to water shortage problems and there looked to be an interesting walk in to a dam that was put in there, but the kids were done with walking by the time we got here!

The final gorge we visited was Matt’s favourite, Serpentine Gorge.  It is the least touristy of all the gorges and no camping is allowed there.  It was any easy 1.5km walk in to the gorge (although we did have to bribe the kids with freddo frogs to get them to do this one) and Matt and Jack also did the short but very steep scramble/climb to the lookout which has spectacular views over the ranges.

Serpentine Gorge

Serpentine Gorge

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View from the lookout at Serpentine Gorge

View from the lookout at Serpentine Gorge

Jack at the lookout

Jack at the lookout

Matt at the lookout - photo by Jacko!

Matt at the lookout – photo by Jacko!

Family pic - Serpentine Gorge

Family Pic – Serpentine Gorge

A beautiful, beautiful part of Australia, we loved our time in the West Mac’s!

Categories: Camping, NT Camping, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , | 8 Comments

West MacDonnell Ranges – Part 1

 

Our campsite at 2-Mile on the banks of the Finke River

Our campsite at 2-Mile on the banks of the Finke River

After a peaceful couple of days at Palm Valley in the Finke National Park, we then headed into Hermannsburg for a quick stop to update the blog while we had reception and to have a wander through the Hermannsburg Mission which was the first Aboriginal Mission in Australia.  We also pulled over to check out the home of Albert Namitjira who was a very sucessful Aboriginal artist.  We then finished the Mereenie Loop and headed into the West MacDonnell Ranges National Park and had the best five days exploring and walking through some beautiful gorges!

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Dingos everywhere at the campground at Palm Valley

Hermannsburg Mission

Hermannsburg Mission

Albert Namitjira's House

Albert Namitjira’s House

Donkey's on Mereenie Loop drive

Donkey’s on Mereenie Loop drive

Gosses Bluff Crater formed by the impact of an asteriod millions of years ago

Gosses Bluff Crater formed by the impact of an asteriod millions of years ago

We camped at 2-mile on the recommendation of a Brisbane family who met at Palm Valley.  It was a great tip and a spot we wouldn’t have found by ourselves!  It was bush camping so no facilities at all but it was fantastic (and free!) and our favourite campsite of the trip so far.  I’ll come straight out with our moment of shame – 2-mile is on the banks of the Finke River, camping in the sand, and we got bogged going in and out – yes – embarrassing!  On the way in we thought we’d test and see if we can drive on the sand with our tyres at highway pressure – quickly discovered we couldn’t and went to reverse out and ripped the rear mudflap off Peter Prado again – grrrr!  Some other campers came over to help but our pride resisted their offer and we dropped our tyre pressures and dug ourselves out of the sand and over to set up our campsite (and Matt again repaired the mudfap!).  When we went to leave we again thought we would be fine not to drop our tyre pressure (I know – how silly are we??) and even sillier -Matt forgot to take the handbrake off after giving me a lesson on putting the car in four wheel drive (so of course it was my fault!) and we found ourselves bogged again!  This time some other fellow campers came to our aid and told us their was no shame and it was all part of the fun – so we put our snatch strap to use and got a tug out of the sand!  Our lesson has been learnt – we are now very respectful of our tyre pressures in all situations and have been giving our compressor a good workout!!

Entering the West MacDonnell Ranges

Entering the West MacDonnell Ranges

Our lovely campsite at Finke 2-Mile

Our lovely campsite at Finke 2-Mile

Matt repairing the mudflap again

Matt repairing the mudflap again

Kids were soooo happy to play in the sand!

Kids were soooo happy to play in the sand!

Oh the shame - getting snatched out of the sand!

Oh the shame – getting snatched out of the sand!

We loved our spot at 2-mile so much that we based ourselves there for four nights and spent our time day tripping out to the Gorges and being home in the afternoon in time to enjoy the view and let the kids have some fun!  It was lovely – a toilet would have made it just perfect!

Kids were entertained the whole time we were there playing in the sand!

Kids were entertained the whole time we were there playing in the sand!

And we got the Kayak out for the first time!

And we got the Kayak out for the first time!

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Happy Kids!

Happy Kids!

And finally started to relax and slow our pace down a little!

And finally started to relax and slow our pace down a little!

Beautiful

Beautiful

Best Spot!

Best Spot!

There is soooooo much to see in the West Mac’s – you could easily spend a couple of weeks there – we got to see most of the sights but only managed a few of the walks as the kids were well and truly done with walking by this stage!  These are a few of the places we covered on the first day – more of the gorges to come!

The 'Ochre Pits'

The ‘Ochre Pits’

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Ellery Creek Big Hole was beautiful!

