I know … I know … I began our holiday with visits to artesian spas and now I am ending our travels with more artesian spas! Very fitting methinks.
Although I have to confess, after two spas in two different towns today, I am a little ‘spa’d out’ right now and I’ll tell you why. We began the day in Walgett (pop 1800) which has a small artesian spa for free at their Public Pool, therefore by 8.15 am we were all packed and on our way to the spa in town.
Soon after, we were delighting in the beautiful warm spa waters of Australia’s artesian basin. How wonderful! Three hours later we arrived in another town called Moree (pop 8,245) where we purposely stayed in a caravan park which has five different spa pools all of different temperatures. It’s an amazing place!
Of course, as soon as we had a chance, we were trying out all the different pools. I have to say dear friends, that they were full of ‘old people’ (not US of course) all hoping for some miraculous cure or other. Or perhaps they were like us and found their aching limbs responded well to sitting in the beautiful warm waters. There sure were a lot of aged people in those baths!
However, I digress! There has been more to our travels than spa pools folks … more … much more. Oh it is hard to believe that this time it is actually about to end. We arrive home on Thursday. Now everybody weep … as we will be weeping come Thursday morning.
Now, let’s get back to where we left off at Broken Hill. We were on such a high after we arrived there that the next day was a bit of a downer for us. Everything seemed harder. We were tired of looking at mines and museums and everything annoyed us. Why were we so tired?
Geoff had been doing a lot more driving per day hoping to get us home earlier, so when we arrived at 5pm at Cobar (another mining town: silver and gold, pop 2500) we went “ho hum … we’re too tired to really care.”
It was not long after this that I made an executive decision dear friends! We would not drive so far the next day. We would stop trying to get home quickly and begin – once again – to enjoy ourselves and get home whenever we got home. It worked!
Now isn’t this interesting? As soon as we made this decision – on the road between Cobar and Bourke – circumstances occurred to make it come into being. I still find it hard to believe actually. It happened like this:
I was trying to rendezvous with a friend in Bourke who was leaving the day we were arriving. We knew it would be tricky so when I arrived I phoned her on her mobile and she said “We have just been to the Bakery to get some goodies and left town. What a shame!”
A conversation about the Bakery ensued which led us to visit and have coffee and cake before we left for the next town. We asked the shop assistant about this town and she was adamant that we weren’t to stay there; it wasn’t safe; it was too small etc.
And then dear friends, a sales pitch for us to stay in the town of Bourke came flowing out of her mouth and it was so convincing that we were almost saying “So where do we sign up?” There was mention of Poet’s Dinners at the Bush Camp and rides on a paddle steamer and more besides.
Next minute, we are pulling in to Kidman’s Bush Camp and having the time of our lives … and yes, the paddle steamer up the Darling River was just wonderful the next day that we didn’t leave until midday. We had such a great time in Bourke all thanks to our friend Katrina and our desire to take it easy!
Therefore, we just keep driving as far as it is comfortable to drive in a day, arrive around 2-3pm and enjoy the rest of our time in that town.
On this note I will leave you tonight … heavy of heart about returning home … but knowing it has to happen. As my granddaughter Alice (13) said sadly to her mother the other day “Mum, I’ve forgotten what Grandma’s voice sounds like.”
And that means, dear ones,that I must go home. Talking on the phone doesn’t cut the mustard apparently. I need to go home to chat to my grandchildren. Time for me to disconnect with my travels and reconnect with my family …
Well, we’re finally on our way home … albeit the long way home! However, we were determined to enjoy it and make it last as long as possible.
What a day we’ve had today dear friends! Unplanned as it was, it turned out that the little things that happened to us made our day. Let me give you an idea how it went.
We stayed overnight in Mildura (pop 26,000) famous for its raisins, grapes and fruit. We happened to be there with a whole bunch of school children from Grade 1 – 4 who were ending the school term with a stay at a caravan park. Sure, they come from Mildura but this was indeed a treat for them.
