Lewis' Exploring Oz

On and off the beaten track…………………….

Port Lincoln and swimming with the tuna – Nov 2011

Posted by lewisfamilyexploringoz on December 7, 2011

Panorama of Redbank Beach

Fishery Bay

Where's that crevasse

Ah that crevasse

Hi Everyone,

Well we left Port Gibbon relatively intact after a bit of a storm last night.  We travelled down the Eyre Peninsula coast and landed in Port Lincoln and are staying at the Port Lincoln Tourist Park, once again on the water’s edge.  We have sunshine and good weather at the moment so we chucked on a few loads of washing after setting up the van and had some lunch.  After talking with our friend Eldo, whom we had met on the Cape York Trip, we decided to visit the Tourist Information Centre and pay a deposit for a key

Cape Wiles

Sea spray at Cape Carnot

Warning sign

to allow us access to Whalers Way and Cape Wiles, which is about 32kms SW of Port Lincoln. It’s a 4WD access track and Whaler’s Way is so-called because of its close association to the whaling operations carried out in Sleaford Bay.  First stop was Fishery Bay, which was quite beautiful but windy as hell today.  It is quite sunny but the wind is very chilly.  We drove to some of the lookouts for a peek then stopped at Whalechaser Crevasse.  We couldn’t really find the blowhole till we realised it was on the other side of the track. Cape Wiles to check out the NZ fur seal colony.  At first we couldn’t see any seals but after watching the water we spied

Oldest rocks in SA

Theakstone's crevasse

Only sign to Redbank beach

them playing in a pool near the rocks.  There were only about 3 or 4 but they were very playful. We continued along the track and stopped to check out Cape Carnot which is the most south-westerly tip of the Eyre Peninsula. There is like a blowhole here only it is the spray from the sea against the rocks which gets pretty high and loud. It was fantastic to be there to see it, but it’s very rough and there are warning signs not to go any further as loss of life has happened here.  It is also the oldest known rock in SA, estimated to be around 2,643 million years old and was discovered in 1876.  We oohed and ahhed here for quite a while then drove a little

Sand dunes at Redbanks

Redcliffs-banks hence the name

No swimming today brrrrrr

further around the corner to Theakstone’s Crevasse.  It is a fault fracture, occurring millions of years ago, measuring some 13m deep and 9m high walls and upon navigation by surfboard, was found to extend 30m underground! Impressive! Next stop on the tour was Redbanks and the beach.  You can only drive just so far then you have to get out and walk across the sand dunes.  Only problem was there are no signs or directions, you just have to guess which of the 5-6 options will get you to the beach.  We split up and eventually found our way over to the beach side, which looked very nice and fairly protected too.  We admired it

Wind farm at Redbanks

Swim with the Tuna Boat

Tuna Platform

from atop the red cliffs and then returned to the car and retraced our steps back to Fishery Bay.  As we crested the hill we saw a few kite surfers out in Fishery Bay and they were hammering, which wasn’t that surprising considering the wind today.  They looked pretty awesome actually.  We returned to the caravan park for showers, dinner and an early night as tomorrow we are swimming with the Tuna.  We were up nice and early, breakfasted and in our bathers and off to meet the boat.  It is a fantastic day to be out on the water as it is sunny and there is little wind today. We met another two families on the boat, who were also travelling

Swimming with the tuna

Tuna Spa

Dan dodging the tuna

around Oz with their kids and amazingly all the kids, on the boat were all boys.   We met the catamaran out in the Lincoln Cove Marina and 15mins later we were out at the tuna platform which sits just inside the last island before the open sea.  The tuna platform has a double skinned edge and it’s like having several, contained swimming pools around a circular jetty.  We boarded the platform and everyone who was swimming got fitted for a thick wetsuit, sorted out with booties, snorkels and masks and gloves as well as the tuna can’t tell the difference between your fingers and the fish we’re feeding them.  Daniel is not a huge sea-faring lad and

Surrounded by tuna

Wade feeding the tuna

Big tuna underwater observatory

Wade is usually chomping at the bit to get in; however Wade took awhile to get geared up so he and I were the last ones into the pen.  Joel and Daniel were 2 of the first to get in and the guides had already started to throw fish into the water to get the tuna swimming around us. OMG! They are huge and move so fast that Wade and I struggled to actually get in the water, but we did and just had to push our way through the tuna to find a free space.  Trouble was they were so big and fast and they really knocked poor Wade around due to his size.  Most of the tuna were as big as he was. Mostly they have remarkable sonar so they don’t ever run straight into you but they dart off at the last-minute and holy shit, it can scare you.  We stayed in the pen for about 30mins while these massive fish just darted around us, then we all got out to feed them by hand (gloved hands ‘cos we’ve seen the teeth!).  They have

Wade with Port Jackson baby shark

Casing full of shark eggs

Scallops - yummy

an underwater observatory for getting a different perspective when they feed the tuna.  They can get into quite frenzy when they are eating.  One of the other pools/sections has different types of local fish, like snapper, salmon, morwong, nannygai and even a couple of Port Jackson sharks and we could get into the tank and swim around all those fish as well.  Another call to jump in with the tuna for a little while then it was time for the tuna spa.  The kids all jumped in for the tuna spa and once they were in the middle, the guys threw heaps of fish actually onto them or very close to them and the tuna just went crazy around

Green-lipped abalone

On the tuna platform

Two big ships in for loading

them.  The water was white and bubbling, like a spa and the kids were screaming – all in fun of course.  It made for some great entertainment for the adults I can tell you!  Once the tuna spa was over, we all got out of out wetsuits and changed into some dry clothes.  They also have two large touch ponds on board with sea urchins, abalone, starfish, scallops, crayfish, small port Jackson sharks, etc.  The kids all loved touching everything they could and asking heaps of questions too.  There was a sausage sizzle on board for lunch then it was time to move on out.  The catamaran took us into the Port Lincoln Harbour and up to the jetty, then with

Port Lincoln Jetty

Viterra grain storage silos

Port Lincoln Marina

commentary, took us along the foreshore describing the people, places, owners of boats, etc.  There were two large ships in for loading and we saw the huge white Viterra grain silos as well.  It is a massive operation with conveyors out to the ships from the silos.  It was a great day out and we were all a bit tired from our day in the sun. We all had showers and felt more human again so we stocked up on some shopping, collected our mail, returned the key for Whaler’s Way and went out to the Marina for dinner.  We packed up the next morning and headed over to Cummins, a small wheat farming community about 60kms away, where we will

Sunset at Port Lincoln

meet up with our friends we met on the Cape Trip at Dulhunty River.

Till Next Time



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Port Elliot and Adelaide – Nov 2011

Posted by lewisfamilyexploringoz on December 7, 2011

Port Elliot with sun

Port Elliot gorgeous water-colour

Hi Everyone,

We took the hilly, windy road from Wirrina Cove to Port Elliot, passing through some beautiful and green pastureland.  We navigated through Victor Harbour and decided to stay out at Port Elliot on the advice of Joel’s cousin John and so glad we did.  It’s one of those quintessential family holiday parks right on the beachfront.  The park is quite full for this time of year and we learnt that it is a popular weekend getaway for the locals and we could understand why.  It’s a beautiful park and right on the beachfront of Horseshoe Bay, which is a popular and safe swimming beach.  The day we arrived was glorious, sunny and hot so the kids went for a swim in the ocean after setting up.  They came back later, looking a little bit blue as even though it’s sunny the water is still quite cold.  We went over to Joel’s cousin house to catch up over a few beers and nibbles.  John and Marilyn are really lovely people and Nicholas was entertaining the boys on the Play station – they were in heaven!! We went back to the van where Joel made us

Horseshoe Bay

Traffic light drinks

chicken burritos for dinner. The next day was Sunday and saw a huge exodus of people from the caravan park.  We did lots of housekeeping and washing as we hadn’t washed any clothes while we were on Kangaroo Island and the kids caught up on some schoolwork too.  These are THE most expensive washing machines we have ever used in the entire trip around Australia.  Even Coober Pedy, which has to reverse-osmosis their water wasn’t this expensive at $5 a load and they were the little washing machines too!! John, Marilyn and Nicholas came to visit us at the caravan park and Nicholas and Wade braved the temperature and went for a body surf at the beach.  Once they were back, showered and dried off we headed off to the local pub in Port Elliot for dinner and drinks.  The bartender made the kids some traffic light drinks which looked really great and no, there was no alcohol in them.  Mostly it was green cordial, orange juice and grenadine and layered to resemble a traffic light, with green at the bottom, orange in the middle and red on the top.  They were quite a hit! We headed back home and noticed that the weather

Interesting cloud formations

Storm rolling in

has turned and they are expecting rain tonight and tomorrow:( I went for a

Other side of Horseshoe Bay

walk along the cliff top which overlooks the bay and watched the clouds roll in.  Even getting dark this is still a beautiful spot.  Next day we thought we’d head into Victor Harbour to check out the place as it’s only about 8-10 kms down the road.  We stopped in town, along the beach, for lunch then walked across the jetty/bridge to Granite Island.  The water is quite shallow, low tide i think, and the colours of the water are beautiful.  The Island is home to a group of Little Penguins and there is a kiosk/cafe and a penguin centre on the island as well.  The penguin centre opens at night for tours to see the Little Penguins but we won’t be staying for that.  We walked over to the island but you can catch a tram that runs normally, but the track is being worked on at the moment so we walked.  The paths are nearly all bituminised or boardwalk so it’s quite an easy walk with a few uphill sections thrown in.  The sun was shinning when we left and the walk was quite warm.  The view was amazing from the island, which was once joined to the mainland but is now a granite island, with the land mass having eroded away over time.  We had just finished our walk and were about to start back along the jetty when the rain came down so we bunkered down for a drink and ice-creams while we waited out the rain.  Back to camp and then off to

Walking over to Granite Island

Looking back toward Victor Harbour

More orange lichen

John and Marilyn’s place for dinner tonight.  They are making home-made pizzas for tea which sounds yummy – and they were.  Marilyn has started painting and showed me some of her artwork, which was very good and has won her some prizes too.  The pizzas were divine and John shared his secret sauce which we’ll be sure to get next time we’re shopping.  After a few more drinks we bid them farewell and thanked them for their fantastic hospitality.

We packed up the next morning with the weather still a bit overcast and windy and headed into Adelaide.  We are staying at the Big4 Adelaide Shores Caravan Park which is

Little fella on Granite Is

Wade entertaining us on our walk

Lots of pigface

another great little holiday park, right on the beachfront.  We got an ensuite site as we’ll be here for a week and the weather is supposed to change for the worse for a few days too.  We set up and then the boys were off as there is a jumping pillow here. They were over at that pillow everyday and most of the day, practising their jumps and somersaults.  There is a boardwalk right up and down the beachfront, great for cycling or walking which we did both.  I spent most of the next day trying to sort out applications for Daniel and Wade for school next year.  Daniel will be in Year 8, which is the first year of high school here in WA so sorting out his

Just before the rain

Ovens Valley Homestead view

options is a bit more tricky than Wade’s who will be in Year 6 in Primary school.  Writing those application letters can be quite tricky so I rang a few friends for advice, which they freely gave and I’ll thank you all personally if he gets in!  Joel’s cousin Sharon, her son Kaine and her mum Val come over to the park for a visit.  The boys took Kaine to the pool and then we lost them to the jumping pillow again! It was lovely to catch up with them and catch up on family news.  They both looked amazingly well and happy too. The next day we went shopping with the kids, always fun, and sorted out a few bits and pieces.  Unbeknownst to us the weather had changed to very windy and a storm warning had been issued.  We got back to our caravan to find two lovely gentlemen, holding onto our awning and trying to fix it with cable ties as the awning itself had ripped a bit.  We thanked them profusely, then set about bringing in the awning as the wind was just ridiculous and it was also starting to rain quite heavily too.  Now suddenly, it’s not so great being by the beach but am very thankful for the ensuite, so we can hide

Flight from Melb to Ade

some of our gear in this weather. The next day the storm had passed which I was thankful for as I am off