Ellery Creek Big Hole was beautiful!

Really, really beautiful!  Wish it wasn't freezing cold as it would have been lovely for a swim!

Really, really beautiful! Wish it wasn’t freezing cold as it would have been lovely for a swim!

Fealy Family at Ellery Creek Big Hole

Fealy Family at Ellery Creek Big Hole

 

Categories: Camping, NT Camping | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

A Breakdown

Kids Making the Best of the Situation!

Kids Making the Best of the Situation!

Well – it’s happened. We’ve had a breakdown – not of the nervous variety – or maybe nearly – but the car has broken down in Tennant Creek. This was something we knew may happen on the trip but we were really hoping it wouldn’t! It looks like Peter Prado’s alternator has died.

We realised something was amiss when we pulled in to the Devil’s Marbles yesterday and noticed we lost the air-conditioning, then as we were parking, some new lights flashing on the dashboard.  Matt tinkered around with it in the afternoon and concluded our starter battery was dead, but thought perhaps the alternator too was in trouble.  So, the next morning we packed up, drove back (starting the car using our auxiliary battery)  to Wauchope Pub (about 7km’s) and called RACQ to make use of our ‘Ultimate Cover’.  They advised that as we were 113km’s from our nearest RACQ technician, we were 13km’s out of our ‘free callout range’ and it would cost $280 to get someone out to us.  We decided to try to get to Tennant Creek ourselves – and if nothing else – on the recommendation of a nice truckie at the pub – to at least get 13km’s down the road and into our free callout zone!  He said he would come behind us and pick us up if we got stuck!  Well – we made it only just to Tennant Creek! We held our breath every kilometre of the 113km’s!  Poor Peter Prado only just made it – conking out in front of the pub in the main street!!  Matt will do a blokey post on all the technical stuff of what has gone on with the car once we actually confirm the RACQ man’s diagnosis of a dead alternator – aaaargh!!

So, we are at a caravan park in Tennant Creek (let’s just say it’s not our favourite place so far) until at least Tuesday which is the earliest we can get the parts delivered & installed.

It is a nice caravan park and our RACQ Ultimate Cover has come in handy and is paying our site fees and for a hire car should we need it. We have hot showers, it is warm (wahooooo!), we have mobile phone reception (read Blog & Facebook access), a pool, which although the water is freezing, the kids still spent half an hour in it, and a library down the road so somewhere to go for some reading and air conditioning, so it’s not all bad – we’re trying to stay positive and think on the bright side.

It’s been an ordinary couple of days. I fell down the steps of the camper and hurt my thumb (it’s really sore ok!), Matt has a serious dose of man flu (yes – he absolutely is suffering from pneumonia or typhoid fever – not just a cold!) our camera lense we were waiting on didn’t arrive in Alice Springs, the kids have been little terrors and now we have hit hotter weather our camper fridge is not staying cold when running on the gas – grrrrrr – this fridge has caused us lots of grief! Sigh ……….. and now the car has broken down.

I know, I know enough whingeing. We knew that things might get hard on the trip and this is part of it (Michelle – might need you to give me that pep talk you prepared for me!). It’s just a bit crappy to have a large car expense eating in to our funds with no jobs topping up the piggy bank grrrr!  Anyway, the upside is that we will have some forced downtime which is nice!  Matt and I have realised we are not very good at stopping and doing nothing – so with not much to see here and no car to really take us anywhere – look out for some blog updates coming along ……………….. or maybe I’ll really get in to this ‘do nothing thing’ and read a book, or something ……… we’ll keep you posted!!  In the meantime, has anybody been to Tennant Creek and got any advice for us?  And anybody out there got some thoughts on our b?!$#!dy not working again Dometic RM2350 camper fridge???

Categories: Camping, NT Camping | 10 Comments

The Mereenie Loop, Palm Valley, Finke Gorge NP

No roads to be seen out here!

No roads to be seen out here!

Ahhhhh, the serenity! After a whole week in compulsory caravan parks (there really is no other options at Uluru and Kings Canyon) we were going totally bonkers and in desperate need of some remote camping.

We had always planned to do the Mereenie loop after Kings Canyon, but were unsure of the road suitability with our Glamper. After speaking to a couple with kids and a camper trailer in Winton who had done it, we were sure we would be fine. On our departure from Kings though, we checked in with the reception people to do a last check of the road conditions especially after about 4 days of slight rain. The road was open with only a couple of spots with “slight caution” and one spot with “extreme caution”, we decided to ignore the “unsuitable for caravans” bit….. Karen is a camper, not a caravan!

