After a few days in Sydney is was good to get back to Alice Springs. It was also fantastic flying over lake Eyre again and seeing even more water than a few weeks back. After voting for the federal election and a delicious lunch at our favourite cafe, we headed north up the Stuart Highway to warmer parts. It is getting too cold for us with the temp down to single figures at night.
We camped the night at Barrow Creek WWII staging post. A quiet free camp on someone’s farmland.
I am excited to find that as we drive north we are back in the termite zone. So far there have been none as beautiful or with as much character as those in outback Qld, but they are getting better as we head north. There was only one which was worth stopping for.
We then drove through Tennant Creek and camped just past town at “The pebbles”. These rocks looked like a smaller version of the Marbles and are also a sacred site/meeting place but this time for women’s business. It was here that Steve found a new bird a crimson chat.
We drove 3 days from Alice Springs and FINALLY found a place that is getting warm enough for us. Tonight we are at a free camp near Daly Waters pub. Our camping is free tonight, so we walked in to the historic pub for one of their Beef and Barra meals. We love that we are once again in the Barramundi zone. This was a very busy little pub in the middle of nowhere. There were many tourists but also locals and farmers still in their work clothes/hats having a beer after work.
We it’s not just all fun and games out here in travel land, watching the sun set while sipping cocktails! No, we are back in Alice Springs but not doing the usual things you do here. We are getting things fixed on the caravan! After getting a leaking water tank replaced in Dec and the battery monitoring system adjusted to the proper setting, so we could actually see how much battery power we have left, we thought all was now good. A couple of months ago we (eventually) worked out that the hot water system had never worked properly and since we paid a lot extra for the premium system, we thought it was time to get this fixed and not waste as much water each time we showered. This is important when you want to be off grid for awhile. M
If that wasn’t enough the car then began to play up for the first time. This is the new car that I was just beginning to think I liked. Alarms suddenly started going off telling us (250kms from Alice springs with no telephone) to pull over, check our engine, crash warning detection disabled, see your dealer. See your dealer!!!!! This of course did not tell us what the problem was and there was nothing out of order with the engine that was obvious, so it was just annoying seeing these flashing lights all the way back. We were losing engine power at times too but managed to get back to Alice. Toyota will have a look at it next week. M
On the upside, we got to return to our favourite city quality cafe for a delicious lunch, Steve got some good coffee and we both got a good haircut. Not as good as Sylvana in Seaforth though! M
We left Alice Springs after being told the only water around the area, after so long without rain was the West MacDonnell Ranges, so we headed out that way. Animals and birds need water. The West Macs branch out like ribbons of red quartzite rock for over 150kms west of Alice Springs. Here there are the highest mountains found west of the dividing range. Most of these are protected in National Parks. Many of the best places are gaps in these ranges where rivers have cut a pathway through, creating some stunning gorges and water holes. We also found out pretty quickly about the fires from Jan this year. They burned huge areas along the road and into the national park. Worse still they were not lightening lit, which is often how fires start out here but deliberate by some fool looking for a thrill. M
First stop Ellery Creek Big Hole. The Hole was not as big as when we were here 9 yrs ago in Jan after some rain. Big difference too were how many people were here. Last time there was nobody around most places. There are so few birds around but Steve managed to find a new bird here the golden backed honey eater but he was unable to get a photo even though we both saw it each once. It was one of those that was not into posing. M
Next we headed up to Ormiston Gorge and did the Ormiston Pound walk. There was nobody else on the trail and when we entered the Pound it was like coming into a lost world. It is a valley enclosed in mountains with Ormiston creek running through it. It was a stunning walk and one that doesn’t seem to be done by most people. It is here in 1997 that 2 endangered mammals were rediscovered here. The long tailed dunnart and the central rock rat. So it’s an important refuge. They are nocturnal so we won’t be seeing them, but it is nice to know they are still here. M
The beginning of this walk followed the Larapinta Trail a 231km multi day iconic walking trail taking 12-18days. We will be doing bits of this as we go along.
We exited the pound walking back through the gorge to the main water hole and camping area. Most people don’t venture too far from the camping area so we had the place to ourselves mostly.
