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.
It looks as if Geoff and I are in love … with Alice Springs that is! Oh okay, we are still ‘in love’ with each other too – but that is another story!
We arrived here since last Friday 15th right smack bang into the festival they call The Henley-Todd Regatta which involves a so-called ‘boat race’ in the middle of the dry river bed aka The Todd River.
Now dear friends, keep in mind that we are in the middle of the desert and most of the rivers do NOT run unless the rains come and then it floods. Yes, I did say: FLOODS. The rains do not come very often so Alice Springs decided – 54 years ago – not to wait for the rivers to flow. Instead, they would create ‘boats’ of all shapes and sizes, powered by people to run the course of the race … in the dry river bed.
Hence, the Henley-on-Todd Regatta was born. The Regatta street parade is followed by the race on Saturday 15th. Such good timing! The ad in our brochure said “A must-see event once in a life time.” Yes, we would agree with that!
On Sunday we went on a bus tour to the West MacDonnell Ranges to give Geoff a break from driving. These ranges actually run through the town and become the East MacDonnell Ranges to the east. This is a long mountain range dear friends!
Geoff called this tour “the highlight of our trip” and he wasn’t wrong. Picture this: coloured mountains that go on forever, beautiful gorges and huge gaps between mountains with billabongs (waterholes) at some locations. We were taken to a summit where we viewed the beautiful Finke River flowing (amazing, one river does flow in certain places) and the Sonda Mountains in the background.
Friends were made on this trip; German people were advised on where to go when they visited Brisbane; lovely food was eaten and Clive the captain of the show filled us in on everything we needed to know about Australia, aborigines and the West MacDonnell Ranges. A wonderful day out!
Today is our last full day here and we’ve visited a few places which I’ll tell you about later on. Yes we are feeling sad. We’ve come to feel at home in our rustic Caravan Park where the afternoon sun wafts into our van before it sets.
However, for the moment I’ll share a selection of photos of the journey so far. Tomorrow we pack up and inch ever closer to Uluru (Ayres Rock) the amazing Rock which Australia is famous for, but for now I’ll say my good-byes. I’ll be back when we get to Uluru to give you the latest news.
Chow for now… from talking to the Italians mentioned below.
After four days of one night stopovers, we arrived hale and hearty in Alice Springs this afternoon. The locals here call it ‘The Alice’. The locals also call Cloncurry:‘The Curry and Mt. Isa: ‘The Isa!’ When we arrived in Camooweal, Geoff asked an old man “Do you call this ‘The Weal” but the poor man had no idea what Geoff was on about … but we did laugh!
As usual I have been writing up my Travel Journal along the way. I’ve also been sending postcards to both sets of grandchildren who have been delighted to be following Grandpa and Bampy as we travel the outback of Australia. I’ve sent them a lovely map now so they find each town we visit.
It has been a grand adventure coming down the middle of Australia and we ‘aint finished yet’ … as the saying goes! So join me dear friends, as we travel the outback of Australia via my journal.
Wed 13th August 2014
We took off from The Barkly Homestead this morning heading south to a place called The Devil’s Marbles but when we got to Tennant Creek, out of the blue Geoff said, “let’s stop the night here!” I was quite surprised but the little town with pop 3,500 seemed to appeal to him. He felt he had driven far enough and the Marbles were another 60 ks further on.
After getting settled we went off to ‘walk the town,’ which is becoming a great habit with us. As we were leaving the park we met a woman called Cathy who advised us not to go saying it wasn’t a very nice town to walk around. This had the opposite effect on us and only increased our enthusiasm to go!
She was half right … what an event this turned out to be!
The town was shabby and dirty; it was full of indigenous people speaking their own language and just hanging around the streets. Every shop had their windows covered in mesh or boarded up, some had metal sheeting on them. This was not a good omen.
The police presence was all over town. We spoke to a fresh-faced young policeman standing outside a run-down hotel … possibly as a deterrent to those hanging about looking for trouble. He told us his two-year tenure was just about up and he couldn’t wait to get out of Tennant Creek. Oh dear, we did feel for him.