Anywho, on the way back from the reception I got chatting to a bloke who had taken the Mereenie loop just yesterday to run into Alice to pick up some bearings for his busted trailer, they had been doing some pretty rough stuff. He said it was up there with some of the worst road conditions he had driven yet! He strongly advised that we don’t do it in Karen Camper…..hmmm…. This would mean we would have to go back to Alice the way we got in, ie back track over road we had already driven…. Something Jess and I have realised we have a rather severe allergy too.

I confirmed that it was plenty wide enough to turn around if we don’t like it, and decided we would give it a shot. We bought the permit required ($5.50 per car from the servo) and grew ever more nervous as the attendant told us 2 4wd’s had already turned around this morning, so we filled up with magical rocket juice (at $2.34p/L I assume it’s magical??) and headed off.

Well, it was fine. Sure Karen lost a mud flap and the foot off one of her legs, Peter Prado has a new rattle (or 7) but it was fine. We dropped tyre pressure down to 25psi all round and took it eeeeeeeasy. This road was different to the Plenty or the Harts Range road, which were both really just corrugations and a few exposed razor blades, the Mereenie Loop was corrugations, washouts, pot holes (or craters more correctly speaking) soft sand, rocks, boulders, the odd spare tyre just lying on the track (had the wrong stud pattern to be any use to us, bugger!) and a few random mountains of brumby poo…… All and all not that dissimilar to the Bruce Highway.

McGyver-ing a solution to a broken foot (On Karen, not me, I just had pins and needles!)

McGyver-ing a solution to a broken foot (On Karen, not me, I just had pins and needles!)

Locating a number of new rattles. 3 loose bolts on the bull bar, 2 loose wheel arches, and then a general once over with the grease gun while I was under there.

Locating a number of new rattles. 3 loose bolts on the bull bar, 2 loose wheel arches, and then a general once over with the grease gun while I was under there.

After being told we couldn’t do it by a number of people, we thought we would take our sweet time and take a few days to get to Glen Halen Station, but, because we were making good time we decided to branch off and check out Palm Valley, the thing attracting me was the “extreme high clearance 4wd track, no caravans”. After a week “camping” next to 40 foot caravans and Maui and Britz motor homes filled with foreign tourists running their aircon and hair dryers all day and night, this looked like a winner.

Spectacular Drive into Palm Valley

Spectacular Drive into Palm Valley

Well! I can tell you, this place is a must do on anyone’s list! It took us about an hour and a half to get in, driving some really beautiful country, essentially 80% of it driving up the dry Finke river bed (washed river rock base, all smooth large rock/pebbles plus sand) Beautiful!

The campground has gravel sites with some grassed areas, 3 communal fire places, flushing dunnies and……. Hot Showers! (Well, it’s solar hot water, but being the sun has come out since waaay back when Julia was Prime Minister there was none) and how’s this, the ranger came down at 1900, lit a big fire and sat around telling us all about the park, the challenges, future plans, joint management etc, very informative. Although I think he has talked Jack out of being a ranger now with his many references to the fact that a ranger is just a glorified maintenance guy, fixing fences and signs, and cleaning toilets. So Jack will now do a bachelor of science majoring in biodiversity, or just become the next Steve Backshall.

So we found a spot without too many dingoes circling, set up and planed the next day, head down to Cycad Grove and the actual Palm Valley.

Camp Palm Valley

Camp Palm Valley

Now this track was “high clearance 4wd only”!! There were a bunch of “diff banger” spots on this track, and man-o-man was Peter Prado flexing his legs, we had a ball! It was great to be unhitched and push into somewhere not every bloke and his Rav 4 can get too. (Sorry Benji, I think even Raging Rav would have got hung up on her diff’s through here, there were plenty of gouges and scratches on the rocks through here). As rough and tumble as this was, I only engaged the low range once for about 10mtrs of very uneven rather steep rock hopping.

Happy with the Suspension Upgrade!

Happy with the Suspension Upgrade!

How do they capture it so well in the 4X4 mags?

How do they capture it so well in the 4X4 mags?

Anyway, we made it to the beginning of the walks (a dirty word for the kids at the moment, poor kids, I reckon they have done about 40klms of walking in the last week!) whilst this was a spectacular spot, and very few people, I think it would probably be more enjoyable if you were into the Red Cabbage Palm, which is really the whole point of Palm valley. This is the only place on the planet where they grow.

Red Cabbage Palms on the left

Red Cabbage Palms on the left

We virtually had the place to ourselves

We virtually had the place to ourselves

Resting weary legs

Resting weary legs

The kids could run and jump and make as much noise as they liked down here

The kids could run and jump and make as much noise as they liked down here

Not saying it wasn’t a nice place to have lunch.