Sunset at CP in Adelaide

on a trip back to Victoria for a 25year school reunion, for the catholic school I attended for a awhile. It was a bit unreal as this is the first time since we started our trip that I have been apart from Joel and the boys!  I settled into the short flight from Adelaide to Melbourne, where I got a hire car and headed up to Wangaratta to see my sister.  It was great catching up with Dianna as she has just returned from a trip back to Italy where she managed to catch up with some relatives we didn’t even know we had over there and she had some brilliant photos and lots of information for me.  The school reunion was in Myrtleford, starting in the afternoon with drinks and an informal catch up, followed by dinner and drinks.  It was great to see and catch up with these people I went to school with so many years ago and playing guess who that is, etc.  The reunion was at the Ovens Valley Homestead which is just out-of-town in the most beautiful valley ever (I know, a bit biased) and we were the only guests, which was lucky as we drank and partied till the wee hours, some more wee than others! A big kudos to the organisers of the event who

Colours in the sky b4 storm

Spaceship in paddock

spent a lot of their time and energy into making sure we all had a great night, complete with photos and a slide presentation from way back when.  Breakfast was a less formal affair with lots of last-minute catch ups and farewells and promises to do this all again.  My only regret is that I was enjoying myself so much I forgot to take photos! I picked up my Mum, who still lives in town and we headed off to a lovely cafe for brunch, although it was nearly lunch by the time we ate.  We had a walk around the town as it has a few new statues, plaques etc and it was just nice catching up.  I farewelled mum and took a short drive out-of-town to the local cemetery where I went to visit Dad’s grave as it is 21 years to the day since he passed away. I headed back to Wang to see my sister again before travelling back down the highway to Melb to catch the plane back to Adelaide and my boys!  While I was away, they had caught up with Sharon and Val a few times both at the caravan park and at Sharon’s house. Joel to had been enjoying himself and we have only just realised that we took no photos of the family, doh! When the boys picked

Grasshopper in paddock

me up from the airport we tried to go out for dinner but it was nearly 9pm and nothing was open much, so to the boys delight, Maccas it was!  The next morning we slept in as we were all pretty tired from way too many late nights over the weekend. We had a cruisy day, basking in the sunshine reading whilst the kids played on the jumping pillow for the last time.  We showered and dressed as we are going over to Judy (another of Joel’s cousins) and Gary’s house for dinner.  Judy was a finalist on Masterchef so we were in for a gastronomic treat tonight.  They live a bit closer to the city but it was easy enough to get there, except for an unusual intersection which has 2 different train crossings on it and about a six-way car intersection.  We had to wait about 10-15mins for the trains to pass and then for the lights to change in our favour!  Ah city traffic, haven’t missed it at all! Judy started with a home-made hummus dip with Lebanese bread and some tartlets of basil pesto, goat’s cheese and balsamic, cherry tomatoes which were all very delicious!  Gary went off to work for an hour and we kept Judy company in the kitchen while she whisked up our dinner.  Dinner was pork spare ribs, sliced steak, boiled potatoes, asparagus and beans lightly steamed. It was absolutely delicious!  The kids retreated inside to watch a bit of telly and Wade was a little off his food, which is unusual.  Gary returned just in the nic of time to eat dinner with us too.  We chatted about our lives and caught up on some more family news too.  Wade had taken a turn for the worse, sporting a roaring temperature so we bid a fond farewell to our hosts and took him back to the van to dose him up and hope he sleeps.  He seemed to settle through the night and we packed up the van and headed out of Adelaide the next morning.  We didn’t get far before cries of “I’m gunna be sick” coming from the back.  We pulled over in the middle of some main street and grabbed a bucket for poor old Wade.  He ended up nursing that bucket for a good few hours after that and we made sure to make lots of stops to get some fresh air.  There are some interesting sculptures along the highway out of Adelaide and we tried to snap some photos as we passed them. They were just in someone’s paddock, no signs or anything to say why, just these things. We lunched at Snowtown, Wade wasn’t game to try to eat anything so lots of fluids for him, and then back on the road.  We stopped for fuel at Port Augusta then continued around the coast to Whyalla and down through Cowell.  Just past Cowell is a small holiday place called Port Gibbon and that’s where we decided to pull over into the free camp (#560 in Camps 5 book) for the night.  We got there about 5pm and there were quite a few grey nomads there already, some looked like they’d been there for quite some time.  It is a great, little camping area, right on the beach as well.  We parked up and listened to the fellas there who reckoned we were in for more storms tonight.  They were right, the wind howled and the rain came down so we had an early dinner and read until bedtime, listening to the storm outside.  These are the days/nights I am thankful for a toilet inside the van!.  We didn’t set up much as it’s just an overnight stop and we are off to Port Lincoln tomorrow.

Till Next Time


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Kangaroo Island – stunning place – Nov 2011

Posted by lewisfamilyexploringoz on December 5, 2011

Wind turbine blades

Pink salt lake near Snowtown

Kids on the tank at Two Wells

Hi Everyone,

We left Port Augusta and headed south towards Adelaide with more stormy weather looming.  We stopped for a break at Snowtown and read about the wind farms we had seen on our way in.  They have one of the actual blades at the rest area and they are huge!  The town is very quaint and has lots of beautiful murals painted on the sides of buildings.  I talked to the kids about the murders that happened here years ago and they were trying to see the bank where the bodies were stored; but I don’t imagine it to be a huge tourist draw card!  We travelled on down the highway amazed at all the wheat

Funky lighthouse at Cape Jarvis

Bit blowy on way over

Coming into Penneshaw

and wind farms; it must be pretty windy here most of the time.  We stopped a bit further down the track at Two Wells for lunch and Wade found a great old tank in the memorial park so the boys managed to get rid of some excess energy here! The rain has set in again and we managed to traverse Adelaide city along the western side to the expressway through lots of road works and down to Wirrina Cove Resort.  It is a resort and caravan park and we can leave our van here, hooked up to power, while we check out Kangaroo Island for a few days.  The countryside is very green and hilly on one side and the roaring coast is on the other; it’s a

On the ferry

Cape Willoughby Lighthouse

Wade inside old lens

View from top of lighthouse

beautiful mix.  We spent the next day packing for KI and took a drive down to Cape Jarvis as that is where we will catch the ferry tomorrow.  Even though it is sunny it is very windy and cold and we nearly got blown off the lighthouse lookout! We jumped back in the car and admired the view from behind some glass then stopped at Secret Valley for a hot chocolate and muffin and whilst the chocolate was warming the weather is still freezing!!

Next day we locked up our home and headed back to Cape Jarvis to catch the ferry to KI.  It was still quite windy but the whole ferry trip only took 45mins, unlike the 9 hours coming back from Tassie, and we were disembarking in Penneshaw before we knew it. It was a beautiful, sunny day but the wind was bitterly cold so jumpers were the go!  We (and all the other ferry passengers) made our way to the Tourist Information Centre where we armed ourselves with as much info as we could and got a family National Park Pass ($174) which lasts for 12 months but will still save

Vivid orange lichen

Boardwalk on the rocks

Views of lake and ocean

us $$$$. We drove straight down to Cape Willoughby and made the 1pm guided tour of the lighthouse.  There was only one other family and us and the ranger was very lovely and informative.  The original glass lens used was so huge Wade could crawl in and stand up in it.  Having so many individual lenses would have been a mongrel to keep clean but then again it’s not like there would be much else to do out there! The tour takes you up into the lighthouse itself and the view from the top is amazing and chilly.  The arctic winds blow straight onto the Cape and it is freezing.  After the tour ended we walked around the grounds and there are several

Steps to Prospect Hill

4WD quad bikes

Raring to go

Wade speed demon

old cottages that have been restored and are available as accommodation stays now.  We drove back to Penneshaw and had lunch at the pub whilst overlooking the ocean.  We had lots of time to admire the view as our lunch took over an hour to come by which time the kids were just about chewing on the furniture!  We wandered around the park at Penneshaw foreshore and marvelled at the vibrancy of the algae/lichen growth on the rocks.  It was a vivid orange colour. We decided to head west across the island and stopped at Prospect Hill, where we climbed up lots of steps to get to the top for lovely views of the bay and the southern ocean.  We turned off and took the gravel, road-less-travelled towards Vivonne bay.  The weather is still sunny but very cold so we went to look for our holiday house, which will be our home-base for the next few days. The place is huge and the kids are so excited, as they get a room with a Queen-sized bed each! Vivonne Bay is a particularly good surfing beach and there is a surf festival here in the next week or so.

Waiting to go

Inside Kelly Cave

Amazing formations

The only unfortunate thing about Vivonne Bay is that there is a general store and that’s it.  We thought there would be places to eat all over the island but we are slowly coming to realise that it’s not the case.  We did bring a few supplies with us but I was looking forward to a few nights off cooking! Not to worry, the Parndana Pub is 30km away and serves good meals so after showers we headed off and found they do indeed serve good, pub meals.  We got back home, turned on the heater, figured out the TV and DVD player and watched a family movie.  Next morning we enquired about some 4WD quad bike tours, at Kangaroo Island Outdoor Action, and we could go this morning if we wanted. The boys are so excited as most places don’t allow anyone under 16 to ride on their own but these

More amazement

Small blue wren

Vivonne Bay

guys set up the kids on their own bikes. Luckily they are just around the corner from where we are staying so before we knew it we were paid up, geared up, safety briefing done, few practice laps and away we went.  We followed the guide along some great tracks and stopped to get a few photos as well.  Wade was up front on a little 50cc, Daniel on a 90cc and Joel and I both on 125cc bikes.  It was great fun and we all agreed it was one of the best things we have done on the trip.  We went back to the house for lunch then off to Kelly’s Caves.  We did the normal cave tour, learning about the history of the cave, etc and then we decided to do the adventure cave tour, with a guide and another father and son.  It’s pretty tight in here and quite dirty so I opted not to take my camera in there. We geared up with a helmet and headlamp and it was an hour-long tour, with a guide and had us climbing through some unusual and some very small openings in the cave system.  It was really interesting, even the boys thought so, and there was only one small spot where I thought I was going to get stuck as the others were all boys/men and we had to commando crawl through a very slim hole, turning our heads to the side to get through and luckily I managed to get through as there was no other way out.  There was an archaeological dig area that was screened off, but as we crawled through the small space and around the other side we could see down into the pit where they have found lots of animal skeletons, etc.  Joel and I agreed that it was probably better than the 4WD biking this morning but the boys didn’t agree!  We

Cold at Seal bay

Beautiful creatures

Family Siesta

did get pretty filthy but most of it was limestone dust so it brushed out fairly easily.  The ranger who took the tour often helps out the PhD students doing the archaeological digs so he was full of interesting facts and stories.  On the way back to the car we saw a very friendly echidna that came right up to us and didn’t appear scared at all.  The ranger said he was very used to people and often came out to put on a show – lucky us. We also saw a blue wren and it is only this blue when it is mating season. We went back to chill out at the house, with the heater on again, then back to Parndana Pub for tea once again.  The next day was overcast and still windy

Just laying around

Seal Bay Lookout

NZ fur seals home pad

but not raining so we went to Seal Bay.  It is home to a colony of Australian Sea Lions that spend their whole life here.  It is breeding season at the moment so there are lots of pups around and they are very cute.  We paid to do the tour down onto the beach with a guide, who was really enthusiastic and great.  There is only one other colony of Australian Sea Lions and that is in SA at Point Labatt so they are trying very hard to increase the numbers of this endangered species.  There were heaps of sea lions on the beach, some younger males frolicking in the waters and some were half-way up the dunes, sleeping in amongst the scrub.  They can get back up

Admirals Arches

Seal love

Cape de Couedic Lighthouse

to a km inland from the sea for protection from the wind.  It was a surreal place and they are amazingly beautiful creatures.  I loved this place.  There is a huge boardwalk that you can walk along and still get some great views of the sea-lion for free.  It was still quite cold and we made sure to rug up well with jackets and scarves.  We lunched back at the house before heading further west across the island to the Flinders Chase National Park. First stop was the Admiral Arches, so-called for the arch of rock that has formed from the weathering of the rocks to form an archway.  The walk down is all on a boardwalk with information boards telling of the history of seal hunting and the early pioneers.  There are heaps of New Zealand fur seals here, a bit on the pongy side too, depending on which way the wind is blowing but they are just beautiful.  We