I went to microwave my leftovers for tea and arrived in the middle of the children’s meal in the camp kitchen. What bedlam! What mayhem! How delightful to see small children enjoying the thrill of a night away from home. Loved every moment of it.
This morning, we did some Murray River viewing and saw this Mighty River at its very best but when we got to Wentworth where the Darling River and the Murray River meet, Geoff just lost the plot. He did folks. He saw a lock on the river and began talking to the Lock Keeper about how it all works when a small boat arrived to go through the lock.
I could not get him to leave Wentworth until that boat went through the lock. Previously, he was talking to a fellow who had a houseboat called “The Mother of Ducks” and I had to drag him away from there also.
We spent almost two hours in this town while Geoff enjoyed himself immensely doing all things that pertain to rivers and boats, which meant we arrived quite late in Broken Hill 265 ks away. After getting settled at the caravan park we decided to go to the lookout and view the sunset over the town.
Things weren’t going too well in the sunset department as there was no good place that we could see to view it. We ended up taking photos next to a house which partially blocked the view when the occupant came home and invited us in to view it through her front windows!
She had just taken up residence TODAY in that house and she rented it because of the view! Well, we missed the sunset but we did have a lovely chat to Nikki the resident of the house. Oh, we had so much in common! She came from the same area as Geoff near Grafton in New South Wales.
She showed us the beautiful house and by the time we left it was completely dark! But what a thrill it was for us to be invited by a complete stranger into her house to view the sunset. It is the small things like this that make travel delightful.
Another thing that happened today was finding some fresh vegetables – at dirt cheap prices – outside a farm when we took the wrong road to Broken Hill and had to turn back! It was doubly delightful because we had to throw away all our vegetables and fruit when we came into the Riverina area due to fruit fly and we had none left.
With all this good news dear friends, I will now leave you as time is getting away. Forgive me if this post is not perfect as I have typed it up in record time before going to bed! I’ll leave you with this gallery of photos.
Love to all.
At present I am sitting in my van – with the heater on – in the beautiful, green lush Barossa Valley in South Australia wondering where the time has gone since we left the outback three days ago.
You see, as soon as we hit civilisation on Sunday (Port Augusta) clouds began gathering overhead and rain seemed ominous. We didn’t have to wait long for it to happen! Six weeks on the road and we hardly saw a cloud in the sky the whole time and now rain.
Heaven knows that the outback needs the rain … while South Australia have had plenty of it but they got some more on Sunday night when we decided to stay overnight in the little town of Port Germein (pop 900) instead of at one of the larger towns along the way.
What a fascinating little seaside village. Somehow, after all that outback, desert, dirt and dust, it was so refreshing to view the sea! We walked around the town and chatted to some locals who sung the praises of Port Germein. They have a jetty there that is the longest in Australia, so of course, we just HAD to walk it didn’t we?
Now our legs feel like jelly because we had walked the town before walking the jetty … my pedometer tells me I walked almost 15,000 steps and folks that’s an incredible amount of steps.And, we’ve done lots more walking today also.
Now, back to this blog post as I have digressed dear friends! I want to leave you with this piece from my journal which I wrote whilst waiting for lunch in an interesting hotel on the way to Tanunda. It will give you some idea of where we are now … quite a different place from three days ago!
Monday 1st September 2014
Well, here we are in the Sir Anthony Kidman Hotel in a little town called Kapunda (pop 3500) near the Barossa Valley in South Australia (a famous wine-growing area) waiting for our lunch in a proper old-fashioned Dining Room the likes of which you don’t see anymore.
We’ve been driving through the Clare Valley and heading for Tanunda in order to stay for three days.We have tried to find sustenance along the way but when we stopped at a tiny pub with a big name “The Sir James Ferguson Hotel” in an even tinier town called Tarlee, we were told “Oh no, we don’t cook on Mondays! Try Kapunda.”
We almost tripped over two huge dogs as we tried to walk out the door (the pub was far too small for both us, the dogs and the two men at the bar). Onwards to Kapunda to find lunch.
