Day 27 – 31 July 2012 – At Jabiru

The Weatherheads and the Thomas’ have gone their different ways for a few days. Bruce and Linda are really keen on doing bush walks etc. whereas Ian and I are keen on the wetlands – cruises etc. so we will do our own thing in Kakadu and meet somewhere in Darwin in a few days time.

We started off together this morning though and at the first Tourist Info. Centre (Goymarr Interpretative Centre) we paid $25 each for a 14 day permit to enter Kakadu, and to get brochures and advice of ‘what to do in Kakadu’. The lady behind the counter was  most helpful but most of the places in Kakadu are changing to only aboriginal names and when she used these names we felt a little lost for a while, but in the end found that the maps were fairly easy to follow. Once again we are amazed with the efficiency and organisation of touristy-type venues and centres. Of course, the economy needs the tourist dollar, and they certainly go out of their way to make things accessible. This Kakadu Road is in perfect condition like all the others we have been on so far.

Our first stop together was a small place called ‘The Rock Hole’ – a short walk into a little area with a waterhole and waterfall. Very pretty. This is the first time (and certainly will not be the last for a quite a few weeks now) when we saw a WARNING – CROCODILES! sign.

We then drove on while Bruce and Linda stopped for morning tea. They were hoping to stop at Mardugal – a small camping/caravan area just before Cooinda which was where Ian and I were heading next. As neither of their phones work outside of major towns and cities (Optus!) we are trusting we can use email to communicate with each other as they have a Telstra Broadband facility for their laptop.

We arrived at Cooinda around 12.45, just in time to buy tickets to go on a cruise along the Yellow Water Wetlands which was to start around 1.15pm. It meant we had to miss lunch, but we didn’t mind. There were only six of us on the bus to the venue and the same six on the small boat (a large bus group of Italian tourists came, but because they needed an interpreter our guide decided they should go on another boat). It was ideal as we had the run of the boat and could talk freely with the guide. We had a fabulous time. It was what I hoped it would be and MORE.

Jabiru on nest high in a tree

We saw crocodiles (of course) all forms of ducks and water birds, sea eagles, brolgas, Jabirus (two adults sitting on a nest high in a tree and a juvenile walking amongst the reeds), an azure kingfisher, water lillies in profusion, and just amazing scenery. The guide said only a couple of months ago the water level was at least 2 to 3 metres higher than what it was today. Hard to imagine. The sight of crocodiles sunning on banks, or swimming, are great but it makes you realise just how dangerous these waters are. The guide said only last week an injured bird landed on the water and in less than the blink of an eye there were 8 crocs heading its way – none of which had been visible prior to the bird falling. Scary!

There were some chaps fishing (no licence is required – only rule is no bait/only lures). Our guide said he was fishing yesterday and caught 126 barramundi (kept only 2). At the moment the barramundi are the main food source for the crocs.

Crocodile sunning himself

An hour and half later, just as our boat arrived at the dock, we were all informed that an aboriginal smoking ceremony was to take place in respect of the death of an esteemed female elder who had died a few days ago. It was interesting to watch as a smoking container was carried around all the 4 boats moored while 2 fellows played the message sticks and didgeridoo, with the chap with the sticks chanting all the time.

Part of the smoking ceremony

We were a little amused when they struggled to get the leaves and bark to smoke and had to borrow a cigarette lighter to get it started! All this land is owned by the aboriginal people and they do a great job staffing these venues. We were then driven back to Cooinda to pick up our car and caravan.

The tourist visitor info. centre at Cooinda was unbelievable. Out in the middle of nowhere was this top quality  huge restaurant/lodge/bistro/caravan and camping park with a very picturesque swimming pool. There would have been well over 100 people eating lunch in the dining area which was very flash. Is there no-one left working in Australia? Is everyone travelling like us? Certainly seems like it!