Flying fox for transportation

Weir Cove

Remarkable Rocks

witnessed a bit of a fight between two males but for the most part they just played in the water or sun bathed on the rocks.  We did the short loop-walk from the car park to the

Kids enjoying the climb

Cape de Couedic lighthouse and read about the early lighthouse keeper and their families.  Life would have been pretty lonely and harsh out here I reckon. Next stop was Weir Cove, which was where the lighthouse keeper had supplies delivered by ship, every three months, then hauled back to the lighthouse by horses.  There was a storage area at the Cove and they used an industrial strength flying fox to haul up cargo and even people from the boats below.  We drove around the look at Remarkable Rocks, a set of granite boulders and domes that have weathered at different rates to form some amazing sculpture-like rocks.  The kids had a ball climbing over and

More orange lichen


Interesting Weathering

around here for ages.  The orange-red lichen grows on these rocks and makes for some remarkable photography.  The day is still pretty overcast and windy and the coastline is very rugged but still beautiful. After all this ‘fresh’ air we were ready for some food and hot showers.  We headed back to the house, turned on the heater and had a great feed of pasta, followed by another movie. We are all starting to feel the effects of the cold and sore throats are cropping up.  We packed up the next morning and had intended to traverse the island clockwise but I have an eye infection that needs some medical help so we choofed off to Kingscote hospital,

Quite a climb

Mick firing the cannon

Cape Bourda Lighthouse

then a GP for a script for some eye drops.  We decided we could still make the Cape Bourda Lighthouse tour if we stepped on it, which is on the most north-western side of the island (Kingscote is on the east coast) and we did make it with 10mins to spare.  Mick, the ranger/lighthouse keeper was quite a character.  A not-so-young ranger he was amazingly knowledgeable about the lighthouse and its history.  He also talked like a horse-race commentator at about 1000 words a minute.  OMG he was hilarious. We actually videoed some of his speech ‘cos he was so entertaining.  We were told that the cannon is fired at everyday at 1pm and he didn’t disappoint.  He fired off the canon, which was another way for ships to navigate past as Cape Bourda always fired a canon at 1pm.  Mick was very forthcoming with

Dwarf emu

Mouth of Western River Cove

Western River Cove

tall tales of the lighthouse, its keepers and the early pioneers of the time.  Initially the kids were like “not another lighthouse” but were laughing and joking and said it was the best one so far, no doubt due to Mick’s humour. The lighthouse is unusual in another sense as it is a square-built lighthouse and not cylindrical like most others. In the history room there was a picture and skeleton of a dwarf emu too!  We lunched at the Cape then drove the roads-definitely-less-travelled along the north coast starting at Western

WRC rocks and lichen

Through the rocks to Stokes Bay

Stokes Bay

Snelling Beach

River Cove.  There was a school camp at the cove and the waters and beach were pristine.  A lot of the road follows the coast along so we were spoilt with fantastic views of the beaches and coastline along the way.  We stopped at Snelling Beach for a walk along the beach but it’s definitely too cold for swimming.  We drove to Stokes Bay and stopped to check out the beach as it is a local favourite apparently.  After you climb over and through the rocks you step out onto a

Emu Bay panorama

magnificent beach, Stokes Beach.  It has a great swimming area and a low rock wall and the water is so clear and greeny-blue; it’s a gorgeous place.  The sun is out and we took a walk along the

Jetty at Emu Bay

View of Emu Bay from our balcony

beach which is fairly protected from the wind but still not warm enough for these ducks to swim I’m afraid.  We drove to

Pelicans at Emu Bay Jetty

Emu Bay where we are to stay for the next 2 nights.  It’s another holiday town, with not even a general store this time, but the views from the balcony of this place were incredible.  It’s a beautiful place, with wide, white beaches and clear blue waters.  The sun is out and the place looks like a holiday paradise.  The house is smaller than the last one but has more of a beach and holiday feel to it.  The big upside is that Kingscote is only 18km away so we all showered and headed off for a meal in town.  We went to the Aurora Ozone Hotel where we had an excellent dinner, with Daniel ordering a huge mixed grill with black pudding.  To his credit, he still tried it even when I told him what it was but he didn’t like it that much.  The hotel is right along the foreshore and has some excellent views of the bay.  Back to the house for some dessert and a movie again.  Next day was a quiet day, starting with a good sleep

American River

Sea Lion in "distress"

in and a walk around Emu Bay.  There were a few pelicans down on the jetty and the weather was just lovely.  We spent the day just chillin’.  We ventured back to Kingscote to the Queenscliffe Hotel this time. More of a family pub with great meals and a price to match.  We have seen the kangaroos mostly at night as we are driving and tend to take it a bit slower, especially on dusk.  We had brekky and packed up but we don’t have to be out until 10:30 am so the kids watched a bit of foxtel and we savoured the views outside.  We headed into Kingscote and took a drive out to Reeves Point.  I saw something in the water and upon closer inspection saw it was a sea-lion.  It was lying in the shallow part of the bay and looked like it was caught in a net or something under the water, popping its head/snout up for a breath every so often.  We hopped back into the car and stopped at a local shop/tourist centre who informed us that they do that quite often and he was just playing in the bay, but they thanked us for our concern.  We travelled down to American River where there is a camping ground

Island Beach

Rainbow at Wirrina Cove

on the foreshore for $10/night for a powered site.  There aren’t many sites and it’s definitely first-in-best-dressed but looked great.  More pelicans and a protected harbour make this a lovely place.  We stopped in at Island Beach, which sits opposite American River and walked along the beautiful beach here.  It was just gorgeous with more white beaches and sparkling azure water. We drove back to Penneshaw for lunch and grabbed some take-aways to eat at the park.  We walked around the rocks and then decided to laze in the sun, reading our books and making some phone calls while we waited to catch the ferry at 4:30pm.  The ferry crossing was over before we knew it and we were back on the mainland, heading back to our van at Wirrina Cove.  We unpacked the car and then packed up the van ready for heading out tomorrow.  We had some more rain but the sun came out and we got the most magnificent rainbow over the car and van.  It was a pretty awesome sight.

Till Next time


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The Flinders Ranges – 4WD, emus and yellow footed rock wallabies

Posted by lewisfamilyexploringoz on December 2, 2011

Elder Range Panorama

Rawnsley Bluff Panorama

Gorge section of walk

Dan tying forest onto car

Start of Wilpena Pound walk

Hi Everyone,

When we left Port Augusta  it was raining but not enough to be useful for say washing the car, just enough to actually make the car more dirty! We passed through some beautiful and undulating countryside and saw some magnificent rock walls that were supporting railway tracks.  They were actually part of the Pichi Richi Railwayline which now runs as a tourist railway.  We spied some very dead trees just waiting to be cut up so we stopped to grab some wood and decided that tonight would be a roast night! After loading up the car we were listening to the UHF radio and heard a few cars coming towards us, with one of them remarking “Look they’ve got a

Old Wilpena Homestead

forest on their roof!”. We laughed and told them it was a magic forest…..they went very quiet and we just laughed again.  We stopped for lunch at a park in Hawker which is a lovely, old town.  The weather is still threatening to rain so we pushed on to Wilpena Pound Resortwhere we found there were no powered sites left so unpowered we go. Just have to hope the new batteries will get enough charge from the occasional show by the sun as it’s a national park and no

Burnt out tree

Lookout in Pound

generators are allowed!  We found a great little spot on the edge of the campground and after setting up, the boys got to it using Joel’s new electric chainsaw and cut up all the wood for the fire.  While they were being industrious I headed back to the Visitors centre and tried to get some information about walks and drives in the area.  It is an accredited Visitors Information Centre but trying to get any information was akin to pulling teeth.  We found out more information of the surrounding area from

Hucks Lookout view

visiting Rawnsley Station and Willow Springs! It’s not that the staff weren’t helpful but there just wasn’t a lot of info on 4WD tracks or anything that wasn’t to do with Wilpena Pound.  While the fire was burning and the roast-a-cooking- we played another game of monopoly with the kids.  Before we knew it, it was time to eat and as it was getting quite cool, the hot, roast dinner was delicious and warming.

Next day we decided to do the walk to the actual Wilpena Pound as the sun is shining and it looks to be a beautiful day.  There are several other walks, more like mountainous hikes, that we may do later on.  For the most part, the walk is

Bronze cairn at Stokes Hill Lookout

Geological formations

along a gravel road/track so it’s pretty easy-going with some more challenging sections as you get closer to the old Homestead.  The walk takes you through some beautiful

Brachina Gorge

trees and a bit of a gorge as well. There are a few story boards along the way with information about flora and fauna and some general information about the area too.  The walk is about 8.6km return so we took some lunch with us which was yummy roast beef wraps and some snacks too.  We decided to walk up to the lookouts first and then come back down to the homestead to eat lunch on the verandah.  We climbed to the first lookout and got a good idea of the size of the pound but the next lookout was higher and gave us a magnificent panoramic view of the pound and surrounding

Aroona Valley

Spot the wallaby

ranges too.  It was just gorgeous and the weather was still nice and sunny, so managed to get some really good photos.  We headed back down to the homestead for lunch and ran into the couple we had met earlier from the Cape York trip, who are staying at Wilpena Pound as well, so they lunched with us on the verandah.  We headed back to camp for a rest then decided to go for a drive and have a look around.  We stopped at Huck’s Lookout and then Stokes Hill Lookout for some brilliant views of the Pound and

Yellow footed rock wallaby so cute

surrounding ranges.  At Stokes Hill Lookout there is a bronzed, 3-D cairn of Wilpena Pound which sits on a rock table and has directions and distances of significant ranges, peaks and towns.  We continued on to the Brachina Gorge track and turned onto the gravel just as the rain was starting to fall.  You can follow a geological trail through Brachina Gorge which is like a ‘corridor through time’ as the rocks exposed along

Dad and chick emus on road

Brachina Gorge 2

the gorge are between 500 and 650 million years old. There are about 12 different rock formations or rock units and there are signs and boards of information at the boundary of each one.  The scenery is just amazing and very beautiful, if you like hills and rocks:).  We continued along the bed of the Brachina Gorge marvelling at the sheer beauty and ruggedness of where we were.  It was getting on to late afternoon and the clouds were still rolling in when we spotted a most unusual-looking kangaroo/wallaby.  It turned out to be a very rare yellow-footed rock wallabywhich has yellow paws, feet and a yellow and grey/black striped tail on a grey body.  They also have a distinctive white stripe on their face and are much smaller than a kangaroo. They were so cute and as it was so late in the afternoon we saw heaps of

Brachina Lookout

Amazing rock formations

Bunyeroo Gorge Rd

them as they came down to drink from the creek bed in the gorge as we drove along.  They were so beautiful!  We also saw heaps of emus and several emu families; that is dads and chicks as mum lays the eggs, then dad stays to sit on the eggs and then rears the chicks while mum goes off to find another bloke and start all over again. We also saw heaps red and grey kangaroos and some of the reds were pretty big too. We drove up to Brachina Lookout and stopped to soak up the scenery, grab some snacks and drinks out and continue driving through Bunyeroo Gorge.  It’s still very overcast but we get glimpses of sunshine every now and even thunder

Track through Bunyeroo Gorge

Where we've been

Sun after the rain

and lightning at one of the lookouts, which cracked pretty loudly and close to where we were.  The scenery was still stunning and on a clear, sunny day I imagine it would be magnificent.  The trees and landscape changes from eucalypts to pine trees and more sparse shrubs then closer to the end of the track it changes back to eucalypts.  Sunsets would be amazing on this track but alas we are not going to see any. Maybe better luck tomorrow.  We rocked back late to camp and had leftovers for tea.  Luckily the van isn’t under any trees so the solar panels must have got enough sun from this morning to give us power! The Wilpena Pound

Start of the Arkapena Track

Elder Range in Background

Crazies at the wheel

Resort campground has lovely amenities and the showers are very nice and warm at the end of the day.

