Lewis' Exploring Oz

On and off the beaten track…………………….

Archive for October, 2011

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

Food!

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

Ciao`

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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

just

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

Ciao`.

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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

Petroglyphs

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

Ciao`.

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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

Ciao`

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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

Ciao`

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Adels Grove – Sept 2011

Posted by lewisfamilyexploringoz on October 11, 2011

Roadwork but road still good

Gravel highway

What's left of tyre and rim

Hi Everyone,

Next day we packed down and left Karumba Point, stopping in Normanton for a few more supplies as groceries were very expensive in Karumba! We stopped at a rest area called Bang Bang for lunch, then continued on towards the Burke and Wills Roadhouse.  The road was a little better than the Savannah Way but it was still mostly single-lane bitumen for most of the drive there. We stopped for an ice-cream then drove on to Gregory Downs to free camp for the night. We stopped to collect some

Swimming hole at the Grove

Kids on the pontoon

Adults in the water too

firewood along the way but decided to keep it until Adels Grove in case we want to cook a roast or bread on the campfire.

We left Gregory Downs and headed into Adels Grove going via 90kms of gravel road. The first 10kms out of Gregory Downs was bitumen, the next 30km of gravel was like a highway, very smooth and wide.  However, once past the mine turnoff, the road deteriorates quite rapidly.   There were 2 different sets of road works and in between the roads were really rough.  The last bit of gravel after you turn at

Kids relaxing after swimming

Canoeing up Middle Gorge

more canoeing

Lawn Hill Station was the worst of the lot.  As we turned into Adels Grove we noticed we had done a tyre on the van and we hadn’t heard a thing.  We must have done it a little ways back as the rim was almost demolished! We pulled off the road as much as we could and changed out the tyre.  Peter from the workshop here came over to lend a hand which was very nice of him. We also noticed that when the tread came off it had destroyed a couple of the drains – nothing we couldn’t fix but it would have to wait until we got to Mt Isa for hardware supplies.  We headed into the reception area and were given a generator site. We only just managed to fit the van

Frogs everywhere

One of 3 springs feeding the creek

daniel trying his hand at camouflage

onto the site and it was out in the boondocks of the camping area as well.  I don’t think she liked us very much as there were heaps of sites closer to everything else than we were and they were all vacant for days! Not too worry we set up camp, had lunch and went down to the Grove for a swim. There were tyre tubes there for use for a gold coin donation to the RFDS. There was also a pontoon there so the kids were in heaven.  During the afternoon they met some more kids and stayed there for the rest of the afternoon, just coming back for something to eat! There was no mobile or rather very little mobile service at Adels Grove but back

Upper Gorge

Paddling back

Alexandra and Pandanus Palms

along the track, closer to the mine we knew there was good service.  Joel went out to make some calls to some tyre places in Mt Isa to organise a new rim and to replace all the tyres on the van as they are all quite worn.  He managed to get us booked in on Monday morning first thing which was great. We had an early night as we want to get up early and head off to Lawn Hill (Boodjamulla) National Park and take a canoe trip up through the gorges. Adels Grove is named after the French Botanist Albert De Lestang who had the property in 1930.  He planted a garden with species from all over the world, sold fruit and vegies and advertised “repairs,

Daniel on the falls

More falls

Wade paddling on his own

blacksmithing, carpentry and saddler as well as the purchase, sale or exchange of horses and motor vehicles, catering for motorists, drovers, bagmen and other travellers.” In the early 1950s Adels Grove was burnt down and he lost all his written records and planted groves.  He succumbed to a great depression and died in Charters Towers in 1959.

We woke up at 7am but it was bloody freezing so we had brekky and lazed around in bed until 8:30am! We dressed and then drove out to Lawn Hill National Park which was about 10kms from Adels

View from Stacks lookout

On our way back

Sunset from Harry's Hill

Grove. We walked down and hired 2 x 2 man canoes, which were $20 for an hour and they require a minimum payment of 2 hrs for each and if you return early, they refund you money.  We had a lovely chat to Don, the bloke in charge, and after telling us how to move the canoes up/between the gorges, we were off.  Joel and Wade in one and Daniel and I in the other.  We paddled slowly up the river through the middle gorge marvelling at the colour of the water which was a sort of emerald-green and the sheer contrast of the red rock of the gorges. It was absolutely gorgeous and the colours and remoteness reminds us of the Karijini gorges back in WA.  We paddled right up to the end of the middle gorge which ends at the Indarri Falls.  There is a jetty here that you can tie up your canoes and stay for a while or a bit further on you can pull your canoes up via some steel bars.  Once up on the bars you have to then carry the canoes for about 50m to put them back in the water in the upper gorge.  We decided to go on and see the upper gorge then come back for a swim at the falls later.  The upper gorge was just as magnificent as the middle gorge and we paddled as far as we could to the end, where we found three separate creeks/springs that feed the river.  The water is very clear and when we pulled up onto the “beach” there were frogs and tadpoles everywhere in the shallows and a heap of fish just

Injarri Falls

Daniel jumping off falls

waiting to feed on them.  We got out to stretch our legs and have a bit of an explore around the springs.  When we piled back in the canoes we swapped around and Joel and Daniel were in one and Wade and I in the other.  We paddled back down to the falls and took our canoes back around and tied them up on the jetty.  Then we all got in for a swim and the kids and Joel climbed up and jumped off the falls.  It was a great little area and a lovely way to cool off.  Wade wanted to have a go paddling around on his own and had a bit of fun with Joel in the water too. We had a bite to eat and drink then paddled back down the river admiring the scenery as we went.  We passed an overhang of rock that was full of swallow nests, the banks of the river were rock and green trees, and it was just beautiful.  When we brought the canoes back the guy let us have the extra time without paying which was great as we were closer to 3hrs than 2! We went back to the car for a top up of snacks and drinks and proceeded to do a 2km walk to the Cascades which was very disappointing as there

