A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: slamrs

Winton

Catching up with old friends.


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The narrow piece of bitumen leaving Boulia is about as narrow as you could get and still have four wheels on the tar! To be exact it's about the axle width of a road train so if you meet one coming towards you it's time to get off the road entirely. The phenomena on this trip was that the verges of the road are covered with knee high grass so you can't see what the topography is like - every time you met an oncoming truck you have to pull off the road and 'park' until it goes past. This isn't a usual problem in this country but with the winter rain everything is so green and lush. The road gradually widens after you pass what's left of the old Hamilton Hotel. That'd be the chimney only! Almost two thirds of the way to Winton and we came across the the Middleton Hotel. This one is still there! In fact it looks almost identical to the way it did 30+ years ago when I was last here. I was working on Woodstock Station and this was the watering hole when we got a break from mustering. As fate would have it, when we called in for a drink on this occasion the current manager of Woodstock also dropped by. Time to swap a few stories of characters from around these parts and some of the adventures we got up to back then. Sadly this includes finding out which ones have died since our last visit to Winton four years ago. Two of whom were people I worked closely with in my time on Cork Station. Great characters both of them. RIP Billy Duggan and Gary Coleman (Coley) πŸ˜• The family managed to drag me away from the pub and we were on the road to Winton again. Four years ago when we passed through Winton I made contact with an old boss, Bruce, I worked for to the North West of town. He wasn't on the property anymore but his oldest daughter, Katrina, was with her husband, John, and four kids. Bruce had taken us out to the property and Katrina and John invited us to set up our camp there for a few days. Two of the kids, Lydia and Sam were there ( The older two off at boarding school as is the way with remote Australia), and they made us so very welcome. It was one of the most memorable parts of our last trip for both Megan and Rory. They even got a day mustering and working in the cattle yards. This visit we caught up with Bruce and Helen in town for and afternoon tea before heading out to the property. Only Katrina and John there this time with three kids away at school and their eldest, Ella, off working on a cattle station further west near Boulia. We set up camp about the same spot as last time - near the old quarters that were home to me when I worked here. It was probably the hottest day we'd encountered since leaving the Kimberley. There was even a bit of humidity signalling the prospect of some rain. It did rain overnight and into the morning. A great experience for visitors to see what black soil does when it gets wet. It sticks to everything. A short walk and you've got platform shoes on. 24 hours later and it's just dry dirt again! Bruce and Helen came out for a visit so it was a great social occasion. We had a drive around the property the next morning - some beautiful fat cattle. It is great to see this country in such wonderful condition. That afternoon we got to see what else was appreciating the good season - snakes! Within a couple of hours we spotted three snakes. Two around our camp and one up at the main homestead. King Browns or Mulga snakes - They were in great condition and big. The first about 1.5 metres the second 2 and the third even bigger and fatter. Snakes are reasonably common in this country but the good season has brought out unprecedented numbers. Just as well the tent is well sealed. We gave Buddy a night sleeping in the back on a ute just in case 😊 On our last day with John and Katrina, John,Megan Rory and I went to check the waters at their other property north west of Winton. Out towards Kynuna, not far from Dagworth Station, just a lazy 160 k down the road from home. It's quite different country to the black soil country of the main property but everything was pretty green just the same. Sue and Katrina stayed back home for the day. A big thank you to John and Katrina for their wonderful hospitality and generosity in sharing stories and information about their lives here on their station. We enjoyed sharing meals at the dining table, and soaking up the atmosphere. Even learning about counting scales diagonally to confirm a type of snake (thanks Katrina)!! Finally time to leave and move eastward. More exploration on the horizon - travels through outback townships - Barcaldine, Blackall, Charleville to name a few.

Posted by slamrs 15:21 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Leaving NT

From Alice to Boulia - along the Plenty Highway

sunny 33 °C
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Time to move on from Alice. Next chapter? The Plenty highway into Western QLD. A few more hundred k's of dirt..... The Plenty Hwy starts just north of Alice Springs and heads directly east to the Queensland border. It's mostly dirt though the first 100k or so is bitumen and the plan is to seal the lot. Once you cross the border the same road becomes the Donohue Hwy. this is also in the process of being sealed but it appears to occur in 10k stretches here and there. Probably at points that have been hardest to maintain.

