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Searching for posts in the month of: May 2021

Number of blogs returned: 1 to 2 records of 2

Uluru and Beyond Safari 2021

We crossed the Qld border excited to be heading south and running our second safari of the year “Uluru and Beyond”.   We were only gone one day, and we learnt that SA had closed the border to anyone who had been in Brisbane which quickly deflated our excitement.

Nonetheless, we kept on driving, ever optimistic and ended up in Silverton waiting to cross the SA border accompanied by a couple of the safari members who were also from Qld.   After some phone calls with the local SA police, we were told that we were allowed to cross the border 14 days after leaving QLD, which would be the day the safari started, so all was good but until we crossed that border it was biting nails.  

We decided to make the most of our time in Silverton with some bike riding (trying to avoid getting a flat tyre from the bull heads but having no such luck!) a camp oven roast, pub dinner and a walk around the quirky town of Silverton.  I was sitting quietly in our caravan when the news announced that the SA border was officially open!  I immediately ran over to the others with great excitement to share the news. We eagerly completed our border passes and the next morning we were on our way.

To some of our dismay we had to take a covid test on arrival in SA, so we set up camp in Peterborough whilst awaiting our negative result, nevertheless grateful that we had finally made it over. After two long days of twiddling our thumbs, we were raring to get back on the road, and with only three days to do a reccie of the Flinders time was of the essence. 

The next few days were hectic as we toured the Northern and Southern Flinders. Many kilometres and a second covid test later we made it to Spear Creek where our safari was set to begin the next day. Having finally had a night to relax, we were disappointed to discover that our inverter had given up the ghost which resulted in an eight-hour return trip to Adelaide to pick up a new one. Luckily, we made it back a few hours before the safari started. Wow, what a start to our trip for us!

With all of that out of the way, the safari had begun!  Everyone had arrived and we decided that a campfire was a good way to kick off the adventure ahead. With the fire warming our hands and toes, it was a relaxing social evening that allowed everyone to get to know one another. Soon, we all headed to the function room for a buffet dinner. 

The first day on the road is always tricky as everyone is still getting used to travelling in convoy, but lucky for us we had an easy road to take us to Coober Pedy in a couple days’ time. Our original plan to stay at Glendambo Caravan Park was dismantled when we discovered that it had been closed since Summer, so we went with plan B; an overnight stop at Lake Hart which overlooks the huge Salt Lake and the train line running right along it.

We did see a couple of trains snaking their way along the horizon, the contrast amongst the red and blue colours of the outback is a special sight all on its own. The moment you leave Port Augusta you feel like you are far from civilisation and in the true outback, with the spectacular colours of the red dirt and blue skies and not a building in sight.

Coming into Coober Pedy you can see the mounds of dirt where mines or test holes are dug, and you can’t help but wonder about what beautiful opals are hiding down there.  Coober Pedy is an interesting little town. While it can feel a bit daunting walking down the main street, it is worth the effort once you see the opal shops on both sides and the bigger tourist opal shops in the centre of town.  Most of the bigger shops are dug into the side of a hill as are most of the houses.  With a cool 18 degrees all year round, you can understand why the locals live underground, especially in Summer. You could climb the stairs and walk over the top of one of the bigger shops which provided a lookout over the whole town.  

We had hired a tour bus which took everyone around the town and interestingly we saw land that was for sale which was actually a patch of land with the cut-out already made ready for someone to dig their home into the wall of the hill. I always wonder how they know when to stop so they don’t dig into their neighbour’s lounge room or bedroom!  

We also drove past the golf course, and interestingly but not surprisingly it was a dirt golf course with black sump oil instead of grass over the holes to mark them.  Further down the road and a small way down the Stuart highway we drove into a 9-mile opal field with markings of sites everywhere and testing holes, and if you didn’t know what you were doing you could easily step into one of these holes, so we were happy to be observing from the inside of the bus. We also spotted a 12-mile opal field in the distance with one of its mines featuring on the TV show “Opal Hunters”.  Driving through the opal fields we came to “the Breakaways”.  The beautiful colours of the hills and landscape is paint worthy, but it would be very hard to capture the beauty of these colours in a painting. We then continued on past the “salt and pepper”.