Wade jumping off falls

View from Injarri falls Lookout

was very little water and no falls! The kids returned to the car but Joel and I decided to climb up to the Stacks Lookout which was 200m straight up! We climbed up the steep and hot rocks and got a lovely view of the river and surrounding area.  We headed back to the car and then to camp where we had a very late lunch of burgers at 3pm.  We spent the weekend down at the Grove swimming in the water and jumping off the pontoon.  The kids met up with their new friends and we had a great swim.  We had booked in to do a sunset tour at 5:30pm so we quickly dried off and headed off to catch the bus.  The bus took us to a hill not very far away, called Harry’s Hill where we toasted to his memory and then Deb, our guide, gave us a bit of history about the place.  We had some nibblies and drinks and watched the sunset then back to camp.  As we had such a late lunch we had a quick dinner then watched a DVD for a while until the neighbours asked us to turn our generator off. They are supposed to be off at 8pm but we came to realise our neighbour was the gennie Nazi as he would

Pretty river spots

View from lookout on ridge

put his on so it faced us so we got all the fumes and noise, whereas we had ours behind us away from him – he really bugged Joel! Grrr.

Next morning wasn’t as cold and we headed back to the National Park for a 4km hike.  We walked back to Injarri Falls stopping to take some more photos and have another swim.  We saw a lot of finches and other birds along the walk as well as some pretty flowers too. We hiked back along the ridge and edge of the gorge stopping at a couple of lookouts on the way back too.  At the lookout at Injarri Falls you could see all the way up to the upper gorge above the falls; it was just beautiful.  We met up with Liz, Ken, Jack and Carla; the kids friends from the Grove and their parents who were canoeing today while we hiked. The last lookout on the hike back overlooked the middle gorge and camping area and was also quite beautiful.  The last part of the hike was a steep descent and we all agreed that we much preferred hiking down it rather than going up it!  After lunch Joel did some odd jobs while I collated more photos and the kids went back to the swimming hole to see if their friends were there.  Joel and I joined them later for a swim and spent the afternoon chatting to Liz and Ken. Ken was having some trouble with his electric brakes so Joel helped him fix them up then we all headed to the bar for a drink or two.  The kids got along very well and we had a great night.  We headed back to the van for a quick dinner and hoped there was enough power to watch another episode of VM. We are finding the batteries in the van aren’t holding enough charge from the solar panels and we have had plenty of sunshine on them so we’ll probably need to check them and get new ones in Mt Isa. The list of things to fix in Isa is getting longer.  The water here

Another view from lookout

is full of minerals and is also very drying on our skin. Wade and I seem to be having a reaction to it and have broken out in a “hive-like” rash.  Lots of moisturizer and aloe vera for us it seems!

Till Next Time

Ciao`

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Lava Tubes, Birds and Sunsets – Sept 2011

Posted by lewisfamilyexploringoz on October 9, 2011

Karumba panorama

Campsite at Undara

Communal Camp-fire area

Restored railway carriages

Hi Everyone,

We arrived at Undara, took a powered site for 2 nights and set up camp. The camping area is set in the bush but has power to the sites and water but the pressure is atrocious so we filled the tanks and used the pump. We got here a bit late in the arvo to do any walks so we did a load of washing and it is the cheapest place we have found to do the washing at $2 a load.  Most charge $4 a load and I thought a couple of times the $3 a load places were a score!  We had a delicious dinner of crumbed steak and vegies then down to the camp-fire entertainment for the evening which was presented by Chris, titled “Travelling around Oz”.  All the Savannah guides give a presentation/talk in the evenings

Bar-Bistro area

Mt Undara on a cool morning

Amazing colours and huge size

Big lava tubes

and the topics range from

Climbing down into a lava tube

Minerals leaching through the rock

Water in one of the lava tubes

Marbelling caused by mineral leaching

travelling to birds/animals/stars, etc.  The Undara Experience is a great place and you have the choice of camping or on site accommodation like restored railway carriages, swag tents or safari shelters.  There is a bar and bistro area all under a massive, canvas shade sail and the kitchen/bar, etc is all made from restored railway carriages.  It looks amazing and creates a unique feel to the place.  The enormous roof over the bistro area was specifically made to capture all the rainfall and top up the tanks and it looks amazing too.

The Undara Volcanic National Park  has evidence of volcanic activity from about 164 craters and one of the most recent eruptions (like 190,00 years ago) produced 23 cubic metres of lava, most of which flowed down the western side of the Great Dividing Range. This flow has created the phenomenon now known as the Undara Lava Tubes.  The tubes acted like conduits, distributing lava over 100km from the crater, the longest flow in the world from a single volcano.  Access to the lava tubes is only available through the Savannah guide tours from either the Undara Experience or the Bedrock Village CP in Mt Surprise.  We booked to go on a Volcano Valley tour which was four hours long and included morning tea.  We

Imagine the lava flow to make this tube

Pool at Undara Experience

Safari Tents at Undara Exp.