We were in Alice Springs for a few days to de dust and have a couple of days without flies. It seems they don’t like the “big” city of Alice Springs. Alice has a population of 25,000 and we wonder what so many people do out here in the middle of the country. It looks like a lot of it is tourism. We were there for Anzac day so went up to Anzac Hill to get a view over the city. M
We also went to the Olive Pink Botanical garden. Olive was another real territory legend. An anthropologist, a lover of art and flowers, a botanical artist, an advocate for Aboriginal rights. She was a woman very much ahead of her time. She also promoted the cultivation of native plants, which was very out of fashion at the time. The garden is in Alice Springs but feels far away with wallaby’s living in the rocky hills behind. It was founded in 1956. Olive lived in the garden in a tent until her death in 1975 aged 91. She was known for always being impeccably dressed in long skirt, long sleeves and trademark brimmed hat.
“she pinpointed the most controversial issues of her day and highlighted them in ways that other anthropologists did not….these issues continue to be important today. Miss Pink is buried near the Aboriginal section of the Alice Springs Cemetery. All headstones face east except hers which faces west, towards the important sacred site, Alhekulyele (Mt Gillen). She was a rebel even in death. ( ref from the garden guide booklet).
We also found 2 good city quality eateries for some good food/cocktails/coffee and went to see a movie since the next town is very far away.
We also had a look at the National Pioneer Women’s Hall of Fame founded by Molly Clark. It is housed in the old jail. We were told Molly was unhappy about this as it wasn’t the right place to honour women. It was offered to them for free though and they had to take this location. The jail visit was actually interesting as well and it showed a jail at the time when there wasnt much business and there was an attempt at some humanity inside. M
There was a lot of interesting woman to read about in Molly’s museum but these 2 ladies stood out for me. They were nurses doing house visits last century on camels! They were midwives going wherever they were needed to help deliver babies and making the outback a safer place for women to live! Just look at the clothes! Can you imagine working in that garb!Imagine having to wash that blouse after delivering a baby hand washing with minimal water! M
And how about being the only immunisation nurse in all of North West Western Australia having to fly yourself to your patients! We have it easy on the school team girls!
Not far from Old Andado on the Binns track is the Mac Clark (Molly’s husband) Acacia Peuce reserve. Mac(and other farmers) was concerned for these rare trees which led to this reserve being formed. These trees are very rare, the hardest wood in the world, and only occur in three places only in Australia in small stands. You can also see them in Boulia and Birdsville in Qld. Aboriginal people used this “Birdsville Waddy” wood to make clubs (waddy). Early farmers used these to make fence posts and stockyards as it is durable and termite resistant. it is now an offence to cut this wood. Some of these trees are estimated to be 500yrs old. They are special enough in themselves but they are also crucial to the survival of a unique group of bugs, reptiles,mammals and birds.
They are easily disturbed by cattle trampling the ground around them so these have been fenced in to save them. They are a strange looking tree and stick out from very far away here on a plain of black gibbers.
We left Dalhousie Springs and headed to Mt Dare which calls itself Australia’s most remote pub. It did rather feel like this. It is in the Simpson Desert National Park and has camping and basic accom and meals, as well as car repairs and recovery. We had seen one of their tow trucks when it had to come out to Dalhousie Springs to rescue someone who’s oil pump had died on the horrible corrogated road out to there. We nearly lost the boat on that same road and had to tie it back down. We filled our water tanks with their bore water after filtering it and set out on the Binns Track towards Old Andado. M
We were told the road to Andado was “good” by one of the locals but I wondered what it was like when it was bad?! It was the worst road we had been on so far on this trip with long, wide stretches of soft sand and ruts left behind by the big cattle trucks. Also a very long soft sand Finke river crossing that just kept going. We stopped and further lowered our tire pressure and the van got through with no problems. I did have my fingers crossed at times even though Steve is a great driver on the rough roads. We had to keep the van moving, so we wouldn’t get bogged but we also had low tree branches to avoid suddenly. We crossed the Northern Territory Border and the terrain changed with trees at the sides of the road. I had the image of digging the car/and or van out of the soft sand in my mind, in 30+deg temps and millions of flies. There were some horrible sections of bull dust too where we could not even see the van behind us! We saw nobody else on this road that day. We quite like this but not so good if you get bogged. Out here if you are pulled over on the road someone always stops to check on you, even if you are looking at a bird. This is one of the nice things about rural/remote Australia. M
