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Shiver me timbers Ross, Jo and Bill and Carol dream of shorts weather as they caravan towards NT Top End

June 21, 2007
Shiver me timbers Ross, Jo and Bill and Carol dream of shorts weather as they caravan towards NT Top End

From: Ross & Jo Whitty

Sent: Thursday, June 21, 2007 12:11 AM

To: garth

Cc: Billy & Carolyn Judd

Subject: Towards the Top End

Hi Garth,

to those of you shivering in the southern states, spare a thought for us travellers, we are in Tennant Creek where the maximum temperature today was 7 degrees C! We thought we would be in shorts by now.

When last I wrote we were about to do the walk around Uluru. What a fascinating place!

We took a free one hour walk with a ranger first who explained a lot about the significance of the rock to the local indigenous people and their beliefs about the creation and history of the area.

Then we walked the whole way around, some 9 kms. We didn't realise it at the time but we saw the Dalai Llama and his entourage also taking a walk there.

Next day we drove to Kata Tjuta,(The Olgas), and walked the beautiful Valley of the Winds, before settling down to watch the sunset there.

The following day we packed up and headed off to Kings Canyon Resort. Had a great night out there at the tavern, with the local entertainment, Patrea and Reuben, also known as the Roadies. They play country and some rock and roll and the whole show is all audience participation and suitable for all ages.

In the morning, (not too early), we packed our lunches and headed to the canyon where we did the "Rim Walk", 6 kms of some of the most spectacular landscapes in the country.

Saw our first dingo at the van park and some wild camels on the drive there, but amazingly we still have not seen a kangaroo since Tower Hill in Warrnambool, or an emu since Port Augusta!

From Kings Canyon we took the long way, (sealed road), to Alice Springs, where we settled in for a week at The Stuart Caravan Park.

We didn't know it at the time but it was the weekend of the Finke Desert Race, an dirt road race from Alice Springs to Finke and back for dune buggies and off-road bikes. Carol Bill and I headed out to watch them coming back into the finish on the last day. Those guys really push their vehicles to the absolute limit!

I had the mirror and panel damage repaired while in Alice, and we all piled into Bill and Carol's Prado to visit Hermannsburg, Standley Chasm, Ross River resort and the spectacular Trephina Gorge with the thousands of wild budgerigars.

Had a great $10 roast meal at the Alice Springs Memorial Club and took advantage of the courtesy bus that operates on a Thursday night.

The weather was fine but windy for most of our stay in Alice and the nights/early mornings were bitterly cold 0C and -4C on the morning of our departure.

Our next destination was Gemtree just a short 130kms from Alice. About 60kms north we took a turnoff to the right onto the Plenty Highway that eventually comes out in Western Queensland near Winton. This was our first taste of an outback highway, single lane of bitumen and sure enough we met the roadtrains coming the other way.

Luckily the shoulders were dry and you could see them coming by the dust they were kicking up. You just have to pull off the bitumen and wait until they pass.

After the third one went by I got onto UHFchannel 40 And asked him if there were anymore he replied that there were two more to come and then we were clear. The road is sealed all the way to Gemtree but becomes gravel shortly after that.

The caravan park is an interesting place with a self guided nature walk and a bush golf course. Firewood is supplied for a $5 fee and there are powered sites and water. The showers are heated by a wood burner and are piping hot. The power is supplied by generator and operates from 6:30am until 10:30pm.

The main reason for visiting here is the tagalong fossicking tour to the Central Australian gemfields located nearby. we opted for the Garnet tour, the other choice being zircons.The night before the weather turned a bit nasty with cold winds and rain but the rain eased off just as we were heading out at 9:00am. All the equipment is supplied and you are giving full instructions on were to dig how to sift the dirt and what to look for and keep.

By 2pm we all headed back to the van park as it was only about 11C and threatening more rain. Back at the park all our gems were sorted and classified by cutable sizes and you can have them cut and set right there if you wish. We each had enough for the girls to make earrings, a ring and pendant but will get them made at a later date.

Finke Desert Race
Finke Desert Race

Back on the road again the next day and although cold the weather had improved as we headed off for The Devils Marbles. On our way back to the highway we got back onto UHF40 and regularly called for any road trains to let us know if they were travelling in our direction. We only came across fellow caravaners this time.

