Travel News – Northern Territory

Bushman’s Rest, Lake Cullulleraine – Weethalle Showground – Narrabri – Scarborough (South Australia – Queensland)

23/12/16  Saying goodbye to our camping buddies Charles and Joy at World’s End Reserve, we followed the Goyder Highway east through rolling hills, golden fields of wheat and endless sheep pastures. The Murray River soon appeared on our right, and from the top of the Golden Limestone Cliffs, we looked out on the swollen river. Flood waters had breached the banks and spread out through the river red gums on the broad floodplain to the far cliffs. It was wonderful to see the mighty Murray so full and replenished by recent rains. There was a downside to the flooding, though. The many scenic bush camps dotted along the river were under all that floodwater.

Consequently we motored on, following the meandering river east and crossing it just beyond Renmark via the Paringa Bridge. This heritage listed bridge has a single railway line in the centre (now disused), with a narrow road lane on each side of it. A lift span allows river traffic to pass underneath. The road lane felt very tight for the Kruiser and we were glad it wasn’t any wider.

A little way down the road, we crossed into Victoria, intending to stay at a bush camp on the border. The Landy, though, was showing an outside temperature of 38C and rising, and we opted instead for a powered site. We spent the night beside Lake Cullulleraine at the Bushman’s Rest Caravan Park with the aircon keeping us cool and comfortable. The next morning was overcast with a forecast of rain. It was our wedding anniversary and we stayed on a second day beside the lake to celebrate.

img_3089Between the small towns of Goolgowi and Rankins Springs on the Mid Western Highway, we were happy to sit a long way back from a caravan that was travelling along at our pace. Suddenly, the van tilted and pulled over to the roadside, having lost a wheel. We stopped and gave them a hand to find the wandering wheel, got their details and went ahead to Rankins Springs to arrange a tow vehicle to get them into nearby Griffith where the broken wheel studs could be replaced. We were the first on hand to help them, and two other caravans pulled up to offer help as well. Aussies are a great bunch, quick to pitch in and do what they can when someone’s in trouble, especially for travellers on the side of the road.

That night, we camped in the showgrounds of the small town of Weethalle, among a group of rustic buildings facing a white-fenced trotting track sitting idle between infrequent race meetings. A local contact person was very helpful in opening up the facilities and making sure we were comfortable for the night.

From Lake Cullulleraine in upper Victoria, we had three big motoring days that took us home by Christmas Day, firstly 547kms to Weethalle in New South Wales, then 578kms to Narrabri where we stayed the night with Deb and Stu, and the final leg of 611kms to home. North of Narrabri, broad sheets of water lying in the paddocks and across the road at one point was evidence of recent rains. We’d crossed three State borders in four days to spend the festive day with family.

Since commencing in 2014, we’ve travelled 65,740kms with the van. Here are some facts about our overlanding to WA this year:


“Some people try to turn back their odometers. Not me. I want people to know why I look this way. I’ve travelled a long way and some of the roads weren’t paved.” – The Landy 

The Landy

The Landy and Kruiser

Categories: Travel News, Travel News - Multiple States, Travel News - New South Wales, Travel News - Northern Territory, Travel News - Queensland, Travel News - Victoria | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Kulgera (Northern Territory)

13/10/15  From Yulara, we headed east, back along the Lasseter Highway to Erldunda on the Stuart Highway, where we refuelled and had lunch in the van, then headed an hour south through flat, sparse and rather uninteresting country to the quirky little Kulgera Roadhouse. This was our camp for the next two nights.

Although we’d been travelling in Central Australia for a little while, the area we were now in was quite literally the Centre of Australia. 150km east of Kulgera Roadhouse on the Finke Road was Lamberts Gravitational Centre of Australia, one of my Extreme Points of Mainland Australia. It was reached via a 13km narrow sandy track that wound into the scrub, via numerous side tracks that all ended up at the same place. This location (25°36’36” S 134°21′17″ E) corresponds to that point on a flat cut-out map of mainland Australia where the map can be balanced perfectly horizontal on a pin. It is the planimetric centre of gravity point, independent of elevations and the weight of such things as mountains, and the population of Sydney. The location was calculated from 24,500 tiny weights distributed along points at the high water mark of Australia’s coastline. If you find one of these weights, let me know. Don’t move it though as the balance point might move.