Next day we headed down the road about 40km to Rawnsley Park Station to get a permit for the Arkapena Track, which is a self-guided track and costs $40 to do both the AWD and the 4WD sections.  We ummed and ahhed about whether to stay at Wilpena Pound or Rawnsley Station and we basically decided on WP because of the pound and they had Next G service but next time through we would definitely stay here at Rawnsley Park Station.  They have heaps of information about a lot of the 4WD tracks around here, not just their

Views on Arkapena Track

Chace Range

Wilpena Pound view

Dry but beautiful

own! We paid a $10 key deposit and headed off to find the start of the track.  You also get a small booklet which describes the track and various places/things along it in numerical order.  The kids were entrusted to find the numbers and read out the relevant information as we drove along; sort of like a treasure hunt.  It managed to keep them amused ad engaged for a while. The track takes you along the Chace range which is very beautiful.  The rocks are predominantly red-brown Bonney sandstone and orange-red Rawnsley Quartzite.  The different coloured layers are due to the sedimentary layers that were deposited 550-850 million years ago when this area was covered by a shallow ocean.  The first part of the track is AWD and not too bad so we let the kids have a go at driving.  Wade went first, with me in the car with him and Joel out front on video. OMG! There was a steep decent and at an angle which he wasn’t quite able to see over the dash so after a near heart attack by me, he made it safely down the other side.  Then it was Daniel’s turn.  He has been practising every opportunity he gets and actually did a really

Still happy vegemites

Rest time

Prelinna Ascent

Arkapena Track

good job.  Trouble is they just want to do it all day and it would take us forever to finish this track.  Joel stayed on the video and camera and I took the driver’s seat for a while and managed to get in some good 4WDriving myself. We found a tree with some good shade along a creek bed on the side of the track and stopped for lunch. After some more very picturesque and steep 4WDriving we stopped at the Prelinna Lookout which has the most magnificent, panoramic views of many of the ranges in the Central Flinders Ranges.  We signed the visitor’s book that is kept in a road-side mail box, took heaps of photos then swapped back for Joel to drive the rest of the 4WD track so I could take more pictures.  The landscape changes from scrub to eucalypts to native pines.

Prelinna Descent

Awesome place

The remainder of the 4WD section was mostly through native pines and the views just spectacular as the day was lovely and sunny. We stopped at Pugilist Hill Lookout on our way out for some spekky views of both the Chace and Elder Ranges and the Wilpena Pound. The e clouds are rolling in so we headed back to drop off the key at Rawnsley Station then back to camp.  Pugilist Hill would be a fantastic spot for sunset photos but with the amount of cloud rolling in there just wouldn’t be any sky to colour!  Back at camp the kids went for an explore around the huge park on their bikes, Joel went for a run and I went for a walk.

Pugilist Hill panorama

We woke to rain so decided not to stay here for another day but to head over to Willow Springs Stationfor a few nights as there is another 4WD track there to do.  We filled our water tanks at Wilpena while we dodged the rain then drove a whole 15kms to Willow Springs Station. At the entrance to the property there is a huge wing made of steel and what looks like the blades from an old windmill.  It is quite striking and beautiful in a rustic sort of way. We were lucky and managed to snag a great caravan site near the toilet block and the nicest camp kitchen I have ever seen!  It even has a stove so I might even get to cook a cake

Willow Springs Station Entrance

Camp at Willow Springs

Very cool eagle sculpture

this afternoon. There are a number of other metal sculptures around the station which are very tasteful and interesting.  There are no powered sites but we are allowed to use the generator, which is good as there is so much cloud cover and rain that the solar panels won’t be giving us much in the way of power tonight.  We decided to go for a drive out to Blinman and we stopped at the General Store for some yummy home-made beef pies and I tried a warm quandong pie.  They were absolutely delicious! The quandong is often called a wild or native peach but cooks up like rhubarb and is often used in pies and jams.  Yummo!!  It’s still quite cool and

Blinman-Glass gorge track

Parachilna Gorge

Flat, flat, flat to Parachilna

FMG - feral mixed grill at pub

raining but we decided to continue on to Parachilna via Glass Gorge.  The track was a clay sludge but then the rain stopped and the clouds cleared a bit so we could see some of the beautiful scenery and

Prairie Hotel at Parachilna

See almost no cloud

Start of Morelana Drive with clouds

gorgeous views.  We drove out through Parachilna Gorge, passing some campers camped in the creek bed which looked like a nice spot. As we drove out of the ranges the change in countryside was amazing; just flat, flat and more flat!  We passed a sign for the Prairie Hotelat Parachilna that serves the famous FMG = feral mixed grill, which is a  mixed grill of kangaroo fillet, emu fillet mignon and camel sausage served on a bed of mash.  We

were keen but once we got to the pub and saw the serving size, we opted for smaller burgers instead as we were still full from the pies.  Across the road from the pub is the railway

There's a mountain in there somewhere

rain, rain and mud

Great mud puddles

line with a few history story boards of the line which were quite interesting.  It was as sunny as with little-to-no-clouds in the sky when we left the Prairie Hotel but by the time we had driven 45kms to the Morelana Dr turnoff the clouds had returned.  We set off along this gravel dirt road which passes between the southern side of Wilpena Pound on the left and the Elder Range on the right-hand-side.  It is absolutely gorgeous country here but as we kept driving we noticed it getting very dark.  We stopped at Black Gap to get some shots of the Elder Range but the clouds had come in so fast and low that it started to rain and boy did it rain.  We drove

Skytrek gorge start

5 mins later-sunshine

Stokes hill lookout

Water ripple rock

nice and slow for a while as it was raining cats-and-dogs and the road was getting very wet and boggy.  Another 10 mins and 10km later and the sun was back out shinning and the rain gone.  The weather is having a lot of trouble making up its mind today!!!  Back to camp and after a chicken fettuccini dinner we showered in the semi-outdoors showers which have an amazing view of the night sky.  The next day we had planned to do Skytrek but with low cloud and rain we decided to wait another day and see if the weather improves as it’s cold and crappy today.  The boys made us pancakes for brekky and we spent most of the day watching the Lord of the Rings Trilogy. I made a white chocolate cake mix that had been in the camp box since the cape trip and cooked it in the oven in the camp kitchen. It was very yummy too! We drove up to Stokes Hill Lookout as it is the only place with phone reception so I could ring my twin niece and nephew, Abby and Harry, for their birthday and the sun was out for a visit. Everyday we drive around we have seen heaps of emus and wallabies – it is truly a nature-lovers paradise.

Old shearers' hut

Carpets of yellow wildflowers

Kids take on a Toyota ad

They blend well

The sun came out nice and bright for us in morning so we jumped up early to get started on Skytrek as it will take about 8 hours to complete it.  It costs $75 to do the trek and we’d already paid and got the

Rocky landscape

Some good 4WDriving

lunch break on Skytrek

Ascent to Mt Caernarvon

key for the gates so off we went.  There were a few other cars doing it today as well whom we met at a few of the stops along the way.  The Reynolds family owns the Station and run the Skytrek as well which runs mostly on their property but some of it runs across a privately owned section as well.  You get a great

Cairn at Mt Caernarvon

Down we go

Fantastic views on way down

folder about the trek which has points of interest and lots of information about the drive, landscape, local flora and fauna and history too.  The kids were ‘tour-guides, following the travel guide and reading out the information on each of the points of interest and view stops until we stopped for lunch.  They lost a bit of interest after that and we didn’t push it as we had left at 8:45am and returned at 5pm so it was a long day!  We stopped for lunch at the recommended place, cooked sausages in bread and soaked up the ambience of the

Yukkas - grass trees

Another view of Wilpena Pound

Adding our rocks to the pile

place.  It was an incredible drive with a lot of it not accessible unless you have a low range and high clearance 4WD. The track is one-way which is a good thing as some of the ascents and descents don’t really allow much room for one vehicle let-alone two! We stopped at the top of Mount Caernarvon where we met up with our fellow travellers again.  The views were breathtaking and the weather just perfect.  Daniel was happy as we had Next G service so he could post on Facebook! The track tends to run along the top edge of the ranges with magnificent views then the last of it coming back down.  We decided to take the short detour drive and walk

Skull rock

Camp kitchen at Willow Springs

Rawnsley Bluff panorama

out to skull rock, of which the mud-map is included on the rear of the Skytrek notes. For all the phantom fans out there is a

Mt Caernarvon panorama

place called skull rock, which is a calcium build up between two rocks that resembles “skull rock’, home of the phantom.  Back on the track and headed back to camp. We checked out the van, pumped up the tyres on the car and got ready for heading out tomorrow.  The kids are off playing snipers and army games with their nerf guns while Joel and I work on planning the next part of the trip.

We packed up and headed back to Port Augusta.  We stopped at the Rawnsley Lookout and managed to snap some lovely shots of Rawnsley Bluff and the front side of Wilpena Pound. We got to Port Augusta just on lunchtime, booked in, put on some washing, left the kids to do some schoolwork while Joel and I arranged our trip to Kangaroo Island.

Till Next Time


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Opals and Rockets – Oct 2011

Posted by lewisfamilyexploringoz on November 22, 2011

Breakaways before sunset panorama

SA-NT border

Bush camp sunset

Coober Pedy landscape

Hi Everyone,

After crossing the SA/NT border we stopped at a free camp for the night and witnessed another gorgeous sunset and a brilliant full moon tonight as well.

The scenery as we drove into Coober Pedy was flat with a few scrubby plants and mounds of rubble. It looks very dry and dusty and not really that inviting but the real world of Coober Pedy lies under the ground.  We stayed at the Stuart Range Holiday Parkbut the pool has had a leak and they had to lift up a lot of pavers to find it and haven’t finished

Serbian UG Church

Carvings in the Church

Coober Pedy Golf Course

re-laying them so the pool is a no-go, much to the boys’ dismay.  We topped up on some shopping, especially fresh fruit and vegies and then organised a tour of the town for tomorrow.  The Caravan Park normally runs tours but as it’s not “high season” they won’t run any unless there are a lot of people. Not very good PR so we went on a tour with the other caravan park, the Oasis.  Water is nearly as precious as the opal mined here and you need to pay for any water you use.  The water is actually pumped from artesian bores about 23km north of the town, into the town water tanks and then run through a reverse osmosis plant to produce their

Coming up from UG mine

UG home with pool

Wade found the UG TV room

potable water.  It is really lovely water, some of the nicest we have tasted in the last few months. We had full tanks of the van already but will need to fill up before we go. The caravan park has a water pump/dispenser and it is only about 20 cents for 30L-40.  There is a coin operated water dispenser in town too which costs about the same.

Our bus driver for the town tour was Rudy, an old ex-miner who has lived here for years.  We started off with a bit of a tour around the town and Rudy told us of some of the colourful history of the town.  It is a very cosmopolitan population with more than 45 different nationalities

Bit early for a drink:)

UG bedroom

The Dog Fence

represented in the town.  Roughly about 50 – 60 % of people live underground in “dugouts” which, no matter what the temperature is outside, always stays a lovely 23-25 degrees all year round!  Our first stop was to visit the Underground Serbian Church.  It is quite spectacular even from the outside but amazing once inside.  The whole church is underground with a few stained-glass windows allowing some light through.  The scalloped ceiling and carved rock statues and icons are just amazing too.  You really have to see it to believe it. The sandstone is predominantly a light white-beige colour with streaks and swirls of a more reddish

The Castle aka Salt 'n' Pepa

Sun setting on The Breakaways

Bit windy up here

colour throughout, creating a marbling effect.  It is very striking and the carvings in the rock look almost like marble statues. Our next stop was a look through the Umoona Opal Mine and Museum.  We watched a presentation about the history of Opals and opal mining in Coober Pedy, had a look through a section of the mine there and also through the caretakers quarters underground.  When building or digging the U/G homes they try to put the kitchen, bathrooms and toilet nearest to the surface/entrance to make plumbing easier. They have a lovely shop with some interesting pieces but none that quite got my attention.  We thought we’d come

Wade noodling

Daniel noodling

Coober Pedy town sign

back later and have a better look after the tour. We stopped at the public noodling area and had a bit of a go trying to find some opal, but no-one had any luck. The last stop was a look at the golf course and views of the surrounds then back to the caravan park.   It’s not what you’d call a picturesque place but it’s very interesting and looking around the landscape at all the pipes sticking out of the ground you come to understand the number of underground houses that are out of sight. After some lunch we checked out Faye’s U/G house – just amazing.  Faye Naylor dug out this place with the help of two other ladies, while working full-time and it’s

Coober Pedy mining sign

Peaceful overnight bush camp

Rocket Test Vehicle (RTV1)

incredible.  The current owners took us on a tour of the place and they still live in it too.  Faye also built an in-ground swimming pool at the back of the place, just outside but was losing so much water through evaporation that she built around it and enclosed it and they still use it as a pool. It’s a bit eerie walking through the house though as there is no natural light because there are no windows! Our next stop was a place called Crocodile Harry’s U/G mine and dugout – well he seemed to have been quite a character and his place had been used in a few scenes for the Mad Max 3 movie too.  Probably not the most appropriate place for the kids and in

Welcome to Woomera

Contraves Kinetheodolite-follows rockets

Rocket Astronomy

all honesty not someone I’d want to have known I don’t think.

