Rocks, River Beds and Ancient Gorgeous Gorges

We have been without signal for some days but have enjoyed the most amazing vistas and got the trucks a new shade of “Dust”.
We got close up and personal with the sacred and big rock, Uluru. We watched the sun set and colour it magnificently – always finishing with a magical glow – from afar and from near. The show she put on was simply spectacular. We walked around the base and gazed at the changing colours and shapes up close. We saw her at sunrise from the back of camels – Diesel, Jill and Barnaby – and we flew in a scary chopper to see her in splendid isolation, rising high and in from the desert wilderimage image image image image image image image image image image image image image image image image image image image image image image image imageness. In the front seat, I kept hold of GoPro and camera so as not to touch anything – all those knobs, dials and buttons and no good handholds – not a good scenario! P kept things under control in the back, slapping hands if anyone’s paw looked like moving towards the ‘open/lock’ slider. Having gazed down in awe at the Rock, we flew over Kata Tjuta ( the Olgas). Mystically they sit, again, an isolated group of smooth, rounded rocks – not unlike a very large bunch of haemorrhoids from a distance!
I also saw the rocks at sunrise taking one for the team as they stayed warm in their beds – just sayin’). Fingers of sunlight first tickled and then touched the rocks – gradually lighting them up until they shone in the early morning light.
Next we headed around the Mereenie Loop to test the vans on rocks, dirt and corrugations and all parts remained in place. Helen Gorge was our next camp – situated towards the western end of the West McDonnells. The gorge was gorgeous and has a permanent waterhole ( one of six in the Finke River). The rock face rising majestically behind the homestead glowed with an orange hue evening and morning.
We visited Palm Valley and Boggy Hole – both all day adventures driving in sand, across boulders and rocks and along the Ellery Creek and Finke River beds. Palm Valley is home to West McDonnell Cycads – ancient and only found here. The rainforest is alive and well. We walked through ancient valleys and clambered across oxide stained boulders. We ate pies in the Finke River ( courtesy of the magnificent pie oven) which now needs a sports bra in the form of strapping following some deeply corrugated tracks.
Boggy Hole, a remote spot seen by Giles on his travels, lived up to its name as Steve provided a demonstration of how to best use MaxTrax in deep sand recovery. Moira simply drove straight across.
This day provided a wonderful stream of beautiful vistas, one after another as we made our way south along the Finke. White Ghost Gums shone brightly against the luminescent red rock faces rising high above. This ancient land is majestic and the art of Albert Namitjera was evident at every turn.
We drove and walked and clambered into stunning gorges, carved by the mighty Finke over the last 700 million years.
We sit in Alice now, awaiting the coldest night in their history!

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The very Centre – the gravitational one

On Friday we continued north across more saltbush scrub, desert and gibber lined road stretching on and on eventually disappearing into the horizon.
Crossing the into Northern Territory brought about a different landscape. The Buffer grass, so carefully plucked and eradicated strand by strand in South Australia, covered every spare bit of ground. The grass was originally thought to be an effective dust dampener but has proved to be a fire hazard and bullies the other vegetation into submission, recognised by SA conservationists and a source of contention between the two states.

Stuart crossed what would become our path on 11th July 1861 and again on July 14th 1862, so he picked the right time of year to travel.

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We pulled into Kulgera- the first and last roadhouse/pub/fuel in the NT. A sandy, dusty campground with solar showers and no water but serving our purpose well for a couple of nights stop. The Bocce Championship of 2015 commenced with Sue taking out the first night’s competition.

On Friday we continued north across more saltbush scrub, desert and gibber lined road stretching on and on eventually disappearing into the horizon.

Crossing the into Northern Territory brought about a different landscape. The Buffer grass, so carefully plucked and eradicated strand by strand in South Australia, covered every spare bit of ground. The grass was originally thought to be an effective dust dampener but has proved to be a fire hazard and bullies the other vegetation into submission, recognised by SA conservationists and a source of contention between the two states.

Stuart crossed what would become our path on 11th July 1861 and again on July 14th 1862, so he picked the right time of year to travel.

We pulled into Kulgera- the first and last roadhouse/pub/fuel in the NT. A sandy, dusty campground with solar showers and no water but serving our purpose well for a couple of nights stop. The Bocce Championship of 2015 commenced with Sue taking out the first night’s competition.