Once back onto the Stuart highway it was northward into warmer weather and the temperature steadily climbed to a blistering 22C by the time we pulled up at the Devils Marbles campsite.

Another walk in the sunshine and another outback sunset. It was Monday and on Mondays a ranger comes along and gives a campfire talk on the area and a member of the local tribe gave a some what humorous talk on the history of the area from their point of view.

Then after another campfire it was to bed for a sleep-in as we were only driving to Tennant Creek.We awoke in the morning around nine to find the campsite almost empty and by the time we hit the road at 10:30 we were the last ones left!

Went to the local sports club last night for an excellent Chinese meal at Woks Up, and managed to organise a courtesy bus, for that as well.

Today we drove out to the Old Telegraph Station and back to Battery Hill to see how the gold mining was carried out in this area. Tonight we shivered around a campfire in the park, The Outback Caravan Park, and listened to a local character, Jimmy Cook, regale us with his own bush poetry, and teach us about the local bush tucker. He even cooked up a couple of witchetty grubs for us to try. Yumm! would quite enjoy a feed of them.

Well Garth that brings us up to date, tomorrow it's off to Daly Waters and I know I've said this before, but hopefully some warmer weather. I think it was colder here today than Hobart!

Hi Ross Jo, Bill and Carolyn. What a great trip. You will be in shorts soon. Australias weather has gone bad in a big way. They are coping it on the NSW South Coast and up to Port Stephens particularly.

Our parkie friends Jenny and Clive at One Mile Beach Holiday Park said in an email yesterday they were running singalongs for park guests with entertainers and barbecues under cover as the storms rolled through.

I will be surprised if the bulk carrier ship Pasha Bulka which went aground in the first storm doesnt join the Sygna Bergen as another permanent Newcastle landmark at Nobbys Beach.

In March last year we drove via Stockton Beach from Anna Bay to Newcastle with the company Sahara 4.2 TD auto LandCruiser when we stayed at One Mile Beach Holiday Park. We sank in the sand when we stopped to look at the Sygna Bergen wreck. The seas that crash on that wild shore in a gale are impressive.

The local Newcastle jokers are already seeing the funny side of the Pasha Bulkas situation with potential T-shirt slogans.

The ABC reports some of them Swim between the flags not Park.
Pasha Pasha Nobbys Crasha. Coal queue jumper. Bugger my brakes failed.
Male driver. I am stuck on Newcastle. All aboard they have parked the Ark and my favorite See the Incredible Bulk.

God I love this country and the way we soldier on when things go bad! I thought we might lose the Aussie ability to laugh in the face of disaster as our Diggers died out but Australian humor is alive and thriving.

Graham (our ContACT MD) tried to snow the Southern Division this morning and claimed that Canberra was clear and blue. Butwe are on to him after regular boiling and freezing spells working at our Head Office in Fyshwick, ACT.

It was actually 9C max, 0C low in Canberra. So we pointed out that ice water looks clear and blue too until you put you hand in it.

How are you going with keeping warm in the caravans?

Some tricks we get up to include

Cuddling. (Preferred method).

Fan heater with thermostat set low on stove top.

Twin-bar electric heater with no fan. (Silent operation is the benefit).

Expensive goose down doonas x 2.

Expensiveminus 8C snow rated sleeping bags x 2 (they can zip together).

Long-john underwear, woolen jumper or track-suits worn as pajamas.

Two hot water bottles. (For the lady).

Steel pots full of water boiled and left on the stove top. (Yes the water is used for cooking too).

Ceramic and terrcottaflower-pots turned upside down and heated over our metho or gas stove. (They radiate heat for a long time).

It is essential to crack the roof hatch of course to keep the oxygen up.

Breathing is most important and the headache which goes with too much carbonmonoxide is no fun.

And we use an electric blanket when we are near mains power.

We also have a fire-proof shellite fuelled Coleman Catalytic heater. (Ventilation and care when it is used is essential).

The road train drivers are good blokes and awesome in the way they handle the massive rigs. We have a feature on GoSeeAustralia supplied by Big Rigs Rod Hannifey. He told me about his learning experience driving a road train. He said the skill is to keep your nerve and make only the tinniest corrects at the steering wheel.