started out at a lookout which was a decent enough climb over some rocks.  We had a lot of oldies with us in this tour and a few of them struggled to get up onto the rocks.  I was already thinking that it was going to be slow going on the tracks to come.  Our bus driver/Savannah guide was a Kiwi and a sheep farmer and who had a passion for the history of the place.  The actual lava tubes were amazing!  We walked through one set and stopped to check out the insides of the tubes.  It was quite dark in the long tubes and thankful we had brought our headlamps.  The guides have a strong torch and showed us the cooling lines and formation of the tubes.  One of the tubes we visited was half-full of water which covered the walkway for the most part, but you could see

Historic Cumberland Chimney Site for lunch

Leichhardt Lagoon Camping Park

Rainbow honeyeater just gorgeous

the colours leaching from the rock due to the different minerals in the rock.  They are quite spectacular.  We stopped out on the property at an old station outhouse for a morning tea of scones, jam and cream and tea/coffee/cordial.  The kids scored extra scones as there were a few spares! I think the kids got a bit bored with the tour and in reality maybe the 2 hour tour would’ve been better for us.  There were a lot of oldies and I mean oldies, on this tour who really struggled to do some of the climbs in and out of the tubes so it made for a very slow trip. We stopped to help a couple of them a few times, which I didn’t mind but I was worried they were going to fall. We got back to camp, lunched and decided it was way too hot for any more walks.

Colourful, friendly geese

Swing time

Joel and I braved the very cool pool water to cool off while

Swing time

the kids read their books and played on their DSis. After dinner we headed down for the camp-fire entertainment which was presented by Chris, titled “Wings’n’things”.  He was very entertaining and I imagine that if we had had him as our guide yesterday the tour might have been very different. He reminded me a lot of the comedian Carl Barron with a very similar humour as well! Wade loved his presentation on things with wings, covering most birds found in the area as well as some frogs and lizards too. A great night.

Next day we packed up and drove and drove and drove.  We were travelling on the Savannah Way which is considered a

Funny joke

Early sunset

sort of main highway but the road was quite bad bitumen

Late sunset

and for a lot of the way, only single lane bitumen. It was very interesting as wet met a lot of road trains along here and mostly you just have to pull right off the road as they go past, so long as there is some road to pull off onto and not a steep drop! We stopped at the historic Cumberland Chimney for lunch and watched the abundant bird life down at the lagoon here.  We stopped in Georgetown to post some mail then continued on towards Croyden.  We stopped to grab some fruit and admire some of the historical building of the place.  The town is nice and clean and the streets have the old, electric lampposts which give a nice feel to the town.  Joel and I thought we’d love to come back and visit this place in years to come without the kids.  We carried on driving and decided to check out a place called Leichhardt Lagoon Camping  Park.  It’s no. 254 in our Camps 5 book and turns out to be $7 per

Definitely a boy!

Why are we doing this again?

person, per night. They have toilets and showers and even a new twin-tub washing machine; that if you plug-in your generator, won’t cost you a cent. We found a spot not too close to the water (in case of crocs) and set up our chairs to watch the magnificent bird life and sunset over the lagoon.  It was a beautiful spot.  There were heaps of birds and also a couple of weird twitchers (avid bird watchers).  The kids told Joel and I to relax as they were

View from the beach

taking care of dinner. They cooked up some great burgers, with bacon, onion, eggs and salad. How fantastic! We saw lots of egrets, ducks, geese then brolgas and just on twilight a couple of Jabirus flew in as well.  We did get a lot of visits from some very friendly red, black and white geese too. The sunset over the lagoon was pretty specky too. The kids ran amok playing with their rope and making swings, etc. We all decided that this place was quite a find!

Brolgas a plenty

Yeah, some enthusiasm

Next day we headed into Normanton for some milk and bread.  We continued on to Karumba and booked into the Sunset Caravan Park out at Karumba Point.  The staff at reception were amazingly friendly and we got heaps of info on the place too, like cheapest fuel, etc.  After setting up we got out the tent, set it up and washed it as it was still a bit damp from Cape Tribulation pack-down.  We also managed to get some jobs done around the van and car. It is stinking hot so we all went for a swim in the pool. Holy cow it was freezing! The pool is surrounded by palm trees so it is always in the shade and mighty cold too. It’s refreshing and certainly drops the body temperature a bit. There are a lot of kangaroos and wallabies that come right up to the fence as well which Wade just loves. We went out to eat at Ash’s as we’ve been told it’s the best fish and chips around.  The food certainly was delicious and the seafood baskets could have fed the two of us! The kids walked back to the van and Joel and I went down to the foreshore, near the Tavern to watch the sun set. OMG the colours were just glorious! There is just a bit of smoke in the sky and that made the colours in the sky more brilliant.  The sunsets are quite brilliant but the afterglow in the sky once the sun has gone down was just amazing! Next day we all went for a run or bike ride then booked a half-day fishing tour for tomorrow.  Daniel is getting better with the boats-

Beautiful colour banding after sunset

Blowie

Karumba

on-water-thing but he’s not happy Jan! The kids caught up on some schoolwork, Joel with some more odd jobs and me with collating our photos from the Cape Trip. We also saw heaps of Brolgas today and on the drive into Karumba as well. We watched the sunset again, not hard as the caravan park is right on the beach. Early to bed as we have to be up early for the fishing trip.