Back to the van for lunch then a quick look around the town, stopping in at a few opal places to see if I could find a pair of earrings to match my beautiful necklace and ring I’d gotten already at Lightning Ridge.  After traipsing around to several places who wanted my first-born, or a kidney or two for some opal pieces we wandered into a store called Miners Direct where we found an perfect pair of earrings.  We spoke to the lady for a while and Joel was interested in some of the opalised pieces of shell and squid.  Her husband came out to speak to us as he is a local miner and explained about the pieces of opalised squid and cockle shell.  The pieces were about 120 million years old and there have been some magnificent finds around Coober Pedy.  He also looked at my pieces of jewellery and told me where the opal had come from, as in the mines they were from and all the pieces were in fact from Coober Pedy mines.  He wrote me a list of the mines for my reference and also wrote down the names of the fossilised opal and roughly how old they were.  After we finalised our purchases he asked if we were staying in town but we were heading off tomorrow, otherwise he would have taken us out to his mining lease and shown us how it was all done.  We said we were taking the kids to do some noodling at the public/tourist area and he told us we’d never find

Boys found it very interesting

"Blue Steel" missile

Black Knight missile

anything there and drew a quick mud-map to his mining lease and let us go out there for a bit of a go.  He was very friendly and his wife was lovely too and we did eventually find some brilliant pieces of opal, with some gorgeous colours.  We made sure to stop back in at the shop to thank them as we had a ball. His name was George Kountouris and he has some amazing pieces of opal and jewellery in the store.

We took a drive out-of-town and stopped to marvel at the Dog Fencewhich is the longest continual construction in the world. Stretching some 5,300 kms, it begins east in Qld and ends up north of Ceduna in the Great Australian Bight.  It was originally built to protect the sheep country in the south from the dingoes in the north.  We headed around in an

Target drone

Jabiru-HRV- Hypersonic research vehicle

anti-clockwise direction so we could see the Dog Fence while it was still light and then headed for the Breakaways for sunset.  We stopped along the way to look at the “castle” or “salt and pepper” which are two rock formations, joined, but they are different colours; one being white and the other a brown colour. The white one has weathered quicker than the brown one to reveal the white rock underneath.  We kept driving up to the lookout to take in the views of the Breakaways.  OMG the wind is so strong and cold that we have to hold the car doors as we open them or they will fly off.  Oops, unfortunately Dan didn’t realise just how strong the wind was and it flung his door open, at the back, and popped it off the hinges and stretched the metal connector.   Joel spent a bit of time trying to fix it but looks like we’ll be seeking out a panel beater when we hit Port Augusta! The Breakaways are colourful, low hills that have broken away from the Stuart Range…..hence the name. They are famous for spectacular sunsets and the numerous motion pictures filmed here, including Mad Max movies, noticeably No3.  Today it is as windy as hell but we re-parked the car to get some protection from the wind, so we could have some nibblies and drinks and watch the gorgeous colours of the sunset on the rocks.  The wind didn’t ease up at all and we headed off back to Coober Pedy to see if the van was still standing.  Luckily it was windy before we headed off so the awning was already packed away.  The caravan park has a pizza parlour as part of the park so we ordered some pizzas for tea and headed back for showers while they were cooking.  The pizzas were delicious and after a movie it was lights out as we are off tomorrow.  We had actually paid for an extra night thinking there was more to see here but 2 nights would have been enough.  We went out for some more noodling in the morning then did the tourist photos under the town signs, filled up the tanks with water and then packed up and headed out-of-town.  We have seen emus everywhere and luckily no close calls.

Big Rockets

Sea Slug Mk2

We drove for quite a while and stopped for the night at a free camp No 512 in the Camps 5 book, called Mulga Well Rest Area.  We pulled off into the Rest Area then there was a track down behind the hill to a single tree and flat area so we camped there in the middle of nowhere.  We have noticed that most of the rest areas don’t have a toilet, which is fine for us as we have one in the van but if you were just travelling by car it would be a nuisance. Not much to pack up the next day so off to an early start and then pulled into the Lake Hart Rest Area to check out the salt lakes and stretch our legs.  We noticed another van and car nearby and they came over for a chat.  Seems we had met them before and they recognised us from the car – well it does somewhat stand out! They had camped near us when we were on the Cape Trip at Moreton Telegraph Station; they had a similar tent to us – the things you remember about people hey! They also said we were at Curtin Springs when they pulled up that night too but we didn’t recognise the van just their car.  What a small, small world.  After a few chats we headed off on our way into Woomera, having the rest of the sausages for lunch. We visited the Woomera Visitor Centre to read about the town and there was also a heap of information about an Australian Legend, Len Beadell.  He was a real ocker character and a road surveyor and basically spent most of his life marking out and making roads all through the outback of Australia.

There are all sorts of rockets, planes and even a tank or two on display outside, where you can wander around at your leisure and check them out.  We went into the Rocket Rangefirst, which is situated inside the Visitor’s Centre and stepped back through time, reading about the town’s involvement with rocket testing in the

All the boys loved it

Last bush camp b4 Port Augusta

early War eras up to the present day use of the place.  The town was originally only open to the RAAF and was used as a weapons research facility until the town was “opened” in 1982.  There were heaps of artefacts, machinery and rockets on display with huge amounts of info to read about as well.  We spent quite a while in here, reading about the different rockets that were tested here and it was so cool to then see them outside, where you could see and touch them too.  Woomera was established in 1947 as site for the launching of British Experimental Rockets.  The testing range, which extended across the Great Victorian Desert into Western Australia, encompassed some 270,000 square kilometers and is known as the Woomera Prohibited Area.

We grabbed a few ice-creams and headed outside to check out some of the actual rockets and missiles we had just been reading about that were out in the park area.  It was a fantastic place and we finally headed off about 3:30pm.  We pulled up at another free camp, #505 in Camps 5 book, to stop for the night.  We

Plane used for rockets

could get right back off the road, in amongst the trees and we also had mobile service here???, so we got the kids to do some more schoolwork, much to their disgust.  Then the boys went for a bit of an explore on their bikes and Joel and I went for a walk down past the railway tracks to a sheep farm.  We never really expected the train line to be busy but we heard 4 trains in the space of a few  hours, the Ghan, the Indian Pacific a few times and a freight train to Darwin.  We headed off to Port Augusta in the morning and stayed at the Shoreline Caravan Park.  There is a Big 4 in town, and not far from the Shoreline, but just couldn’t justify the price, which was almost double for us!!! and the Shoreline was a lovely park too!  We pulled into a great little spot and proceeded to do 5 loads of washing and finish organising the car service, panel beaters, etc.  We found a gravel track from the caravan park that ran all the way across an old bridge to a wonderful park area and then down along the docks.  It was a great little spot and there was a swimming pontoon there as well but the water didn’t look that inviting. I spent the next few days doing lots of schoolwork with the boys, more washing and some shopping while Joel tended to the car service, panel beaters, windscreen replacement, auto electrician and 4WD and battery jobs. After a very productive, but expensive, stay here we are off to the Flinders Ranges tomorrow.

Till Next Time


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Ayres Rock – Uluru = Amazing!

Posted by lewisfamilyexploringoz on October 23, 2011

Ayres Rock Panorama

Red, red dust at AR cp

Our setup at Ayres Rock

Sunrise at Ayres Rock

Hi Everyone,

We arrived nice and early at Ayres Rock campground, got checked in and headed off to our site.  We were given 2 sites to use like a drive thru as they weren’t sure we’d fit on a normal site.  We ended up moving as the two sites had a big tree in the middle and the one we went to had a big Oka vehicle on it.  They assured us that it shouldn’t be there so we had to wait for the owners, who had gone out for breakfast, to come back to move it!

Bit early for Daniel

Bugger - the climb is closed

Mala Walk

There’s not much wind at the moment and the lady at the desk suggested we go and climb now if we want but we decided to wait and set up first.  Lucky we did as after we set-up and had lunch the wind picked up incredibly and we got a direct hit from a wind funnel as well, with dirt and dust up the kazoo! It was a massive 38 degrees and humid as well so we spent the arvo cleaning out the dust, swimming, reading and blogging instead.  The air con in the van got quite a workout today as it just wasn’t cooling off.  It was still 33 degrees when we went to sleep so we left the air con on all night!  The sand is so red and we could see Ayres Rock from the lookout in the caravan park. This is way too cool! Next day we

The rock up close

Walking back from Mala walk

decided to get an early start to see if the climb at Ayres rock would be open.  There is a lot of controversy about climbing the rock and most of it is from do-gooder white people not the indigenous people.  The literature given out has the Indigenous People asking

Sunrise panorama was beautiful

us not to

Disappointed early climbers

climb the rock for both sacred and safety reasons.  The Rock has some sacred areas around it but the big push is regarding safety; they don’t want any

The Olgas up close

more people dying from climbing the rock. Statistics stand at about 39 deaths, only 7 from an actual fall off the rock and the others from heart attacks mostly after the climb. I have wanted to climb the rock for as long as I can remember, since I was very young.  I think it is something most Australians aspire to do at least once in their life and I was very excited about being here and

Valley of the Winds walk

Karu Lookout

After the sun came out

The Olgas rest up

The domes are spectacular

ticking another item off my

The Olgas Karu LO pana

Getting out of Dodge

bucket list! It’s not that I don’t respect the Indigenous Culture but I was born in this great country and I am Australian too and I believe the rock belongs to all of us! Okay will get off my soapbox now!  We made it out to the National Park nice and early, which costs $25 per adult for a 3-day-pass; children under 16 are free. You can get a 12 month pass

Start of the climb

First section no railing

for $32.50 which if the weather is in doubt I would recommend.  We

Second section has rail and is steep too.

stopped at one of the sunset/sunrise viewing areas and took a few photos as the sun was coming out.  We drove to Mala, an area where there is a short walk and also the climb to the top of the rock.  By this time it was after 7am and the climb was still closed. We drove back around to another sunrise viewing area and took some more photos; not hard really as it is a most magnificent place!  We had been told that they would re-assess the status of the climb at 8am so back we went.  The Ranger showed up for the 8am Mala guided walk and the climb still wasn’t opened so we decided to do the tour with the throngs of other people there who were waiting to climb the rock as well! The walk was fairly easy and she did explain a little bit about the

Rest time with a view

View from 2nd section

Mmm no rail anymore

Mala (also called the Rufous Hare wallaby) an almost extinct wallaby, which won’t be found in the park anywhere except in the ranger’s breeding program/enclosures.  At the end of the talk there was a huge push to sell NOT climbing the rock.  I gotta say there would have been 40-50 people just in our group and all of them wanted to climb the rock as that is why they were here.  Out of all of us I don’t think she deterred one single person and she really tried! We all ventured back to the parking area near the climb which was still closed so we

Olgas in back but still not at top yet

Great little hikers we have

Still not there yet but magnificent views

headed off to the cafe for a quick bite to eat.  We decided to go out to the Olgas (Kuta Tjuta) and take a walk around and then see if maybe the climb would be open later on.  It’s not just around the corner; it’s another 50kms from Ayres Rock (Uluru) to The Olgas (Kuta Tjuta). It’s also a bit tricky today as Daniel and Wade were play-fighting two days ago and Dan has hurt his leg and Wade his ankle.  In light of this we decided to only do the Valley of the Winds up to the first lookout.  The Olgas look absolutely magnificent when we stopped at the

Still going......