Lunch under what we dubbed "Dingo Head Rock"

Lunch under what we dubbed “Dingo Head Rock”

So, if you find yourself in this neck of the woods, make the trip into Palm Valley, you will easily get a camper in (although a few of the other punters down here see us and wonder if we got Karen Heli dropped in) it is well worth it and there is a great track to really test the approach and departure angles along with the limits of your rigs suspension.

Toby Spotted the rare black footed rock wallaby.... can you see it? It's right there... see....

Toby Spotted the rare black footed rock wallaby…. can you see it? It’s right there next to the tree….

See!

See!

and here is another one... can you see it....in the cave, next to the green bush.....

and here is another one… can you see it….in the cave, next to the green bush…..

See! We called this one the "Tobias Rock Wallabus" a close cousin of the black footed wallaby, this one just has red hair!

See! We called this one the “Tobias Rock Wallabus” a close cousin of the black footed wallaby, this one just has red hair!

The "Car Park" at the beginning of the walk.

The “Car Park” at the beginning of the walk.

Our Little Pink Mountain Goat

Our Little Pink Mountain Goat

I've been amazed by the sheer volume and variety of wild flowers everywhere!

I’ve been amazed by the sheer volume and variety of wild flowers everywhere!

Palm Valley

Palm Valley

Categories: Camping, NT Camping, Travel | 4 Comments

Kings Canyon

20130705-220421.jpgAfter our busy 4 days at Uluru and Kata Tjuta we then set off for Kings Canyon which was about a three hour drive away along the ‘Red Centre Way’ highway.  It was overcast, windy and cold when we left Yulara and by the time we reached Kings Canyon the wet weather had set in and stayed that way for the whole time we were there.  We were a bit disappointed not being able to see some beautiful sunsets/sunrises over the Canyon – particularly as we managed to jag probably the best campsite with views in the whole campground!

Our site - no 63 at Kings Canyon Resort

Our site – no 63 at Kings Canyon Resort

We made the most of our time at the resort despite the rain – we had a beer and a softdrink at the ‘Outback BBQ & Grill’ Bar one night and the kids really enjoyed the live entertainment – a band called ‘The Roadies’ played and there was lots of getting the kids up on stage to play along and sing ‘Home Among the Gum Trees’ and other aussie classics.  Matt and I even got roped in to going up too  with some other parents to be laughed at but at least we were rewarded with a free beer or wine for our embarrassment (not sharing the vidoe footage of that!

We spent the first two days catching up on washing and spending some quiet time reading/doing a bit of school work bunkered down inside the van and hoping the rain would go away.  The kids even watched the movie ‘Swiss Family Robinson’ for the first time and they loved – it was a favourite from my childhood days!  We took a few short walks around the campground and even treated the kids to a hot chocolate (it was complimentary from the Reception Area but we didn’t tell them that – gotta take some ‘nice parent’ brownie points when you can get them cheap!), but by our third day we were ready to lace up the shoes and check out the Canyon despite the rain!

A walk for hot chocolates

A walk for hot chocolates

I had another go at some baking - this time choc chip muffins which turned out okay - at least cooked all the way through but still a little burnt on top!

I had another go at some baking – this time choc chip muffins which turned out okay – at least cooked all the way through but still a little burnt on top!

The best sunrise view from our camp that we got while we were there

The best sunrise view from our campsite that we managed to get while we were there

The Kings Canyon Rim walk was the best walk we have done so far!  Unfortunately the photos don’t really show you how beautiful and varied and high the scenery was and the rainy weather didn’t help either!  It was another long walk and probably the toughest one we have done with the kids.  It was only a 6km walk but quite steep in lots of places and lots of different terrain to walk through and a bit slippery as well due to the weather.  The cliff edges were completely open which had me constantly saying to the kids ‘get away from that edge!’ even from metres away!  It was another really amazing walk – check out the Kings Canyon Resort webpage for more information and some beautiful photos of what we saw – our photos below don’t really do it justice!!

Time to tackle the Kings Canyon Scenic Rim walk

Time to tackle the Kings Canyon Scenic Rim walk

Very steep climb to start with - this was the view about half way up!

Very steep climb to start with – this was the view about half way up!

Rest stop on rim of Canyon - eeeek - so high up!

Rest stop on rim of Canyon – eeeek – so high up!

Kings Canyon Rim

Kings Canyon Rim

Views

Views

Lex and I walking - getting wetter

Lex and I walking – getting wetter

Descent into the green 'Garden of Eden' Oasis

 The green ‘Garden of Eden’ Oasis

Garden of Eden

Garden of Eden

The Garden of Eden

The Garden of Eden

Selfie - kids were sick of getting their photos taken!

Selfie – kids were sick of getting their photos taken!

