Archive | June, 2015
29 June 2015


I don’t have a clever? opening. Katherine is almost like a big town – it has a Woolies and a cheap shop and an Autobarn and lots and lots of parking for big rigs.

We shopped for essentials and moved out to Katherine Gorge Resort. Sounds good but it is an overpriced National Parks campground, designed and run by bureaucrats. However it was the jumping off point for a boat ride up the Katherine Gorge (which was probably also overpriced at $84.00 per head) but it is really the only way to see and appreciate this natural wonder (unless you hire a helicopter which is dearer again). This is a stunning landscape…..101_0949

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the like of which I don’t think exists anywhere else in Oz.

The campground had its little amusements ……

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like a wallaby looking for the latest news. Then there were the school kids, two bus loads from Norwood High and one from Warrandyte High all high on youth pills. Surprisingly all noise did actually cease before 10.00pm. Maybe there are some strict rules still applicable.

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There is some livestock in and on the Katherine River but the best is still to come we understand. After a couple of days at Katherine Gorge and no dump point, we had to move on. Back to township of Katherine to fill up and empty then on to EDITH Falls. Again we’re given the gen that you must get in early to secure a site. This is more National park which, as it turned out, is a bit more price realistic than Katherine Gorge but sites are indeed tight. Loverly spot and a nice mountain climb and a couple of chilly swims and  another night passes…..

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there was some livestock here too and although we were assured that all the crocs had been moved on, the little fish nibbling at your legs were a little disconcerting. We even had entertainment in the evening after partaking of a barra burger at the kiosk…..

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as John shared his music and his musical instruments with the audience. A couple of hours disappeared quickly. We only overnighted here then it was on to KAKADU. This place has always been on our bucket list but I’ll get to it when we’ve seen more.

26 June 2015

Ever Northward

We left Alice and headed north again on Tuesday (I think). The Stuart highway is a bit like the Hume – boring, although its only two lanes. If we were driving something different it might be OK but 130 in the truck is not fun. There are also some unrestricted bits of the road. Would you believe there is no outdoor advertising in this state. But there was a bit of a break crossing the “tropic of Capricorn”……

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At some point, I think still a little south of the tropic of Capricorn latitude we passed over the highest point of the Stuart Highway between Adelaide and Darwin….

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It doesn’t actually tell you how high you are but I guess that’s cos we are so far from any ocean its a bit hard to judge how high above sea level it is! It all must be pretty flat where we’ve been over the last 8 weeks though because the fuel economy keeps improving – we’re down to 19.6l/100km. Part of that also must be attributed to the new engine management chip. Its better than a 10% improvement over last year. At an average fuel rate of $1.65 per litre we should save over $600 for this trip, however we have spent or will spend it on accommodation as caravan parks are quite expensive here ($50.00 per night at Kings Canyon for example) and the few free camps are typically full before lunchtime as we pass by.

Took a detour to a place that looked interesting on the map – Gemtree. 70 km up the Stuart from Alice and another 70km east we expected an Andamooka or even a Yowah. What we got was not any one of them. Really just a low end roadhouse with a caravan park that stood amongst rocks in which the avid fossicker could find zircon or garnet. Garnet! This is the stuff you get on low end sandpaper. Maybe all these fossickers have an axe to grind. But some who experienced the search that we met further on reckoned it was worth a night or two scratching around in the dirt. This is how attractive the place looks……DSC05065 (1024x683) DSC05066 (1024x683) DSC05067 (1024x683) DSC05068 (1024x683) DSC05069 (1024x683)

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The same people we met later did say though that the local hospitality and the billabong bistro meals were excellent. Just as well we left Alice with full tanks cos there was no diesel available in Gemtree until the next weeks delivery arrived.

Back to the highway and on to Aileron, the next spot on the map. Roadhouse, caravan park and hordes of non-reflective people milling about with slabs for deodorant (underarm that is). Didn’t appeal as an overnight so on to Ti-Tree, just a bit further up. Another roadhouse but slightly more enticing. After dinner guest from Germany, Melanie, entertained with stories of her love life, travels and mishaps. Travelling by herself now from Darwin she was in a rental campervan, going on to Alice and then back. Had already done the east coast. Tried for another sunset shot … failed again but the dusk sky was interesting….