It was 3pm before we left there and drove straight to Jabiru. Again a real surprise. Top quality caravan park with over 200 powered sites as well as cabins and motel rooms. There is also a large area for unpowered camping. The cost tonight was $34.90. Kakadu is certainly a very popular area. The most common accent we hear amongst fellow travellers is german, and the most popular form of  transport for these overseas tourists seem to be the Britz or Apollo Campervan (or other brand names). Tonight at this Park there was an entertainer at the large recreation/pool/bar area. He was a singer, playing his guitar. He sang for over 3 hours and he was very good. He sang most of the songs we have on I-Pod!! There are people here of all ages from older retired couples to families with young children. All ages are catered for that’s for sure.

For many days now we have passed ‘control burns’ (apart from yesterday when a fire bug lit them), some have been from weeks ago and some are still burning quite actively, and we found out today that, just like in Victoria, it is a very controversial subject. Many of the locals (within the indigenous and academic community) differ on its value. The ones who have the opposing view say that that they are doing too much and too late. However, like in Victoria, there are those who say it is good. There were many fires still roaring today along the Kakadu Road.

We took the opportunity tonight to SKYPE Andrew, Lisa and Will in Geelong. It was lovely to be able to see them again. That is the one drawback of a long trip – missing family and friends.

Today’s temp was around 30C – for the first time, for who knows how long, Ian never had a jumper on all day!

Love to all, Janese and Ian

Day 26 – 30 July 2012 – At Pussy Cat Flats

Yes, that is the name of the place. It is 2 km. east of a small township called Pine Creek and is on the Kakadu Road. So for the first time for a while we are no longer on the Stuart Highway.

Today was another lovely day weatherwise, but as soon as we headed off we noticed a very heavy haze in the distance – obviously smoke. This haze stayed around all day and Ian and I thought it was to do with controlled burning which is frequently done up here. But Linda found out that there is a fire-bug in the area and so far over 22 fires have been lit. There were fire engines in the distance and it was obvious that more than just grass and scrub was burning. There was no danger to us on the road, but it is terrible to think that someone can cause so much distress to so many people.

Fire in the distance

After leaving Mataranka we stopped at Katherine (105 kms from Mataranka) and took the time to buy food etc. to see us through the next few days while we are in the Kakadu area. We have heard that shops are in short supply there. There was a Target Country there too so I managed to buy some bathers, so can now swim whenever the opportunity arises. We also topped up with medicines and I was able to get a battery for my watch which had stopped way back in Peterborough. I  know that now we are ‘retired’ time should not be an issue, but I really missed not being able to easily tell the time. Ian has not worn a watch for years so he was no help! Linda kindly lent me a spare watch of hers but it was good to get my own workiing again.While in Katherine we parked in a Van roadside stop right in the town and by the time we finished shopping it was lunch time so we had a quick lunch before setting off. We also refuelled on our way out of town. Diesel was 150.5c a litre – this included the Coles 4c a litre discount. The most we have paid so far is $1.95 (twice) at Curtin Springs and Dunmarra. We believe it was over $2 a litre at Uluru. We are averaging around $1.60 per litre so far.The various Parks we stop out also have a range of fees. Tonight’s is $21 for 2 people (powered). The $41 at Alice is the most we have paid, and the $6.60 at Devil’s Marbles was the lowest. Mind you, the old adage “YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR” is certainly true! We have also found it handy to have $1 and $2 coins available for use of the washing machines and/or dryers. We are becoming very travel savvy! There are also different names for the toilet facilities. Curtin Springs had SHEILAS  and BLOKES, whereas here tonight they are named SHE CATS and TOM CATS! Another interesting difference in the Parks is that in Mataranka and at Dunmarra the facilities were uni-sex. Instead of separate toilets and showers, these cubicles were like a small ensuite with toilet/shower/basin. They were prefabricated tin sheds (tin because of the termites we guess) and were a great idea for families and couples.

This Park tonight is situated on a Race Course (no longer in use) and has a small bar/dining area attached to it.

Dining section at the small pub

In typical N.T. style it has just a roof and no walls. There is a menu up on the wall, so Ian and I will be taking the chance to have a meal cooked for us. For $15 we can get a hot fish/chips/vegies meal. Sounded good to me. Bit better than the eggs on toast I had originally planned for my night off from cooking! It was quite nice.

Finally was able to get a photo of the large termite mounds which are prolific in certain areas. They seem to be getting bigger as we travel further north.