Day trip to Lambert’s gravitational centre of Australia. There is a bit of confusion and controversy about the precise location of the centre of Australia and in 1988 the Royal Geographical Society of Australasia decided that the centre is at the Lambert Gravitational Centre – about 142 km NE of Kulgera in the NT. The road from Kulgera is red dirt and was recently graded and the fun came after the turn off. We twisted and turned along a single track of deep sand and deeper corrugations – the rains had taken out parts of the track which almost resulted in a two lane one way system for much of the route – but not the bit where we met a fourby and trailer in tow. Luckily Steve and I both have the ability to drive the trucks at 45 degree angles along the piled sand at the edges.

The centre has a flagpole, plague, visitor’s book provided by the Toyota Club ( Victorian Branch) and a long drop toilet. All very handy items in such an isolated location.image

Stuart crossed what is now the Kulgera-Finke Road at a point very close to Lambert’s in his 1860-62 trip.

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Today we arrived at Yulara and gazed in awe as the sun set on the beautiful, magnificent, powerful Rock. Tomorrow we will get a up close and personal. In the meantime, the roast smells delicious as it cooks itself to perfection in the baby Weber as the sun set on the beautiful, magnificent, powerful Rock. Tomorrow we will get a up close and personal. In the meantime, the roast smells delicious as it cooks itself to perfection in the baby Weber.

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Uranium, saltbush and dust

Roxby Downs, a station in the desert transformed by, and arguably owned by, Bhp Bullitin. Shiny houses with stones and mulch for lawns ( in appropriate desert fashion) lining neat and quiet streets. Few people and only the odd trace of a dog. Houses are not cheap and the car wash/launderette is for sale. The water is piped from the great artesian basin and comes to the town via the desalination plant ( courtesy of Bhp who uses 35 million litres per day). Electricity travels from Port Augusta and the town gets the left over power after the mine has had its fill – in summer the mine is hungry and the town goes dark. The town council is appointed by the State Government, not elected. The mine itself is the size of a small town and includes the underground, bit down to about 1km, and gi-enormous above ground 7 step processing plants for copper, uranium, gold and silver. Copper is the big cash converter with uranium following up with the largest deposit, so far discovered, in the world. Silver and gold are considered added bonuses. The health risk management strategies for personnel and uranium dust seem comprehensive ……… but only as long as you are an employee of The Company. Long term follow does not seem to be an option. Watch this space Bhp.

We took a tour of the mine site – firearms, drugs and cameras not allowed on site the sign said – the scene was that of a b movie set with huge dirty brown tanks, vats and boxes, connected by a matrix of huge dirty brown pipes ……. times at least twenty – all connected. The skyline was dotted by piles of boulders ( all potential ore); huge, huge grey pipes feeding air underground; the three mine shafts silhouetted against the skyline; and dozens of dusty Toyotas with flashing lights, driven by men in hard hats, goggles and grubby orange uniforms carrying payloads in red metal boxes labelled ‘explosives’.

We then headed to the Arid Recovery – an arid ecosystem restoration project – http://www.aridrecovery.org.au – aiming to restore the ecosystem to pre-cat/fox/rabbit days. After lunch we headed to Andamooka – a small town populated by noodles seeking their evidently elusive fortunes and colourful characters choosing to not to live under the spotlight of government bureaucracy!

However, there were no people nor dogs nor any signs of life in this small town. Free flu vaccines were offered and the teeny tiny post office, it’s walls lined with yellow phone books, sat with its door open and a note to call a number if assistance was required. The shiny new building housing the health centre was closed – call this number – said the sign on the door. We moved on, crossing gibber plains, over dunes and through swales until we ran out of mapped track – well, onward until we met the edge of Lake Torrens – seemingly dry for the most part but with water shimmering in the distance and the tell tales ruts as others before had played in the clay pan.

 

We set of early and headed north across mile after mile of desert peppered with saltbush and the occasional Mulga tree. Wedge Tailed Eagles and their offsider Crows’ dined on roadkill of every variety. The long straight road and the beating sun ( yes, it is warming up) together with a Dan Brown audio book created a soporific effect broken by the crackle of the UHF and the chewing of gum. Endless gibber plains stretched in every direction – mounds 150 metres high are grandiosely called hills and ranges and almost break up the landscape.