Being such an out-of-the-way and difficult spot to reach, we were surprised at the number of expensive metal plaques erected by 4WD clubs and touring groups in past years to commemorate their visit to the location. It was like some secret go-to place. To commemorate our visit, we made an entry in the very dog-eared Visitor’s Book. Di declared the pit toilet to be, in her expert opinion, the worst in Australia and totally unusable.


After a quick tour of the small community of Finke just a little way up the road, we returned to Kulgera Roadhouse, and drove a further 16km south on the Stuart Highway to the Johnstone Geodetic Station. This trigonometric survey cairn, situated about one kilometre north of Mt Cavenagh Homestead, was built by officers of the Division of National Mapping in 1965, and was once the central reference point for all Australian surveys.

Di was pleased to come across some new birds on the drive, and added Mulga Parrot, Budgerigar, and Crested Bellbird to her list of Northern Territory birdlife, and got some good shots of a pair of Wedge-tailed Eagles and a Gould’s Goanna/Sand Monitor that was happy to smile for the paparazzi.

“Let any man lay the map of Australia before him, and regard the blank upon its surface, and then let me ask him if it would not be an honourable achievement to be the first to place foot at its centre. Men of undoubted perseverance and energy in vain had tried to work their way to that distant and shrouded spot.” – Charles Sturt, 1845

Categories: Bird Watching, Pete's Extreme Points Of Mainland Australia List (PEPOMA), Travel News, Travel News - Northern Territory | Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Yulara – Uluru – Kata Tjuta National Park (Northern Territory)

11/10/15  From Erldunda on the Stuart Highway, we turned west and took the Lasseter Highway to Yulara, with a short fuel stop at Mount Ebenezer Roadhouse. We were off to see Uluru and Kata Tjuta, although to me they will always be Ayers Rock and The Olgas. I can’t get my tongue around some of the traditional names. Most geographical features in Australia tend to have both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal names these days so you can refer to them by the name that you’re comfortable with.

Our campground was located at the Ayers Rock Resort which, while it wasn’t the school holidays, was still half full of vans, campers, motorhomes and tents. The motel part of the resort was full to capacity. This place is a tourist magnet at any time of the year and there were lots of tourists about the place. The height of fashion here was a head net to keep the flies off. We’ve seen the occasional head net in use as we’ve travelled around, but they were everywhere here, and not just your standard black ones – the fashion here went to the fluoro oranges, blues and greens and occasional white ones. The flies were a shocker.

The first morning, we joined the free guided Mala Walk around a section of the Rock and led by a ranger, and were so glad that we did as it was very informative. Steve the ranger was very knowledgeable and immersed in the Anangu culture and language. And at one stage in conversation he called me “Tjilpi” which is a reference to a respected elder or uncle.

The flies were so bad at the Olgas we broke out our own fly nets (in basic black, though, not those lairy colours). Man, it was hot; a dry oven heat that dried your skin as it sweated. With temperatures in the high 30’s, we did the sight-seeing in the early morning, and retired back to the air-con van cave by lunchtime, to emerge again late afternoon when it was much cooler and more comfortable.

We took an hour-long helicopter flight over Ayers Rock, The Olgas and Lake Amadeus, a large dry salt lake to the north. Our stay at Yulara finished off nicely with a leisurely lunch at the air-conditioned and fly-free Sails Resort, and a few more drinks with a lovely couple at the next table who were just checking in to the Resort.


“100% of the shots you don’t take don’t go in.” – Wayne Gretzky

Categories: Travel News, Travel News - Northern Territory | Tags: , , , , , ,

Henbury Meteorite Craters (Northern Territory)

7/10/15  We enjoyed our nineteen day stay in Alice Springs. The campsite at the showgrounds was lovely, in the shade of a big pepperina tree, and it gave us a great base from which to explore the surrounding ranges. The town itself “is a bonza place”, in the words of Nevil Shute. I thoroughly enjoyed his novel “A Town Like Alice” while we were there – a recommended read. The morning we left Alice, we were woken at 5:00am by the sound of rain on the roof, the first since early June. Nothing came of it, though, beyond the first few heavy raindrops. As we left Alice for Yulara and Kings Canyon, we reached the 32,000km mark since starting our travels around Australia last year.

Just 60kms or so south of Alice Springs on the Stuart Highway, we passed within a hair’s breadth of one my “Extreme Points of Mainland Australia”. The “Median Point” is the midpoint (24°15’00” S 133°25’00” E) between the extremes of latitude and longitude that enclose Australia. This unmarked point is located in mountainous bushland a kilometre or so west of the highway, with no vehicle access and I had to settle for near enough being good enough. Tick that one off on my list.


