Thursday, May 25, 2017

Katherine - N.T.


KatherIne - N.T.
Thursday 25th May 2017

We left Daly Waters and all of its dust behind and hit the road north to KatherIne which would take us about four hours to drive. Its been four years since we'd been to Katherine and boy has the town advanced. We were so excited to discover that Katherine now has the golden arches!

That's right MacDonalds has come to town, so of course Faye insisted that we stop immediately so that I could buy a large liquid gold to-go.

This is an RV campsite we really appreciate and that some may envy
We are in the Shady Lane Caravan Park which is just 6km from town on the road to the Katherine Gorge. We've been here before and its one of the best RV parks in Australia, its also for sale if you happen to have a spare $3 million to invest. This is one of the few RV parks where the buyer wouldn't have to spend a cent.

We basically spent the afternoon de-dusting ourselves and relaxing under the awning. Its a little humid but the temperature is perfect, I'm sure that we will adjust to the humidity over the next few weeks.

Here's Relic riding up front for a change
Have you been wondering if our American friend and on-board mascot Relic, was still travelling with us? Well the answer is yes he's been enjoying touring through the vast outback and seeing the desert landscape

Relic didn’t know what to make of the termite mounds

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Daly Waters Pub - N.T.


Daly Waters Pub - N.T.
Tuesday 23rd May 2017

We are back for our second visit to the Daly Waters pub, an iconic place if ever there was one. We arrived about 1:15pm to find the camping area nearly full, they pack us in like sardines but everyone seems happy to accept that its just the way it is here. There is no water supply to the RVs but we do have power which we appreciate as it is quite hot.
There's a downside to where we're parked and that's the dust, the dust on the ground is about 2-3 cm deep and every time the wind gusts or a vehicle drives by the clouds of dust are overwhelming. Of course we are lusting after one of the already occupied grassy sites. 
The front of the pub

Late afternoon we wandered over to the bar cum entertainment area for happy hour, Faye wasn't too happy as you could have any white wine from the menu provided it was Chardonay. However, the beer was plentiful and cheap!

We watched a couple providing the live entertainment until dinner was about to be served then we vacated our table so that prospective diners could use it. Our intention was to return for dinner tomorrow. The entertainers were a husband and wife duo who sang a number of country and western style hits and some of their own music. The banjo accompanied the Bluegrass songs and the entertainer's own compositions were very good.

Our entertainers in full swing
SOS We're  Sinking
When we came back to the RV from our happy hour in the pub I found that when I entered the RV I stepped onto a wet mat that was alongside the kitchen sink area. On removing an under-sink storage drawer I found a pool of water which appeared to extend under the whole cupboard area. My first thought was a burst water pipe or connection. Fortunately our investigation found that one of the water storage containers that we keep under the sink had developed a split (we carry these in remote areas to boost our on-board water storage).

In the course of this mini-drama, just as she was needed, Faye went into meltdown as she was taken straight back to a time when we were on a yacht in NZ when water was discovered all over the galley floor. In an instant Faye was ready to launch the lifeboat (even though we were docked at the marina). Faye's response gave our hosts a great belly laugh that to this day is a source of great merriment. It was discovered that the source of water on the floor was not a hole in the yacht's hull that would sInk us but a small leak from the on-board water tank no less.

Wednesday 24th May 2017
We woke early and headed out the door to follow the self-guided tour as set out in the Daly Waters brochure. The walk took us out along a scrubby track past the rodeo grounds to the Daly River (mostly dry) then onwards to the Stuart Tree, so named as the explorer Stuart was said to have carved his initials into it aound 1861, (however this supposed fact can't be verified).
We continued past a free camp area then went onto to see an old flyIng fox scaffold. The flying fox was used to transport goods, food and people over the river between the old Daly Waters store (now the pub) and the airfield (no longer in use).

Here's our site this morning (on grass) before the park fills again this arvo
We then returned to camp where we made the decision to ask if we  could move to one of the now vacant grassy sites, if that wasn't possible we were going to move on. There wasn't a problem with us relocating so we are now in our new site and have paid the fee for a further night's stay plus pre-paid for tonights dinner.
So as of this afternoon all is well in our camp.