Rest stop for a snack in the 'Garden of Eden'

Rest stop for a snack in the ‘Garden of Eden’

Climb out

Climb out

'The Lost City' - lots of domes - getting quite wet by this point

‘The Lost City’ – lots of domes – getting quite wet by this point

Lots of interesting walking

Lots of interesting walking

Kings Canyon Rim - yes those are people on the edge!

Kings Canyon Rim – yes those are people on the edge!

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Trying to get a shot of the whole canyon

Trying to get a shot of the whole Canyon

We enjoyed our time at Kings Canyon but after spending a week in busy caravan parks we were definitely ready to move on and tackle the Mereenie Loop and find some quieter (and cheaper!) spots to camp.

Categories: Camping, NT Camping, Travel | Tags: , | 1 Comment

Kata Tjuta

20130703-222106.jpgSo, now that we have reception for a few days here in Alice Springs we are catching up on our blog posts and trying to fill you all in on what we have been up to for the last two weeks.  Prepare yourself to be ‘gorged’ out as we have done heaps of beautiful walks through some spectacular gorges and have a tonne of photos to share!

Kata Tjuta (also known as ‘The Olga’s) are the large doomed rock formations which also make up the same national park as Uluru.  We purchased the three day national park pass for $25 per adult (kids were free) for the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park and after spending the first two days exploring Uluru we decided to spend our last day in the park checking out the ‘rocks’ we had seen from Uluru.  After walking all the way round Uluru the previous day, we had planned to just take it pretty easy at Kata Tjuta, but when we got there we couldn’t resist the 7.4km full circuit ‘Valley of the Wind’s Walk’.

It was a pretty tough walk and took us about 4 hours with the kids but they managed pretty well.  We did piggy back Lexi for a bit and she fell asleep on my back for a short time but the boys again walked the whole way.  This walk was quite interesting for the kids as there were lots of little water holes to stop and play with their ‘leaf boats’ in.  At first we tried to hurry them along or get them to look around at the views a bit more – but then we realised that this was what the walk was all about for them – the simple pleasures of finding their next perfect stick or leaf to sail down a creek – so we left them to it and they were happy to keep plodding along.  I must admit I was quite sore after climbing the rock in the same morning we tackled this walk so I probably found it harder than anyone!  The scenery made up for the pain though – it was beautiful!  Again – another walk not to miss if you head out to Uluru.

The Valley of the Winds Walk - very hot and dry - would be a really tough walk in summer!

The Valley of the Winds Walk – very hot and dry – would be a really tough walk in summer!

Karu Lookout - about 1km into the walk

Karu Lookout – about 1km into the walk

The domes are really interesting to look at

The domes are really interesting to look at

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Quite steep and rocky in parts

Quite steep and rocky in parts

A stop to check out a small creek

A stop to check out a small creek

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Karingana Lookout - really spectacular - very hard to capture it with the photos

Karingana Lookout – really spectacular – very hard to capture it with the photos

Family shot

Family shot

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Time to finish the walk down to the bottom and around the domes to the other side

Time to finish the walk down to the bottom and around the domes to the other side

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Leaf boat racing

Leaf boat racing

Beautiful wildflowers as we walked back through the valley at the base of the domes

Beautiful wildflowers as we walked back through the valley at the base of the domes

Lex and I waiting for the boys to catch up

Lex and I waiting for the boys to catch up

We finished the walk all quite tired and hot and sweaty, but then we decided it would be a real shame to waste the last hour of sunlight and not do the short (2.6km return) Walpa Gorge walk.  The kids did dig the heels in on walking again but we piggy backed Lex and Tobe to start with until they were happy to walk again and there was also the reward of poppers and chips and dip at the end!  Because it was so late in the day we had the gorge to ourselves which was quite a treat and although not as spectacular as The Valley of the Winds Walk – it was worth the effort at the end of the day

Walpa Gorge Walk

Walpa Gorge Walk

Walpa Gorge

Walpa Gorge

Tired but happy!

Tired but happy!

We had the place to ourselves!

We had the place to ourselves!

There wasn't much of a sunset on this day but still pretty special sky!

There wasn’t much of a sunset on this day but still pretty special sky!

Matt getting clever with the camera

Matt getting clever with the camera

'Super Moon' on the drive back to our campground at Yulara - very hard to capture!

‘Super Moon’ on the drive back to our campground at Yulara – very hard to capture!

The beautiful 'Olga's - definitely worth the drive out to them!

The beautiful ‘Olga’s – definitely worth the drive out to them!