At the intersection with the unsealed Ernest Giles Road that went off to the west, we pulled over, dropped the tyre pressures down and went in 16kms to the Henbury Meteorite Craters, comprising over a dozen craters formed when a fragmented meteorite hit the Earth’s surface 4,000 years ago. It is apparently one of the world’s best preserved examples of a small crater field. We were later informed that the best way to confirm meteorite fragments is with a magnet. And, yes, it does work. Not that any were removed from within the Conservation Reserve, mind you.

Looking For Meteorites At Henbury Meteorite Craters (NT)

Looking For Meteorites At Henbury Meteorite Craters (NT)

The country had begun to look drier and redder, with spinifex-covered sand dunes becoming a regular feature and the ground underfoot like soft red beach sand. The Simpson Desert to the east was making known its presence.

The Red Centre (NT)

The Red Centre (NT)

Back on the highway south, we overnighted at Erldunda.

“The slow nuanced experience of a single country is always better than the hurried, superficial experience of forty countries.” – Rolf Potts, Vagabonding: An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long-Term World Travel

Categories: Pete's Extreme Points Of Mainland Australia List (PEPOMA), Travel News, Travel News - Northern Territory | Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Alice Springs Surrounds – Day Trips (Northern Territory) – 3

6/10/15  Our next day trip from Alice took us into the West MacDonnell Ranges via the sealed Namatjira Drive to the Big Hole, a large permanent waterhole on Ellery Creek. The temperature was well into the 30s and the very cold water was popular with people from the nearby campground. Shame we hadn’t taken our gear for a swim.

Ellery Creek Big Hole (NT)

Ellery Creek Big Hole (NT)

Not too far further along the road, Serpentine Gorge had a small waterhole shaded by high rock cliffs. Bees, attracted to the water, outnumbered the ever-present bush flies that forced us to eat lunch inside the car with the aircon running. Useful tip: When refilling a water bottle from a tap, first run the water long enough to ensure ALL the bees up inside the tap are gone. Di found the squishy remains of a bee in her water bottle a couple of days later and almost gagged.

Next stop was at the Ochre Pits, colourful outcrops of natural ochre in the cliff banks of a sandy creek from which red, yellow and white ochres have been sourced for thousands of years by the local Arrernte peoples. These ochres were used for cultural, medical and trade purposes.

Ormiston Gorge, our final stop for the day, was very impressive and came close to topping Simpsons Gorge for Di’s gong for “Most Gorgeous Gorge So Far”, but missed by just a narrow margin. Campers and day visitors were swimming in the large waterhole in the gorge and, hoping to see Black Footed Rock Wallabies, we followed Ormiston Creek a little way upstream until the rocks became too difficult to clamber over. It was certainly a lovely spot, nestled below the backdrop of the massive Heavitree Range.

The next day trip was to the historic mission at Hermannsburg, 90 minutes south-west of Alice. This was the first Aboriginal mission in the Northern Territory, established by the Lutheran Church in 1877, and the earliest surviving buildings date back to that time. We enjoyed an Apple Strudle and glass of Grandma’s Lemonade, which turned out to be made on Bickford’s Lemon Juice cordial as they’d run out of their own lemons. It was still refreshing and we’re now carrying a bottle with us in the van.

On the way back to Alice, we detoured to Wallace Rockhole, 17kms on a gravel road into the James Ranges. It turned out to be a small community, minus the rockhole. We did, however, find the Wallace Rockhole Pottery and spoke for a while with the organiser who gave us a very interesting tour of the operation.

Our final day trip was a biggie as we ventured into the western parts of the Simpson Desert country. We went south on the Stuart Highway and into Rainbow Valley. The drive in was a bit rough and very dusty, with long stretches of soft red desert sand. We saw our first stand of Desert Oaks on the way in as well, but they soon gave way to low shrub as we neared the end of the drive. The colours of the sandstone bluffs and cliffs were amazing. The outback has lots of beautiful landmarks, and this one is a real gem.

From there, we went back to the Stuart Highway and took the Hugh River Stock Route to the Old South Road and then on to Maryvale and Chamber’s Pillar. On the Stock Route, which was a very sandy and dusty stretch, we came upon a Commodore with a family from the nearby Mpwelarre Aboriginal Community, bogged to the rear axle in sand in the middle of the track. After a couple of attempts at extrication with our Maxtrax, the winch on the Land Rover pulled it free and they were on their way again.