However, on the flip side of it all, the town held such promise! There was beautiful aboriginal art on a lot of the buildings, walls and even the rubbish bins … just a shame that the rest was grubby and unkempt.
We chatted to a man called Wayne – with four front teeth missing – who served us in a computer shop where I was getting my Australia maps photocopied. He was scathing about everything in town: the aborigines, the network provider and the petrol companies! Not happy at all. He was the second person who served us in a shop who had no front teeth. What’s happening here? No dentists perhaps?
Thursday 14th August 2014
We arrived at Taylor’s Creek this afternoon for a free stopover by a creek with not one drop of water in it. Cathy and Lyle who we met in Tennant Creek told us about this place and they are parked next to us which makes us feel good as this place is quite isolated.
Picture this: we have been driving down the centre of Australia – desert country – heading south to Ayres Rock (Uluru) and all we have seen is red dirt and Mitchell grass tufts as far as the eye can see with occasional low multi-coloured mountain ranges in the distance. It is freezing cold!
No houses can be seen as the cattle properties out here are vast and their homesteads are not visible from the road. However, there are plenty of ‘grey nomads’ (old people travelling) with caravans and motorhomes going up and down the highways of the outback.
There are plenty of rest stops every 30-50 ks and there are always other nomads like us there, sustaining themselves for the journey with cups of tea and other goodies.
This is a dry vast land and travelling down its centre is an experience not to be missed. As I sit writing in the van, I am watching the sunset over an expansive horizon. It is eerie really … isolated. I am grateful for Cathy and Lyle next door however, there are cattle nearby which is quite unusual, so there must be a homestead somewhere!
I think we’ll be locking our van door tonight in Taylor’s Creek without any water, dear friends!”
I am writing this as my Chilli Con Carne cooks on the stove for dinner tonight. I bought some nice minced beef at Tennant Creek before I left yesterday. In fact, I also bought some lovely fresh bread there to have on sandwiches with the ham off the bone I bought the day before.
When he confessed that he, the butcher gets up early to bake the bread, I was gob-smacked. Only frozen bread gets trucked to Tennant Creek he tells me, so he learned to bake bread. He laughed when I said “Oh, so you’re the butcher, the baker … are you a candle stick maker also?”
It can only happen out here in the country dear friends. As we travel I send you my good wishes and after hearing of the death of Robin Williams, my admonition today is: Seize the Day! This is what Robin told the young boys in that wonderful movie “ The Dead Poet’s Society.” Just do it …
Now that we are settled in at The Barkley Highway Roadhouse, it is time to reconnect with all my followers as we head into the centre of Australia bound for Uluru (Ayers Rock). I’ll bring you up to date dear friends.
We left Mt. Isa on Monday. We laugh that we went to Mt. Isa to have a cuppa with my cousin on the way through and ended up staying four days because the Rodeo was on!
So here are some excerpts from my travel journal for you so you can enjoy the journey with us.
Sun 10th August 2014
My cousin Michael was having a ‘Great Big Rodeo Breakfast’ on Sunday for all his family and some friends. Well, the BBQ breakfast is done and dusted now. We’ve meet all my cousin’s children, husbands, wives and grandchildren plus some other old friends who happened to be in The Isa at this moment.
What a day it turned out to be! Words seem inadequate to describe such a day. And there, standing tall as head of the family, was Michael, my cousin known as ‘Mick’ to most people. Gregarious and friendly, with a deep booming laugh and dressed up as a cowboy for the day, he prepares to cook enough food to feed 30 people.
There are tables and chairs set up in the back yard. The morning’s preparation goes like clock-work. This is a well-oiled machine and Mick and Tina (his wife) have their allotted duties. Years of Rodeo Big Breakfasts have produced this efficiency and Geoff and I look on in awe.
Introductions all round … food kept warm in the pizza oven nearby… drinks …it’s all happening. The Great Big Rodeo Breakfast has begun for another year! Mick is in his glory, waxing lyrical as he drinks THE punch he made earlier. “Don’t you just love this?” says Mick as he waves his arms to indicate the family and friends that are gathered around him.