Categories: Camping, NT Camping, Travel | 6 Comments

Uluru

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Uluru was honestly just spectacular – if you haven’t been yet then add it to your list to go.  We were very lucky to have glorious weather while we were there – freezing in the morning and night (down to 2 degrees each night we were there!) but beautiful and sunny during the day.  We got to watch the sunrise and set over the rock and we even had a ‘super moon’ the biggest full moon of the year while we were there!  Probably the biggest highlight of our time there aside from the climb, was doing the base walk together as a family.  We started the walk, which is a 12km walk (no we didn’t tell the kids that before we started or there would have been a mutiny!) by joining a ranger guided 1 hour walk at 8am in the morning.  This guided walk took in the first kilometre of the base walk and it was a really interesting and informative way to start our hike.

The walk took us all day – we didn’t finish until 3pm – so it was a massive day for the kids – Toby and Jack walked the whole way while we only carried Lex in a few bits and pieces so we were sooooooo proud of them all!  Toby was determined to walk the whole way by himself right from the start.  He was inspired by Jack climbing the rock the day before and wanted his own piece of ‘I did something amazing‘ and he did sooooooo well – not one whinge the whole way!  It was a beautiful walk – very flat so relatively easy although it was quite hot on the back side of the rock.  We were surprised at how many waterholes and green spots there were around the rock!  We took it easy and had lots of water and food breaks which kept the kids happy.  Definitely a must if you ever head to Uluru!!!  I’m going to let the photos do the talking – they tell the story far better than I can!!!

Guided 'Mala' Walk with a Park Ranger

Guided ‘Mala’ Walk with a Park Ranger

Men's Cave

Men’s Cave

Kids on the Mala Walk - it was freezing that morning!

Kids on the Mala Walk – it was freezing that morning!

Mala Walk

Mala Walk

The rock looks beautiful with the early morning sun on it

The rock looks beautiful with the early morning sun on it

Mala Walk

Mala Walk

Then we head off on our own to walk around the base of Uluru

Then we head off on our own to walk around the base of Uluru

Tobes sooooo determined to walk the whole way!

Tobes sooooo determined to walk the whole way!

Brothers walking

Brothers walking

Jacko tried to carry the heavy backpack for a while!

Jacko tried to carry the heavy backpack for a while!

'Wait for me' says Lex

‘Wait for me’ says Lex

Walking

Walking

Rest stop

Rest stop

Matt & the kids

Matt & the kids

Rest stop - we loved the wooden seats!

Rest stop – we loved the wooden seats!

Beautiful

Beautiful

Great shot Matt got

Great shot Matt got

Another beautiful waterhole

Another beautiful waterhole

Soooo peaceful!

Soooo peaceful!

The only thing we didn’t get time to do at Uluru were the free activities on offer at the resort such as the Aboriginal Cultural dance show and boomerang throwing and some bush yarns etc.  We just ran out of time – another night would have been great but it was expensive at $50 a night – and we have began to realise that we can’t do everything – sometimes a quiet afternoon relaxing at camp is required to keep us all sane!!!  A reason to revisit!

Sunrise on Uluru from the campground

Sunrise on Uluru from the campground

Dinner at Uluru

Dinner at Uluru

Kids at Uluru

Kids at Uluru

Sunset over Uluru

Sunset over Uluru

Categories: Camping, NT Camping, Travel | Tags: | 7 Comments

Uluru – The Climb

20130629-101627.jpgWe know not everybody is happy with our decision to climb Uluru but we hope that you can see from Matt’s post on the matter that it was not a decision we made easily (in fact much more difficult than we expected once we were actually there!) and we tried to tread as lightly as possible – being sure to keep on the marked path and leave no rubbish or toilet waste as we went and to take the climb seriously and stay safe (these along with the obvious sacred nature of the site are the most common issues with climbing the rock).  We don’t regret doing the climb – it was an amazing experience – one that I will never forget and I know Jack and Matt never will either!  It was very hard work – especially for those with no climbing experience like ourselves and I really had to give myself a talking to a few times to keep going as it was soooooo high and breathtaking.  We saw people doing the climb in ugg boots and thongs which was just crazy!!!!  It was our last day  at Uluru before I tackled the climb early one morning on my own – mostly because I just couldn’t not climb – I didn’t think I would ever get the chance to do something again like that in my life.  I had a good little chat to Uncle Murray who just happened to call my mobile just as I reached the top and sat down!  Hehehehe – nice to share the moment Uncle Murray!

Anyway – we wanted to share some photos and a short video of our experience – it was beautiful and so very different up there – it almost felt like we were on the moon.  Jack really is so proud of the fact that he did it – something he and Matt will share forever – they were both on a high that afternoon – a shared moment that I hope you can tell from Matt’s post – was a real father/son bonding experience.

We can definitely see why Uluru is such a sacred place for the Aboriginal people and it will live forever in our family memories now also.