Leaving Coober Pedy, we had a couple of overnight stops before making it to Uluru. We spent the first night at Marla Roadhouse and the next at Erldunda Roadhouse. We had told everyone that the chicken burgers at Erldunda were pretty good and thank goodness they still were because quite a few people went and bought one for lunch.  I don’t know if it is still the same chef, but they sure do a pretty good job for a roadhouse in the middle of nowhere.  We had a bit of a rainy afternoon which proved to be our first cold night. However, we woke up to the usual blue sky and warm weather as we set out for Uluru.  

The excitement was building now as we were getting closer. Some got excited when we stopped at Mt Connor which could have been mistaken for Uluru, but it meant we were almost there – just around the corner and there it is, the Olgas in the background and Uluru off to our left. We finally rolled into the campground without too much fuss, and everyone set about organising their tours and what they wanted to see in the couple of days that we were there. In saying that, not too many turned up for happy hour that afternoon!

We got up the next day at the crack of dawn – actually, before the crack of dawn for our bus trip out to Uluru to see it at sunrise. We made it just as the light was turning into that beautiful morning glow and along with all the other tourists, we made our way out to the viewing platform so that we could get that perfect photo. With the sunrise done we did a small tour around all of the important sites at Uluru and learnt a bit about the cultural significance of certain areas. It is amazing to see the real colour of the rock where the rain washes the coating away and leaves a grey black colour. By mid-morning the fly nets were out which didn’t really stop them hitching a ride on our backs into the bus.  

 

We headed back to camp for lunch and a quick siesta, and then we were on the bus again to visit the Olgas.  Some of us did the short walk up into the gorge, and there was water lying around in spots from the recent rain. It was also nice to see some of the wildflowers here and there.  While the Olgas are not as much of a tourist spot as Uluru itself, they are well worth the visit and just as spectacular in a different way with the massive, orange-coloured walls all around you. However, on a hot day it does get very hot in there, so we were lucky for a mild afternoon.  After our walk into the gorge, we headed back to Uluru for our sunset nibbles and drinks and watched the sun set over the stunning rock.  There were many bus groups there to see the sunset, but luckily, we had our own area with a great view. While watching the sun set in the moment it was hard to notice the subtle changes in the sky, but upon looking back at photos taken at two-minute intervals you can really see the change of colour as the shadows move across Uluru as the sun goes down. Everyone was having a great time with the champagne and wine flowing and lots of laughter. It was a great end to a huge day and I’m sure that our tour guide was glad that the day was over too; she did a fantastic job talking to us and looking after us all day.

The next day was a free day for everyone, so we went with a couple of the other safari guests and rode our bikes around the base of Uluru. As we had stopped at all the significant sites the day before it was a bit more about the exercise and experience, but of course we still took a few more pics of things we hadn’t seen before. It ended up being about 14 km all up once we rode back to the car, so it was a nice bit of exercise for the morning.  A rest in the afternoon served us well before we got back on the bus at 7:05pm to visit the field of lights. The bus wasn’t just for us this time, so it was jampacked with people who had tickets for this time slot.  Once we got there we were let loose into the field and stumbled our way around following the little lights on the edge of the path. The colours are an amazing sight and a massive job it was getting it all set up - they say if you strung the lights in a straight line, it would take you all the way to Alice Springs. We heard the call and made our way back to the bus - “Think the bus was over that way?”, we could hear as we made our way back. Once we got on, we found there were no seats left; we figured some bus jumpers must have decided to catch the early one back. But not to worry, we waited for a bit and sure enough another bus came along and took us back to camp.

The next day we said goodbye to Uluru and watched it disappear in our mirrors as we headed to our next stay at Curtin Springs. Driving past this roadhouse you could be forgiven for thinking that it was just a bush overnight stay and a fuel fill-up on your way back out to the Stuart Highway, but stay overnight and see what they have to offer - they have really diversified and made the bush work for them. Walk across the road to the old abattoir, once you get inside it is actually their paper making factory; they make paper out of the spinifex and other natural grasses found on their property along with other paper products that they sell in their shop.  It is definitely worth a stop and a tour with the property owner who will explain how it all began and let you have a go at making your own paper.  After doing this tour we sat around the fire and had some fines, a raffle and sausage sizzle fundraiser. There were lots of laughs and some happy winners, so it was a great night to socialise under the stars. 

It was a much longer drive the next day as we set out for Kings Canyon, but we stopped at a rest area on the way for a coffee and tea break.  A call went out on the UHF that there were some major Mitchell cockatoos sitting in the tree so all those with cameras tried to take pictures of the beautiful birds and their lovely pink colours. That was a real treat to see them cuddling in the tree.