The road to Maryvale was pretty good, but beyond it to Chambers Pillar, it was horrific with corrugations you’d lose a vehicle in. The track alternated between sections of gravel and deep loose sand which weren’t a problem, but I threw in the towel over the corrugations, 20kms short of the Pillar. It just wasn’t worth damaging Di or the vehicle, so we turned back and took the Old South Road straight back to Alice.


We spied a lone camel on the way and pulled in to Ewaninga Rock Carvings just before sunset when the light was at the right angle to best see the ancient weathered petroglyphs on the rocks. They were amazing, as was the surrounding spinifex which was in seed and as tall as wheat. The colours at sunset were spectacular.

Despite arriving home from the nine hour trip very tired and dusty, we’d had a really enjoyable day and seen lots of beautiful scenery.

”Focus on the journey, not the destination. Joy is found not in finishing an activity but in doing it.” – Greg Anderson

Categories: Travel News, Travel News - Northern Territory | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Alice Springs – West MacDonnell Ranges (Northern Territory) – 2


26/09/15  School holidays had started in NT. For the next week Di and I would be laying low in Alice, waiting out the numbers of tourists that will be heading into the West MacDonnell Ranges. Some parts of the ranges are quite close to Alice, though, and we’d see the closer ones by doing day trips over the weeklong holidays before then heading out to camp on the far side of the ranges at Woodland Campground.

The first day trip was to Standley Chasm, 50kms west of Alice along the sealed Namatjira Drive. This is the gorge that you regularly see in the tourist brochures of Central Australia. The chasm was certainly distinctive, with high vertical walls only a few metres apart and the cliff walls glowing orange in the midday sun. The number of other visitors though, mainly families with children, was unfortunate. At the various places we’d recently been to in the East MacDonnell Ranges, we’d enjoyed being the only people there. That had changed with the more touristy nature of the West Macs and I guess that couldn’t be avoided.

Heading back towards town, we stopped at Simpsons Gap which got Di’s vote for the “Most Gorgeous Gorge So Far Award”, surpassing her previous favourite, N’Dhala Gorge. It was a short and easy walk in and, deep in the gorge, the towering cliffs were reflected in the permanent water pool.

Just outside of town was John Flynn‘s Grave, close to the escarpment at the foot of Mount Gillen. The site includes a memorial that contains the ashes of the Reverend John Flynn and his wife. The rock on top seemed smaller than I recalled. It turned out that the original larger rock was from the Devils Marbles and had spiritual significance for the local women. It was subsequently returned and replaced with the smaller rock.

At the Araluen Cultural Precinct in Alice Springs, we viewed the Desert Mob exhibition of Aboriginal art at the Art Gallery, and went through the Strehlow Research Centre that houses a wealth of material gathered by Professor Theodore Strehlow during his many years studying the Aboriginal culture of Central Australia.

The best pies in the world and anywhere else for that matter are made in Alice. The Bakery Alice Springs operates a pop up bakery stall two mornings a week in the old kitchen at The Residency heritage building in the town centre, as well as every second Sunday at the markets. Along with a variety of scrumptious breads and pastries, they do a small selection of designer pies that are just unbelievably good. I couldn’t stop “Mmmm”ing with each bite as I enjoyed the Wednesday and Friday pies. And today being Sunday, guess where we are off to this morning…

The Bakery - Alice Springs (NT)

The Bakery – Alice Springs (NT)

We enjoyed the market in the Mall, with a variety of Asian and local foods, crafts and other stalls, as well as The Bakery and its goodies.

“Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded.” – Yogi Berra

Categories: Travel News, Travel News - Northern Territory | Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Alice Springs – East MacDonnell Ranges (Northern Territory) – 1

24/09/15  Up until arriving in Alice Springs, we’d been without television, radio, internet and mobile reception for more than two weeks and for all we knew the Zombie Apocalypse could have eventuated. Quite the opposite, though, in fact. So removed were we from the normal stream of information that we weren’t aware Australia had a new Prime Minister until someone mentioned it at a camp site a few days after the event. Over a celebratory drink later, Di and I agreed that it was quite OK not knowing what was happening in the News as it’s all rather depressing these days anyway. I’ve always believed that you don’t worry about the small stuff, and that it’s all small stuff, really. Maybe not so much for ex-Prime Ministers, but, hey, that’s life.