We are looking forward to happy hour followed by dinner and entertainment this evening.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Devils Marbles - N.T.


Devils Marbles - N.T.
Saturday/Sunday 20th and 21st May 2017

We didn't leave Alice at all early as we were expecting to travel about 250km and stop on the side of the road somewhere so as we weren't in a hurry we made a diversion to Maccas where I got a large liquid gold to go. I must say it was the best coffee I've had in a long, long time, somehow the stars were all in alignment for me this morning. It was at our lunch break at Taylor Creek (where we had planned to stay the night) where it was discovered that Devils Marbles was only 80 km away. That was to be our destination tomorrow!

So we made the decision to move on to Devils Marbles where camping is a very reasonable $6.60 per couple per night. Of course for that price the only facilities one gets is a camp spot in an idyllic location and drop toilets. We were expecting that the campground might be full so we had Plan B and Plan C just in case. As it turned out there was plenty of room so we selected our camp site and we were all set.

On preparing to leave Alice we discovered that the brake lights on the RV weren't working, however this boy wasn't going to get into solving electrical problems on the roadside and as we werent drivng traffic I reckoned we could risk it. 

Coming a hot Sunday morning I tackled the stop light and problem, the first thing was to establish whether the problem lay on the car side or the RV side. I was surprised to find that the problem was with the car wiring. It turned out that the wire for the stop Iight had broken where it was screwed into the socket connector. I thought that the fix would be as simple as extending the wire then re-connecting it, that wasn't to be as the  broken piece of the old wire was jammed into the connector and couldn't be removed.

Fortunately I carry spare plugs and sockets for just this type of eventuality and I had a new 12 pin socket in the Rv. It took me two hours to complete the job from the time I started, fortunately everything checked out ok.  It was quite hot morning so I was glad to see that job over and done with.

In the afternoon we walked over through the boulder field to the day visitor area and were amazed to see so many RVs set up to stay overnight. The dummies mustn't have done their research or have read the signposts to the camp area? It was cramped and very hot where they were camped on the asphalt and I certainly wouldn't have liked to be there.

There happened to be a Wi-Fi hot spot at the visitor area so Faye connected and caught up with her email.

Faye did a rough count of the RVs in the camp area last night and came up with about thirty rigs of various shapes and sizes, this included a few hike tents. The evenings and nights at the Marbles have been so calm and cool, however the days have been very hot and quite windy for two of the three days we have been here.

As you will see from the photos I did manage to get the Fun Cub airborne for a few aerial photos plus a video (this will be on youtube in the future). To achieve this amazing feat I had to get airborne just after dawn to beat the hot wind which came in at about 8 am.

Questions  From Fans 
Question:- One of our overseas fans has asked if I'm getting soft as I seem to be giving too higher marks for coffee?
Answer:- Well I'm a bit stumped with this question, I think that I'm as discriminating with my coffee reviews as ever. However, I must say that on many occasions Faye has saved me from buying coffee in less than desirable looking bakeries along the way, so that may explain why fans see higher rated coffee reviews than on past trips.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Alice Springs - N.T.


Alice Springs - N.T.
Wednesday 17th May 2017

Last night we decided that today we would visit Emily and Jessie Gaps which are out along the East MacDonnells. However, we wanted to be there just after dawn to capture the visual impact of the early morning sun on the gap's rock faces so we had to be up and out of bed in the dark.

Accordingly, Faye had a rushed bowl of cereal whereas I thought better of this approach and saved my hunger for a side trip to Maccas (well we did have to go past anyway). At Maccas I grabbed three Hash Browns and a large Flat White to-go and we were on our way.

It was a great time to visit popular locatations as all of the sensible people are still in bed so we had the gaps to ourselves.  The Emily Gap car park is just a handy 100 metre walk from the gaps' entrance. We certainly picked the right time to be there as the light was photo perfect.

I walked into the gap for photos whist Faye wandered over to a cavern like space on a rock face to look at Aboriginal art that was painted there.  A fierce cold wind was blowing right through the gap and I could really feel its impact, however, on the other hand Faye had discovered that where the rock paintngs were there was a wonderful warm swirling rush of air.