Next day we got up at 5:45am to be over at the boat ramp by 6:45 to head out with Kerry D fishing charter.  Daniel and I both had a “Quell” as there is a bit of wind and chop around at the moment and did i mention that it’s freezing cold too! We all had jumpers on for the whole trip out and didn’t take them off till we were back at the van! We didn’t venture too much out of the gulf and there were other charters out for the day also but they didn’t catch much either.  Dan caught a blowie, then a blue salmon and then Wade caught a sooty grunter.  One of the other guys on our charter caught a smaller blue salmon too.  We were a little disappointed for the kids as we thought we might have a better chance of catching fish out here but apparently the fishing has been a bit off for the last week or so as the weather has been windy and the water a little cold. It’s just not meant to be! When we returned to shore the other guys on the charter decided to do another half-day in the afternoon so they said we could have their fish.  We thanked them and went back to camp for some lunch.  We were all a bit tired from the early morning and windy day so we had a swim and relaxed for the rest of the day.  Joel and Wade filleted the fish and we had fresh fish for tea.  The kids did some more schoolwork, Joel refueled the car and I was checking out some places to see in NT next.  I rang Adele’s Grove to see what the road was like and whether we could take our caravan in there, as it is not an off-road van. They assured us that the first 40 kms from Gregory Down was good gravel as it is maintained by the mines, the next forty a bit rougher but okay if we take it easy. Alrighty then, we’ll head off tomorrow to Gregory Downs for a free overnight camp then onto Adele’s Grove for a few days.

Till Next time

Ciao`

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Waterfall Nirvana

Posted by lewisfamilyexploringoz on October 9, 2011

Lookout near Millaa Millaa

Pastoral country

Track into Souita Falls

Hi Everyone,

After a quiet night in the National Park we decided to head off and see as many of the waterfalls as we can.  While we don’t have the van on we decided to go and see the Souita and Pepina Falls first as the road is very narrow and windy.  We took a wrong turn but it took us to a great lookout of the valley and area so it was okay. The area around here is very pastoral and just gorgeous; hills and valleys for as far as you can see. We headed south of Millaa Millaa and after about 8 kms, turned down a gravel lane for another 8kms.  The walk to the Souita Falls was only about 250m and all through rainforest.  The Falls were quite pretty and I walked down the rocks to try and get a good photo while the kids had a bit

Souita Falls

Top of Souita Falls

Pepina Falls

Me at Millaa Millaa Falls

of an explore.  Back onto the main road and a few more kms south we stopped at the Pepina Falls which were right along the road.  There was a 90m track down to the falls, where we crossed over a few rocks to get beautiful views and shots. We headed back to Millaa Millaa where we stopped at the local Lions Park for some lunch.  There was a huge monument to one of the early settlers of the area, Christie Palmerston who blazed a trail from Herberton to Innisfail which is close to the path the now Palmerston Highway takes. He was often accompanied by his Aboriginal companion, Pompo and there are statues of both of them on the monument.  After lunch we did the very touristy falls circuit which was all bitumen and about a 15km loop.  First stop was the Millaa Millaa Falls.  They were quite high and very impressive.  There is plenty of parking, toilets and change rooms as you can swim in the pool at the base of the falls.  It’s still quite cool so no-one wants to go swimming! Next stop along the circuit was the Zillie Falls. The track only takes you to a side viewing of the falls which was okay except for some trees that have grown since they put in the track.  The last falls of the circuit road were the Ellinjaa Falls.  The walking track was a bit longer than the rest and it took us all the way down to the base of the falls.  They were quite beautiful too and we sat for a

Millaa Millaa Falls

Palmerston Monument

Ellinjaa Falls gorgeous

Zillie Falls

while just watching them and of course lots of photos too. We headed back out towards our camping area and saw a cassowary right on the side of the road.  There was a car already stopped on the other side of the road but we had a huge truck on our tail so we couldn’t even slow down to find somewhere to pull over.  At least we can say now we have seen an adult one in the wild.  We stopped to do a walk for two falls, and the signs are literally right alongside the road.  We pulled off the road to park, grab our water bottles and snacks and off we went.  The track goes into the rainforest for a while then it forks with one fall to the left and the other to the right. We headed off to our left to see the Wallacha Falls.  The tracks are very well marked and not too hard but it didn’t go all the way to the falls as the rains have washed out some of the tracks.  We got to a viewing area to see the falls and you can see the logs on the falls.  There must have been a lot of water rushing through these falls after the rains to move those logs. We back-tracked to the sign for the other falls and then headed off to see them as well. The Tchapala Falls track was similar, all rainforest and hiking tracks.  Unfortunately they haven’t fixed the final steps down to the falls so we took some photos from up the top and I tried to sneak down a bit further to get some shots but the track was just so washed

Silver Falls

Very Photogenic these falls

Wallacha Falls

Tchupala Falls

away and the rocks very unstable.  We headed back to the car and back to camp.  After some drinks and snacks the kids stayed at the van to do some schoolwork while Joel and I walked to the Nandroya Falls.  The walk starts at the Henrietta Ck campground and was about 5.2km return.  The track was pretty good for the most part but very wet in some places, as you would expect from a rainforest area.  We saw a turtle in one of the creeks, lots of birds and fungi as it is very moist in the area.  We passed the Silver Falls which was more like trickle over some rocks but still quite nice.  The Nandroya Falls were amazing.  The main section of falls looked like it was about 50m high and I wouldn’t have wanted to be standing in the water under those falls as the sound was quite deafening so it would have had some kick to it.  There was a set of twin falls just downstream which were also quite beautiful.  It’s a shame the kids didn’t want to come for a walk as they would have loved these falls. After a bit of a rest Joel and I headed back to camp.  We had a few drinks and discussed with the kids which falls they liked the best and why. It makes for some great discussions sometimes.  There are a lot more people camping in the grounds tonight, another few caravans and quite a few vans/backpackers.  During the night a car load of hoons/locals decided to come into our camp

Nandroya Falls no1

Nandroya Falls no2

Nandroya Falls no1 and 2

Colourful Fungi

Joel and huge Strangler Fig Tree

area, do a few bog laps with music blaring and sat around for a while partying.  I think one of the other neighbours may have said something as they packed up and left finally.