As we drove, rain was falling lightly and mist hugged the countryside in this beautiful part of South Australia. Canola fields of bright yellow delight were interspersed with the greenest wheat fields I’ve ever seen; there were cherry and apple blossoms on trees in every direction; sheep were grazing on emerald-green pastures and there were quaint stone colonial houses everywhere. What a delight!
Such contrast for us desert-weary travellers. We have been permeated with the dust and dirt of the outback … now we feel as if the rain and the lushness of the Clare Valley (adjacent to the Barossa) has washed us clean. It’s been a balm to our spirits as well, especially our decision to stay the first night out of the desert, at Port Germein on the sea.
It was a small seaside village and we were able to walk to all the places we wanted to go with the Pub being at the centre of things. We met a motorbike group (Bikkies) about to set out for the Germein Gorge to raise awareness and funds to help the gorge after being ravaged by fire and flood.
Later, when we walked the jetty, we met another local who was instrumental in us going to the Pub for a pizza supper and joining in with the three locals at the bar (there are always locals at the bar in these little towns!) with all that was going on.
Now, we are well and truly settled in at the Caravan Park at Tanunda where we almost froze to death last night! However, this place is a delight with lush green grass around the vans instead of the dirt of Coober Pedy. We’ve well and truly left that life behind us now and gone on to brighter pastures.
Today we caught a train to Adelaide and enjoyed the delights of the Botanical Gardens … but I will tell you all about that later. For now, dear friends, my best wishes as I sign off from the beautiful Barossa Valley.
Hello dear friends
We found some lovely delights today both in Coober Pedy and nearby. While the town is a shanty-type town full of mines and shale heaps on the edges of the town, their dugout churches are quite beautiful. Such a contrast!
I am sharing these pictures with you today because we are moving on tomorrow and will be off-line for the next couple of days. Australia is an interesting country, the vast distances means that modern day technology doesn’t always work in our remote areas.
We had a funny experience today when we saw a sign saying Lookout and went to take photos. However, the lookout was in the Opal Miner’s front yard! We took our photos and were about to go when the Chinese owner/miner came out and encouraged us.
“I’ve been here since 1979 from Hong Kong” he said to us.
He invited us into his shanty house to view opals … what could we say? The funny part was when we went inside, it was like entering Hong Kong! Chinese TV was blaring out and we could smell a decidedly Chinese dish (probably chicken’s feet soup!) emanating from the kitchen. Photos of Chinese grandchildren were plastered everywhere.
He may have been in Coober Pedy since 1979 but his heart is definitely in Hong Kong! We felt so bad about taking photos that we bought a rock for $2 from him, with a glint of opal in it.
“A good luck rock” he said, finally satisfied that we had bought SOMETHING!!
Anyway, I’m off to bed … and I’ll see you all in a few days. Enjoy the slideshow that follows …
After four days of being ‘off the air’ so to speak, we arrived today in a little town of 2000 people called Coober Pedy where opal mining dominates EVERYTHING in the town.
Dear friends, it is the wild wild west as far as I am concerned! It is situated in the middle of nowhere. However, having said that, it is a very interesting town with more opal jewellery shops than you could ever imagine … at least about thirty of them.
When I left you last, we were leaving Uluru to go to a canyon called Kings Canyon 300 ks away. Everyone said, it was a ‘must see’ before leaving the area and it did not disappoint.
We stayed at an outback station called Kings Creek Station where we found Camel Pie on the menu – the camels were looking so innocent when we arrived. I wondered if they realised they could end up in a pie if they weren’t careful? They were also used for camel rides as well. Plenty of camels out there so perhaps there is hope for some of them!
Since leaving Kings Creek, we have stayed in two overnight stops – one in Kulgera (pop 50) and the other called Cadney Homestead (pop 30). Basically, these places are kept going by the grey nomads going up and down the centre of Australia staying overnight.