He said any correction to direction has to be super gentle as it translates to the rear bogie. You will have seen what happens when that starts to wag about!

We adopted your get out of the way approach to road train bow waves in a Storm Season deluge on an editorial tour to Darwin and Litchfield National Park in November 2006. It was nearly as bad as handling their dust cloud in the Dry Season. Get out of the way is the only way to go.

Its great to hear from you. Garth

Editor's Note: Here is some inside info from our files and the Northern Territory Tourism Commission on the Centre. As the subject is immense we will handle the Top End as a Part 2 feature.

Tennant Creek has links to the boom days of the gold rush era.The outback town is fiercely proud of its golden history.

It is the site of Australias last gold rush in the 1930s. The names of mines founded in the area are almost folklore. Its most spectacular landmark is the Devils Marbles, followed by the Davenport National Park.

The towns Visitor Centre at Battery Hill features displays and films focusing on the rich mining, pastoral and droving history. Its pride is the Gold Stamp Battery where miners brought their ore to be crushed and smelted into gold bars.

The Davenport Range National Park National Parkis accessible by 4WD only - with high clearance. Before going in, get information and maps from a Parks and Wildlife Commission office, or the Regional Tourism Associations, both in Tennant Creek and Alice Springs.

About 100km south of Tennant Creek is the regions most spectacular landmark- Karlu Karlu, or the Devils Marbles - thousands of huge, precariously balanced boulders.

Situated 462km from Ayers Rock/Uluru and positioned between the East and West MacDonnell Ranges, Alice Springs makes both a great touring base and a great holiday destination.

The early history of Alice Springs is carefully preserved in several museums, and a visit to the School of the Air and Royal Flying Doctor Service reveals two of the facilities necessary for every day life in remote locations. The Museum of Central Australia and the Aboriginal Art and Culture Centre give insight into Aboriginal clans like the local Arrernte whose traditional lands include Alice Springs and the MacDonnell Ranges.

For golfers the Alice Springs Golf Club is rated amongst the top 10 desert courses in the world.

The panoramic landscapes of the West MacDonnell Ranges are extraordinary, for both their immensity and the spectacular array of sunburnt oranges, maroons and purples on display. To appreciate the West MacDonnells, explore the ranges rugged gorges, gaps and chasms and experience the unspoiled serenity of this region.

Each of the West MacDonnells chasms and gorges has its own unique characters and scenery. At Simpsons Gap, walk to the permanent pool and possibly catch sight of the rock wallabies that live in the gaps rocky ridges. At midday Standley Chasm lights up in fiery oranges reflected by the overhead sun.

Plunge in for a swim at the picturesque waterholes at Ellery Creek Big Hole, Ormiston Gorge, Glen Helen Gorge and Redbank Gorge. Or visit the Ochre Pits, which desert Aboriginal people used as a quarry for ochre, a valuable traditional material used for paintings and ceremonial body decorations.

To the east is Tylers Pass, a place to stop for spectacular views of Tnorala/Gosse Bluff, a five km-wide crater created by a comet 142.5 million years ago.

Sunset at Devils Marbles
Sunset at Devils Marbles

Visit Hermannsburg, the birthplace of famous artist, Albert Namatijira. Hermannsburg features a faithfully restored 1870s Lutheran mission, and showcases Namatijiras and other artists works.

Outside of Hermannsburg, travel by 4WD through the Finke River; thought to be one of the worlds oldest rivers.

The Finke Gorge National Park is best known for Palm Valley, which contains groves of unique and beautiful palms that are remnants from millions of years ago, when Central Australia was lush with tropical forests.

The East MacDonnells are the Central Australian the dreamtime birthplace of the mountain range.

As the Arrernte caterpillar ancestral beings moved from Emily Gap, they formed the MacDonnell Ranges and the site of Alice Springs.

Places like Jessie Gap, Corroboree Rock and NDhala Gorge are all of great cultural significance to the Arrernte people.

The old Church at Hermannsburg
The old Church at Hermannsburg

The beauty of these sites and others, such as Trephina Gorge, makes a trip to the East MacDonnells more than worthwhile.

Late last century, the East MacDonnells were the site of Australias most remote, short lived, gold rush, at what is now Arltunga Historical Reserve.

There is a ghost town to explore, complete with the remains of mining camps and old mines.