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but a fairly reasonable spot to have parked up for the night.

We were headed for the Devils Marbles from here but made another stop along the way at Barrow Creek, the site of another historic Telegraph Station. The telegraph station was certainly interesting but perhaps somewhat eclipsed by DSC05103 DSC05105 (1024x683) DSC05106 (1024x683) DSC05107 (1024x683) DSC05108 (1024x683) DSC05109 (1024x683) DSC05110 (1024x683) DSC05111 (1024x683) DSC05113 (1024x683) the eclectic tavern…….

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Probably not the place you would choose to experience haute cuisine but the truckie that provided us shade was tucking into a plate of beans like it was his last fine meal…

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and the dogs were actually real live ones. Dunno what they did to warrant their incarceration in the sin bin.

Then there was Wauchope….

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where lots of non-reflective people and little green men have landed to spend their ration vouchers.

Well we made it finally to The Devils Marbles and found half of Australia was already there. Managed to find a couple of sites side by side after another couple moved over for us and set up shop before we went sight seeing….

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Words can’t do justice to the spectacle of this landscape…..

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and there’s not enough space on these pages to display all of our shots. You’ve gotta gotta go.

Onwards, ever onwards. Tennant Creek next, small town with shops and all, but clearly a very high indigenous population. Out to the visitor information centre east of town which really didn’t help our decision making. A mine tour was on offer at $49.00 per head if we chose to wait around for a couple of hours but having done other such tours over past years it didn’t have a lot of appeal so we moved on to the local water supply where we were attacked by a flock of killer geese (although they became friendly enough after I took their photos) and then to the old Tennant Creek telegraph station……

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I’m guessing the old batteries illustrated were eventually superseded by the plastic wrapped models above. These were used to power the telegraph line in some way which defeats my understanding.

Next overniter was Threeways. The intersection of the Stuart and Barkly Highways. It was just a place to stop after a not overly tiring day but it turned interesting as most of them do when 4 lots from Benalla pulled in beside us and then the 2015 Volvo challenge group dropped in as well. The Volvo challenge was all about trying to go the furthest distance in the cheapest Volvo any of them could buy – the average price was $800.00…..

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Some of the participants were a bit young but at  least they were learning a lesson in uniformity and durability.

The less than locked in stone agenda called for a stopover at the Daly Waters Pub. We were advised that it was unwise to arrive there late in the day as you were likely to be turned away, so popular is the place. So we chose to stop about 100km short of there to facilitate an early arrival the next day. About 2.00pm we pulled into a roadside stop near Newcastle Waters only to find a multitude of similarly advised nomads. By about 3.00pm you couldn’t fit another vehicle although a couple of small cars and wiz bangs squeezed in between vans etc. Some 35 lots parked up in a roadside stop but it turned into a night of ‘high’ entertainment with drinkies and sing songs all round….DSC05246 (1024x683) DSC05247 (1024x683)

thanks Colin!

A little further on we happened into the deserted village of Newcastle Waters, a site being preserved to retain the spirit of droving. This place was apparently something of a crossroads on the droving trails of NT back when such things weren’t done by truckies….

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but now its not much more than a collection of tumbling down sheds. There are a couple of private residences still here and it seems the little school still works but the whole place, if its going to be a memorial, really needs some TLC.

Well we still had time to make Daly Waters before lunch but it was a race and bugger me there was a bloody queue. Finally we made the head of the queue whereupon we were asked to order dinner along with our park booking and we also had to decide which sitting we required. WTFRwe. This popular?. Well as afternoon drifted on so too did new arrivals until eventually they were parked up in the roadways. We chose the 6.30 sitting cos the music started up at 6.00 but we could have gone 7.00, 7.30 or 8.00 and the crowds moved through. Our Colin from the night before was the opening act, eventually followed by another guy whose name escapes me but it was good music throughout. The pub is famous for its Barra and Beef dish but the girls went just for barra but I had to do both. Twas good tucker and absolutely worth the fare. I must add that the hospitality is phenomenal. Upon booking in and our food order taken we left the bar to return to the vehicle some distance away and the waiter came trotting after us. He had forgotten to ask how my steak was to be done! Then we were directed into our sites by Ed on his bike…..