Our travel onto the Plenty was from Neil Hargrave lookout in the West McDonnel ranges, via a shopping stop in the Alice. As a result we didn't get very far along before we camped along the side of the road where the Binn track heads north. We put in a long day driving to the border, visiting Tobermorey Station for an ice cream and a drink. We decided to keep going as it was still early. It was a bit unknown as we'd seen signs all along the Plenty warning that the Donahue was 4WD only. What a surprise to start on it and find bitumen! There we multiple 5 and 10 K lengths of sealed road with the dirt in between in good condition. It was an easy drive into Boulia where we camped on the banks of the Burke River in amongst the very long, very green grass. Water in the river and plenty of birdlife had us happy to stay for at least 2 nights here as we explored Boulia.

Boulia is the home of the Min Min light - a mysterious light that appears to follow stockmen and vehicles for kilometres and then suddenly disappear. The tourist centre has an animated display that leads you through some of the tales about the lights appearance. It was really well done. Around the corner is an historic stone house and dinosaur fossil display as well as other local memorabilia. It's a great way to learn about the local area. The lady running the centre told us she wasn't a local as she had only been in the area 40 years!! She originally came from Augathella, situated about halfway between here and Brisbane to the south east. I mentioned an old ringer I worked with around Winton who came from Augathella and sure enough she knew him and was a distant relative. It was nice to swap a few stories about Billy recall some of his excentricities. I could have stayed around Boulia for some time but we were keen to get across to Winton to catch up with friends there, so it was back on the road again along the very narrow road heading east to Winton.

Posted by slamrs 22:55 Comments (0)

Alice Springs

Relax, repair, revisit recharge!

sunny 27 °C
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Well we made it into Alice with minutes to spare. Pulled up in the campground of the Gap View Hotel. The big screens were on - the bar was packed - seemed as though most were pumping up the doggies for a win. And disappointed we were not! Great game - close scores like a grand final should be. Whilst Steve, Megan and I watched the game, Rory dog sat and singlehandedly put up camp. And I mean the whole shebang - main tent, extra room, the kitchen with full annexe and walls - to date we hadnt used the full set up, but turned out to be a good decision in Alice, as we spent a full 2 weeks there. Of course, Sunday also had the rugby final - not such a pleasing result though..... First few days we didn't do too much - time for some sit and chill time. Then in amongst repairs ( antenna, UHF radio, car solar panel), we started to explore a bit around us. By this stage Steve was entrenched in the 22 day push up challenge ( thanks Rachel) and we were sourcing different locations for Steve and Rory to film their efforts. Anzac Hill in town was a good candidate, and it continued on from there - into the West Macdonnell ranges, and different sites around town.
We met some good people in Alice. Camped next to a travelling family with 2 young kids (6 and 3 yo), who attached themselves to Megan and Rory. Shared meals and evenings sitting around camp added to our chill out experience. Speaking of chilling, the cooler nights were a welcome change from nights of over 30 degrees. We also befriended Michael, a 22 year old German backpacker who was travelling alone. He joined us for some meals, enjoyed practicing his English with Aussie families.
Although we'd visited the Desert Park 4 years ago, we decided on another trip - Steve dropped us off ( he was on dog sitting duty) and S, M, and R visited the park. Love the nocturnal enclosure - especially the bilbies. Free flight bird show is always good - surprised when the first bird on display was the good old magpie. Warbled on queue much to our surprise.
With the unseasonal rain in this part of the world, our drives east and west were very colourful - lots of greenery amongst the red rock. East Macdonnells were stunning - we day ventured dropping into the gaps (Emily and Jessie), Corroboree Rock, 3 of us did the Trephina gorge walk (Megan on dog duty outside the NP this time.), and we finished with dropping into Ross River homestead which oozes history with its old building, low door ways, fireplaces etc.
Ventures west - we camped for 2 nights at Neil Hargrave lookout. Steve, Rory and I decided to do the Ormiston gorge pound walk - a 7 km undulating stunning walk. Steve's fit bit said we did 10k's. Legs felt as though that was probably more accurate. A good thigh and butt workout - took around 3 and a half hours. We had done this walk 4 years ago and remembered the final part required a hip deep walk through freeeeezzzzzzing water. This time there was a bit more water.....but the temperatures were much higher and pleasant as its later in the season. Felt good to have completed this walk - yes amazing rocks - deep red brown rock faces, lots of smooth deep purple rocks with white veins running through them - all sorts of colours really.

