This Adventurous Age

Adventures travelling and working around Australia.


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2004 Travels September 6

MONDAY 6 SEPTEMBER     YULARA

Lazed around camp in the morning.

After a fairly early lunch, went to the PO to check if, by some miracle, the brake parcel had arrived. We were not really expecting it, this soon, knowing that Express Mail does not quite work in remote areas!

We drove on, back out to Ayers Rock. There, we did the Waterholes Walk.

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This was something a little different, giving close up perspectives of part of the Rock base.

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We saw some art on a rock wall that neither of us had seen before – interesting, but not in the same dramatic class as the rock art of the Kimberley or Nourlangie in Kakadu.

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Somehow, we’d managed to luck doing this walk in between the peak times for tour groups and others, so did not encounter too many other people, which was good. I find that jostling with crowds of tourists always detracts from whatever natural attractions one has come to see. Selfish I know, but I want these places to myself!

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The chain section of the Rock climb – with no climbers on it

 

 

 


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2004 Travels September 5

SUNDAY 5 SEPTEMBER     YULARA

Refuelled Truck – $1.28cpl.

We went to look at the camel ride establishment, south of the main settlement. We did not want to ride, but I just wanted to look at the camels!

We saw a group of riders being loaded onto some of the camels, and then setting out for their ride. Ships of the desert – appropriate.

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They were gorgeous, I thought. Gentle, meditative. They looked at peace with the world. I knew they could be unpleasant beasts at times, but these did not look as if they had any nasty in them. I loved them. They looked pretty well cared for, by the mostly backpacker staff.

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Could there be food in that ute? Or did his best friend go out with the riders?

Back at camp, John retreated to his computer games. I went for a walk around some of the village, looking at the staff housing area.

I was enjoying being able to wander around the shops here. Not that there were that many, but the eclectic assortments of items to tempt tourists made for fascinating browsing.

John was enjoying having TV and unlimited computer use.


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2004 Travels September 4

SATURDAY 4 SEPTEMBER     YULARA

After a late and leisurely breakfast, I walked to the retail centre.

Yulara was set out in a sort-of circle, with the various buildings and facilities arranged around the perimeter of a large, central,  low sand dune. There were walking tracks across this, so the trip to the shops was a very pleasant one.

The crest of the low dune was a viewing place, over the settlement and to Ayers Rock in the distance.

I put my photos in for processing, then walked around the shops, browsing, until it was time to go back and collect them. Bought the Weekend Australian and the Age. They were costly, having been air freighted in, but it was worth it to have a Victorian paper again. There was lots of reading for the money.

Bought some postcards to send to family and a couple of friends.

After lunch, we drove to Ayers Rock.

At the entrance station, negotiated with the lady there, to allow our Entry Pass, which normally lasts three days, to be able to be used for a longer period, should we need it.

 

We walked around the base of the Rock – some 9kms. Walked in a clockwise direction.

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We had done the walk before, but it was not something we were tired of. It was lovely flat walking, with an ever changing outlook, birds flitting about and always something new to catch the attention.

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Part way around was a bush shelter with a couple of interesting and “different” seats inside, constructed from local timbers and utilizing the natural curves of the wood. They were really quite beautiful.

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The shelter was the typical bush one – roofed with dried spinifex held together by netting wire.

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Most images one sees of Ayers Rock are – necessarily – from a distance, to capture it all. They tend to give the impression of a smooth and homogenous entity. But close up, the Rock’s surface is eroded and broken in places, forming some really interesting shapes and patterns.

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There are places where large chunks of rock have slipped and fallen down.

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There are places where water has eroded channels and little potholes.

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The red hops bushes were in flower, on clumps of bushes in amongst the dry grass. Very pretty.

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It was a really wonderful way to fill in the afternoon. I really appreciated the exercise, after all the travel sitting.

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Late in the afternoon, there was all the flurry  in the campground, of visitors heading out to view the sunset on Ayers Rock, then coming back from that. We had done the sunset thing before, so were not tempted to join them.

 

 

 


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2004 Travels September 3

FRIDAY 3 SEPTEMBER     YULARA

After breakfast, John pulled the van brake apart. He had been correct that the problem was in the magnet assembly. He phoned Hardings and arranged for them to send new magnets, and associated parts, up here – by Australia Post.

I thought he should have first investigated the possibility of some sort of courier delivery service – Australia Post could be so slow with parcels. But he hadn’t asked my opinion, so too late. I had a strong feeling that the two days we had booked in here for, were not going to be enough!

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One wrecked brake magnet unit…..

I went to the office to extend our stay, and was able to retrospectively negotiate a free night, if we booked and paid for a week in total. That was a slight financial respite!

John drove out and collected the repaired tyre – as we’d thought, a screw.

We just lazed around the van for the rest of the day.

Bought fish and chips for tea – what a luxury!