The boys at the start

The boys at the start

Jacko starting to climb

Jacko starting to climb

Very steep

Very steep

Absolutely beautiful

Absolutely beautiful

Jacko talking to mum & the kids on the UHF about half way up

Jacko talking to mum & the kids on the UHF about half way up

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Jacko climbing

Jacko climbing

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Beautiful views of The Olga's

Beautiful views of The Olga’s

Checking out the view over the side

Checking out the view over the side

Great views!

Great views!

Jacko so proud to make it to the top

Jacko so proud to make it to the top

Having a look at the weather station at the top

Having a look at the weather station at the top

Me at the top

Me at the top

Scary!

Scary!

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The kids and I!

The kids and I!

Categories: Camping, NT Camping, Travel | 4 Comments

Uluru, to climb or not to climb?

Uluru at dusk

You would have to be living under a pretty big rock, (Did you like like that? See what I did there?) not to know that there is some controversy these days around climbing Australia’s most iconic attraction.

Since the 1940’s “The Rock” has been a worldwide destination and until only recently, climbing it was marketed as the thing to do, the whole point of visiting it. Well known as being a very difficult climb, it has attracted visitors from far and wide to come and “conquer” it.

These days it is very different. Whilst you are still allowed to climb it, it is not encouraged, in fact, it is beginning to err on the side of being frowned upon, socially taboo if you like. (The badges and stubby coolers available in the souvenir shop now state ” I didn’t Climb Uluru”)

You would be hard pressed not to take two steps once inside the national park without being presented with sometimes subtle, sometimes downright confronting (37 people have died climbing Uluru) information attempting to give you a different reason for visiting other then trampling over the top of it.

Let me try and give you an insight into the journey I have taken over the last few days at Uluru.

I am a sceptic, I’m more a believer of the sciences then the spiritual so when people say things like “there is something magical/mystical about that place” or, “I took a piece of it home when I visited and we had 3 flat tyres and a breakdown on the way home, nothing but bad luck since I took that piece home” I smile and nod and walk away, discreetly calling the people with the nice white jackets with one sleeve to come pick them up.

I came to Uluru to do one thing, test some more of my photography skills and try and get a keeper that would go straight to the pool room. Jack was interested in climbing it, so I also figured if he didn’t chicken out once we got here, it would be a fun thing to do with my little man.

On the first sighting, approx 40klms out from Yulara (the campground/resort you have to stay in, still 20klms from the rock itself) I was impressed. As we got closer it became apparent just how big it is. I guess growing up in Australia I have seen so many photos of it, I was probably a bit desensitised. We pulled in, set up right on dusk, and walked up a little hill to a look out and watched the sunset on the rock. Again, I was impressed.

The next day we went into the park, and with every kilometre closer, it simply got bigger and bigger until we were at the cultural centre (this is where every piece of information about the park recommends you begin, to the point that there is actually nothing giving clear directions on how to even get to the rock itself) This pretty much ensures that any first timers are almost guaranteed to see the cultural centre before the rock itself.

Jess and I have travelled a bit, we have walked through our fair share of “interpretation centres” good and bad. This would be the best I have seen. It was so natural, so symbiotic, so unobtrusive inside and out that it was easy to assimilate into the surroundings, become immersed.

The overwhelming message here is about respecting the traditional owners “Tjukurpa” or Law. I’ll try not to offend here, but in the interest of documenting my journey, this will be honest. My experiences (and therefore opinion) thus far with the Aboriginal people has not been positive. Throw a word like “Tjukurpa” at me and it might as well be a made up word the B(ig)F(reindly)G(iant) uses. I had always dismissed all this “frogscollop” about rainbow serpents creating river systems and Goanna men dying on the coast line creating the dividing range as complete bollocks.

This cultural centre, in these surroundings, done so naturally, depicted the aboriginal stories that would be told to their children, boys preparing to become men specifically, stories relating to Uluru in such a way that I began to understand them, believe them? Each of the stories outlined a character or group of characters, a problem or conflict, a solution or result, and the underlying message was about right and wrong, cause and effect, morals by which to live by, all of which were no different to the lessons I was taught as a child, and that I attempt to instil in my children…… so was it really all frogscollop? As with everything we encounter that is unknown, we try to relate it to something we do know, we are simple beings…. I began to think about our bible (let’s just stick with general Christianity for the moment). Did some bloke with a wicked beard really build a boat big enough to fit two of every animal and then go on a round the world cruise for 40 days and nights as the planet turned completely aqueous?

