We finished our trip through Queensland and have travelled and seen a lot of the state since heading toward Birdsville at the end of February. Our introduction to the Northern Territory was the 130km/h road speed sign as we crossed the border. We had heard that sections of the road into Alice Springs were now being trialed as no speed limit which proved interesting as some of the NT number plated vehicles flew past us.
Leaving the Barkley Highway we turned south through Tennant Creek and stayed two nights at Kurlu Kurlu National Park meaning something about an angry spirit, loosely interpreted as the Devil’s Marbles. A great place to stay, it is a fascinating place with enormous, oddly shaped rocks that are uniquely balancing atop each other just as though someone had tossed marbles! Glorious Aussie burnt oranges and reds and ochre colours that shone in the sunset and sunrise.
Next, we made a quick stop to check out Wycliffe Well, the place made famous for its’ many UFO ‘sightings’. The locals are making the most of this with aliens, road signs and old newspaper cuttings on the walls inside.
We continued south to Alice Springs, arriving two days before the famous Lasseter’s Camel Cup race day. Staying at the showground campground was a bonus as it was a short walk from the racetrack and a few kms drive into town. Alice Springs surprised us both as it is a modern, clean town/city with great facilities and all the retail stores you get in large city as well as boasting to be Australia’s only fully solar powered town.
Andy spent an afternoon exploring the Road Transport and Ghan Railway museums (and came back with far too many photos). Then we ‘chilled out’ for a few days – literally as the cold snap had hit Alice with overnight temps down to minus 2 degrees! We had both expected the town to be just an oasis in the centre of red dirt but it is nothing like this at all with plenty of trees and grasslands all the way out to the East and West McDonnell Ranges.
The Camel Cup day was a fabulous family day run by the local Apex Club. It had pirate ship floats (go figure?), sulky races drawn by husband and wife teams and of course the camel races. The creatures look ungainly but can gallop at an amazing speed even if they occasionally get it in their minds to go anywhere but where they are supposed to. The day before the race we had seen a pair of camels being worked and and asked the trainer for a hot tip (thinking there would be betting – there isn’t) and he named the eventual winner, Roman.
From our base at the showgrounds we explored the East McDonnell Ranges on a day trip to see Emily and Jessie Gaps, Trephina Gorge with detours on a rough bush track to John Hayes waterhole, a 300 year old Ghost Gum famous from Namatjira’s paintings, and out to the N’Dhala Gorge Nature Park near the Ross River resort. On a separate excursion we visited the old Ewaninga Ghan Railway Station and the Aboriginal rock carvings.
To explore the West McDonnell Ranges, we took the caravan and stayed at a bush camp at Red Bank Gorge so we could take our time to see the Standley Chasm, Ellery Creek Gorge, Glen Helen Gorge and the fantastic Ochre Pits with the various colours of the ochre that has been used for cultural decoration by the first Australians. The Standley Chasm with the incredible deep cleft between ancient rocks over 800 million years old was another highlight.
Leaving south from Alice Springs, we stayed two nights at the Kulgera roadhouse camp close to the SA border so we could take a day trip out to the Lambert’s Centre, the true geographical and magnetic centre of Australia. On the road into the Centre we spotted a lone dingo, the first we had seen, even though we had heard their howls at night.
From Kulgera we are bound westward in anticipation of further adventures at Kings Canyon and Uluru before returning to Alice Springs.