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2004 Travels September 2

THURSDAY 2 SEPTEMBER   WARAKURNA RH TO YULARA   340kms

The alarm went off at 6.45am. I got up and turned it off and went back to bed – my system was sure it was 5.15am! We then got up at 8 and were driving again by 9.20.

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John was not interested in visiting the nearby Giles Meteorological Station.

The road was rather corrugated, as far as Docker River.

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Abandoned car – this one was not incinerated, though!

This was an amazingly scenic stage. The road passes between the Schwerin Mural Crescent – a range to the north – and the Petermann Ranges to the south east.

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It was just wonderful country.

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It was a pity that there were not more open access and camping facilities out there. It would have been an awesome place to stop for a few days.

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A landmark about an hour out of Warakurna was Len Beadell’s tree. He was a multi-skilled man who led the surveying and road building party that blazed tracks through these western deserts in the 1950’s and 60’s. The original Gunbarrel road was one of his – required as part of the weapons testing that took place at Maralinga and then Woomera. He marked his routes with metal plaques on trees.

This section of the Great Central Road does follow the route of the original Gunbarrel – hence the tree with its plaque.

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A Len Beadell tree – and corrugations!

We came upon a wrecked caravan, by the road, on a slight rise. It looked like it had been a conventional van, rather than an off road one. Clearly, the road had won!

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Wrecked caravan – on rise by roadside

A short time after we’d stopped to take a photo of that van, I could hear hissing. A tyre on Truck was going down. We may have picked up a screw from the debris around the broken caravan. We were able to change it before it went fully flat, and that made the process, with the heavy wheel, easier.

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Wheel change – by another wreck

Just after the WA/NT border was the one camping area along the Great Central Road that was not attached to a roadhouse or within a community. This one was a few kms before the Docker River Community, which ran this fairly new facility. We detoured in to have a look.

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Information booth at Docker River camp ground

The camp area was really lovely – just so scenic.

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Ranges all around the camp ground area

I would have really enjoyed a stay here for a couple of days, apart from maybe a little concern about its proximity to the community. There were camping bays in amongst desert oaks – a tree I love for the sound any breeze makes rustling through them.

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How good would camping here be?

There were ranges all around.

The camp ground had water taps, and flushing toilets! There was no one staying here. I wondered how long the community would be able to maintain the campground in functioning condition.

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We did a short walk to the top of a nearby hill, to get a great view of the surrounding country and the campground.

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People who have not travelled in Central Australia have a mental picture of aridity and barren-ness. The reality is so totally different, as beautiful places like this attest.

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Given the limited time remaining for this trip, and the fact that it was still morning, staying here was not feasible, this trip, so we continued on, after spending the best part of two hours just enjoying the place.

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Before too long, we stopped again, at Lasseter’s Cave. We had lunch there and explored around it. The cave is by the Hull River, which sometimes has water in it.

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There was a lot of controversy and uncertainty about Lasseter and his supposed lost reef in this area. Lasseter claimed to have found a reef full of gold at the western end of the McDonnell Ranges, around 1900. But his navigation and mapping skills were inadequate, and no one was able to locate it again. An expedition to try again to find the lost reef, in the early 1930’s, went badly astray, the party disintegrated and Lasseter supposedly lived in this cave for a couple of months, after his camels had bolted away. His body was found some distance away – he having died whilst trying to walk to Ayers Rock.

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No one knows for sure whether the reef ever existed. It might have been covered by shifting desert sands. I had read somewhere a theory that the area concerned was actually the Harts Ranges, way to the east from here, but I couldn’t see how even the most hopeless explorer could make an error of that magnitude!

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We continued on. John felt that the brakes on the van had ceased working. Then, about 80kms from Yulara, the van “grabbed” briefly, a couple of times. John thought that the electric brake magnet arm must have fallen apart again, as it did back in 2000.

We took it very slowly and carefully after that, over the remaining 40kms or so of badly corrugated road. It was a relief to reach the sealed Olgas road, and Yulara after that.

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The Olgas, as seen from the Great Central Road

So – that was the Great Central Road. It had been much less arid than I expected, and at the eastern end, much more scenic. (As a postscript, we never did receive the expected permit to drive it!)

We reached Yulara about 3.45pm. Went into the campground there. $31 a night for a powered site!

The Olgas and Ayers Rock really are unique in this part of the country. Each time I see them afresh, I think that there are lots of great places in this nation, but nothing quite comparable to these.

We approached the Olgas from the west today – a totally different perspective of them. They were pale purple, and looked like mystical brooding creatures sitting on the land.

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I did manage to get John to stop a couple of times, for photos!

After setting up camp, John phoned Trakmaster. They could send up a new magnet, but suggested we try locally, first. So off we went, to the repair place. They were not much use. We did put the punctured tyre in for fixing.

I quickly replenished some supplies at the supermarket.

I phoned daughter, and she found the phone number for the Hardings caravan repair place. John thought he might try phoning them about the brakes, tomorrow. Too late by now, in the eastern states.