Next day we packed up and headed out of town towards Ravenshoe, pronounced Rave-ens-hoe, which is the highest town in Queensland at 920m above sea level.  It’s a very pretty, little town and the two old ladies at the Visitors Centre were just lovely.  There is a huge wind turbine farm just on the outskirts of town as you

Little Millstream Falls

Turtle on Nandroya Falls walk

Bush pool at Henrietta Ck camp

Wind Turbine farm at Ravenshoe

enter from the north. We left there and went to see the Little Millstream Falls, just out of town, on some gravel road. Thankfully the road wasn’t too bad or too much gravel either.  Luckily we were the only ones there so we could park up the caravan for an easy exit later.  It was a short 1.4km hike down to the falls with brilliant views of the falls on the way down.  The falls spilled into a large open pool area but once again it is a bit too cool still to swim in the mornings. The weather looks really sunny but it was still very cool!  We sat and watched some of the bird life for a while then hiked back to the car.  Back on the main road for a bit until turned off to the Big Millstream Falls.  They are reputedly the widest falls in Australia and the walk to the viewing area is a graded track with wheelchair access but is very steep. The trip down was easy; the walk back up was a good calf workout! The falls were quite nice but not as much water flowing as I thought.  Of the two I actually thought the Little Millstream Falls were the prettiest. We headed off southwards and stopped for lunch at the Innot Hot Springs. We were all starving so decided on burgers again for lunch, which were delicious.  There is a caravan park here at the Springs that has been run down for a while but a new, young couple have taken it on and seem to be doing all the right things with the place.

Little Millstream falls again

Big Millstream Falls

Innot Hot Springs med heat

Ahhhhhh.........

If you stay at the caravan park, you can visit the hot spring pools for free but we paid an entry fee of I think it was $7 for and adult and $3.50 for kids.  After lunch we got into our bathers/togs and dipped our feet into s few of the pools. One was a cool plunge pool but there were several pools of varying degrees of heat to choose from.  They even have some indoors that are really hot and kids are not allowed in them.  We got into one of them and just sat for a while chatting to some people then tried another one which was a bit hotter.  After a while it just got too hot for us so we jumped into the cold pool to cool off a bit.  We stayed for about an hour or so until we were all prunish and wrinkled! We changed and headed off down the track as we are headed to the Undarra Volcanic National Park to camp for a couple of days.

Cool plunge pools

Till Next time

Ciao`

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The Skyrail and Crystal Caves

Posted by lewisfamilyexploringoz on October 9, 2011

Daniel, Wade and Joel on the Skyrail

Wade and I on the Skyrail

Baron Falls from Skyrail

Hi Everyone,

We are back in Cairns at the same Big 4 Coconut Village Holiday Park.  We will stay for about 5 nights after cleaning and washing and visiting and then move on.  We ended up doing about 5 loads of washing and spent a couple of days cleaning out the car after our muddy and dusty camping adventure on The Cape.  Joel had rung and pre-ordered a new UHF radio antenna as ours snapped in half on the northern section of the OTL.  Joel rewired the antenna to the bull bar this time and managed to get someone to check out the joins properly so we are back in business.  We have had some rain everyday here in Cairns and took advantage of it to go and see a movie.  It was Daniel’s choice as we usually do a movie and dinner for their birthdays and he chose Kung Fu Panda 2.  It was hilarious and very entertaining.  We ate lunch at the shopping centre and after the movie we decided to go and do the Skyrail to

Barron Falls from lookout

Skyrail in Kuranda

Daniel's in heaven

Kuranda.  We’ve been putting it off as the weather has been a bit wet and cloudy everyday again but if we don’t do it now we never will. There are a few options; you can do the Kuranda Scenic Railway one way and the Skyrail Cableway the other, the railway both ways or the Skyrail

Kuranda Township

Cableway both ways. We opted to just do the Skyrail Cableway both ways as it is early afternoon and we wouldn’t get to see any of Kuranda.  We bought our tickets and boarded straight away. The cable cars leave every few minutes so there’s no long wait.  The 7.5km cableway was completed in 1995 after 1 year of construction and all the towers were lifted into place by helicopter so as to minimise rainforest disturbance. The tallest tower stands at 40.5 m which is pretty high up but you are right over the rainforest so it doesn’t seem that high. There are 2 main stops, one is Red Peak Station which has a rainforest boardwalk and ranger guided tours and the other is the Barron Falls station which has three lookouts for views of the falls and Rainforest Interpretive Centre.  We decided to go straight

View from Skyrail

Another view from the Skyrail

Catch nets, hope we don't need them

to Kuranda and have a bit of a look around.  We wandered around the township for a while but as it was a Saturday and late in the afternoon, a lot of the stores were closing or closed. Daniel spotted the Kuranda Candy Kitchen and his eyes just lit up as he wandered around the store and got himself a huge lollipop. We headed back to the Skyrail and stopped at the Barron Falls Station to check out the lookouts and views.  We didn’t go to the Interpretive Centre as we are short on time and we’ve already been to a few similar places.  We didn’t stop at the Red Peak Station for the same reason but I’m told they are well worth a look if you have time. Daniel found a gold and opal bracelet at the Cairns Terminal and handed it in; it was quite beautiful and I’m sure