Large termite mound at Pussy Cat Flats

The weather is around 28C and there is a lovely cool breezing blowing.

I haven’t mentioned much about the Aboriginal people. They have certainly not been a bother at all, but we are saddened to see them so aimless. They sit around under trees right in the centre of towns and all they seem to be doing is eating take-away food and drinking coke. All the towns here are ‘dry’ so the alcohol problems of  years ago and now no longer evident, although that does not mean they have gone away. Another concern is that it appears many of the children do not seem to go to school at all. The only place we saw no children on the street during a school day was Tennant Creek and we were impressed with the size of the school there and could see the children out doing P.E. but in all the other towns, during school hours, aboriginal school age children are on the streets on their scooters etc. – just playing or hanging around the older kids or adults, but certainly not learning. The ads on the TV here are constantly aimed at the indigenous people encouraging them to go to school, not to steal other people’s property, and respect others. It is a big issue and certainly not easily resolved.

Talking about different ads. on the T.V. There is one telling children to always remember to wash their hands many, many times a day – owing to a high concentration of lead in the air. It may just be for the residents of Mount Isa or certain mining areas, but the ad appears on the local T.V. The T.V. news here is from Queensland and ads. cover all the way to Roma, the Darling Downs, and S.A.

Just as we were finishing tea a few fellows pulled up for a drink at the pub – they were in worker’s clothing with luminous hoops and they all looked like Al Jolson. You could tell they were not aboriginal, but they were black – their faces, their arms, their clothes, their boots. Ian asked them what they did to get so dirty and they said they were working at a nearby iron ore mine and it is a different type of iron ore compared to W.A. iron ore and it very greasy and sticky. He told Ian that when they have a shower they have to use Palmolive Dishwashing liquid to remove the dirt. So I went up and asked them if they would allow me to take a photo so I could put it into my blog and they kindly agreed. The cook was talking to us too and she said the floor around the bar, and then the floor of the shower is RED when they have left. And we think dairy farming can be dirty!

Iron ore workers

As we move into the Kakadu region there is the strong possibility that once again we will out of mobile/internet access so I will catch up with my blog whenever it is possible. Love to all, Janese and Ian

Day 25 – 29th July 2012 – still at Mataranka

There won’t be much to write in today’s blog. Today was to be a rest day and that is what it was. I took the opportunity to catch up on all the washing and it was a great day to do it. There was a good breeze blowing so everything was dry by lunchtime. I also took the opportunity to wash Ian’s woollen jumpers – today is the first day he has not had to wear one!! The only photo I took today was of the laundry line just to show the lovely bougainvilla growing there. All the plants and trees here certainly are showing us we are in a tropical area.

Bougainvilla at washing line

Ian met up with a fellow ‘Traveller’ caravan owner who was also pulling his van with a Landcruiser so he came over to see the special pull-out side mirrors which we have. In the end they got to talking and this chap had been unable to work out some of the electrics which control all the 12v solar system. Ian was able to show him how ours worked and this chap was so pleased as he had not been able to work it out for the 2 years he had his Caravan. Later on in the day another similar Van to ours pulled in and Ian was able to have a long chat with them as well. Just like us they love their Vans and are very pleased with their choice.Some of our near ‘neighbours’ have been giving us advice on various things to do when we get to Western Australia. If we do all that we have been advised over the past couple of weeks we will need years, not weeks!! However, it is good to hear such great reports. I guess the main advice we get is ‘just do it’. Our Vans are in a sort of semi-circle and beside Bruce and Linda’s are a couple called Bruce and Jan. So in these 4 vans there are 2 Bruce’s, 2 Jan’s, 2 Ians, 1 Janese and 1 Linda. Some names are common!!!

Late this afternoon Ian decided to go for a swim in the thermal pool. He enjoyed it. The water was crystal clear and was quite warm. It is estimated to be about 32C. The Weatherheads and the Baulchs went too. Ian Baulch’s ankle is a lot better today so that is good.

Although I am saying we are at Mataranka, this Caravan Park is a few kilometres out of the town in an area called Bitter Springs – so named when, in the latter part of the 19th century, surveyors for the Overland Telegraph Line tasted the water and declared it ‘bitter’. None of us has been game enough to actually drink it but when it has splashed into mouths while swimming no-one noticed any bitter taste.