We arrived at the showgrounds campsite (Blatherskite Park) in Alice just after lunch and met up with friends from Berry Springs, Gary and Julie. It was great to catch up with them again and to be back in a reasonably large town. While we were off-line, I continued to write the regular blog articles and compile videos for the YouTube channel as we went along, and Di had been processing her photos, but none of it was able to be uploaded. So our stay in Alice kicked off with bringing the blog up to date, although the internet speed was very slow at our campsite due to the surrounding mountains. I temporarily stopped uploading videos to YouTube as it was taking forever. We’ll continue with the blog articles and will include the vids when we’re somewhere with suitable internet speed.

We took a day and backtracked 80kms from Alice into the East MacDonnell Ranges to Trephina Gorge, Corroboree Rock, Jessie Gap and Emily Gap as it was easier to do these without the van on.

We spent the next day in Alice looking through the CBD and the numerous Aboriginal art galleries. There were many excellent pieces that we would have happily hung on our walls at home, but after doing the rounds we were put off by the sense of commercialism and mass-production around the whole scene. The galleries were selling canvasses with very hefty price tags, while just outside in the Mall, Aboriginals were sitting on the grass painting similar pieces and hawking them to passers-by for much, much less. The sense that perhaps these people were being manipulated and exploited took the wind from our sails and we decided not to buy any of it.

I had always wanted to know how to play the didgeridoo, and took a 30 minute lesson with Andrew Langford at the Sounds of Starlight. It was a great experience, and I surprised myself by actually managing some proper “didgey” sounds from it amongst all the other quite miserable sounds. Lip control is a big part of it and I kept cycling between getting it and then losing it. And as for the circular breathing technique, I just couldn’t get that at all. It comes from a lot of practice, apparently. I’ll seek further instruction on that from Di, who I know can expel air from the mouth while inhaling at the same time quite well. Check out Andrew Langford on YouTube – he’s amazing on the didgeridoo.

“A journey is best measured in friends, rather than miles.” – Tim Cahill

Categories: Travel News, Travel News - Northern Territory | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Arltunga Historical Reserve – Ross River Homestead – N’Dhala Gorge (Northern Territory)

17/09/15  Ross River was 73kms further along the rough Binns Track from Ambalindum Station. We were on what was referred to as Section 2 of the track and were now well into the East MacDonnell Ranges. The country had become more spectacular with every kilometre and the track took us past massive ridges and hillsides as the ranges closed in around us. We could see in the strata of the exposed cliff faces how enormous forces had lifted up and twisted the ancient flat seabeds to form these mountain ranges. In some places the strata was almost vertical; in others it twisted back on itself like rope. White, blue and pink wildflowers covered the hillsides, and in the flats between the ridges, River Red Gums lined the presently dry sandy creek beds. Photos go nowhere near to capturing the physical presence of these immense ranges.

The Binns Track passed through Arltunga Historical Reserve, the site of Central Australia’s first major settlement following the discovery of gold in the late 1880s. At that time, Alice Springs hadn’t yet been established. The harsh conditions, lack of water and extreme isolation caused most of the activity to cease within twenty years. But the dry conditions that were so harsh on the miners helped preserve the sites and the historic buildings have not altered much over time.

We looked through the Police Station and Gaol built in 1912 and the ruins of the township site, and walked the trail to the old MacDonnell Range Reef Mine located in the surrounding hills.

The Arltunga Visitor Centre contained lots of information and displays about the history of the area.

 When we entered Arltunga Historical Reserve, we also crossed back over the Tropic of Capricorn and were now officially in cooler climates. Whether there is any truth to that theory or not, I don’t know but the days and nights since then have been noticeably cooler – our reason for heading south. The next morning, we took the back track from our camp at Ross River Homestead to N’Dhala Gorge and walked the narrow gorge trail to view the spectacular scenery and some of the 9,500 Aboriginal petroglyphs (rock engravings) that are up to 10,000 years old.

In an absolute fluke of luck, Di found on the walking path a rubber tip for a hiking stick to replace the tip she’d lost at Gunlom Falls two weeks earlier. Hope its previous owner is heading up that way so they can perhaps replace their lost one with ours…

“It was the kind of pure, undiffused light that can only come from a really hot blue sky, the kind that makes even a concrete highway painful to behold and turns every distant reflective surface into a little glint of flame. Do you know how sometimes on very fine days the sun will shine with a particular intensity that makes the most mundane objects in the landscape glow with an unusual radiance, so that buildings and structures you normally pass without a glance suddenly become arresting, even beautiful? Well, they seem to have that light in Australia nearly all the time.” – Bill Bryson

Categories: Travel News, Travel News - Northern Territory | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Ambalindum Homestead (Northern Territory)

15/09/15  From Gemtree on the Plenty Highway, we took the Binns Track south for 39kms and then turned east for 56kms to Ambalindum Homestead. The track runs from Timber Creek in the north to Mt Dare, just over the South Australian border. “Track” was a very apt description as “road” was just not the appropriate term to describe most of what we travelled over.