We also took a day trip to Hermannsburg for coffee and strudel and then on to Palm Valley. Another great backdrop for the push-up challenge! The last three K's were a walking pace 4x4 track. Good adventure for Steve, Megan and Rory (I was on dog sitting duty on the edge of Finke NP) They picked up a couple of ladies who had pulled up in fear of damaging their vehicle. Then they came across a car that had broken down - goodness knows how they would get a tray truck in to recover it! Overall a spectacular location to put on the return list when we can camp in there without a dog!

Our time in Alice also enabled Steve to catch up with an old Ambulance colleague who now lives and works on the Alice - Mmmmm that might be something to do in the future😏 He also fitted a polycarbonate cover over the back windscreen. We've already taken a large chip out of the new back window and would like to avoid another $600 replacement bill. 😬

Megan ventured off one night to a kangaroo refuge. A perfect adventure for the lady who would have the biggest menagerie of all stray animals if she could. Correction - will probably have such a menagerie one day!

Addit from Steve..... I set out to get a slow tyre leak repaired. "Come back Monday" ,"Perhaps my workers will turn up then". It appears the two tyre fitters tended to simply choose when to show, secure in the knowledge that they are a scarce resource. The perils of running a business in Alice Springs! Rory did a plug repair instead - we'll wait for another town to get them fixed properly.

There is something about the Alice though. We all felt it and loved being there. Will return many more times we think.

After our relaxing two weeks we decided to make the move east to Qld.

Posted by slamrs 18:43 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Along the Tanami to the Alice

sunny 33 °C
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Having watched the AFL preliminary final where the Doggies beat GWS we had decided that we had to be in Alice Springs in time to watch the Grand Final. That meant no time to linger on the Tanami. After the chopper flight in Warnum we drove down to Halls Creek for lunch, to top up some water and fuel. As we got out of the car there the first thing to hit us was the heat - well the lack of it compared to earlier that day. Funny how 34 degrees can feel so cool!!

We headed onto the Tanami, just 17 kilometres west of Halls Creek. We'd heard it was in pretty good condition and that was what we found. A slight detour into the Wolfe Creek Crater - "We're not staying anywhere around Wolf Creek dad" says Rory "I've watched the movie!" 😬 Needless to say we pressed on after trekking up the side of the crater. Boy there was a Big Bang when this rock hit the ground. Glad I wasn't around 😏 We stopped about 140 ks along the road at Sturt Creek. What a beautiful spot. A series of sandy channels with shade trees everywhere. Oops, hopped out of the car and there was that hissing sound again! I thought we'd had our quota of punctures with our double whammy up on the Gibb. A good pit crew saw it changed quickly and we were relaxing to enjoy the site and yet another beautiful Sunset. Probably our last in Western Australia.

When we do a quick overnighter we don't set up the annex or walls etc. Just swing the kitchen out to cook dinner. Nowhere to hide! Sturt Creek had a mosquito hatching the night we were there. Crikey, this night will win 'Most insects night' for the trip so far! Not even the yellow lights helped. A quick cook up for tea and we retreated into the tent to eat and go to bed. The tent, even with some small openings does a good job at keeping them out. I retired to the camp stretcher with its surround midge proof screen to enjoy our first cool night in weeks. It must have got down to the mid teens!! πŸ‘