We have begun to notice the lack of twilight now we are in the tropics. It is amazing how quickly darkness comes when the sun sets.

Love to all, Janese and Ian

Day 24 – 28th July 2012 – at Mataranka

We left in a leisurely fashion after having a lovely quiet night at Dunmarra.

If you look on a map we are now in a latitude position almost up to Cooktown so naturally the scenery is beginning to change. The road once again was superb. At one stage we had to pull right over as a wide load was heading south. So glad it wasn’t in front of us as we would never have been able to pass it. There were 2 trucks both carrying a hugh excavator bucket each.

Our first stop was Daly Waters where there are remnants of another WWII airfield. Daly Waters is famous for its old historic pub, the inside of which is absolutely cluttered with all different sorts of collections – hats/t.shirts/paper money from all countries/stickers – you name it, it was there!

Just on the outskirts of the town is the trunk of a dead tree with a large engraved ‘S’ (now barely visible unfortunately) which was made by the explorer John McDouall Stuart on his next (and last) major expedition in which he succeeded in reaching the northern coast of Australia after setting out from Adelaide. This was May 1862. Interestingly, it was almost 80 years later, when soldiers began photographing this ‘S’ that its significance became fully realised. The tree is now in a small fenced area, but it is rather neglected.

The ‘S’ Tree at Daly Waters

We did a small self guided walk around the town. By the time we finished the walk we were all rather warm, so we are finally in warmer climes!

We drove on to a small town called Larrimah – nothing much to write about there. However, there was a small store which sold home made pies/pasties etc. which Ian and I thought would be a change for lunch. Well, the woman running this small shop was a bit of a character – having her own rules for patrons and yelling at anyone who did not obey them. We came along soon after some travellers had suffered her tirade, so very cautiously ordered 2 pasties. Much to our surprise they were $12 each. Admittedly they were very large and due to their size we managed to eat only 1, and I will freeze the other one for another day. They were quite nice thank goodness.

We then headed for Mataranka. At one stage Ian thought he saw a very tall man standing in the bush when we realised that it was a very high termite nest which had a round top like a head and someone had put a jumper and a hat on it. It really did look like a man. Later when we met up with Linda and Bruce, Linda had seen an earlier one dressed in a bra and hat!  Some people have a good sense of humour! Unfortunately we were past before we had the time to get the cameras out.

We arrived at Mataranka around 2pm. We knew we could not book in advance, but also knew it was wise to get in early. As we booked in, Bruce and Linda went ahead to find a site for both our vans when, surprise! surprise! right in the next site were Ian and Janice Baulch. I think they will think we are following them!!! Unfortunately Ian Baulch has twisted his ankle so they are taking it a bit easy.

Our tropical Van site

This Park is in a lovely spot. Bruce and Linda went for a swim in the thermal pool (after hiring a flotation device because the current takes you about 100 metres downstream and it is adviseable to have them). They enjoyed themselves. Neither Ian or I have bathers so we did not go for the swim. Plus Ian reckons it has taken him 10 weeks to get this warm — thermal pool or no thermal pool, he was not going to get cold and wet again!!! The temp. is finally in the mid 20’s, although the mornings are still cool.  Ian and I went for a walk to see the Little Roper River beside which this Park is set. We were not impressed. It looked like a stagnant water hole. The lady in the van near us also agreed. Bruce and Linda want to stay another night so we will have a bit of a rest day tomorrow. I will use this time to do washing and some housekeeping. Love to all. Janese and Ian

Day 23 – to Dunmarra

Although the night was very windy it was not cold which was good because we could not put on heaters or turn on electric blankets! We left around 8.30am and our first stop was Tennant Creek.

Gold Battery at Gold Mine in Tennant Creek

Ian wanted to go to a local Gold Mine which provided a tour of the mine and where you could see a 10-stamping battery in operation. (A battery is a large crushing machine which helps extract the gold from quartz). However, this is no longer operational but it is still on display, together with other now unused machinery so we walked around and had a good look instead. This was just out of the town so we drove into the town so Ian could post a letter. Unfortunately, the town was very uninviting so we did not stay for long.Just a few kilometres north of the town was a site for the Overland Telegraph Station base. The buildings were in remarkable condition – all up there were 12 or 13 of these stations around the 1870’s but this is one of only 4 left standing. They were built of very sold 18″ thick stone walls and this is probably the reason why they still exist because termites would have destroyed anything built of wood. Termite mounds are everywhere.