Caves and weathering

Last big hill....

viewing platform on the way out there.  It has been purposely built and would be fantastic for sunrise photos.  From here you can see the Olgas in a beautiful panorama.  We stayed for a little while taking it all in then drove further along to the start of the Valley of the Winds walk. The weather is so gorgeous and sunny with a little bit of wind which is a welcome relief from the heat.  We all donned our wide-brimmed hats, packed our water and off we trotted.  The walk is along a fairly easy, graded track with some uneven, rocky bits but for the most part

We made it to the Top

I'm pretty happy to be here

Where we've been

quite good.  The Olgas are in fact, 36 domes, composed of granite and basalt gravel consisting of pebbles, cobbles and boulders cemented by sand and mud.  They are huge and beautiful at the same time and even more so up close as we are walking through them.  As the sun moves around the colour of the rocks change from yellows to oranges and I’m told some reds at sunset too.  I think this will be a place Joel and I come back to later on without the kids.  The views from the lookout were just amazing! We shared this magnificent place with only


View from the top of the rock

Ayres Rock Cairn

one other family then headed back to the car and then the caravan park.  As we went past the National Park Office, we stopped and asked if the climb was open or likely to be opened today and they said it had been open since 1000am! Bugger, we should have checked again before we went to the Olgas – never mind! I was so excited that it was open so we headed back towards the Rock and parked up.  There were people climbing up and down and they looked like ants because the rock is so damn big! We all went to the loo, packed extra

Golf green, just need a club & flag

On our way down, Wade's first

Chain leads down.....

snacks and water as we still haven’t had lunch and its 12:30pm! To stand at the base of the rock and look up, it looks a long, long way.  There are no handrails for the first 20m then sections of it get quite steep and I was so glad there was a post and chain rail as you are quite literally, rock-climbing on a very steep angle.  I don’t think an oxygen tank would have gone astray either, bloody hell, I was huffing and puffing like an old steam train.  I was relaying this story to my mum, whose words of reply were “Well you are over 40 now!” Yeah,

Down we go

Dan found it easier like this

Nearly there...

thanks mum! We got to the top; well we thought it was the top but nooooo! It was just a resting platform, with the next sections having NO railing at all, just a painted, white strip indicating the safest place to walk. Yikes!  It was here that Wade’s brave facade was starting to crumble.  Unbeknownst to many, he doesn’t really like heights; yes I know he jumps off waterfalls, etc but only after Daniel has and he’s petrified and yet exhilarated at the same time!  He wasn’t keen to keep going but we sat and had a chat and asked would he regret not giving it a

Before the wind took the hats

Legend = carried backpack

Nice and steady

go seeing as we’ve come this far, it would seem such a waste to give up now. Alright he said; so we walked up the rest of the way with Daniel in the lead and Wade between Joel and I.  It was a bit spooky as there is NOTHING to hold onto and I’m not the greatest on heights either so I could sympathise with Wade.  This next section was at least 3 – 4 times as far as the first section with railing but luckily not as steep!  Just over half-way up there were some sections of actual grass growing, down in some of the depressions and one bit looked like it could’ve been a putting green, with a bit of a mow! It was awesome and also had some little purple flowers growing up here too!  There were pools of water and some interesting weathered-holes that could be caves or hidey-holes for some birds we thought.  We met another fella who was climbing on his own as his boys were too young to do the climb and his wife was looking after them at the bottom.  We made it to the top of the rock and found the cairn! They were the most awesome views and just the most amazing feeling to be this high up.  We could see the Olgas and Mt Connor from up here and the cairn indicated a few other places of interest as well and their general direction. I was so chuffed and even Wade had started to forget about the heights and bound up the last few hundred metres or so.  The fella we had met on the way up took a family snap for us at the top and we took one with my phone and posted on fb as there was full service up here!  We reciprocated by taking his photo to show his boys and then he left and we had the whole place to ourselves for about 20minutes.  It was truly

Ever buoyant

Magnificent views

We can see the bottom

an amazing experience!  We stayed up here and just breathed it all in! Then we broke out the snacks and drinks and re-charged our batteries for the steep decline down the rock.  If I thought climbing up was hard work then climbing down was no picnic either.  The sections without railing weren’t too bad and Joel even posed for a few golf-shots on the “green” on the way down.  I could feel a little blister starting to form on my little toe as all your body-weight is pushing forward to the tip of your boots because it is so steep.  We rested up at the top of the railed

Made it - Awesome

So excited

Awesome dude

Sun going behind a cloud

section and looked down.  By god it was going to be steep!  I had my camera around my neck but thought of putting it away a few times just to concentrate on the climb down.  There were quite a few parts on this section where we stopped to take a photo and to rest our feet. On one bit I had to hang on to the chain and step down like an abseiling move while Wade and Daniel scooted down on their butts.  We made it back to the bottom of the rock and just marvelled at our achievements!  What an awesome, awesome place.  By this stage we were ravenous so after rehydrating, we high-tailed it back to Yulara (the township at Ayres Rock) and searched for somewhere to eat lunch at nearly 4pm!  We ate at a cafe, and then picked up a couple of souvenirs made the post office then back to chillax at the van and go for a well-earned swim! Joel and I then left the kids at the caravan park to relax while we drove back out to the rock for some choice sunset photos.  We had a

Sun almost set = very nice

Sky colouring and the moon too

drink or two, set up the tripod and absorbed some of the peace and quiet, along with the other 100s out here for “The Photo”.  There was a bit of cloud just on the horizon so wasn’t sure of the late colours but we managed to get some good colours even if one a***hole just had to step into my shot! Ayres Rock is really different up close. There are so many erosion marks and holes that give it such character, not just a big, red rock! It is made up mostly of arkose, a coarse-grained sandstone that is rich in the mineral, feldspar.We met 2 couples next to us who were from Roxby Downs and were on a 6-day fly around trip, from Birdsville to Alice, the Kings Canyon and now Ayres Rock then back again.  They all worked at Olympic Dam and one of them was a pilot with his own plane, hence the fly around! They gave us some great advice about Coober Pedy and some of the other places we are still to visit.  The universe works in mysterious ways and we’ve been pretty fortunate to gather information as we need it from loads of different people. The sun is setting a lot later now and so we

Time to go....

Late arvo colours

grabbed pizzas from the Outback Pioneer Kitchen on the way back to the kids but we still didn’t eat until 8:30pm.   Whew what a day! We all slept very soundly this nite! The next day we had planned to take our bikes back to Ayres Rock and ride around the 10km base-walk but we were all knackered and several swims in the pool and just lazing about was the majority rule! We did some more washing and Joel made a yummy chilli con carne because tonight our friend Andy from Alice Springs is joining us for dinner.  He is quite a character and a bourbon hound just like Joel. The kids had a good early night and we stayed up and laughed and chatted with Andy until midnight. It was alright for us as we didn’t have to get up early but poor Andy had to be up at 4:30am – really felt for him!  The next day we had a late pack up and were back on the road again.  We stopped again at Curtin Springs but it was too early for lunch so we ended up having burgers at Erldunda Roadhouse instead. Food was good but took a while to get.  We drove on for a few more hours and stopped at the NT/SA border for the obligatory photos.  We then stopped at Agnes Creek Rest Area (#532 in Camps 5 book) which has no toilets but lots of open spaces and trees and camped for the night.  Joel went for a run, the kids for a ride before it got too late. We are off tomorrow to Coober Pedy.

Till Next Time


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Kings Canyon = Awesome! – Oct 2011

Posted by lewisfamilyexploringoz on October 13, 2011

Kings Canyon Panorama

Thunderstorm rolling in

View from caravan park

Easy Kathleen Springs walk

Hi Everyone,

We left Alice Springs in the rain and headed towards Kings Canyon down the Stuart then Lassiter Highways.  We took the left turn onto the Luritja Road and we stayed overnight at a free camp (#64 in the Camps 5 book), about 120kms out of Kings Canyon.  It was a big rest area, no toilets and if you really wanted to, you could drive over the sand dunes to a quieter place down the back.  Kids went for a bit of an explore about the place, then some

Kathleen Springs

Late arvo colours are nice

Start of KC Rim walk

schoolwork while I did some more blogging.  Daniel cooked up burgers with bacon and onions for dinner and they were delicious too. There was a good thunderstorm brewing and we watched the black clouds roll in and listened to the thunder. We got a little bit of rain but nothing like last night’s downpour.

Next day we headed into the Kings Canyon Resort and booked in for 3 nights at $48/night for a family, for a powered site.  We set up, had lunch and Daniel cooked up Joel’s chilli con carne for dinner later that night.  He really is enjoying all this cooking, I love it! There is a great pool here and plenty of ablution blocks.  After dinner was cooked we drove to Kathleen Springs and did the

Dan and Wade food stop

KC big drop off!

2.5km walk out to the Springs.  The walk is mostly a graded and bituminised path that has signs along the walk that tell stories of Aboriginal Culture and the cattle industry here. It leads to a

Rock formations are beautiful

spring-fed waterhole at the head of Kathleen Gorge.  The walk is very easy and quite pleasant with lots of trees and birds around.  Afterwards we went back to camp had a swim and some yummy chilli con carne.

Next day we were up early and off to do the 6km Kings Canyon Rim Walk.  The first part of the track begins with a strenuous and steep climb and it is only recommended for fit walkers. It is a bit of

Changing colours of the rocks

Bee-hive domes panorama

a hike and we stopped a few times on the way up to rest and appreciate the height and beauty of the place. The walk ascends to the top of the Canyon and then follows the canyon rim around.  The views from the western side showed a sheared, red, rock wall on the far side of the canyon. We walked through the “Lost City” which are beehive-shaped rock formations which resemble the

Edge of Canyon panorama

ruins of some ancient Aztec city carved over time by water and wind erosion. They reminded us of the Bungle Bungles in the

Kimberleys. The Garden of Eden is a little oasis at the base of the Canyon where there were heaps of cycads and greenery that contrasted sharply with the red rock canyon walls. We walked around to

Sheer red cliff from big rock fall

Small domes erosion

More rock colour changes

the other side of the Canyon and looked in awe at the sandstone chasm.  The colours were just amazing.  The red Meerenie sandstone is a thin, red veneer that covers the white rock underneath that is in fact compacted white beach and dune sand deposited 360 million years ago.  The light colour patches on the cliff walls mark the last known rock fall in the 1930s. The red, vertical colours are from rainwater that has filtered through the rock with iron oxide then evaporated leaving the red colouring.  The black and green colours are patches

Don't want to fall down that crack

Stairs to the Garden of Eden

GOE water up the back

Halfway round Rim walk

Sandstone cliff face

of algae.  Very cool! It’s hard to describe how beautiful this place is; it’s just magnificent! Even the kids loved it! The canyon is huge and when you first see it you just go “Wow!” Wade played a shocking trick on me and pretended to edge off the cliff only to stand up on a rock underneath saying “surprise!” I’ll give you surprise all right! When my heart beat returned to normal I could see the funny side of it at least! The walk down the canyon was much easier than the hike up, thank god, and we watched some more Spinifex pigeons come down to drink at the puddle near us.  They are so tame and don’t seem to

Remnant of an old sea bed-awesome

Rock domes and stairs

Ants on top are people

fear us at all! The male still seems to puff up and show off but it’s pretty cute really.  The walk was a bit tough to start with but the rest of the walk was okay and the views were so worth it too!  There were heaps of other people here too which is a novelty for us as when we do our long walks we don’t usually see many other people. Sometimes it’s a nice thing, sometimes not……. We went back to the van and had a late lunch and a swim as it is very hot today.  I did some more blogging notes and the kids some schoolwork (yeah we weren’t popular) in the

Sandstone leaching colours

Looking back into canyon

Follow the orange rock road

Down we go

On the way back now

afternoon then more swimming.

Next day was a relax day as we did some washing and “chores”.  Joel taught Daniel how to change the tyres properly and also rotated them on the car as well.  Wade and Daniel also cleaned out the car and vacuumed it as it really needed it! The rest of the day was filled with swims, movies and reading, oh and more blog notes! At this rate when we finally get internet service at Ayres Rock I will be up-to-date with the blog! Joel took me for a drive

Dan waiting for me taking more photos

Almost finished

Kings Canyon Pana


Wild camels

north of the resort and we had a drink and watched the sunset and the colours on the Canyon walls.  As we pulled up, 3 camels wandered across the road in

Sunset over KC

Mount Connor

front of us.  Unbelievable! They are big buggers too; I’d hate to run into one of those things at night! Chicken nachos were the order of the day for dinner and they were yummy.  At night while I was reading and everyone else asleep, a pack of dingoes started howling! It was a bit freaky so late at night and they sounded so close too!  They have been roaming around the campground and there are bolted gates

Aussie loos

to the toilets that help to keep them out of there.  We had a couple walk through the camp area but we just shooed them away.