The next day we backtracked to Bililuna, a small aboriginal community only 3-4 k's away. We wanted to visit their art display anyway, but now we needed a tyre repair. We drove back through the community and eventually found the one shop at the back. Too early for the 8:00 opening so we waited around with the gathering cars and people all looking to the store. At about 8:15 the doors slid open - well more of a scrape and clang as the two metal roller doors were rolled up by the chain. Reminded me of the supermarket I worked at as a kid. In rolled the people. Rush hour we found that was brought on by the sports carnival due to start that day. "No tyre repair here mate" said the very stressed looking couple in training to take over the store. Art centre wasn't to open either. The shop did have a repair kit, and as it appeared a smaller hole this time I thought we'd give it a go. I'd never used one of these 'plug' kits before so wasn't confident but with my offsider helping nut it out we plugged the hole and reinflated the tyre. No more hissing - for now. We also decided to top up the fuel. 38 litres for $100! Ouch!!! 😧 The indigenous response to our presence is interesting. Some people look at us suspiciously, even rolling up the car windows as we approach or getting up to go inside to avoid our approach. Then others are happy to chat and Rory and I had a lovely man and his daughter come over to us as we finished our repair work. This conversation had Rory and I wishing we had the time to stop a while with him and see the carnival. Alas we had a long way left to go so we bade our goodbyes and hit the road again.

People will tell you, they told us, that the Tanami is boring, nothing to see. Even taking into account that it is very green (for a desert), after unseasonal rain, we found it a beautiful drive. Keeping your attention with the changing landscape, flora and colours. We crossed into the Northern Territory at an insignificant marker - A 44 gallon drum with a hand drawn sign. It was sad to leave WA after almost six months. So much to love about it and many places we want to go back to. We were excited to be returning to Alice Springs after a four a year absence. We pressed on to Mt Doreen Station ruins. It is interesting what we will call a mountain in Australia. Another lovely cool night for sleeping and at one stage when awake through the night I strained to hear any noise. I mean 'any' noise. It was that quiet. Heading towards Alice I knew that wasn't going to be the case there.

Next day we called into Yuendumu just before the dirt turns to bitumen. The art centre was all locked up and we couldn't find the store so we kept on going. Next stop Tilmouth roadhouse about 100 k from Alice. The country side just kept getting greener after recent rain. More winter rain in the area then many can remember. There was even water across the road just north of Tilmouth. We called in for the obligatory iced coffee and found a wonderful array of indigenous art for sale. Alas we couldn't find a piece we all agreed on so back on the road. The first bounce of the AFL grand final was fast approaching. We drove into Alice Springs with only minutes to spare. Pulled into a campground at the rear of the Gap View Hotel, reversed into a spot and Rory sent us all off to watch the game while he set up camp. We watched the Bulldogs fairytale win and returned to find Rory had set up a full camp. Spare bedroom, annex with all walls and an awning out over the kitchen door. The Taj Mahal!! Just as well we intend to stay for a while.

Posted by slamrs 20:27 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

The Bungles

One last thing before we leave the Kimberley

sunny 39 °C
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Just one last thing before we left the Kimberley. A helicopter flight over the bungles! On the afternoon after Sue, M&R had returned from Purnululu we decided to take a drive rather than sit around in 42 degree heat. We backtracked to Warmun, about fifty kilometres north. We'd missed 'seeing' it on the way through as it was dark by the time we went through here the previous day. A nice little roadhouse there with two discoveries. A chopper tour base and a very large Brahman bull lazing around on the lawn. On enquiringly at the tour office we found there was one spot on the next mornings flight. I'd had this one on my bucket list so we booked it in. The next morning we were up and packed nice and early, driving back up to Warnum. I took off on the flight. Sue got to clean out the fridge - The road the day before had uncapped the Beetroot so it appeared like murder had occurred in the fridge! - Rory filled the water tanks and Megan said hello to the bull. Well actually she befriended it and help gather leaves that were out of reach to hand feed to it 😊

The flight? It was awesome of course. Not just the Bungles but the whole flight there over the ???? Range with the line of mountains that look like waves coming into shore, extending as far as the eye can see. The pilot, Nathan, was very informative with the usual mind boggling '850 million years this happened' and '3,500 million years that happened' and 'the Bungles only have about another 20 million years before they will erode away' !! One thing for sure Nathan's love of this flight was very evident and that added to how enjoyable it was. Back on the ground and it was time to tear Megan away from her new friend and head to Halls Creek and the Tanimi.

Posted by slamrs 22:43 Comments (0)

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