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and theres Colin and the other guy singing for their supper

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Then who should sit down beside us but Jim Richards and wife on their third or fourth visit after returning from the V8 races in Darwin.

The food was good, the entertainment good, the hospitality good, the prices right, an altogether fun night. And I would recommend it to other travellers.

Mataranka hot tubs call us onwards. Again ya gotta get in early to savour this experience although it turned out to be not quite as critical as Daly Waters. We actually bared the soul (or is that ar…) later in the day and again the following day to partake of the aerated waters of the Mataranka hot springs. But, the highlight was the dinner show. Main meals $16.50 quickly delivered, happy hour 20% off all drinks 5 – 6, and singers and a whip cracker all beside a blazing campfire through the evening. The shows were great. The second night featured our newest best friend Colin followed again by the whipcracker….

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DSC05402 (1024x683) DSC05419 (1024x683) DSC05422 (1024x683)And here’s Colin and Ponand Robyn and Jude enjoying the show…

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Then there were the hot pools, only they were stocked primarily by grey nomads looking for a new lease on life….

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I must say this is one pool in which it doesn’t feel right to pee. The water is just too clear and probably warmer than your own pee so it might leave a cool trail.

A bit further up the road is Bitter Springs, another artesian pool and a very pretty sight…

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I’ve gotta get this up before the interwebby thingy heaves a last gasp. It is sooooo slooooow!

We’re at Katherine Gorge although due to leave am on the morrow but I’ll get to that cos there’s also a lot of photos which take ages to upload in this restricted environment and I just mightn’t live long enough to get there.



21 June 2015

Go west young man!

We did. The West McDonnell Ranges. Stunning!

But, I can assure you – we are no longer young men (or women for that matter). Most of the climbs/clambers hurt, if not immediately certainly by the next day. We knew we were older than we were yesterday.

It was worth all of the physical sacrifice –  you don’t get to see this natural stuff every day. From Alice you run due west to Glen Helen picking up Simpsons Gap, Standley Chasm, Serpentine Gorge, Ellery Creek Bighole, Ochre Pits, Ormiston Gorge and Glen Helen Gorge which in turn leads on to Redbank Gorge and then Gosse Bluff and in a continuing loop back east to Hermannsburg. Each, in turn, is different…..

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Simpsons Gap

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Standley Chasm

We actually missed Serpentine Gorge cos of the bad road in  so then to…

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Ellery Creek Big Hole. Too photogenic, don’t know which shots to pick. Swimming allowed, water temperature 4′.


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the Ochre Pits. Not as colourful as those we saw near Lyndhurst in SA but part of the local scene. Interesting that taking samples from this supposed Aboriginal site carries a bigger penalty than they get for stealing or burning a white mans car…..

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I am not sure who has the weight of the law on side here. But this is not a political commentary site so shut up Barry.

Onwards, ever onwards…..

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to Glen Helen Gorge, where a little bird told me……?

We overnighted here for a few nights cos it was nicely placed to do and see other things….

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the Gorge was sort of night lit but I’m still learning how to use this new camera so suck it up.

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Redbank Gorge with a little look at the “sleeping lubra” first up.

Forward to the missionary position….

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the settlement of Hermannsburg founded as a Lutheran Mission in the 1870’s and still sort of practising today (if the indigenous population is anything to go by). It is notable for its association with Albert Namatjira who’s house, built from artistic endeavours, is nearby ……

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I guess you can’t say he lived “high on the vine”!

Back towards the campervan we headed after a long trek on a lot of dirt to get to Hermannsburg but via Gosse Bluff which is supposedly the site of a comet strike on the Earth a long time ago….

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Real good sunset shots still allude us but Jude mad a valiant attempt from a lookout out west….

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and then it was on to bed (well after a bit of socialising)

Next day took us a little backwards to Ormiston Gorge and it is right to say “keep the best till last” cos it was.

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talk about a stairway to heaven. There is a lone ghost gum high on the gorge wall to which a walk is dedicated. Its testing but OK. The little gum tree exhibits much more determination than we did – its roots ply a course 70metres through rock to reach the water table below. This is a stunning location and as have so many sights in this part of the country it comes as a great surprise. The landscape is astonishing, dramatic, severe  and beautiful.

You’ll never never know if you never never go goes that bloody commercial for the NT but its true (so far). Its totally unexpected.