They are virtually a Roadhouse with petrol, food a pub and some groceries. We’ve had some very interesting experiences at these places although they have no mobile phone or internet access however, they attract a lot of people to Happy Hour at the Bar as well as meals. It is here you meet and chat with fellow travellers.
Now, we are back in so-called civilisation here at Coober Pedy, I am writing a post to fill you in on our travels. We’ll be in the wilderness again from Saturday onwards. We have decided to stay here two nights as there is a lot to see.
We visited a church this afternoon which is underground. Yes, I did say ‘underground’. It is so hot in summer that they have dug out areas under ground and turned them into churches, houses, restaurants or gift shops. Fascinating place this town!
I visited 45 years ago and it was a very small town then. I couldn’t believe how much it had grown and changed. Geoff and I did a walk of the town this afternoon and met some locals which is always great.
Now dear friends, I’ll leave you with this tale I was told whilst in town. We went to a Bakery to buy cake for afternoon tea (yes, I know … naughty naughty!) and saw a paper clipping on the counter “Thief breaks into Bakery and cooks himself a late night snack!”
When I asked the owner about it, he said the thief had been caught on CCTV and he was doing all kinds of bizarre things like dancing in the dark after he had cooked himself eggs. He also hit himself on a beam and got knocked out! He was found fast asleep in the storeroom and taken away.
The owner said “Oh, apparently he was from Melbourne and it seems his doctor is looking for him!” Don’t you love this story … and what’s more, it is true! It could only happen in Coober Pedy.
There is something special about being out here in desert of Central Australia dear friends. Everywhere we drive we feel as if we’re in another country because the countryside is like nothing we see on the east coast of Australia where we live.
In fact, coming along the highway to Uluru, I had an Andre Rieu CD playing “You Raise Me Up” and as we came to a rise, all we could see below were multi-coloured low mountains surrounding us on every side. For some reason – perhaps due to the isolation – I remarked to Geoff, “I feel like I’m in America and this is the last frontier!”
Combined with the uplifting strains of the violins playing, the mountains seemed to enclose us in an embrace of security and comfort. For a moment, I gasped at the sheer majesty of the scene before me. It was breath-taking; then as we sped along, the moment passed. Just like that it was gone!
Geoff and I remarked on the colours of this area: deep burnt oranges and reds, browns that veer towards tan, yellow flowering shrubs and grey-blue clumps of salt-bush on the flats with a few spindly trees here and there. I call them the colours of Central Australia.
Now that we are here, Geoff and I simply cannot get enough of Uluru also known as Ayers Rock – so we devoted all our time to it yesterday.
Today we decided that it was time to give some attention to the poor cousin to Uluru: KATA TJUTA. Formerly called The Devil’s Marbles by us white folk, it is also a very significant place to the aboriginal people. It lies 50ks from Uluru and it is a series of large round rock formations. It is now part of the Uluru/Kata Tjuta National Park and it costs $25 per head to visit for three days.
It is now a world heritage listed area and was handed back to the Anangu aborigine people in 1985 who immediately leased it back to the Federal Government for 99 years. However, it is jointly managed by both but the presence of our indigenous people here is very strong here.
So dear friends, I cannot begin to tell you about the wonderful time we are experiencing living here in the township adjacent to Uluru called Yalara (no one camps or stays in the National Park). There is a community here comprising all different levels of accommodation with a Town Centre at it’s heart.
We have so many activities to visit that we have had to forgo some due to lack of time!
And don’t get me started about meeting and chatting to people from all over the world either!
Today we managed to watch some traditional aboriginal dancing and when the men were invited to get up and learn to dance like a kangaroo and an emu, my dear husband was one of the first men to get up. Shouts went up from a couple of Canadian ladies sitting next to him who had convinced him to volunteer. Oh, it was fun!