Mick is feeling magnanimous and gives me a great big bear hug and says “It’s so good to have you here Therese!”
What’s in that punch I wonder? It seems harmless enough as I sip on a glass. One of his adult kids tells me not to trust ‘Dad.’ I find out that there is white rum, Contreau and white wine topped up with orange juice in the punch!
In fact, I do not imagine that the punch is getting stronger with each jug he makes! One of the woman guests doesn’t realise this and tops hers up with wine. Oh no! It does look like orange juice but after my third glass I am feeling tipsy and compensate by switching to ginger beer.
We’re having so much fun and eaten so much food: heaps of bacon, thin slices of rib fillet steak, eggs, fried home-grown tomatoes, fried onions … and toast. All this is washed down with Micks (in) famous punch! The breakfast goes on all day ending with games (trivial pursuit type questions) under the shade of a tree for anyone left that can still stand up. What a day! Finally, last to leave are the old friends.We hug as if we have known each other forever!
It’s all over now and we must come back to earth so we can leave tomorrow.
Monday 11th August 2014
We are now staying at a little town overnight called Camooweal (pop 310). Mick laughed at us as we left Mt. Isa quite late (noon) saying, “Well, you’ll get there by 9 pm hopefully!” Considering it is only 200 ks away we know this worth a good laugh.
It is warm as we drive to Camooweal and we know we are very close to the Northern Territory (20 ks). This is dry dusty country – flat land as far as the eye can see – no sign of civilisation until we reach the town. There are caravans and campers everywhere! The grey nomads are keeping this tiny town going methinks.
When we’re settled we set out to ‘walk the town’ as we have been doing everywhere. There is nothing much to see: a large hotel almost falling down, one store that is a Post Office, a General Store and sells petrol … plus a BP Service Station; plenty of motels, caravan parks (2) and a hostel.
We’ve almost finished our uneventful walk when Geoff spots an old man in the yard of a backpacker’s hostel and asks his usual question: “What’s happening in Camooweal then?” Nothing much it seems although the Drovers Festival is on this weekend. We tell him if we stay we’ll never get to Uluru!
It turns out that Owen (88) has lived here since 1959 and spent his life droving cattle through Australia. Oh, he has some stories to tell and we can’t help talking for quite a while. He lives in a beat up bus in the yard of the hostel. We can tell Owen is loving having someone to chat to, besides the 310 residents that live here, although he assures us that only 24 of these are white people!
We head back to our van where the aroma of Chicken Korma cooking in the slow cooker greets us. Yummy! Tea should be good tonight after Rodeo food!
Tuesday 12th August 2014
Before leaving Camooweal for The Barkley Roadhouse stop 240 ks away, we decide to have a look at the Drover’s Camp Museum just out-of-town. Imagine our surprise when a pastel drawing of Owen the drover is on the wall with all the other pastels of well-known drovers who worked throughout this area.
We met some old drovers here – Paul and Jeff – giving tours and they regale us with such stories that we realise how lucky we are to get them first-hand from these men in their eighties. Hardly any drovers left it seems. Cattle are carried to market via road trains now. No one rides for months with the herd to market these days.
Once again, Geoff and I can hardly bear to leave but we must hasten ever onwards to the Barkley
Highway so we leave with a heavy heart. Yippee … Northern Territory here we come!
Well, I am back to tell you more travel tales dear friends! Since I last wrote we travelled from Winton to Cloncurry (pop 3500) and then on to Mt. Isa (pop 13,500) built as a mining town many years ago. We are staying here with my cousin Mick and his wife Tina and just by chance the rodeo is on this weekend! Therefore, we are busy busy so while I have a chance I will leave you this piece from my Travel Journal which updated recently. Enjoy!
Thursday 7th August 2014
What a day it has been! We set off from Winton just after 8.30am to drive the 258 ks on the long lonely highway to Cloncurry where I have relatives. It has been a little difficult as Geoff feels sleepy. Presently he is laying down on a concrete picnic seat having a snooze! As he is the driver I have to look after him.