17 June 2015

Don’t show me a desert

We are in central Australia. This is supposed to be a desert isn’t it? Wherever we look there are trees, grasses, fat cattle even fat horses. Haven’t seen camels, few kangaroos, some dingoes but this could be any part of coastal country Australia. Alice even had hail last Saturday while we were having rain out on the west MacDonnell Ranges. Also had rain back in Alice today (Tuesday). Everything is green. Whilst the rivers aren’t actually flowing the Todd River has water in parts of it today.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. After leaving Kings Canyon thinking that it was pretty special we overnighted at Erldunda  at the intersection of the Stuart and Lassiter Highways cos the Finke Desert  Rally was on over the Queens Birthday weekend and there wasn’t a space to be had in Alice at the time. So on to Alice Springs on Tuesday to stop at the cheapest caravan park we could get into. Pretty ordinary it was  but we only really slept there. Alice has a population of around 27000 but it seems bigger. Non reflective people wander the streets at all times of the night and day in large numbers. It makes the place seem busy all the time. Nontheless it is a nice enough little country village with all of the best amenities.

There are lots of things to see here abouts. First was the old Ghan…….

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This is not really the “old” Ghan, its perhaps 50 years old and this lot was parked up here following its last run in about 1980. The station building is earlier and a lot of the display material inside is good history. The model train is the “current” Ghan, the real one is below…

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Couldn’t convince the gals that the National Transport Museum would be of interest to them so took myself off in the afternoon to it. I suppose in terms of vehicles on display it wasn’t exemplary but it is different. One of the major features is the “hall of Fame”, a gallery of transport personalities…..

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I didn’t read them all but amongst them were some recognisable names, all contributors to road transport in Oz. Kenworth has its own pavilion….

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displaying the oldest to the newest. Very impressive. A staff photo of 2005 has a familiar face (in pink far right)….

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(yes, its a Dore).

There are a lot of interesting old trucks John but some of them won’t fit in the shed……

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There is so much to see they give you a pass-out to come back a second day. I haven’t had the chance. For George here’s a couple…

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and more generally…….

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Next day took us to the Old Telegraph Station north of town. A fabulous piece of history…….IMGP4431 (1024x768) IMGP4438 (1024x768) IMGP4439 (1024x768) IMGP4440 (1024x768) IMGP4441 (1024x768) IMGP4442 (1024x768) IMGP4444 (1024x768) IMGP4445 (1024x768) IMGP4446 (1024x768)





























beautiful buildings built from local stone about 135 years ago to house a small community centred around the telegraph repeater station. Bloody Morse Code – try deciphering it! Extraordinary old technology – tell me how a battery of the time works….. there should be a photograph of a diagram here but it didn’t come out – ahh, digital technology.

Up Anzac Hill lookout for a look out …..

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and you get a great overview of “the Alice”, once upon a time named Stuart.

Now Robyn has done all of this before so she knows some of the sights. So, off to the east MacDonnell ranges for a look at gaps and chasms. Its easy to be complacent about the Australian “desert” but it continues to surprise. Some of the scenery is nothing short of spectacular…….

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and that was Jesse, if you’ll pardon the expression, Gap, the first one out of Alice if you don’t count Heavitree Gap

Then to Corroboree Rock…….

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Then Trephina Gorge…….

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note how the trees hang in there and, yes, we did the walk. Bloody hard work too.

On to Ross River “resort” for a spot of lunch. Ahh no, lunch is off after 2.30 and its now 2.40, we’re starving from all this exercise. We must have hit the right note though ( maybe it was that famished half starved waif like look I managed to muster) cos the cook rustled up some hot pies and fresh chippies and it was like a feast. As a resort it probably fails the luxury test usually associated with such a title but as an interesting dalliance it was worth a visit if for nothing but its environment….

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I s’pose it could be exotic for having a peacock in the paddock and dogs on the couch.

Before lunch Robyn tested her off-road capabilities with a drive into the John Hayes Rockhole. Just 8km off the beaten track but……

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note the level of concentration. It certainly was a testing track.

Then we found a tree…..

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a very special ghost gum (or so the sign read) and I couldn’t resist a picture or two or three or so.