MovIng further east we went to Jessie Gap. When we arrived we found that Jessie Gap to be nowhere as picturesque as Emily Gap so we didn't  take a lot of photos. We then decided to drive another 20+ kilometers to visit Corroboree Rock. We didn't know what to expect there as we knew nothing about it. There was a motorhome in the carpark that had cleverly found a great spot for a quiet overnight stay.

The only blog photo here from the Jessie Gap location
Located 47km from Alice Springs Corroboree Rock, though so named, doesn't appear to have been a significant Aboriginal site at all much less the site of celebratory Corroborees. There was no story board at the site which perhaps supports this view.

Corroboree Rock

On the way back to Alice I decided to put the Fun Cub in the air to try and capture a few aerial shots of the East MacDonnells. As we were in the middle of nowhere I used the road as an airstrip (definitely not legal, but there wasn't any traffic). Unfortunately the photos and the video weren't as good as I would have liked.

Pre-flight check

The view east toward Corroboree Rock 

The view west toward Alice Springs
After all of this excitement we returned back to camp for showers and a cup of tea.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Alice Springs - N.T.


Alice Springs - N.T.
Monday 15th May 2017

Simpson's Gap 
This morning we took a drive to Simpson's Gap which is about 30 minutes west of Alice. Its a National Park and one of those places we've not been to on previous visits to Alice Springs. Simpson's Gap is very accessible, you can come via car as we did, by bicycle on the bike path that comes from town, or if you wish via a hiking track. Its certainty been well planned.

No Swimming - They're kidding right?

There's a ranger station at the entrance to the park, and about 2km further on is the paved visitor car park which surprisingly has a number of spaces reserved for large rigs. We were pleased to discover that a good quality gravel pathway led us right into the gorge. There weren't many others at the gorge with us so it was very serene. Although there were three very helpful rangers in the area at the time serving up all manner of interesting Information to the few of us there.

We thought that Simpsons Gap was far better than other and perhaps better recognised gorges in the area (such as Glen Helen). Its certainky well worth a visit. 

Photos:- I think that an early morning visit will produce much better photos, so if we can get ourselves out of bed early enough we may get back for another photo session..

Friday, May 12, 2017

Alice Springs - N.T.


Alice Springs - N.T.
Friday 12th May 2017

This morning went went down to the mall for morning tea, its a pleasant location where we could sit in the morning sun. There were two coffee shops side by side, Red Dog and Epilogue, we opted for Epilogue as there were two baristas working flat out whereas in Red Dog there was no activity. We were pleased with the tea and coffee, I rated their coffee a 8/10, so a return at another time is certain.

Interesting artwork on this storefront

Red Dog (L), Epilogue (R)

A traveller enjoying coffee

Great coffee

In the afternoon we drove some way out along the West MacDonnells as I was wanting to launch the Cub to get some aerial photos there. Unfortunately we couldn't get close enough to the mountain range for a video flight so we just enjoyed the scenery.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Alice Springs - N.T.


Alice Springs - N.T.
Wednesday 10th May 2017

Notebook Computer vs a Tablet
For the first time in the 14 years we have been RVing I don't have a PC with me. I decided that the notebook took up too much space, was often in the  way when not being used and that the battery charges weren't lasting sufficiently, it was becoming a real pain. On the plus side I could do everything I needed to with ease with the notebook, so leaving it behind was not an easy decision.

So just a few days before leaving on this trip I decided not to take the notebook and I bought a new Samsung Galaxy tablet (10" screen) to take  instead. Within the first few days travel I was questioning my decision, however, a few weeks on I am adapting to the tablet and am seeing the benefits of a very compact device that gets so much more on-time use from the battery.

The biggest downside has been trying to adapt to the small keyboard and the moving of files, videos and photos between cameras, hard drives and the tablet. I could use the cloud to do a lot of this but that would soak up expensive (and often unavailable) internet access. Anyway I'm on top of that now although I've had to buy a few more Micro SD storage cards to help me out. Maybe I can network everything, if I get a chance I will investgate the possibility.