Coober Pedy, where every drop of water is piped in and is liquid gold, provides our dusty abode for the night.

   
               

At Roxby Downs

We have arrived at Roxby Downs – exit the Stuart Highway at Pimba, pass by the Stepford town of Woomera, the off-limits Area 51 giant golfball of Pine Gap and continue east across 83km of scrub and large flat areas of red dirt called lagoons and lakes. 

But back to four days ago. We met up at Wagga with its solid sandstone buildings and wide streets and continued west along the Sturt Highway.

The Hay plains were dressed in green with Saltbush bows instead of her usual dusty brown frock. Bails of cotton rolled and wrapped in plastic were waiting patiently in lines stretching as far as the eye could see. It has been harvest time; no wonder the Murrumbidgee languishes low and sad, the mighty gums lining her route standing naked at their roots. 
We free camped on the Murrumbidgee at Hay. The lamb cutlets sizzled on the biji, only one got flavoured with fresh ash; the foot long sausages snaked around the biji plate, sizzling and dancing as the glowing coals gave off their intense heat. Fire monitor duties had to start early to create a good stove top of glowing coals.

The next night we set up camp at Lyrup Flats on the banks of the Murray. The sun set behind the mighty gums, reflecting on the waters of the Murray and adding a iridescent glow to the reflections in the water of the gums on the opposite bank. Pelicans were nesting and chatting loudly about their day’s fishing. Others were returning home following a long day out fishing. 

I have not been idle and have learned how to clip a magnetic brake pad in and fix a gas hot water system with spit on a finger (yes…. but effective). 

Monday we spent the day driving through the undulating foothills of the Flinders having left the Sturt and turned north west to follow the Goyder Highway. We stopped for fuel and bakeries in old and pretty towns like Morgan, Burra and Crystal Brook. 

The bush was peppered with the sandstone monuments to settlers of old, driven away by the harsh conditions and lack of water. If only they could come back now – the hills are lush and green. The sheep were chewing on the fat of the land in conditions ne’er seen by them or generations of scrawny lambs past.
Mount Remarkable National Park sits at the western edge of the Flinders Ranges and Mambray Creek campground provided the most beautiful camp. Majestic Red Gums guarding the creek in the Mount Remarkable National Park. A creek in name only – more a winding roadway of stones and boulders with the occasional pool mirroring those mighty gums. We walked along the path as it wound its way through Nukunu Country and posed in the tunnel created by a giant red gum split as it rose from the earth like a giant fat beanstalk. Behind us a baby joey was eating tea in bed as mum grazed further up the incline. Enough, with a full tummy he rolled around and lay head down, feet protruding as mum adjusted her position for the layabout offspring.

Magnificent was the light on the trees, with clear skies, bright stars and Venus arising as bright and clear as the waxing moon.

   
                             

Filling the tanks, tightening the nuts, cooling the beer

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The Wolf Pack are getting ready and set to go. Once more, Steve and Sue, Moira and Patricia are gearing up for another jaunt chewing dust and cracking teeth on the corrugations, floating on sand and gazing in awe at the beautiful vistas that will furnish our view and treat our gaze in every direction. for example – Ormiston Gorge was looking pretty lovely last time we were there – can’t wait to be there again

Ormiston Gorge, NT

Ormiston Gorge, NT

More soon….. watch this space!!

The Virtual International Practice Development Conference is fast approaching …..

The clock is ticking – just (only, merely, without-exception, pretty-near) 22 days until the VIPDC15 commencing at 8am UK time on May 12th. Have a look at the website to register here https://sites.google.com/site/2015vipdc/home
and Check out the video here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U1mpQtn8RP0&feature=youtu.be

VIPDC15

It’s been a while – but…… I am very excited – The Virtual International Practice Development Conference Website is now live (VIPDC15).
This virtual conference will run for 24 hours, is free to attend and creates a space for the cultivation of ideas and rich discussion without having to leave the comfort of your own home – or even pyjamas ……
Have a look here and spread the word https://sites.google.com/site/2015vipdc/home

VIPDC15

VIPDC15