We’ve had a couple of interesting experiences along the way. We stopped for petrol at Kynuna (pop 20) and a cold drink to keep us going. What a deserted, windy and wild place! One building: a petrol station; a shop, cafe and a hotel to boot. A five year old boy was ensconced at a big table covered in junk. “Home schooling” said the mother serving us.
As I glanced over at the boy who was playing with a large toy tractor, I could see no sign of anything to do with ‘school’ nearby. Too many people coming and going for Mum to do any school work. The boy looked very happy about this fact too! Back now on the road and our next break for lunch at MacKinlay.
As we travel onwards, the countryside is changing and we see an abundance of ant hills. Strangely enough, a lot of them have singlets and other clothing placed on them. Wierd! Soon we come across a sign saying “Crocodile Dundee”. Underneath is written “The Walkabout Creek Hotel.” Of course, the pub from the movie Crocodile Dundee!
We stop and go inside and there is the bar straight out of the movie. This little town MacKinlay (pop 20) has a great picnic area where we have lunch. Again, dry and desolate. The little library next door is classified ‘The smallest Library in Australia; (it is like a little backyard tin shed). We find out that it is the same shed that was used in Crocodile Dundee as Mick’s tour office. We had seen the sign in the pub up the road!
We chatted awhile to the librarian Tarnee who is having a culture shock working here after living on the Sunshine Coast. Only dial-up internet she tells us and if a few people are using it, you have to wait until one hangs up! Oh dear friends, it is the back of beyond it really is! Tarnee’s father is the policeman for the town.
We find out all about MacKinlay from a Centennial Museum on the property so we check it out and discover that John MacKindlay the explorer founded this area in 1862 when he was searching for Burke & Wills who had not returned from the outback. What a story this was … of course he found them alright … evidence of where they had died that is. What men of great adventure they were in those days taking camels and sheep and walking the outback for a year!
We packed up and headed the 100ks to Cloncurry. Nearly there now and Geoff had overcome his sleepiness! When my cousin Ronnie saw us get out of our car, he nearly jumped out of his skin. He had no idea we were coming as we couldn’t contact him on the phone. “It’s Therese!!” he says to his partner Maria in his country twang.
Well, everything at Ronnie’s house happens under the huge mango tree in the backyard so soon we were drinking tea and having a wonderful reunion. He insisted we stay at the house and with a sense of relief we went off to have tea at the local pub and then settle in for the night.
What an adventurous day it has been!
Saturday 9th August 2014
We left Cloncurry with hugs and kisses all round and a map to the house of another cousin (Ronnie’s brother Mick) in Mt Isa only an hour’s drive away. Mt. Isa has a huge mine and a big stack blowing smoke all over the town. I lived here in 1969 for six months and it has grown beyond recognition since then.
Ronnie is sure we will stay here too for a night and not a caravan park but when we arrive Mick is insistent we stay until Sunday because of the Rodeo which is in town!
Oh, so that’s two nights then?
No, says Geoff. We will leave on Monday as we will be so worn out from all the activities planned that we’ll wait until Monday.
Oh, so that’s THREE nights then? Yes, indeed it is!
So the Rodeo weekend is now upon us. We’ve been to Mardi Gras last night and watched the floats as they came along. Just when we were starving – around 7.30pm – a Hari Krishna van serving hot food came along and insisted on feeding us! Battered and deep-fried cauliflower and semolina for dessert washed down with fresh lemonade. It hit the spot I can tell you!
We’ve been to town today and checked out the family dress shop run by wife Tina and daughters plus daughter-in-law. What a lovely shop! Tomorrow is the big (read here ‘huge’) Rodeo breakfast here at Mick and Tina’s at 9am. Afterwards everyone goes to the Rodeo. Can’t wait.
That’s all for now folks. Signing off for now. Keep safe and well. Bye for now!
Life on the road has been so busy that I’ve had little time to think about my blog! Sorry dear friends, but sometimes you have to ‘Seize the Day’ and not just write about it!