The first mining rush actually took place at what is now Ruby Gap Nature Park. There are no rubies, but there is priceless scenery. Ruby Gap is strictly 4WD access only.

North of this area, visitors can find their own gems, including garnets and zircons, in gem fields, along the Plenty Highway. The Gemtree Caravan Park, offers overnight accommodation and daily guided fossicking tours to the nearby gemfields or obtain a fossicking permit from NT Department of Mines and Energy in Alice Springs.

The East MacDonnells region is also rich in bird and animal life. Trephina Gorge offers great bird watching opportunities. And as East MacDonnells are less visited by tourists, there is a greater chance of spotting wildlife in their natural environment.

The Tanami Track heads northwest from Alice Springs and is the most adventurous and direct way to get from the Alice to the Kimberley, Western Australia.

This legendary stock route travels through the remote Tanami region, and for the most part, is unsealed road.

Most of the Simpson Deserts attractions are within a day trips range of Alice Springs. Chambers Pillar rises as a solitary beacon out of the vast red plains and captivates the imagination on how the early pioneers used this as a navigational landmark.

19th-century explorers who carved their names into the soft sandstone have marked the 50m-sandstone pillars base. Chambers Pillar was named after one of explorer John McDouall Stuarts sponsors.

An easy stop off on the way to Chambers Pillar is the Ewaninga Rock Carvings Conservation Reserve. These rock carvings and petroglyphs provide a fascinating record of many important beliefs by the local Arrernte people.

Also in this area and not far off the Stuart Highway, south of Alice Springs is Rainbow Valley. Nestled in the James Ranges, it is a spectacular sandstone bluff with rainbow-like bands, best seen in the late afternoon sun or after heavy rainfall.

Must see and do

As suggested by the Northern Territory Tourist Commission

Call at Tennant Creeks Visitor Centre at Battery Hill that features displays and films on the rich mining, pastoral and droving history.

See the Gold Stamp Battery, still thundering and pounding, where miners brought their ore to be crushed and smelted into gold bars.

About 100 kilometres south of Tennant Creek, is the regions most spectacular landmark- Karlu Karlu, or the Devils Marbles.

Situated 462 km from Ayers Rock/Uluru and positioned between the East and West MacDonnell Ranges, Alice Springs makes both a good touring base and holiday destination.

Learn more about the local Aboriginal people, the Arrernte clan, whose traditional lands include the area in and around Alice Springs and the MacDonnell Ranges.

Join of the numerous Aboriginal cultural tours around town, or gain a fascinating insight into their life and work at places like the Museum of Central Australia and the Aboriginal Art and Culture Centre.

The Alice Springs Golf Club, is rated amongst the top 10 desert courses in the world.

Alice Springs provides some unique dining experiences, from taking a camel to dinner to dining under the stars.

To appreciate the West MacDonnells, explore the ranges rugged gorges, gaps and chasms and experience the unspoiled serenity of this region.

Outside of Hermannsburg, travel by 4WD through the Finke River, thought to be one of the worlds oldest rivers. The Finke Gorge National Park is best known for Palm Valley.

The extensive Larapinta Trail in the West MacDonnell national park is the showpiece of Central Australian bushwalking.

Trephina Gorge
Trephina Gorge

The Tanami Track, is for the most part, unsealed road. The Track is becoming a popular tourist route to WA for those equipped to get off the beaten track.

Most of the Simpson Deserts attractions are within a day trips range of Alice Springs. Chambers Pillar rises as a solitary beacon out of the vast red plains and captivates the imagination on how the early pioneers used this as a navigational landmark.

The entrance to Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park is at Yulara, 18km from Uluru /Ayers Rock and this is the place to find camping facilities, resort accommodation, Aboriginal dance and music performances, tour booking agents, souvenir outlets and any other information

In keeping with the parks importance to Aboriginal people emphasis is placed helping visitors to understand Aboriginal traditions, lifestyles and culture.

The spectacular scenery and eerie collection of weathered rock formations known as the Lost City, and an oasis with a permanent waterhole veiled by palms and ferns known as the Garden of Eden, combine to make Kings Canyon a surprise experience.

Editor's Note: Also see -



and www.discovertasmania.com.au

Kings Canyon
Kings Canyon
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