Rainforest below

Happy Father's day Joel

Rose quartz fountain, beautiful

someone will be missing it.  That night it was Daniel’s choice for a restaurant and instead of Thai he wanted to try a place called “Charlies” that is more of a buffet style eatery.  We booked for 6pm and arrived at 5 minutes to 6 to find a bit of a queue already formed.  It’s a very popular place, especially for families it seemed.  We were seated by 6:10 and had finished dinner, drinks and dessert by 7pm. Not a bad place, food was quite fresh and okay for buffet food.  The next day was Father’s day and it was pissing down with rain!  Joel scored some new music, movies, T-shirt and his all new battery-powered chainsaw. It was a very relaxing day but wet day.  Tanya and Clint came over for drinks and nibbles before we dined out in the cafe in the caravan park.  I ordered our meals but when they all came out Joel’s didn’t come out. I had forgotten to order his! OMG – Happy Father’s Day Joel.  Luckily we’d had quite a few drinks by now and the kids had ordered pizzas which were huge and

Empress of Uruguay amethyst

Such a beautiful amethyst piece

Petrified wood

Daniel cracking his geode

I ordered pasta so we all shared with him.  There was a special on for father’s Day in which the Dad’s got free dessert so Joel and Clint (who they just assumed was a dad:)) both had some chocolate mud cake.  The pieces were huge so the kids ended up helping them both to finish it.  We retired back to our van, in the rain and after a few more drinks, bid our last farewell to Tanya and Clint.  I will miss them both heaps.

Next day we packed up and headed back up the windy road through Kuranda again and then south to Atherton.  I had read about a place called the Crystal Cave and wanted to stop in for a visit.  We parked the car and van around the back in the Council car park, ate some lunch then went in for a squiz.  What a fantastic place.  We did the tour of the “caves” in which they have placed different crystals and gemstones into place and filled it in with wall filler, then painted it to look like rock. It was interesting to see all the different types of crystals, rocks and geodes which have been sourced from all over the world.  One of the “cave rooms” is totally in the dark and no photography is allowed.  There are spheres of different rocks minerals that fluoresce under a special UV light and have the most amazing

Wade cracking his geode

Joel holding the cracking geodes

colours.  We saw a few of them in normal light and you couldn’t see any colour at all, they just looked like ordinary rocks.  There was another room that houses the world’s biggest amethyst geode, the “Empress of Uruguay” which stands at 3.5m high and weighs 2.5t. You can stand next to it and have photos which we all did.  I have read about this huge stone and it was awesome to see it.  There was also a fountain that has been built out of rose quartz in the same room and it was beautiful, especially when lit up with internal lights.  For an extra fee, you can crack open your own geode.  You get to select from a few different piles (at different prices) then one of the staff helps to place the geode into a contraption best described as the biggest pair of bolt-cutters you’ve ever seen with some motor chain attached at the end.  The chain wraps around the geode then when you depress the cutters it ‘cracks’ the geode in half so you can see what delights are inside.  Basically the geodes are formed when hot lava cools and the insides have all different sorts of crystals inside.  They were amazing.  One of the young guys on staff came over to help us identify what was exactly in our geodes and we got a certificate for each one that tells us what they have in them.  It was very exciting work.  They have a magnificent collection of crystals and gemstones, in particular quite a lot of amethyst and agate slices.  Wade selected a small piece of amethyst for his room (eventually) and I settled

Giant piece of rose quartz

on a mid-sized piece of amethyst too.  It turned out that the piece I picked out was a part of the “Empress of Uruguay” that had come off when they were transporting and placing the stone.  Very cool! We also bought a beautiful piece of agate slice which is heavily bubble-wrapped with the geodes, under our bed.  God I hope they survive the trip home! The kids bought themselves some gemstones too and they loved the place and thought it was interesting as well.  A few hours and dollars later we headed out-of-town, through Malanda and Millaa Millaa to a bush camp called Henrietta Creek (no. 234 in Camps 5 book) a part of the Wooroonooran National Park. It’s not exactly free, it costs about $20 for a family per night but there are pit toilets and a BBQ with hot plate and burners for cooking.  You can get right away from the road too which is good because there are a lot of trucks using this road. It’s more like a rainforest than a National Park with bush and very beautiful.  We will stay for a couple of nights as there are a lot of waterfalls in the area which we will visit tomorrow. Chicken fettuccine for dinner and an early night ready for a waterfall extravaganza tomorrow.

Till Next time

Ciao`

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Our Cape York Trip – The last leg

Posted by lewisfamilyexploringoz on October 9, 2011

Cape Tribulation Panorama

Bloomfield River

Bloomfield Track

Wujul Wujul (Bloomfield) Falls

Hi Everyone,

We left Cooktown quite early and headed off down the Bloomfield Track once again.  We stopped alongside the Bloomfield River trying to see some crocodiles when Bill and Jane pulled up as well, looking for the elusive crocs too.  The river was very still and the reflections were just beautiful. We continued on to the Wujul Wujul (Bloomfield) Falls and met up with Bill and Jane again.  The falls are only a short walk along a rocky riverbed and the falls are quite beautiful.  We stayed for a little while walking around the rocky areas then headed back on the track south to Cape Tribulation passing through the most gorgeous rainforest areas.  The overhead canopies are very thick with rainforest and there are only a few spots where you can catch glimpses of the beautiful beaches through the thick forest.  The Bloomfield Track tends to run very close to the coast for the most part into Cape

Wade exploring at Wujul Wujul Falls

Myall Beach

Tribulation.  We stopped at a picnic area at Myall Beach and walked in to have a picnic lunch.  After lunch we went for a walk along the beach even though the weather is still cloudy we haven’t had any rain yet – touch wood! We saw a couple of blue kingfishers just on the sand that were just brilliant.