Our next stop was a place called Three Ways where the Barkly Highway from Queensland meets the Stuart Highway from Alice Springs. There was a memorial there for Rev. John Flynn (founder of the Australian Inland Mission and the Royal Flying Doctor Service) but it was close to the busy Highway it was hard to stop there. He was the man who realised that a vast area of Australia from Cloncurry to north of Adelaide, west of Perth and all the area north of both those cities was unserviced by either medical or spiritual help, and so established hospitals, nursing homes, missions etc. Greatly revered in his time but almost unknown by modern generations who take these facilities for granted today.

Memorial to Rev. John Flynn at THREE WAYS

Our next stop was another 50kms on at a spot where there was a memorial for John McDouall Stuart, an explorer who reached that point in 1861 but was driven back by an attack by aboriginals. It was beside a Creek which he called – wait for it – Attack Creek!  There was a free roadside camping spot at the ‘Stuart’ memorial so we stopped there and had lunch. Although it was just around 1.00pm it was already beginning to fill up with caravans pulling in for the night. There are a lot of caravans/campers on the road at the moment and we are beginning to notice these spots being filled very early in the day.

After leaving there we saw an ‘almost’ collision with a Road Train and a Murray Grey bull. The bull was on our side of the road (across the road were cattle yards and a few head of cattle) and behind the  bull was the drover in a Ute. We pulled up and stopped and the Road Train coming from the opposite direction decided to do the same. It took an awful long time for the Road Train to come to a halt – the smell of burning rubber lingered for some time! However, fortunately, the bull did not move across the road until the road was clear. We have nothing but admiration for these Road Train drivers. They do an excellent job.

We have actually seen very little road kill – the sides of the road are well mown, but we still have to be alert at all times for any type of animal. There are warnings all the way along the highway and we have been told not to trust fences as stock and wild animals are still a great danger. We have seen only one live kangaroo, some emus ran in front of us one day, and there certainly have been the odd cow/calf.

Again, much to our surprise the countryside was lovely.

We stopped to stretch our legs at Renner Springs and decided to try to reach Dunmarra for our night stop. We drove through a little historic town called Newcastle Waters. Such a surprise. It was just 3 kms off the road and we had to drive over a causeway which had water on both sides – it was so lovely and lush and green. Very unexpected. I managed to get a photo of a Jabiru Stork standing there.

Jabiru at waterhole – Newcastle Waters

This old town of Newcastle Waters had an old pub and an old shop – both in disrepair unfortunately. This town was also a large airfield during the second world war and the remains of this airfield are still visible. There are quite a few signs pointing out WWII army sites, usually well aware from towns or townships. To keep the soldiers out of trouble perhaps? Just before this little town was another FREE camping overnight spot . It was absolutely chockers!!! We were grateful we did not intend to try to stay there.

It was around 5.00pm by the time we got to Dunmarra. This was just a petrol station/cafe/pub but a very adequate and spacious caravan park was next door. Cost was only $19.50 per night. Much to our surprise the people we met in Alice Springs who came from Drouin were also there as well so Ian went and had a good chat. Whilst looking around the surrounds Ian & Bruce got chatting to a road train driver who had his vehicle parked at the servo. Ian will now write about this “I appreciate that not everybody is interested in these details but it will give you some idea of what and how these vehicles operate. It was a 600 HP Mack prime mover pulling 4 trailers/tankers with 74 wheels all up and was carrying 116,000 litres of diesel (if he was carrying petrol he can carry 126,000 litres of petrol because petrol is lighter than diesel).  His overall length was 53.5 metres and the whole rig weighed 147.5 tonne. He was driving the Darwin –  Alice Springs route which was 1500 Km and takes 18 hours to traverse and he would use between 1700 & 2000 litres of fuel depending on road conditions.They are only allowed to travel at a maximum speed of 90 KMPH loaded and 100 KMPH (speed limited) unloaded, and they are only allowed to drive for 14 hours and must have 7 hours of  rest during the night and are not allowed at all on the road between the hours of Midnight & 4 AM and just in case you wonder “who keeps track of all this?”, they are GPS monitored all the time so the “Boss” can find out where they are at any given time. He had been doing this job for over 18 years and is based in Alice Springs.