After lunch the day was pretty well shot with a 100 or so ks back to Alice, so night fell with a bang and we packed up to head out next morning (Saturday) assuming that the weather forecast for storms and rain didn’t eventuate. Saturday started out fine so off we went west. As it turned out we left the hail behind.

Next post gets us to the west MacDonnell ranges and Hermannsburg. After losing interwebbythingy connection whilst trying to post this post I’m stuffed from trying to generate enough power so its beddybyes time now. If I don’t post it right now it might get lost.

9 June 2015

Never, Never

Well we finally made it out of the bog (Coober Pedy that is) and found our way to Ayers Rock (Uluru).

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Stopped at a pub at Kulgera  to overnight on the way and thought $1.87 was getting a bit high for fuel, but the tariff was only $20.00 for a powered site and the pub fare was reasonable with entertainment as well. We met a batch of people with whom we have continued to travel including Peter and Marie from Rutherglen. On the way into Uluru Robyn bumped into us after she had asked after us along the way. Several people reported our passing and pointed her in our direction. It remains a small world when in the middle of the country you can bump into people who remember your name. Then, at Yulara, Stan turns up following directions from Suzy Pettit after following our blog and we spend the next few days connected (and continue to do so now in Alice).

Anyway, small world or not, it is still a bloody big country this ‘ere Oz. 4 days at Yulara Resort which, despite advice to the contrary, is a great place to stay. We were told it had deteriorated from its halcyon early days of 20 or so years ago but apart from some of the patina of age and desert red dirt its in great shape and just a lovely place to be in the desert. The rock is still there too although a bit further away than I remembered (but then so is everything else these days).

For a second time in my life I actually saw a sunrise by choice. Marvellous what a rock can do to ones mental stability. Sunset however remains the best time for viewing…..

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Jude says its only cos its getting dark but there is no doubt that it is majestic. I couldn’t believe that I’d have to jostle for space along the fence of the sunset viewing area let alone mix it with thousands at the sunrise viewing. There was a procession of cars along the 25 km drive out in the morning and 12 buses already there when I got to the spot.

The Yulara Resort and caravan park has over 200 sites and they were full every day. Then there were cabins, units unpowered sites, a hotel and motel, a supermarket and other assorted shops all milling with people….

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and its clearly quite a “city” at night.

The Olgas were also part of the “tour”. Interesting fact, the rocks all have different geological structure and origins. On the way into Yulara along the Lassiter Highway you pass Mt Connor. At first glance the response is – gee! didn’t think you could see Ayers Rock this far out but on moving closer it does not look like the familiar pictures of ‘the rock’ …..

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This is one type of  structure. Uluru is another, the Olgas yet another and in turn the Kings Canyon Middle Range is different again. All within about a 300km circle.

Olgas look like….

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and are generally comprised of lumps like these….

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On the other hand, Uluru is one solid bit of sandstone, supposedly mostly still buried. I can’t remember Mt Connors make up I just remember it is different. Then the Middle Ranges which support Kings Canyon are layers and layers of sand stone (see pictures in due course). I’m sure Bob and Kelvin will get something out of this but I’m stumped.

Suffice to say they are all pretty spectacular in their own way and millions of flies can’t be wrong about that.

We’re not just grey nomads out here. The population ranges from indigenes, Germans, French, others, children and all sorts of miscellaneous tourists all with different ways of getting about. Rental cars, motorhomes even motorbikes and pedallies. Caravans are of course ‘king’ and the road is continuously humming with them.

On to Kings Canyon. Thought it wise to book ahead so 3 or so days before hand we had to settle for sites apart and the last powered ones they had. A much smaller facility than Yulara and at one time perhaps a top notch resort, the Kings Canyon Resort and Camping Ground has seen better days – perhaps now 3 stars. They still remember how to charge for 5 stars though. None the less it satisfied our need to climb mountains.

On Sunday we hit the rocks. Trail was billed as ‘moderate’ with a ‘difficult’ start. No kidding! It was.

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but we were encouraged on by others who assured us it was worthwhile. It was.

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I know, its a lot to take in and these few shots are but a small percentage of the photogenic locations in this range.

We did what was referred to as the “rim walk”. It did indeed take us some 6km all the way around the top. 4 hours, not all high effort but we were all pleased to be back at the car park. A very scenic journey.