As we arrived in Kings Canyon it was a surprise that they had Telstra service now and apparently only hooked up 3 weeks before we arrived, so we now had mobile service. After Andrew giving everyone the spiel on the rim walks and what to expect a handful set off in the morning to brave the 6km walk with 500 metres of vertical incline at the start and the rest did the other various walks.  We decided to do the Kathleen Springs walk as we hadn’t done it before, and it was well worth it.  With old cattle watering stations and yards along the way, many wildflowers and then a waterhole at the end.  Reading the history along the way it all made sense.  I love the way that Kings Canyon is still fairly untouched and yet still as spectacular as Uluru and has much to offer by the way of walks and spectacular sunsets/sunrises

We only had 2 nights at Kings Canyon and then set off for Erldunda once again but first dropped in to the Karrke Aboriginal Cultural Experience.  We had been here once before, and Peter and Natasha give a very interesting insight into the food, medicine and tools used by the local Indigenous.  We went around to different areas that they had set up with each area dedicated to what they were talking about such as food or medicine, dot painting or tools.  A fabulous experience and one that I will never get tired of seeing and listening too.

On the road again with an overnight stop at Erldunda for more chicken burgers, not as good this time, they may have had a different chef on disappointingly.

We were heading to Alice Springs for our 2-day break where it was free time for everyone to explore the surrounding areas and enjoy Anzac Day services.  Once you start looking around at Alice Springs there is quite a lot to see, from bike rides to the old telegraph station, a drive up to memorial hill with views of Alice and for a longer trip a drive out to either the East and West MacDonnell ranges where there are gorges aplenty.  We decided to stop in at the Desert Park and take in the bird show.  The eagle, hawks and kites all come on command and the beautiful white owl popped out of a log when requested. I’m sure it must take them a long time and a lot of patience to teach the birds to do this, but it resulted in a pretty good show, and I learnt some more about these birds.

After our hiatus at Alice Springs, we ready to be on the road again and set off in the morning for Devils Marbles Hotel.  The camping area out the back was quite small and had been left free for all of us to squeeze into.  We had a stop a morning tea stop at Aileron and had a look at the impressive statutes of the Aileron Man and Aileron Woman and Child then a lunch stop at infamous Barrow Creek stopping outside the telegraph station.  A good rest and then another quick stop at Wycliffe roadhouse on the way to take photos of the aliens and ufo’s that are in abundance there.  Was a sight to see some water in the creek under the bridge and then off to our overnight stop just up the road.

Driving into Devils Marbles it looks like a another dusty roadhouse on the long drive north but walk through the gate into the courtyard and you will see a sparkling pool, green grass and a great happy hour shed.  We all gathered there for happy hour drinks and dinner and as always, the chef served a delicious dinner.

Waking up the next morning we drove 5km down the road to the actual devils’ marbles for a morning tea and time to do some of the walks.  They are quite amazing; you can actually see where the rocks have cracked and broken in half or more pieces and how it would all fit back together into one piece again like a jigsaw puzzle. Erosion over the years have turned them into the rounded boulders that they are now and eventually they will erode away into sand.  They are scattered throughout the park along with the wildflowers.  Take a walk up the hill  and you get a great view of the camping and picnic area.  

Time to move on again to our next short break which was on the northern side of Tennant Creek at the old Telegraph Station.  It looks as though some work has been done here since our last time 3 years ago and it is pretty well kept.  An old cemetery also lies there which tells the tale of 2 pioneers who came to the area.

After our lunch we drove north and turned right heading east towards Qld and onto the Barkly Highway, as always there was a headwind, but we only drove 70km to our overnight stay in a bush camp on the side of the road.  There was plenty of room far back from the road, so the road noise didn’t really bother any of us too much.  It was the perfect night for our RFDS sausage sizzle although we decided to do steak sandwiches this time for something different.  The moon was full, the fire was roaring and the poetry was flowing.  We played a game passing gifts left and right, right again then right and left until we were all confused but eventually ended up with a gift.  

We set off down the Barkly Highway into the headwind again stopping in briefly at Barkly Homestead to catch up on text messages and emails and of course all important coffee and fuel.  That night’s stop was at another bush camp at Avon Downs, opposite the police station.  The police station was put there many years ago to help stop the cattle thieving from the local stations.  