There is always someone to talk to and there is always something to learn. A part of this trip which Ian enjoys very much.

If anyone is not sure where these towns are which we are staying at it might be a good idea to get a good Australian road map – because even I haven’t known of some of these places until now!

At last I have caught up on the 2 nights missed because we were out of internet access.

Love to all, Janese and Ian

Day 22 – to the Devil’s Marbles

Before we hooked up our Van to leave Alice Springs, Ian took Linda and I grocery shopping so that we had enough food to get us through for a few days because for the next few nights we would be in smaller towns/parks. We left Alice Springs around 9.45am. Alice Springs was an amazing town – so very tidy and so very well set out and easy to drive around. There was quite a large CBD with all the usual shops. We were quite impressed. Well worth the visit.

Roadside vegetation out of Alice Springs

There was not too much to see on the road today but we stopped at the odd roadside memorial – some were to explorers, some were to Overland Telegraph workers and one was for a teamster. Not much information at these spots though.We pulled in at a small spot called Ti Tree and stopped for lunch. It really was just a Pub and Petrol stop. There was quite a cold wind blowing so we ate inside our vans and then pulled out and continued on.

All the Vans at Devil’s Marbles Roadside stop

We had earlier decided to pull into the Roadside Van Park available at the site of the Devil’s Marbles. It has basic facilities such as a toilet and some fireplaces. When we arrived just around 4.00pm it was almost full. The cost was $3.30 pp per night and an honesty box was left at the entrance. No generators were allowed but we were able to cope quite well as we have solar panels and batteries which gave us 12v lighting etc. We also have our own toilet and shower so were not roughing it as such.

Beginning the walk amongst the Devil’s Marbles

Once we set up we then went for a walk amongst the Marbles. Ian, Bruce and Linda climbed to the top of one of the larger stones, while I walked around a lot of the other areas. Some of the boulders are HUGE! It wasn’t until later we found out that the local indigenous people request people do not climb out of respect to their culture so we felt a little guilty. For tea we had a BBQ using our side gas BBQ but there was a very strong cold wind blowing so we did not stay out long after sunset. Much to our surprise a dingo walked through the Camp. We found out from other travellers that they had seen this dingo (and the ones at Ormiston Gorge) as well. Maybe they are paid by NT Tourism to give tourists a photographic opportunity! (Let’s hope that is not the case with crocodiles!!)

Dingo near our car at Devil’s Marbles

This dingo at the Devil’s Marbles just wandered in and out of the area a few times at a most leisurely pace – much to the chagrin of all the dogs which some people had travelling with them as they are required to be leashed at all times!! These domestic dogs barked and barked and barked and the dingo did not even look at them let alone show any reaction!  The Marbles looked quite spectacular at sunset but I did not bother to take a photo as it was around the other side of the camp and there was such a cold wind blowing. The sunrise was on the side we were parked, but I did not intend to wake up early to catch the sunrise on camera, so you’ll have to take my word for it!

Love to all, Janese and Ian

Day 21 – Wed. 25th July 2012 – Still in Alice Springs

As this was to be our last day here we all wanted to see the various gorges etc. along the MacDonnell Ranges to the west of Alice Springs, so organised an early start. We asked Ian and Janice Baulch to join us so the six of us started off reasonably early – 8.00am.

Simpsons Gap

The first stop was Simpson’s Gap (only 11 kms out of the town). Just a short walk from the car park was our first sight of these quartzite ridges.  The early morning light showing through brought out the rich orange colour of the rocks and it was lovely to see. But there was a cold wind blowing down through the gorge and it was absolutely FREEZING! However, we stayed long enough to get some good photos and hurried back to the warm Landcruiser.