The first 50kms or so were narrow and crazily corrugated with many small washouts, limiting us to no more than 20kph, oftentimes less. The final section of road was slightly better maintained and our pace increased to 60kph at times. With the van on, the 100kms took 4.5 hours including a couple of short stops to stretch our legs.

The Kruiser handled the rough going very well. Nothing broke or worked loose, and the inside was completely dust-free when we stopped to set up camp. I can’t say the same for the outside, though, which was very dusty. The Stone Stomper is doing a great job to protect the van from stone damage.

We enjoyed the drive immensely, apart from the worst sections of bone-jarring corrugations that jack-hammered us and the rig around. Driving through mountain ranges all morning, the scenery was spectacular.

Coming around a bend, we came across two dingoes on the track just ahead. They trotted off slowly enough to allow for some quick photos; another tick (Eleventh) for Di’s “Animals in the Wild” list. We stopped for smoko in a large hard-packed clearing beside a sandy creek bed, and noticed lots of flint blades of various sizes scattered around on the red dirt, sign of Aboriginal activity at some past time.

Ambalindum Station is a working cattle station and the homestead was an oasis of green lawns, shady trees and lovely gardens. It was nice to walk on green grass again after so long. Darren and Chantelle were lovely hosts who made us feel very welcome. As with many of the stations, power came from a generator that hummed away in the background between 6:00am in the morning and 10:00pm at night.

Two related families live at the homestead in a small cluster of buildings comprising the ruins of the stone shearing shed, the original stone and timber cottage, the next generation timber homestead, and the current separate houses for the two families, plus a random assortment of farm buildings and sheds. Each of the earlier houses are currently being renovated for guest accommodation. A separate ‘school’ has also been established in the original bunkhouse for the families’ seven children in Years 1 to 11, taught by Naomi (Chantelle’s sister) who is a qualified teacher.

We enjoyed our brief stay at Ambalindum Station; nice relaxing downtime.

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a cash advance.” – Anon

Categories: Animals In The Wild List (AITW), Travel News, Travel News - Northern Territory | Tags: , , , , , ,

Gemtree (Northern Territory)


13/09/15  Our next travel leg took us from Murray Downs Station along the Stuart Highway through Barrow Creek and the small community of Ti-Tree, and east on the Plenty Highway to Gemtree. Starting at 10:00am and finishing at 5:00pm, it was a long day for us, although we weren’t travelling all that time. Along the way, we’d pulled in at the Barrow Creek Telegraph Station for a look around the historical site, and at Ti-Tree for fuel and lunch and a catch-up phone call home while in cell range.

The country was certainly pretty and made the drive feel not quite as long. The landscape included those iconic scenes you associate with Central Australia – vast sweeping plains stretching to a pink or blue mountain range in the far distance; rolling hills dotted with spinifex grass; rocky escarpments above weathered scree slopes. The scene changed over every crest and while we enjoyed the drive immensely, after the long day, we did also enjoy the end of it and arriving at Gemtree to settle in to a couple of quiet drinks beside the van as the sun went down.

The next day had an early start. We were up and heading on a tagalong fossicking tour to a garnet field tucked away in the scrub about 30kms east along the Plenty. Loaded with four sieves, a shovel, a pick, wash bowl and twenty litre container of water (no donkey, though; that was me), we spent three hours digging for the elusive garnets in a lunar landscape pock-marked with hope holes. We certainly came down with a bad case of Gem Fever and were the last to leave, with a reasonable haul for our efforts.

Most of the garnets were only good for Show and Tell, but about ten or so were of a size and quality suitable for cutting and mounting. It was a great experience, and we could certainly appreciate how some people get so caught up in fossicking as a hobby or lifestyle. “Just one more sieve load, then we’ll finish up.” But when you look down and see a garnet lying there in the bottom of the hole, the Gem Fever takes hold again.IMG_9167

The last day at Gemtree was a rest day, reading and watching movies and generally relaxing.

“I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read in the train.” – Oscar Wild

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