Saturday, May 30, 2009

Catching Up (4)

Day 105 – 27 Mar 09

I’ve spent the past week just doodling around the local sights like Flynn's Grave and catching upon my reading. I should have taken the opportunity to get this blog up-to-date, but to tell the truth, it just seemed like too much trouble at the time. This relaxing really takes it out of you let me tell you. Awake at the crack of 9:00, out of bed by 10:00 at the latest, walking all the way to the outside of the van to sit down, reading till lunch-time and then having to climb all the way back into the van to make a sandwich, eating the sandwich, reading for a couple of hours and by then I’m so exhausted I have to have a nap to recover. What will I have for tea? Decisions, decisions. Cheese and bickies and a drop of the good stuff at 17:30 and by that time it’s time to make dinner. Watch a video and it’s 9:00pm already and I fall into bed exhausted. It’s a hard life, but I guess somebody has to do it.

Day 106 – 28 Mar 09

Well, enough of this sitting around, it’s time to get on the road again. Today it’s the East MacDonnell Ranges. Out from Alice to Emily Gap.You would not believe the bloody flies! I usually have a quiet chuckle when I see the tourists with their fly-veils, but I tell you what, I’m seriously thinking of getting one myself. I know that if you go bush, you get flies, but these are beyond a joke. On to Jessie Gap,

Then on to Corroborree Rock,

what is supposedly the world’s largest Ghost Gum,

and to Trephina Gorge. There is a great walk along the rim of the gorge with some spectacular views,

but the walk back through the gorge itself is a killer. The sand is deep and really soft and is really hard going. One thing that is very noticeable about all of these tourist attractions in the area is the number of signs, do this... don't do that... go here.... don't go there, (especiallythe No Camping signs) but the best example of stating the blindingly obvious would have to be,On to Ross River Resort which sounds very posh, but is just a collection of dilapidated shacks and doesn’t look very salubrious at all.

Back through the Alice and out to the West MacDonnells.

First stop: Simpson's GapLook, these gaps, chasms, gorges, what-have-you are very picturesque and peaceful, but after a while they all look the bloody same. My advice is pick one, spend the day there and move on. The really annoying thing is, they are such beautiful locations, but you’re not allowed to camp there. I would think that waking up early (ish) in the morning at one of these spots would be delightful, but no, no, no says Parks and Wildlife.

Stopped at Standley Chasm. Now that really is spectacular, even if you do have to pay to look at it. Again, stopping there for a day would be great, the differences in the chasm in the early morning, at noon with the sun shining straight down in the cleft, and sunset would be very interesting, but what would you do in the intervening hours?

I spent that night at a roadside rest area about halfway between Standley Chasm and the Ellery Big Hole, high up on top of a hill about 500 metres off the road. What a great little stop. Just the usual – a couple of shaded picnic tables and a water tank, but what views. The local cops pulled in just before sunset, watched the sun set and took off again on their patrol.

Day 107 – 29 Mar 09

Ellery Big Hole was quite impressive because of the amount of water in it. Seems to be quite a popular spot for swimming, seemed to be a lot of families with kids there, although admittedly it was a Sunday. I stopped at the Ochre pits and it was interesting to see the different colours of ochre all in the same location. The site had an absolutely enormous parking area, but not a soul in sight. Must have been in-between tour buses. A bit different to Kata-Tjuta, there was a different bus full of Japs every 15 minutes. I gave Serpentine Gorge a miss. First it was about 15 kms each way of pretty rough track and secondly, I’m about gorged-out.

OK, one more. Went into Ormiston Gorge. Yep, It's a gorge alright.Headed on to Glen Helen. Now that’s impressive. Worth the whole trip by itself. Suggested itinerary for travellers to the West MacDonnells – Leave the Alice at such a time as to get to Standley Chasm just before midday, so that you can see the sun shine into the chasm at noon. Then on to Glen Helen, watch the sunset and back to Alice in the morning. Give the rest of them a quick squiz on the way back.

I hot-footed it back to Alice, fuelled up and headed north along the Stuart Highway. Passed Aileron and Ti-Tree and pulled up for the night at a Rest Area opposite Central Mt. Stuart.

Day 108 – 30 Mar 09

Diesel was 1.29 a litre in Alice. I stopped at Barrow Creek for a coffee and happened to glance at their pumps. $1.48 a litre. Good Luck to ‘em I say, hope they get it.

Stopped for a break at Wycliffe Well, supposedly the “UFO capital of Australia” The roadhouse seems to have taken the title to heart.

Pulled into Tennant Creek to do the bread and milk thing and ran into a couple of motor-homer's that I’d met in the Flinders, so called around to the caravan park and shared a couple of coldies. Pretty ratty-looking park to tell the truth. The town has got that look that is common to a lot of towns with large aboriginal populations. Bars or security mesh on every window in sight. I was surprised when I first saw this sort of thing in Wilcannia about 5 years ago but it seems to be becoming more common.

Back down to Three-ways and across the Barkley tableland. I was planning to camp at the first rest area, about 60 kms from Three-ways, but there was an old falcon there with a couple of indigs, so I kept moving to the next rest area at TW bore a further 70 kms on. Got there just before full dark. The first time I have travelled this late the whole trip so far. Good little spot, lots of shade and plenty of water from the bore – can’t drink it but.

Day 109 – 31 Mar 09

And so to Mount Isa. I must have travelled the Barkley 7 or 8 times over the years and I have never seen it looking like it is. It is bright green from one end to the other. The grass was about 500-600mm high. I stopped for a break at Avon Downs and not only was there plenty of water in the creek, the creek was full of water lilies. I tell you what, if beef prices don’t come down in Queensland in a year or so, there’s something funny going on. I reckon you could graze 10 million cattle out there at the moment.

One good thing, that stinking one-lane road from Camooweal to Isa has finally been upgraded to two lanes all the way. I can remember being absolutely terrified driving that section. The road is very undulating and you could only usually see as far as the next rise 500 metres ahead. You would come over a rise and there would be a road-train doing 100 kmh bearing down on you 100 metres ahead. These guys are pretty fair, they only use 50% of the road, but the trouble is, they take their 50% out of the middle.

Standard Operating Procedure was: 1. Come over rise, 2. See Road-Train, 3. Head for bush, 4. Sit for a while until heart-rate returns to normal.

I’ve been to the Isa a few times since the late ‘60’s and it never seems to change. It never gets any bigger and everything looks exactly the same as it did in the 60’s except I think there is an extra chimney at the mine spewing out sulphur dioxide.

I’m having a little trouble with the Kia. Every now and again I turn the key and nothing happens. I can hear the starter motor turning, but the engine doesn’t turn over. This happened just after I bought the vehicle, and got to the point where the vehicle wouldn’t start at all, so I’m going to put it in before it gets any worse. I was planning on spending a week in Isa anyway.

Booked in to the Top Tourist caravan park. Wonderfully shady sites. Every site has got lovely shade trees all around. Got to be the world’s smallest swimming pool however and there are no rubbish bins!!! Everybody has to walk all the way to the front of the park to use the skips.

Day 110 – 01 Apr 09

Down to the Kia dealers this morning and they are looking at the vehicle. Took a wander around town and did some rubber-necking and shopping and went back in the afternoon. They confirm that there is a problem with the starter motor, but report that the ring gear on the flywheel needs replacing as well. All under warranty luckily. The bad news is it will take ten days to get the parts from Sydney to Brisbane, to Townsville, to Mt. Isa. Oh, well I’m ahead of schedule anyway so I’ll book into the park for another week. It will give me time to catch up on my afternoon naps which I have been seriously neglecting lately.

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