Curtin Springs

Colourful parrots

We left the next morning, not because of the dingoes, and stopped for lunch at Mt Connor Lookout.  It is huge!  It’s three times the size of Ayres Rock and even with a bit of haze around it still looked fantastic.  The lookout rest area is very close to the road so we decided to push on and see what Curtin Springs was like.  They have an unpowered camping area with heaps of room so we pulled up here for the night.  The Cattle Station is lovely with green, green grass and a couple of aviaries full of cockatiels and different coloured parrots, some we’ve never seen before.  Wade and I got followed by the resident emu, Bruce! While we were stopped we watched a few wind willy willys.

Bruce the emu

Sun setting on Mt Connor

They were pretty strong and were picking up lots of loose tumble-weeds and we watched them dancing around in the sky! Some of them got up quite high too. Luckily it didn’t hit the van directly but you could follow the path easily as it picked up the red dirt! We went over later and have a drink in the beer garden and met an old couple who were travelling.  They had flown from Brisbane to Darwin, hired a vehicle and driven down to Ayres Rock and were on their way back to Darwin.  They had met some 40 odd years ago in Alice Springs and even though they had lived there for years, they never made it to the rock! There were a few people in the bar and quite a number were free camping too. Curtin Springs is a great set up, with toilet blocks and $3 for a shower if you wanted one.  It is mostly geared up for the tourist coaches that stop out the front but the campers can access it too. We watched the sun set over Mt Connor and also watched some “locals” push start an old Toyota after they had put in some fuel out the front.  Early to bed as we are heading off to Ayres Rock tomorrow.

Till Next time


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West MacDonnell Ranges – End of Sept 2011

Posted by lewisfamilyexploringoz on October 13, 2011

Ormiston Gorge panorama

Caravan at Ormiston Gorge

Big slope needed extra chocks

View from our site

Hi Everyone,

We packed up and headed out to the far western end of the MacDonnell Ranges.  The road is bitumen all the way out here and the views of the West MacDonnell Ranges are awesome.  You basically drive out the road along the range. We drove into Ormiston Gorge and checked out the camping area as we aren’t sure if we will fit into the camping bays.  The road into Ormiston Gorge is all bitumen and luckily for us it was only 11 o’clock in the morning so

Tyler's Lookout

Smoke and dust storm makes it hazy

Gosse Bluff

we had our pick of the sites.  All of the sites are on some sort of slope so we tried for a big site with the least amount of slope for our 25ft van. After a bit of manoeuvring and using some rocks to help chock the wheels:) we had finished setting up and were reasonably level!  Camping here costs $25 for a family per night, (2A and up to 4C) or $10 per A and $5 per child.  We thought it was pretty cheap considering they had flushing toilets, hot showers and gas BBQs for cooking! We had a bit of lunch then drove out to see Gosse Bluff.  We stopped at Tyler’s

Redbank Gorge

Different colours in the rocks

Not a real defined path here

Lookout in middle of Gosse Bluff

Lookout which gives a great view of the actual bluff. Unfortunately there is a lot of smoke and haze around and it’s hard to see it!  It’s as windy as all hell up here too so hopefully it will work to whisk away the smoke and not start anymore fires!.

We stopped at the turnoff to Gosse Bluff and let down the tyres as it is a 4WD track in.  It’s

Long, hot walk in

about 5km of rough road and then we were right in the centre of the bluff.  Gosse Bluff (Tnorala) is believed to have been formed 142.5 million years ago, when a 600m wide comet crashed to earth, blasting a crater some 20km across.  Today it is 2km lower than the original impact surface and the bluff is only about 5km is

Track to lookout

Ormiston Pound walk start

diameter. We parked up and took a walk up to one of the lookouts, only about 600m return, which gave us brilliant views of the crater and surrounding area.  It was just beautiful.  A few snacks and drinks then we headed back towards camp and stopped in to have a look at Redbank Gorge.  It is a 2.4km walk from the car park, alongside the creek bed to Redbank Gorge and return.  It is a bit later in the afternoon and there are a lot of shadows which makes

Very pretty hike

the walk a bit nicer and not too hot.  The track is a bit of a goat track then goes down into the creek bed for the last part of it. There is a permanent waterhole here and you can walk through the water and up through the upper parts of the gorge if you so wish.  They recommend if you wish to visit the upper gorges, to take a tyre tube or some inflatable device so you can float on the water as it is so cold.  The water is pretty cold and there’s heaps of algae so we pass on the swim.  It’s still quite pretty and the colours are lovely too. Wade has a sore ankle and is not a happy chappie to be doing this walk which is really unlike him.  As we returned along the track I slipped on a loose rock and broke my fall

Our goat track on RHS

Halfway roughly

by putting out my hands – straight into a bloody Spinifex bush-oucheyowa!  I got most of the splinters out but will have to wait for a couple to

Morning tea stop

fester to get them out! We drove back to camp and noticed that the campground has filled up a lot while we were gone. After dinner we listened to a Ranger talk, mostly about Park Management which sounds a bit boring but we talked a lot about the fires at the moment and we got a lot of info about Kings Canyon and Ayres Rock as that’s where we are heading later on.  There are fires everywhere and there just isn’t

Follow the markers boys

Are we there yet

enough man-power to deal with all the fires in the area.  Such a shame but they think they are getting them under control.   Worse part is that most of

Still going - so beautiful

them, they believe, have been deliberately lit. Honestly what are these people thinking; surely they must have better things to do!

Next day we were up early to start the Ormiston Pound Walk which is an 8 km hike.  We are taking some extra Gatorade this time as we all got a bit flat after our last big, hike and it’s going to be quite hot

Shoes and sox off to cross water

Contemplating life

again today too! We set off with the boys carrying the backpacks, which was great as the first 2km or so was all uphill and rocky climbs!  We took plenty of

Great spot to relax

rest stops for drinks and snacks and to take some photos of the gorgeous scenery around here.  The walk takes you on a full circuit from the Visitors/ Camping Area, across the slopes and onto the floor of the Pound before returning along the Gorge via the main waterhole.  They have had an unseasonable amount of rain this year and until just recently, to get back to the camping area you had to swim across a section of the gorge to continue.  We all agreed that it would be lovely as even with our big-brimmed hats

Just breathtaking

Waterhole = end of hike

on, it is a very hot walk.  About a third of the way around, we walked up to a lookout where you could see a view of the entire Pound area.  It was pretty awesome too.  We could see where we had walked up:/ and then we were still to go to.  The red rocks of the Pound walls contrasted well with the yellow Spinifex and the green bushes; it was indeed a beautiful, if hot, walk. We came to a section of the Gorge where we had to take of our socks and shoes to get across the water.  It was lovely and cool and very picturesque.  We met a woman here who

Mt Sonder Lookout view

had been watching a black-footed wallaby on the rocks nearby but it had gone into hiding so we couldn’t see it.  We walked the last section of the track back through the creek bed and past the waterhole.  It looked very inviting but we all needed some lunch first.  After lunch we were all a bit knackered so we relaxed for a while reading and snoozing.  We went for a swim in the waterhole and OMG the water was freezing.  Joel and I got in first; I stayed in and thought it was cool but okay, Joel got out and the kids jumped in and out a few times but couldn’t stay in as it was just freezing.  It was a nice way to cool off though and the water was very deep too! We vegged around camp for the rest of the arvo


Roma Gorge entrance

trying to ignore our very noisy neighbours and their 4 kids!

Middle of Roma gorge

Next day we drove up to Mt Sonder Lookout.  The view of the Mountain and rest of the Ranges was pretty lovely.  The Finke River even had quite a bit of water in it and there were even some campers down along the water as well.  We then drove out to Roma Gorge for a look.  The sign has been knocked down by the road construction crew and we found it thanks to the info from the Ranger the other night.  Basically you drive up the dry creek bed for 8.5km of very rough and boggy 4WD tracks until you get to the Gorge.  It took about 45 mins to drive along the track to a parking area and a 200m walk to the gorge.  There are

Not really for swimming

some amazing petroglyphs here and we wandered around having a good look at them.  The kids were great and really respectful of the area and spent a fair bit of time hunting around for some of the petroglyphs too.  The gorge itself is quite beautiful with the rough red rock of the gorge contrasting with the smooth grey of the riverbed rocks and the green trees growing in the gorge too. The drive was a good 4WD track but I would definitely recommend a high clearance 4wd to go in there. The sky is overcast today so we went back for lunch and some schoolwork and blogging.  Daniel made spaghetti Bolognese for tea and it was delicious.  He’s got a bit of the cooking bug at the

Ellery Ck Big Hole panorama

moment and I’m trying to encourage it as it gives me a night off from cooking!

Next day we packed up and headed back towards Alice Springs, stopping in at Ellery Creek Big Hole.

Big Ellery Ck and us

It is a spectacular waterhole in Ellery Creek which cuts through a gorge in the West MacDonnell Ranges.  It is quite magnificent and I hear a great place to swim but we all have jumpers on this morning as it is very cool so I don’t think we’ll be testing that one out!  The rocks here are beautiful and amazing.  They are almost striped or marbled with different colours throughout. It looks like a great place to canoe and swim and there is a camping area here too.  Not sure that we’d fit our van in any of the sites though and even a camper trailer would struggle for a few of them too! There is a short 3km walk here but we decided to head back in to Alice as we need to check a few battery problems out in town.  We stopped just out of Alice at the John Flynn Memorial. He was sent by the Church in 1912 to investigate the needs of bush men and women living in the NT.  “With tremendous energy and enthusiasm he set about implementing his dream of a mantle of safety that would bring medical, social and religious services to isolated outback communities”, eventually becoming the RFDS in NT.  He died in 1951 and was buried here and a rock was taken from The Devils Marbles and placed as a grave

Colourful rocks

John Flynn Memorial

stone.  However the Traditional owners of the Devils Marbles wanted the stone returned and in 1999 the local Arrernte people arranged for another significant rock to replace the stone taken from the Devils Marbles and it was returned.  The Arrernte People acknowledged, by the exchange of the stone that John Flynn’s life’s work was for all people living in Central Australia.  We decided to stay one night in Alice to get more shopping done and get the electrics checked out on the car again! We put on a few loads of washing as the skies are looking grey and hopefully after my washing dries it might even rain.  Sure enough it absolutely poured down overnight; good, hard rain which should help put out most of the fires still burning and smouldering.

It was still raining on and off as we packed up and headed out of Alice for the last time as we are heading towards Kings Canyon.

Till Next time


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Alice Springs and The East Macs – Sept 2011

Posted by lewisfamilyexploringoz on October 13, 2011

Ruby Gorge

Driving up Ruby Gorge

Garnets in the riverbed

Hi Everyone,

We’re here in Alice Springs, in the Red Center and can’t believe how many fires there are at the moment.  There is so much smoke everywhere we look and it’s playing absolute hell with my sinuses. We spent the first few days here just catching up on the washing and schoolwork as its good mobile and broadband service here. We caught up with some friends Andy and Amanda, whom we had met on our Cape York Adventure some weeks ago.  They came over to the caravan park for a BBQ dinner and

Riverbed walkway to Gentle Annie Gorge

Prospecting for garnets

4WD Track to ruby Gorge

many, many drinks for the boys.  Daniel and Wade looked after Darcy, who’s 2, and also cooked the BBQ meat.  We had a delightful dinner, lots of drinks and laughter; it was a great, late night.  They have lived in Alice for about 14 years and Andy works for AAT Kings so they know all the good places to see!.