And about those storage cards... I went shopping in Alice yesterday to buy two more 32gb cards, the cost in Melbourne is under $25 each,  in Alice I was looking at nearly $80 each, ouch! So back to the RV and get online to ebay where I bought two 32gb cards for $78 which  included a $20 fee for express delivery. I could have had free delivery but it might have taken until xmas to get here.  Will brick and mortar stores ever realize that price gouging only sends potential customers to the Internet to buy?

Wintersun Caravan Park
We are back at Wintersun Caravan Park in Alice Springs for the next ten days. After getting set up on site I took the car down to the car wash and vacuumed the dust from all of the rear door jambs, I then gave it a quick wash to remove all of the dust. It only cost me $4. Much cheaper than in Melbourne.

Wall art in town - part one

Wall art in town - part two
Thursday 11th May 2017
I had a broken night's sleep last night as around 2am the fridge started making a clicking noise which woke me up. I had no idea what it was and dozed off only to be woken by the clicking noise again then the fridge alarm, so I got up and put on some warm clothes to investigate. In the end I took the fridge off auto energy select (where it was trying to select mains AC power) and onto gas.

I then made a hot drink in the microwave and noted that it took 4 minutes to heat a mug of milk, normally this would take 2 minutes. So my theory about the whole episode is that we possibly suffered a brownout.  Since this morning the fridge has been back on auto energy select and has been fine.  However, lets just see what happens with the operation of the fridge over the next few days.

Fridge Update:- speaking with other neighbours confirmed that I was not the only camper with early morning fridge alarms although the office had no knowledge of power problems and yet through the day there was a team of electricians working on power in the park!

What did we do today? Well not too much... we woke up late then went for a long walk. Later on we went out and had a tasty lunch at the Barra on Todd restaurant at the resort (a real resort), then we did supermarket shopping on the way home.

Here's a storyboard from Arltunga - note the name, its the same family name that was on the rusted door of the old International truck 

As we are in Alice for 10 days blog updates probably will be somewhat irregular. As we have been to Alice twice before we will be trying to seek out new things  (for us) to see.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Ross River Resort - N.T.


Ross River Resort

A note about Australian outback resorts for our overseas friends. The term Outback Resort usually means something like this... A gas station on the highway with some land out the back where you can put your RV for the night, there will be very "rustic" showers and toilets and maybe a pool filled with green slime. You can usually buy a meal from the bar, sometimes ordinary, other times the meals are said to be very good. 

Often it gets better like the Ross River Resort, where you will be located in a magical setting with a great historic homestead, however the facilities are usually "rustic" (like 1 star rated). For those of us travelling in a fully equiped RV the bathroom and  other facilities don't really matter.

Monday 8th May 2017
We discovered that the Grollo family own this resort and it's surrounding cattle station. Bruno Grollo flies in occasionally to view his investment.

Today we decided to adventure along a very rough road for 38km, part of the Binns track, to the ghost town of Arltunga.

There's a few deep water crossings in the area

There's the remnant of an old International truck on the way

Look carefully and you can  even read who the owner was
Arltunga was one of the first towns in NT where gold was discovered (1887). Life was tough out here with harsh conditions, lack of water and extreme isolation. Imagine travelling by foot for 600kms from Oodnadatta to Stuart, (later to be renamed Alice Springs) following the Overland Telegraph line,  then follow the East MacDonnell ranges for another 110kms, this in extreme heat.

In 1898 the SA government decided to put in place a Battery and Cyanide works to improve processing of the gold, unfortunately the boiler burst in 1901 causing untold hardship for the miners and many moved on, eventually the Battery closed in 1913. This town is now recognised as an important part of Australian heritage and several of the buildings have been restored. This was a very interesting place to visit.

The Assayer's office
This massive bolt was on the door of the restored Police lockup
After returning another 38km of very rough corrugated road, we were shaken to the core, happy hour was much appreciated.

Tuesday 9th May 2017
Today was a bit of a low key day, we just enjoyed the serenity of this magical place. This afternoon we ventured out to N'Dhala Gorge Nature Park which was along 12km of very rough 4 wheel driving with numerous river crossings, but we got there and then did a 3km round walk along creek beds and rough ground into the gorge, we viewed several petroglyphs, unfortunately they were all exposed to the elements and sorely eroded. At one of the rock faces they have a yearly 'Big Sing' this involves several hundred people sing at the rock face and this amplifies their voices.