Blue Kingfisher

There was a myriad of things to see and explore in the rock pools on the beach too. On our way back to the car we walked through the Myall Beach Reserve and we passed a funny looking bird that on closer inspection was a baby cassowary.  It wasn’t a chick but the neck had only started to colour up and was green instead of the brilliant blue.  We were just amazed as we have seen heaps of the cassowary crossing signs but we are yet to see one in the wild – Malcolm Douglas Zoo doesn’t count).  The young cassowary

Exploring the rock pools

Baby Cassowary

Baby cassowary not scared of us

stayed around for ages and didn’t seemed fazed by us being nearby, although I kept my eyes open as I didn’t think dad would be far away.  The cassowary is quite a striking bird, with the males having a brilliant blue neck with a couple of vivid red jowls and black wings.  The males are also left to sit the eggs and raise the chicks while the female goes off to find a new mate….Mmmmm…….. Luckily for us dad never did surface and we watched the chick for ages.  We booked into Cape

Cape Tribulation Lookout

Cape Trib Camp

Walk to Cape Trib

Tribulation Camping ground and set up camp on a nice grassy patch in front of the toilet block as it was the only flat, grassed area left.  We set up our tarp as well as the weather doesn’t look too promising. We visited the Tourist centre at Mason’s Cafe and booked in to do Jungle Surfing tomorrow, which the kids have been bugging us to do all day long. The lady at the Visitor Centre is from Karratha and Port Hedland so we had a great chat.  We headed back to camp and made use of the very nice camp kitchen here as well.  We dined on a lovely red-Thai, chicken curry and rice which was very yummy.  Early to bed as we are flying through the air on flying foxes tomorrow – god help us what have the kids got us into!

Cape Trib panorama

Turtle at Cape Trib

Coconut hunting

More sand spaghetti

Dan all geared up

Wade all geared up

All of us on a platform

View from flying fox

The Bus for Jungle Surfing picked us up then after a few more stops we wound our way up to some private property and dis-embarked.  The driver, Jarred, is one of our guides as is Sarah and Gordo and they are all a little bit crazy but it all helps.  We have all filled out our paperwork on the bus so it’s just a matter of getting fitted into a harness and a helmet that fits!  All the helmets have some sort of cartoon name on them and we end up with Joel as King Kong, Daniel as Yoda, Wade as Captain Jack Sparrow and me as Electra.  There were only 11 in our group and once all decked out we headed off down the path towards the first platform.  Here they explained the flying fox system and we would be travelling in pairs for the most part and only on one part be on our own, which is when we would be upside down, WTF? Mmmm too late to back out now as we are up in the air on a platform in the trees.  It was just gorgeous up here!  The guides are all fully trained and all have knowledge of the trees and other interesting facts about the place.  The platforms ranged in heights from 3 to 20m above the ground and along one of the drops, you stop and are suspended over a river, which darts underground so you are just sitting there, dangling in the rainforest. It was just awesome.  The sections build up form the highest, longest, etc until the last one where we now go

Two at a time

Upside down Daniel

Upside down Wade

Upside down Joel

Big fern at Daintree Discovery Centre

Daniel impersonating a cassowary

The elusive Ulysses Butterfly

Big fan palms

singularly on the fastest one: UPSIDE DOWN! No wonder they asked me about my high blood pressure tablets!! Okay, Gordo goes first and shows us how it’s all done, this from an ex-circ-de-solei performer!! It wasn’t as hard as I thought and we all managed to drop our hands, swing our legs up and around the lines and hang upside down as we raced down to the last platform.  You do get up a bit of speed as well as your face going very red with all the blood rushing to it!  What an absolute buzz the whole trip was.  The guides are just brilliant and they really love their work and it shows in their dealings with us the public.  They are exuberant and totally over the top but very safety conscious as well.  We all thought it was the absolute best thing we’ve done and wanted to go again.  It was $90 per person with no concession for kids but it was so worth it.  We headed back to camp for toasted sandwiches for lunch then took a great walk along the beach up to Cape Tribulation.  We walked out to the rocks and climbed up. The views were just magnificent and we actually had phone reception as there is none down on the ground because of the thick rainforest. While we were high up on the rocks we saw a huge turtle surfacing and diving for food. It was brilliant and very cool! Back to camp where I spent the afternoon writing up more of our trip blog notes, Joel made some more chilli con carne and the kids did their diaries and read.  We met Bill and Jane in the camp kitchen as they are staying here too but in the powered section – such a small

Lots of rainforest

Daintree Discovery Centre

Fixing roads to Daintree

world! The rain has started falling, lightly at first then it just rained solidly for the rest of the night.

Next morning we packed up, tried to dry the tent as best we could and headed off south towards the Daintree.  We stopped at a place called Florvilla which makes homemade ice creams.  We tried a few different flavours and all agreed it was the best tasting ice-cream we’ve ever eaten.  The place is for sale and the kids are trying hard to get us to buy the placeJ  We drove a little further through the rainforest and stopped in at the Daintree Discovery Centre.  It was a bit pricey but if you are staying in the area the ticket lasts for 7 days so it’s not bad value if you can use it like that.  There is an aerial walkway and a central canopy tower which takes