The next stop was Standley Chasm. This was absolutely beautiful. We couldn’t quite make out the difference between a chasm or a gorge but the scenery was amazing. The richness of the colours is almost impossible to re-produce with a little camera like mine but I hope these photos give some idea. This chasm was also a permanent water hole with a small creek running by. There was a fairly long walk into the chasm alongside the creek on a rocky surface but it was very attractive. This section of our trip was the only one which required an entry fee as it is privately owned land. There was a large cafe and souvenir shop there also.

Walk into Standley Chasm

Next stop was Ellery Creek Big Hole. Once again it required a small walk into the area where the permanent water hole was. It was so beautiful and so unexpected in this dry arid land. There were sheer cliffs all around but there was a small sandy beach area which led to the water. Swimming is allowed but the water is nearly always freezing so precautions such as having a flotation device with you is recommended. As you can expect none of us was interested in having a swim. However, the weather itself was getting warmer as the cold wind was not at this place and the sun was shining beautifully. As it was lunch time we chose to get our lunches and sit by the waterhole as we ate. Very relaxing.

Lunch by Ellery Creek Big Hole

Next stop was the Serpentine Gorge. This required a much longer walk and rougher walk into the Gorge but well worth the effort. Everyone but me then decided to do the longer and harder climb to the top to a lookout which overlooked both sides of the gorge. It took them about an hour all up but all said it was terrific. I waited down by the car and quite enjoyed the solitude observing different birds etc. When they arrived back they all willingly had a long drink and then we were off for the next part of today’s journey.

Looking down into Serpentine Gorge

The next stop was called ‘The Ochre Pits’. This was a short walk from the parking bays and it was a section of the mountain range which was a long creek bed, the sides of which were made up of soft rock of many colors which was scraped and collected by the aborigines and made into a paint which they used to paint their bodies for ceremonial purposes or for cave painting. It also had a use for medicinal purposes.  It was considered to be the best quality of ochre amongst the aboriginal tribes and was actually a source of trade between them and one report said that it went as far as Western Australia/South Australia/Queensland. Albert Namatjira used this ochre as one source of his painting materials. The road we drove on all day today was actually called The Namatjira Drive. There was a $5,000 if anyone was caught taking or interfering with these ‘pits’ of ochre but access was unlimited.

The Ochre Pits

The day was getting late but as we were just a few kilometres from the next gorge (Ormiston) we decided to go on. We were glad we did. From the parking bay it was just 150m to the gorge along a very good walking track and it was so picturesque because of all the eucalypts, especially the ghost gums. This was the most gum treed area we have seen for a long time. Ormiston Gorge is also a permanent water hole and there was a large stretch of beach sand. The sides of the cliffs were so orange in color. It was amazing.

Ormiston Gorge

While we were there I suddenly saw someting move on the other side of the creek and we all realised it was a dingo. There were people there and the dingo walked slowly past them and then walked along the edge of the creek and had a drink. Needless to say we all had our cameras out. The dingo then walked up to the grassed area when we suddenly realised there was a second dingo there. They stayed together for a while and then separated. In the end one of the dingoes came quite close and I managed to get a movie of it as it drank at the creek just under the bank where I was standing. Absolute magic!!

Dingoes on sandbank at Ormiston Gorge

Because we were so close to the next gorge (Glen Helen)/resort we drove in there just to have a look even though it was too late for us to do the walk to the gorge. Much to our surprise there was a motel, camping and caravanning facilities and helicopter rides available.

The way this area caters for tourists has been first class. All the walks are well documented. There is water, toilets, info.signboards etc. everywhere. The road we drove on was magnificent. In fact all the main roads are in great condition and a pleasure to drive on.

All up we did a 300km round trip and didn’t get back until around 6.30pm. A very long day but well worth it. Mind you, the ones who did the climb up the mountain at Serpentine Gorge may have a few stiff muscles tomorrow.

After tea Ian pulled down the annexe and filled up our water tanks in readiness for our departure tomorrow. We are not sure where we are going to stay for the night but a word of warning it is possible we will be out of mobile/internet access so if you don’t see one for a day or two or three that will be the reason why.

Have enjoyed reading your comments. Glad our journey is being followed with interest.

Love to all, Janese and Ian