One of the most interesting camps on a property this entire trip, was this one at Old Andado Station. Nestled in between pink sand dunes at the edge of the Simpson Desert. Part of Andado Station is 18kms inside the Simpson desert. It was the final home of Molly Clark who was a real character and is a bit of a legend out here and for good reason. M
Molly Clark was born in 1923 and wanted to be a wool classer but this was not a job for a woman at the time, so she took up nursing. In her first year she contracted TB and that ended this career path. She ended up working on Mungerannie Station as a Governess. It was here she met her husband Malcolm (Mac) Clark and they married and had 3 sons. They managed a number of stations together and by 1969 owned their own place- Andado Station. They lived in the old 1920’s homestead but built a new one a few kms west. In 1972 Molly and her family began to restore the old homestead to it’s former glory and she started a tourism business showing people what life was like in earlier days in the outback as alternative income during drought years. M
In 1978 Molly lost Mac to a heart attack after crash landing his light aircraft. In 1979 she lost her oldest son when his semi trailer was hit by a freight train at night. Andado station was one of the first cattle stations to undergo Brucellosis and Tuberculosis testing and because it bordered South Australia they had to de stock the property (slaughter all the cows) and as a result of this loss Molly had to sell the property in 1984 for less than it was worth.
Molly did manage to secure a crown lease on 45 square kilometres around the old homestead, renaming it Old Andado. She lived there until she was forced to move into Alice Springs due to frailty and failing eyesight. The homestead today is just how she left it, when she retired to a nursing home in Alice Springs. Well nearly. Molly lived to 89yrs.
Molly was disappointed when she visited the Stockman’s Hall of Fame in Longreach and saw how few woman were mentioned, so she did something about it. She started the Pioneer Woman’s Hall of Fame in Alice Springs. M
Visiting this house was so interesting. Yes it was covered it red dust as the verandas were only enclosed with shade cloth and the charitable trust seems not to have been able to get a caretaker for some time. But you could really get an idea of how hard it would be to live out here and get an idea of the woman that Molly Clark must have been. The royal flying doctors radio was still on the desk and her prized salt and pepper shakers inside the glass cabinets. There was her perfume bottle on the dressing table ready for a special occasion. Books on birds and Aboriginal culture on the coffee table. A tea pot covered in a tea cosy. It would have been lovely to sit down at the table and have a cup of tea with her. She even looked a bit like my Gran. Molly won numerous awards and her last home, Old Andado was finally listed on the Heritage Register in 1993. Molly died in 2012. M
We left Coober Pedy and drove through the Dog Fence. This is supposed to be the longest fence in the world. It stretches for 5600 kilometers from the Great Australian Bight in South Australia to the Darling Downs in S.E. Qld. It originally started as a vermin proof fence in the early 1900’s to stop rabbits getting into farmland. It didn’t work for this purpose but was found to work for Dingos or wild dogs. South of the dog fence is sheep country and north is cattle country. Dingos will attack sheep but not cows. We were now in Cattle country and going further into the desert and hoped to see a Dingo.
The dog fence may be good for farmers but not so for wildlife. These emus and many others we saw all along this fence are trying to find a way to get through.
We then turned onto the Oodnadatta Track famous for following the path of the old Ghan railway. It is also where the Great Artesian Basin, one of the world’s largest aquifers bursts to the surface in many places into springs attracting wildlife and birds. We would not be seeing the springs section of this track this time as we are headed to Dalhousie Springs on the edge of the Simpson desert to “take the waters” of the Great Artesian Basin. A new destination for us.
Aboriginal people showed explorers this route as it was an ancient trade route for them and the only safe way through this desert country with no permanent water. Little did they know this land would be turned into cattle farms and their springs turned into cattle watering points!
It is mostly dry out here but when it rains it dumps and takes out everything in it’s path which is why the old Ghan rail needed to be moved. It was never a good idea to build it here. The rail line was always out with sand covering the tracks or water destroying the bridges. A very silly decision made last century. The aboriginals must have watched this being built and scratched their heads knowing the outcome! The local station owners must have known it wouldn’t work either.
Birds were very hard to see out here and when we did they were always the same ones. Steve tried very hard to find something new. The Orange Chat was the only new bird on this track.