Daintree River Ferry

Crocodile on Daintree River Cruise

Orchids in bloom in the trees

you through all the different sections of the rainforest. In the centre of the tower is an interpretive display centre and all throughout the walks there are numerous display boards with information about the flora and fauna of the rainforest.  The Daintree Rainforest is the oldest continuous rainforest on earth and is one of the most ecological regions in the world. We have been through a lot of forest and rainforest lately so the kids were able to pick out a lot of the birds and animals and even some of the trees too. I actually got a picture of the blue Ulysses butterfly too – admittedly it was dead and pinned to a board but I got one!:)  Back on the Bloomfield track we stopped at the Alexandra Range Lookout but were disappointed with the view as there is too

The Daintree River

Another crocodile

Pink ginger flower just gorgeous

much smoke and clouds around to really see anything.  It would be spectacular when the skies are clear though but it’s just not today unfortunately.  The Bloomfield Track is mostly gravel, some parts okay and others you definitely need a 4WD for.  The road south from Cape Tribulation though is all bituminised so no more 4WDriving.  We made it to the Daintree Ferry which is still the only way to cross the Daintree River and it was a similar setup to the Jardine Ferry with a large pontoon/barge pulled across the river by cables with a motor.  We drove into the Daintree Village looking for a cafe that my cousin Tanya’s cousin Kelly runs.  We found the cafe and decided to have lunch there and catch up with Kelly again and meet her hubby-to-be Rick.  The meal was

Wade the croc spotter

View from Daintree Camp balcony

Brekky dining at Daintree

very delicious and they are doing a fine job running the cafe and the chef is brilliant.  The cafe is called The Croc Eye and we’d recommend it to anyone for some great food.  Next adventure for the afternoon was a trip down the Daintree River on Bruce Belcher’s Daintree River Cruises.  We managed to snag a spot on the 1:30pm trip and set off with complimentary binoculars.  The guide knew a lot about the river and the fact that there were 35 different types of mangrove trees and all of them growing along the river.  There were heaps of birds and we saw lots of crocodiles too, thanks to Wade’s eagle eyes as some of them were just littlies but he spotted them so the guide could stop the boat and everyone get a good look. Then we watched two little boy

Getting ready to go

Go Wade Go!

500 year old cycad

crocs having a turf war, very funny. The price of the one hour tour also included free tea/coffee and free slushies for the kids too.  There is a gift and souvenir shop in which we found a gorgeous metal wall hanging but it was huge so I thought nah can’t get it as nowhere to store it in the van. But Bruce’s wife overheard me and suggested that we could post it back home so before I knew it we had purchased it and she would send it to Joel’s mum and dad’s place.  She said she’d email me the postage costs and I could just pay her online, which was fantastic.  She said she’d never had no-one not pay yet! What an amazing service. We headed back into the Daintree Village and decided to treat ourselves and stay in a cabin tonight across the road from the cafe at the Daintree River Lodge and Campground.   We managed to snag the last cabin with a queen and bunks beds and after unpacking our bags we sat out on the balcony upstairs with a beer and a vodka and watched the sun

Argo 8x8 Daintree River view

What a view!

set over the beautiful Daintree River.  We met a few of the other guests and chatted before dining across the road at the Croc Eye again for dinner.  We had different meals to lunch and they were all superb and so very tasty.  The caravan park is owned and run by Peter and Sally and apparently the place had been let go before they got their hands on it and have turned it into a

Crazy driver at the wheel

great going concern.  They have some fantastic ideas for the place and we wished them all the best.  Peter also does the Argo 8×8 Rainforest tours.  Wade had seen the brochures and pleaded with us to do it and after hearing some great things about it, we booked in for a tour in the morning.  We all slept pretty well tonight as there was no cooking or setting up to do and no packing down in the morning either – yeah!!!  Next morning we followed Peter and another couple

Mossman Gorge

Two blue butterflies

we’d met last night on the balcony, out to Peter and Sally’s 350 acre cattle property to pick up the Argo 8×8 and start the tour.  The Argo 8×8 is an 8 wheeled, all terrain, amphibious vehicle which will go just about anywhere.  Wade was so excited and once all aboard we headed off up some interesting tracks that I’m not sure even our car would’ve made.  Peter even let Wade drive it through the gates a few times which Wade just loved!  Part of their property is also Heritage Listed Rainforest which they cannot do anything to or with, but they still have to pay rates for, which we all agreed sucks big time! Peter showed us all around the property and through the rainforest and up to a high cleared area where the views were just phenomenal.  We even got to see a cycad that was over 1500 years old which was pretty amazing and heaps of the “wait-a-while” which is a vicious, barbed fern that just grows over everything in the rainforest canopy.

The tour went for about 1hour and 45mins which was huge seeing as it’s only supposed to be an hour.  We thanked him heaps and headed back into the Village to have burgers for lunch at the Barra Cafe.  We headed on further south to Mossman Gorge where we stopped to do the

The water is crystal clear

board-walks out along the gorge.  We saw a few of the Ulysses butterflies and the kids and went rock climbing again as the water was a bit too chilly for swimming.  It’s a beautiful place and a very popular tourist place too.  As we headed back to the car we met up with Bill and Jane again.  We drove inland from Mossman through Julatten and back along the highway to Mount Carbine where our van is being stored for us.  We tried to give Rob some money for taking care of our van for so long but he wouldn’t hear of it.  Then we reminded him that Daniel was now 13 and we needed to pay a whole $5 extra a night for him and he wouldn’t let us do that either.  So we booked for 2 nights, knowing full well we were only staying one and moved the van to a powered site where we aired it out and started to unpack the car.  We went back to the Mt Carbine pub for tea that night then back for an early night as we are off to Cairns in the morning. We have loved all the people we have met along this trip and the many new friends we have made as well who have shared our adventure with us.

Till Next time,

Ciao`

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