So as the stories continued throughout the centre, solidifying the understanding of how sacred Uluru is, tossing in a bunch of good ole fashioned science (the fact that Uluru really is a giant water catchment in an otherwise arid landscape, with many waterholes, sustaining life, plants and animals as well as shelters that so perfectly protect their inhabitants from the elements) my respect for “The Rock” and how for at least 50,000 years it had supported life, made me wonder…… there really is a hell of a lot more to this place then simply rocking up in my air conditioned 4wd, lacing up my “Made in Bangladesh” Nike’s and trampling my way up the side of an equivalent 95 story building.

So, this brings me back to my original question, to climb or not to climb…..

Well….. Jack and I climbed Uluru, and you want to know why? If this place has been the life blood of generations of the oldest living human race on the planet, a place of learning, a place where boys became men, then “conquering it” with my little man, teaching him along the way there is a time to talk and a time to be silent and concentrate, when it gets hard….just keep going, nothing great is easy, and a little science along the way (discussing the erosion, formation of the grooves, the geological make up) then the way I see it, Uluru has and will continue to play it’s role today, and for many more in the future.

By the way, call in the white coats with one sleeve, there IS something rather special about this place.

Categories: Camping, NT Camping, Travel | Tags: | 4 Comments

Mudtank to Uluru

So, as you have guessed from Matt’s last post we headed from zircon fossicking at Mudtank pretty much straight to Uluru.  We left mudtank just as the weather started to turn very cold, very windy and a bit showery.  We had a quick stop in to check out the campground at Gemtree which looked really nice and the kids enjoyed having a wonder through the gem shop there and seeing some of the lovely jewellry that can be made from the rocks around the Harts Range area – we are looking forward to seeing what the ones we have found will look like all cut and polished by Grunda!!

Gemtree

Gemtree

From there we hit the end of the Plenty Highway – hooray!  We had to get a photo of us crossing the ‘Tropic of Capricorn’ line but found it very tricky to explain this invisible line down the middle of Australia to the kids!

We survived the Plenty Highway

We survived the Plenty Highway

The Tropic of Capricorn

The Tropic of Capricorn

Next we hit Alice Springs for a quick overnight stop as we needed to do a big grocery shop, fill up our gas bottle, do three loads of washing and have a much needed hot shower!  We were really surprised by how scenic the drive in to Alice Springs was – really beautiful and not dry and desserty like we expected!  We stayed at the Heavitree Caravan Park which was pretty cheap ($27 for a site for the night) and it was ok, but very busy and a bit dirty in the amenities etc.  A note for Alice Springs is that you need to pay 50cents to use the public toilets – just something we weren’t expecting!  We are planning on coming back through Alice Springs in a couple of weeks so will do some of the touristy stuff then!

And then it was on to Uluru – a place we were all looking forward to visiting on this trip!  We  had a quick toilet and coffee stop at Stuart’s Well which looks like a nice place to camp and checked out the emu’s and camels there.

Stuart's Well

Stuart’s Well

Two hours later we stopped for lunch (its about a four hour drive from Alice Springs to Uluru) on the side of the road and I will never forget overhearing Toby say to Jack when he hopped out of the car and started to climb up a sand dune to have a look, ‘Jacko, its soooooo tiny!!’ in such a hugely disappointed voice!  He thought we were at Uluru and the sand dune was it!  Hehehehehehe – so funny had us all laughing for ages and Tobes of course was cranky at being laughed at!

Our next stop was Mt Connor (Jack had to send a photo to his mate Connor!) which often gets mistaken for Uluru – it is huge in its own right!  We crossed over there road here and climbed a very red sand dune to discover a big salt lake on the other side!  Amazing!  The kids loved the novelty of the red sand!

Mt Connor from a distance - tricks you into thinking it is Uluru!

Mt Connor from a distance – tricks you into thinking it is Uluru!

Mt Connor

Mt Connor

Lex loved the red sand - her 'Kanga' is going everywhere with her - thank you Keria

Lex loved the red sand – her ‘Kanga’ is going everywhere with her – thank you Keria

Salt Lake

Salt Lake

Then Uluru came into sight and it just got bigger and bigger the closer we got!

First sighting of Uluru

First sighting of Uluru

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We camped at the campground at Yulara which is the resort township about 20km’s from the rock.  It was a nice campground with great amenities but obviously very busy with lots of tourists.  It was freezing during our time there – I even had to scrape the ice of the windscreen at 7.30am one morning before heading out to the rock – brrrrrr!  Anyway – we had a brilliant four nights camping here exploring Uluru and Kata Tjuta (The Olgas) – I will get some photos and a post on those next – sooooo many beautiful photos from our time there so very hard to choose some to share!

The drive out to Uluru

The drive out to Uluru

First sunset over Uluru from the campground

First sunset over Uluru from the campground

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