The next day we arrived at Mount Isa, our home for 2 nights.  A busy day the next day starting off the day with a tour of the Outback at Isa learning about Riversleigh fossils then catching up on shopping and a bit of a rest in the afternoon.   We set of for our next stop being the Blue Heeler Hotel.  The Blue Heeler put on a good night with a BBQ for dinner, and we all sat around the front waving to the road trains and watching the sunset.  I was a bit disappointed the brolgas didn’t turn up for a feed this time but it was still a good night.  

We were getting down to the pointy end of our safari now with only 2 more stops with Winton being the next one which was a 2-night stay.  Winton was going to be a busy 2 days with 2 tours and tickets to the Waltzing Matilda Centre.   We were picked up early in the morning for our tour of Bladensburg National Park and the old homestead and shearing shed.  Our guide for the day was Vicki from Red Dirt Tours and she knows an amazing amount about the local area.  It was great to learn all about an area which we hadn’t been into before.  I have always wanted to see the red kangaroos in the wild but learnt that actually only the males are red, and the females are a grey/blue colour, so I probably have seen plenty of them and didn’t even know. There were many kangaroos around and one lone wild dog but surprisingly hardly any tourists in the park.  We stopped at Scrummy Gorge which had a big drop off, you could walk around the edge but after looking at the giant cracks in the surface on the top it was wise to stay a few metres away from the edge.  Vicki and the bus then left us to go to our morning tea stop and get it organised for us while we walked the 700 metres along the side of the creek.  After our morning tea we continued on, crossing a creek and stopped at Scrummy Lookout where we could see Winton in the distance and the beautiful colours of the Mitchell and Flinders grasses, the pink colours really standing out.  

While this was the end of our morning tour, we were picked up again in the afternoon to go to a “jump up” 10km out of town on a private property.  The rifts on this property are incredible, some metres deep and we could actually walk through the bottom of one and then back up the top to our sunset area to watch the sunset with nibbles and drinks.  The private property allows the locals to come up and enjoy the area on the jump up and we could see an area marked off that was earmarked for glamping to be set up, this area is definitely on the move.  Heading back into camp the bush poet was all set up and ready to go for an entertaining night.  We decided that we would have our last happy hour in Winton as the next couple of nights were going to be busy so we had an early final happy hour and we were treated to another great poem written by Fiona, you can find that on our website, awards, fines and thankyous made the night complete.

Last day on the road together, it was a bit sad, but all good things have to come to an end eventually.  We hit the road and was a short day of travel ending up in Longreach.  It was a bit of mayhem going into the caravan park as we had one safari ending and another starting 2 days later so there was some confusion there.  Eventually we all found a site and got ready for our Smithy’s outback tour that afternoon. 

We were picked up by the bus and taken to the Thomson River for a great sunset tour which included turtle feeding and bird watching.  The sunset did not disappoint as we cruised back to the jetty where we were then escorted into the dining area. As always, they put on a great meal and singing entertainment with lots of laughs and a bit of dancing to end the night and to the end of another great safari.  Until next time.

 

Posted in: Tagalong Adventures Australia at 30 May 21

Fiona's Poem "Off to Uluru"

Oh the places we'll go and the things we'll see

Drop off any fruit or veg, have your permit in order

to get us all across the South Australian border

Across sparse paddocks, creeks and tanges

along the ay we will see many changes

As we head to Spear Creek near Port Augusta

where the mob will gather like sheep in a muster

To meet up with old and some new travel mates

as we cross the land of few fences and gates

Each morning a briefing of the trip for the day

a call goes out and we are on our way

Vast salt lake, ironstone flats and hills of sand

our convoy of nineteen heads into no mans land

Towns of dugouts, mines and painted mountains with Ned

"Why" our bus had an unscheduled stop is best left unsaid!

Finska and ladder golf we sometimes play

making a good way to end the day

It's goodbye SA Hello NT

Uluru, Olgas, Kings Canyon we'll see

Field of Lights, "the Rock", sunrise and sunset

hundreds of photos we're sure to get

Learnt some culture, had walks in the bush

in an old abattoir, a lesson on how to make paper

raffles, quizzes and fun games

Poems and jokes by the campfire with lots of laughs

Had to unpack and assemble a new BBQ

An intricate job for the boys, it took quite a few

Twenty-five days together, its been a blast

when having fun, time goes so fast

As we head our separate ways, don't look back

See you again, somewhere on the track

Written by Fiona 29/4/21

Posted in: Tagalong Adventures Australia at 19 May 21