We headed off the next day to a place that Andy had suggested called Ruby Gorge, way out east of the East MacDonnell Ranges.  We drove out to the un-manned Arltunga Visitors Centre and read about the gold rush in the area many years ago.  We

Sunset on way back to Alice

Baby dingo

CP at base of Ranges

decided to keep on driving out to Ruby Gorge as it was still 40km of really rough 4WDriving to go and we’d had a late start this morning.  The smoke seems to be hanging around and makes the views quite hazy.  We drove up Ruby Gorge until the river crossing where there is a walk you can do after that.  By this stage it was 2:30pm and we decided lunch was a great idea instead.  The river bed we were driving in is full of garnets, a semi-precious gemstone.  It was amazing; there were zillions of small garnets all throughout the river bed.  We ate lunch and then we all set about fossicking for our own pieces of garnets.  Originally they thought that the red stones were rubies and people flocked to the area,

The boys dwarfed by ghost gum

trying to make their fortune.  It didn’t take long for the prospectors to realise that the stones were in fact garnets and not rubies.  They are still very pretty and we managed to find a few nice ones too.  After our hard time fossicking for “gemstones” we started back along the river bed track and headed home.  You can camp anywhere along the gorge river bed for a nominal camping fee.  We saw some campers in there and thought next time we’d

Atop Trephina Gorge

Colourful spinifex pigeon

definitely bring the tent or camper trailer and camp here for a few days as it’s a long drive in and out in the one day. On the drive past Corroboree Rock we saw a family of dingoes on the road; Mum and Dad and two littlies.  They were running in the middle of the road and then darted off into the bush; Wade thought that was particularly cool!

Walking down to the creek

Next day we headed back out to the East Mac Ranges and visited the Trephina Gorge. The sky is much clearer this morning and there is a little breeze which is probably blowing away the smoke; I hope!.  We stopped to look at a huge ghost gum tree which is believed to be the biggest in the East Mac Ranges.  Joel and the boys tried to put their arms around it but it was still too big.  There are a number of walks here and we started out with the Trephina Gorge walk which runs along the ridge top and back along the creek bed.  We saw some Spinifex pigeons along the ridge top and they weren’t at all scared of us; quite the opposite as the male kept puffing up and showing us his fanned tail feathers.  They are quite beautiful and much smaller than I thought and their predominantly brown colouring makes for great

Trephina Gorge

Pink rocks

camouflage too. The walk wasn’t too difficult and the creek bed had a little bit of water in it which was a

Sun angle changes rock colour

bit green but not too smelly! The walk only took us 45mins and we had some gorgeous views too. When we got back to the car, we had some snacks and drinks and headed off to do the Panorama Walk.  It went all uphill for the first half then thankfully we started going downhill.  It was quite a rocky hike with some magnificent views of the surrounding gorge. This walk took us about an hour and a half and we were ready for lunch when we returned.  We had a picnic lunch at the tables and chairs under shelter even using the tablecloth this time as the tables were a little gross.  We then

Wade walking up the Gorge Ck

Jack's Waterhole

headed off down some more 4WD tracks to Jack’s Waterhole.  We did a quick hike up to the lookout and then walked along the creek to the waterhole.  There was some water in it but it was very brackish and none of us felt like swimming in it. We travelled back towards Alice and stopped in to have a look at Jessie Gap. Got to say I was unimpressed with the Gap.  It was just a couple of rocks that had eroded and there wasn’t even any artwork or anything

Desert landscape and flowers

really of interest to see there. We then stopped at Emily Gap which at least had a little bit of artwork to see. The art is considered part of a storyline of three caterpillars that are considered ancestral beings for the Alice Springs area. On the road back

Standley Chasm

Standley Chasm again

Emily Gap artwork

into town we see that the smoke has returned and the haze is back but we managed to get a nice sunset shot because of the smoke.  We also saw a family of dingoes running down the road in front of us but by the time i got the camera out, I just got a snap of one of the baby dingoes running in the scrub nest to us.  That was pretty cool.  The amazing part was they looked quite well fed and just like a pet dog rather than some of the mangy critters we have seen previously.

I spent the next day getting my application for University ready for next year.  Joel has been busily checking out the work scene and even got offered a job last week, but they wanted him to start straight away! Tonight we are off to Andy and Amanda’s place for a yummy lasagna dinner.  We chatted for ages and Joel and Andy polished off another bottle of bourbon. We had a wonderful time and dinner was especially scrupulous too.  I think Joel is going to need a few days to dry out after his sessions with Andy!

Simpsons Gap

Beautiful place SG

Water was very cold

We all had a good sleep in this morning and after some schoolwork and blogging we headed out to see Standley Chasm.  We’ve read that you should try to get there between 11am and 1pm as the sun is directly overhead and makes for good photos too.  We paid our $25 family fee for the privilege of walking down the path to the Chasm. It’s quite a nice walk and the Chasm is quite lovely, with some warm colours on the walls of the Chasm.  We took some photos then stopped for a picnic lunch before heading off to see Simpsons Gap.  It wasn’t a very

SG so beautiful

Could have stayed all day

Historic Telegraph Station

long walk out to the Gap and it was just gorgeous.  The colours in the rocks were amazing and there is a permanent waterhole there which was freezing cold too.  It was very picturesque and I thought much prettier than Standley Chasm.  I could have stayed out here for hours; there was just something almost spiritual about the place. We travelled back to Alice and went to visit the Historic Telegraph Station just on the outskirts of town.  The buildings have been restored to some of their former glory and the place serves to show the buildings and operation at the Alice Springs Telegraph Station, between 1895 and 1905.  It is the era’s most intact Telegraph Station and the parks and Wildlife Commission

A little step back in time

protect it as solid evidence of the lonely lives led by the pioneering men and women who first established Australia’s telegraphic life-line to the world. The buildings are made of stone and are really well restored.  There are information plaques everywhere so there’s plenty to see and read about so we wandered about for some time.  We head back to the van and spent the arvo on paperwork.

Next day the kids did a heap of schoolwork, i caught up on some blog notes and photos and Joel did the washing, shopping and cooking so I could get more done on the blog notes.  We packed up the awning and are getting ready as tomorrow we are heading out to the West Mac Ranges for a few days.

Till Next time


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Mt Isa, Barkly Hwy and The Devils marbles – Sept 2011

Posted by lewisfamilyexploringoz on October 11, 2011

Fountain Spring Rest Area

Barkly Homestead-Roadhouse

Frewana Overnight camp

Hi Everyone,

We packed up but the car wouldn’t start so we got a jump-start from a new neighbour who was way friendlier than the gennie Nazi! We were off finally and decided to do the cracking pace of 25km/hr on the crappy road out of Adels Grove as we don’t have a spare tyre and can’t afford to get a puncture at all.  We stopped every 5-10kms to check the tyres and made it safe and sound back to Gregory Downs and the bitumen.  It was the longest and bumpiest 90kms we’ve ever done! We stopped here to pump

Gorgeous sunset with windmill

Art at The Pebbles

Tennant Ck Visitor Centre

Kids climbing rocks

the tyres back up, morning tea and a toilet break. We made the Burke and Wills Roadhouse for a late lunch and once again burgers were the order of the day. They were pretty fast coming

Devils Marbles Camp

out and were delicious too. Back on the road which was dual lane bitumen all the way to Cloncurry where we stopped to get some fuel.  We rang our friend Annie in Mt Isa to organise a catch up and stopped for the night at a free camp rest area called Fountain Springs (#305 in Camps 5 book).  It is about half-way between Cloncurry and Mt Isa and we had full mobile phone service here in the middle of nowhere!  We stayed in Mt Isa again at the Coppercity Riverside Tourist Park where we had this same time last year. We found the place where we need to

Interesting shapes.......

How did they get up there

take our van tomorrow for new tyres and fuelled the car. We visited with Annie and met her new hubby Scott and several of the neighbours too.  We had a fantastic day drinking and catching up and the boys caught up with Billy too, speaking the language of teenagers = TV, games and computers.  Annie ordered in pizzas for tea which were delicious and amazingly there was even some

Rock formations

left over! We headed home in the wee hours of the morning after a great night, Thanks Annie and your neighbours are great too! Bloody hell got no photos again! – having too much fun we were.  The next day we picked up our mail, I shopped while Joel sorted the van with new tyres and re-set up again in the caravan park. More shopping, getting Daniel a pre-paid SIM card for his new phone, (which came in the mail) and a cover and screen protector as well.  While the boys looked through EB Games, I went looking through Annie’s new shop called Passion for Fashion.  She had some great clothes in there and some brilliant accessories too.  I bought a lovely, dressy singlet top and when we get into a house again I will get a catalogue from her for sure! I could have

Perfectly balanced

Sunset with smoke haze

Almost gone

bought a number of pieces but have no-where to wear them at the moment.  Wade and I bought new hats, Akubra style at Way out West and Daniel just wanted a canvas one.  The kids went with Annie back to her place to play games with Billy and Joel and I ran around getting spares and repairs for the van and car.  We joined them all later with some cake for the kids and after a bit of chatting we went back to the van.  We got Daniel’s phone working and now he has credit so he is one happy, little chappie! I rang and chatted to my sister who is on her way out of the country tonight to head to Italy.  She is so excited and i hope she has a fantastic trip.  She will be catching up with some of our relatives that we have never met and until a few weeks ago, didn’t even know existed!  I am so excited for her!   We left Mt Isa today and will end up doing a long drive as we have been this way before and know there’s not much to see.  We stopped to stretch our legs at the Barkly Homestead but want to get a few more kms in before we stop for the night. The kids did a heap of schoolwork today in the car and we stopped for the night at a free camp called Frewana Rest Area (#6 in the Camps 5 book).  It was a great, little spot and way out back there was a dam, full of bird life too.  We went for a walk down to the dam but the track was under water but you could still see heaps of birds and even pelicans!  There was a

Boulder cracked in half

Sunset makes the rocks glow

Sunrise at campsite

great sunset tonight and i managed to snap a lovely photo of the sunset with a silhouette of a windmill – a very iconic Aussie photo. Made spaghetti bolognese for tea and after showers and dishes we hunkered down for another episode of VM.

Not much to pack up so off to an early start.  We stopped at The Pebbles, just outside of Tennant Creek.  We had a bit of a walk around but didn’t think it was really worth the stop.  You can camp out here and there are new pit toilets as well and nobody else around! We continued on to Tennant

Red sunrise from too much smoke

Morning climb

Winery in the desert

Creek and stopped at the Battery Hill Tourist Centre to pick up a couple of maps of Alice Springs and The Red Centre.  We had our lunch in the car park then headed southwards to the Devils Marbles Campground where we hoped to camp for the night.  It cost only $7.70 for a family per night and there were pit toilets as well.  There were quite a few campers and vans here already and we managed to finally find a level site up the back of the campground.  It’s such a lovely place. The kids spent the arvo roaming around and climbing on the rocks.

So many fires

Wind funnels picking up the ash

Joel cooked a chilli con carne then went for a run while I wandered around taking some photos.  I went for a great walk down from the campground to the day use area and further up to a much photographed set of rocks.  When I got back Joel and I walked up onto the rocks to watch the sunset and get a few more photos. We got back to find even more people camping up and the guy next door was roaming around with his tomahawk.  I told Joel I didn’t like the look of it and I went inside.  When I went back outside the guy was still outside near our van and was about to chop down a living tree.  I asked him to stop and that it was a National Park and to take a good look around and see that there wasn’t many trees around anyway and did he really feel the need to chop this one down! He stopped it but his kids were picking up leaves and all sorts as they wanted to make a fire. I went inside as I was pretty upset (and wanted to strangle the bastard) so Joel went over and offered him our stash of wood off the roof of the car as his kids were only little and they looked like

Tropic of Capricorn

Welcome to the Alice

they weren’t really campers.  His very cute, little kids came over to invite us over to sit around the fire later.  We went over for a while and met another older couple who were travelling the same way as us.  We exchanged a lot of info about places to see and things to do.  I woke up early and got up to take some sunrise shots of the rocks.  There is still a lot of smoke-haze around and the colours weren’t really that great.  We packed up and started our trek towards Alice Springs.  We stopped at a little place called Ti-Tree.  There was a winery and a mango farm here, out here in the middle of the desert! I couldn’t believe it.  We stopped and bought some mango ice-cream, made on the premises and continued driving.  We made Alice Springs in the afternoon and are staying at the Big4 MacDonnell Ranges Holiday Park. 

Till next time


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