Another highlight was watching the sunset onto Uluru last night in a special viewing area. People had their glasses and were drinking champagne or bottles of beer, celebrating as the sun slowly sank into the sky changing the colour of The Rock every few minutes. Geoff surprised me by handing me a bottle of alcoholic Apple Cider and we clinked bottles to celebrate our first sunset on The Rock. I now have the most amazing photo of Uluru which you will find above.
Today we went along to a ‘Welcome to Country’ ceremony for the Astronomy weekend which begins today and we made a point of meeting Dr. Karl our favourite scientist who is running the show. He was so generous with his time and posed for four photos with each of us. A real madcap professor, we had to have a photo with bunny ear fingers, one with a grin and another blowing a kiss. A real delight!
So now dear ones, I will leave you with some photos of our adventures. I have to be off to do some astronomy things on the weekend. Chow for now …
Since we left Alice Springs on Tuesday we have been having all kinds of adventures dear friends! One that ended up being very interesting was the first night’s stopover at a place called Mt. Ebenezer Roadhouse (pop 11). This rather unusual place is owned by an aboriginal community but is managed by white Australians with the help of some British backpackers.
Four hundred aborigines live in a community 15 ks away from the roadhouse and we managed to see quite a few of them while having dinner at the pub that night. In fact I think we were the only white people (besides the staff) having tea there but we loved every minute of our interactions!
As we drove along the highway the next morning, we thought we saw Uluru in the distance and got quite excited. However, as we got closer we realised it was Mt. Connor which Kenny, the manager at Mt. Ebenezer had warned us might happen. He was right!
I wrote this piece in my journal:
Wed 20th August 2014
Kenny told us to stop at Mt. Connor lookout so dutifully we stop (Kenny has that effect on you) and meet a bus load of seniors on a tour. As we take our morning tea to the picnic table, there are a few women from the bus sitting there. Geoff asks can we share the sunshine as it’s freezing cold. Val, one of the ladies, says “Well, we won’t bite …” to which I respond “He probably wouldn’t mind a bite from a lady. It would keep him awake!”
Well, that was it … hilarity followed. We were best buddies after that. We chatted so long they nearly missed their call to go and only then did we snap Mt. Connor and climb the reddest sandy hill I’ve ever seen, to view the Amadeus Salt Lake. Amazing view … to the left and the right; who would have known it was there if not for Kenny? Kenny who is about to walk the Camino!
After that dear friends, we were flying very high and the kilometers then began to fly by also. Finally, with about 30ks to go we see another huge rock. Oh yes we cry! THIS IS THE REAL ULURU! We’d seen the rock. I couldn’t get a decent photo but we are excited nevertheless.
We’ve come to see Ayers Rock – known to the aboriginals as Uluru – and finally we’ve arrived! I have been here 45 years ago, as a silly 22-year-old with so little commonsense that I climbed The Rock in sandals!! Yep, I did say sandals and I had blisters for the next two weeks to prove it.
Today, we visited Uluru to do what the call The Marla Walk and when I saw the sheer cliffs of Uluru I wondered all over again about climbing that rock in sandals! However, today we are asked to respect the Aboriginal people and not climb it as it is a sacred place for them.
Oh dear friends, we learned so much today from the Ranger about aboriginal people! I realised then how much I had changed in the last 45 years wince my last visit. The world too has changed … especially Australia. We understand about the original inhabitants of our land now and we respect them for their culture and share their land with them also.
What’s more, I understand clearly now WHY this part of our country was/is so precious to them. The Rock fascinates and draws you. It has that effect on those who visit. We have met so many different nationalities who keep wanting to come back. We met some Germans at Mt. Ebenezer who are visiting here for the third time.
We will be in Yulara (the township attached to Uluru) for another three days so you will be hearing more from me before I leave. Also, we have again arrived at the very right time for an Astronomy weekend and plan to attend a couple of the activities relating to astronomy with our very own Dr. Karl the scientist.
Until then … bye for now.
P.S. Since writing this, I have some amazing photos to show you next, but enough for today as I am off to an aboriginal ‘Welcome to Country” dance here at the campground.