This was the best of the Petroglyphs - it is about 1.5 metres square
I found this large carved rock sitting in the creek bed - probably carved thousands of years ago
 We returned back to the campground for afternoon tea to find that there were a few additional campers there (but the campground is still pretty much empty).

Questions from Fans
Julie asks, how do you find your insect tent, we've just bought one but haven't used it yet?
Although we have only used it a few times we find it invaluable as there's nothing worse than being in a fantastic location and you can't sit outside because of the flies and other insects. We have an OzTrail model, previously I foolishly bought a cheapie on ebay from Korea, it was big enough for children only and the screen looked hand-made as the weave was large enough for a wedge tail eagle to fly through! 

Monday, May 8, 2017

Ross River Resort - N.T.


Ross River Resort - N.T.
7th may 2017

Wintersun RV Park
We had an interesting night last night at the Wintersun RV park, we got to meet some of our neighbours then we settled down to quiet night inside. We went straight to sleep and were woken about 2am by a massive bang, then all of the dogs in the area barked for the next hour or so. I reckoned it was one of the locals letting off a shot gun, however the next morning I was advised it was someone outside the park letting off a flare. Well we are in an interesting area so nothing would surprise me.

People we Meet - Phil and Larry
As I wandered around Wintersun, just a few sites from us I noticed a motorhome with a wheel leaning against it which had a very shredded tyre. Like I tend to do I got talking to Larry, the motorhome's owner. Larry is travelling with his long-time mate Phil. Phil also has his own transport and accommodation, it's a Land Cruiser with a pod up top for sleeping (he's over it by the way).

Larry's shredded tyre

Phil's sleeping accomodation
These two guys are from Sydney, Larry is single and a Vietnam Vet, Phil is married and his very understanding wife gave her blessing for him to go with Larry on what they call their "AmazIng Desert Road Trip".

Phil and Larry
The boys are heading to Broome to do some fishing, however they don't have a boat or any fishing gear, they said they will work it all out when they get there. I should mention here that the boys are planning to go to Broome via the Tanami Track, not something for the fainthearted!

However, things are not so simple; Larry needs to buy six new tyres plus his motorhome has broken down and he has been told that it needs a new diesel fuel pump, the estimated cost is $5,000. The motorhome is scheduled to be towed to the service centre on Monday.

This morning I found the boys in what you might call "a state". Apparently last night they got stuck into the Bourbon to help ease the pain of Larry's looming and unexpected expenses. In the wee small hours Larry fell out of the motorhome and cut his arm open on a piece of metal (from his Motorhome wheel well), there was blood everywhere. Phil couldn't get him back in the motorhome so he put a sleeping bag over him and left him out to it on the ground. Later on a neighbour, roused by the noise helped get Larry back into the motorhome.  Faye and I cheered them up and by the time we left camp they were happy and getting breakfast. We reckon these two nice guys are a riot.  On hearing that we are also going to Broome they wanted us to go on the Tanami Track with them. We said we will meet them in Broome!

The Ross River Resort
Mid morning we left Alice and headed to the Ross River Resort which is situated in the east MacDonnells some 80km away.

The Ross River Resort is located on the site of an old homstead set in a magnificent landscape. The homestead is the resort reception, bar and restaurant. There are many "rustic" cabins, a dedicated function centre and of course a very large campground. Sometimes the resort caters for many hundreds of visitors and special events. However, at the moment there are only a few others here so its nice and peaceful. 

Here we are
After getting settled we went for a drive to the Trephina Gorge to do a little exploring. We went for a short hike which had us climbing up a steep rocky path with a steep drop on one side that overlooked the gorge. After this we walked into the gorge propper the bed of which was comprised of deep coarse gravel, this made the walkjng quite tiring. We took a few photos to capture the moment and then struggled back to the car, then home for happy hour...

Faye overlooking the gorge

How about this Eucalypt growing half way up the cliff face!