We are having the best time since we arrived here in Winton on Sunday for two nights. After a trip to the Info Centre we realised there is too much to see in one full day so we have extended our stay for another night. Oh the fun of it! Too busy having fun!
It’s great here, we are just across the road from a great pub who actually run this little pub caravan park. The owner is amazing … just as you imagine a Publican should be: friendly, helpful and attentive even supply washing machines free of charge, which has all the women twittering … but not on the Twitter network … just telling one another how amazing it is!
Because I have been through a few town since I last wrote, I am going to leave you with a slide show of same of the places we’ve been to.
Enjoy! I hope to back very soon with more photos and stories. We’re heading for Cloncurry tomorrow.
Hello dear friends
Days Nine and Ten of our Outback Adventure
Thank you to all those who have sent me messages as they follow our travels on my blog or on my Facebook page. Delighted to have you along for the ride!
We travelled yesterday from Charleville and camped at a little town 300 ks away called Blackall (pop 1500) on the Barcoo River. We had no power so we were totally turned off from technology which was strange, yet it was good in a lot of ways. You see, as we drove to Blackall I was having a wonderful time listening to music. I felt inspired so I wrote the following piece in my Journal about technology … or lack of it and how that affected me.
It has changed the way I look at our trip to Uluru dear friends. I hope it gives you an insight into how, as each day goes by, this journey continues to change as we relax and unwind each day. Sitting about in artesian spa pools helps also! Enjoy …
Fri 1st August 2014
I can hear the strains of the Ten Tenors singing Pia Jesu as we travel this Great South Land of ours. Brilliant sunshine accompanies them. It gives me such a feeling akin to being on a spiritual pilgrimage and I am uplifted by it. Is it contentment I wonder?
I’ve thawed out from the freezing night, thrown off my thick clothes and am snug and warm in the car. Too warm at times and I can feel my head nodding as I doze off to Bridge Over Troubles Waters. Simon and Garfunkel are reminding me “if you need a friend I’m sailing right behind.” How nice, I tell myself.
Who cares if my new Telstra card for use in my old phone refuses to work anywhere we go. Who cares if I’ve overused my data limit on my Optus Plan as well? And as for my Optus network coverage … what coverage??
A little voice tells me (if I listen carefully, it’s actually Geoff’s voice I can hear) telling me to forget all that stuff. Just check on my laptop twice a day (if I have power) and leave it at that.
I have the feeling I should embrace the spirit within me as it awakens like a giant awakening from months of slumber! Time to dream as Geoff and I drive this Great South Land of the Holy Spirit as Australia was first named..
Time to be close to the land as we inch ever closer to our destination tonight – Blackall – just as our first people, the Aborigines feel close to the land. Time to reconnect in favour of reality and not technology. I saw a sign along the road, “Disconnect to Reconnect.”
Yes, I like that! I do feel like I am on a pilgrimage! It seems that I don’t need to travel to Spain to walk the Camino to do a pilgrimage. Here we have a brown dry land, blanched a golden hue by the harsh and drought … just like Spain.
Yes, we’re driving the highway but we’ve not forgotten our commitment to walk through each town ON FOOT so we can connect with the people of the area. This is a pilgrimage … of that I have no doubt! We’re not Walking the Camino, we’re Walking the Outback Towns of Australia!
It sure feels good to get away from the noise of everyday life and open oneself up to listen … to the people you meet, to each other and to the still small voice of God directing our footsteps and our path as we travel.
Therefore, in the spirit of pilgrimage, we walked the streets of Blackall this morning and when we got to Barcaldine for morning tea, we walked the streets of that town too!
My pedometer is loving it and I have clocked over 10,000 steps today … especially after walking the streets of of this tiny town where we are staying tonight – Ilfracombe pop 300 – and just 27 ks from Longreach.
But … but … before I go any further afield in my travels, I haven’t even given you any photos of Charleville yet and that feels like ages ago Come along with me as I peak inside the little stores we found as we walked the streets of the town. More about the other towns later.
Until next time dear friends …