Daughter had found part time work in Bendigo and seemed very settled in there. Grandson had a couple of days each week in child care.

I was appreciative of the clean and modern amenities here!

I also rather appreciated the fact that it looked like we would have to stay put here for a few days, until the brake was fixed. Six days of constant moving on had been too much for me. I needed some days that were not just sitting in Truck!

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2004 Travels September 1

WEDNESDAY 1 SEPTEMBER   WARBURTON RH TO WARAKURNA RH   270kms

It was the first day of spring. The morning was warm enough for us to go back to wearing shorts, which we hadn’t been in for days.

Through the day there was some fleecy cloud build up.

John had not set the alarm last night so we slept late. By the time we got up at 8.30am, the other campers that had been here, probably about six lots, had left.

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Morning at Warnurton camp

Went to visit the Art Centre, which had been promoted in some of the literature we had. It had a very impressive gallery collection of a representative sample of the art from the Lands and its associated communities. It made for really interesting browsing.

We sifted through the unmounted canvas art works they had in a pile, for sale. Bought three acrylic on canvas works. All very different. One had an orange background, reminiscent of the desert sands, and showed shapes and patterns representing a water hole and people meeting there. A multi coloured one represented foods, with flowers and ants. A somewhat larger one of predominantly purple, pink and black tones had patterns of shapes – I really loved that one. All came with provenance about the artists. We parted with $480 – very reasonable prices, we thought.

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One of our new art works

Had a very interesting talk with the lady running the Art Centre. She was quite adamant that the people had to be organized by whites, or nothing was achieved. She said that the local CDEP scheme was being made into a “must work for 20 hours a week” rule. Otherwise, no benefit would be paid. She was rather sceptical that this would work – said it would mean that even more of the teenage girls would get pregnant, to get benefit money that way.

But she felt that there were some positive aspects in the area – the people still had much “culture” and connection to the land. But they steal. Her view was that, despite all the car wrecks, indigines never die by the road, even though they do not go out equipped for remote travel. But four white fellows had died – she did not say over what time span that was.

We noticed that the fuel bowsers at the roadhouse were inside really heavy steel cages. No self serve around there!

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High security fuel bowsers

There were notices on the roadhouse doors – “No Kimbie, no enter”. i.e. no little kids with bare bottoms were allowed in. The circumstances that made such a notice necessary did not need  much thinking about!

Today was a much more leisurely day and thus very enjoyable. I think that even John had concluded that yesterday was too much!

We were able to doodle along, actually stop to take photos and to have some walks around.

John emptied the jerry can into the fuel tank.

The road was more corrugated.

We “lost” 90 minutes today, by going east.

Ate our packed lunch beside the road, and walked around, looking at plants and the scenery in general.

Saw more camels.

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I tried to take a photo that would be suitable to enlarge for our wall at home – of Truck, van and the “desert”. Actually, said desert continued to have lush growth and lots of flowers!

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Then, we came up over a low ridge and there in the distance was the Rawlinson Range. The country had changed from the dune type arid lands to a much more classic Central Australian appearance. It was wonderful.

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The ranges made the last section, coming into Warakurna, delightful.

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Refuelled at Warakurna Roadhouse – $1.50cpl. Filled the jerry can too.

We set up in the roadhouse camp ground – $16 for the night. The campground was alright.

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Warakurna camp

This afternoon and evening was much better. We were able to relax before tea and I could take my time cooking it.

Travelling corrugated roads had become very tiring and we had an early night to bed.

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2004 Travels August 31

TUESDAY 31 AUGUST   LAVERTON TO WARBURTON ROADHOUSE   570kms

Another early start, on a cold but sunny morning. There was some cloud about.

Now we were embarking on the dirt road to the north west. The Great Central Road, loosely and erroneously called by some, the Gunbarrel Highway. It was pretty good quality though. We were mostly able to bowl along at 70-80kmh.

I had wanted for years to drive this road. It had been on the original plans for 2001.

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On the Great Central Road – at last!

The lush growth of bushes, grasses, mulga continued – and regular wild flowers in bloom, as were a lot of the shrubs. If I’d been driving and on my own, I would have stopped a number of times to photograph some of these – beautiful and unusual. But, unfortunately, John was in no-stop mode. So we missed many opportunities to stop and savour this different environment.

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We encountered a group of aboriginals with a broken down vehicle. Stopped – cautiously – to see if they were alright. They had a car and trailer and there were problems with the trailer. There were four adults and three children. They had been broken down there since yesterday, they said. I could not work out why someone just didn’t take the car and drive for assistance! Maybe they just didn’t think of that? I gave them some fruit and fruit box drinks, for the kids. We took a message for them – to the next roadhouse – Tjukayirla – to be phoned back to Cosmo Newbury settlement to send out help for them.

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Stopped to eat lunch at the Beegull Rockholes/caves. These were natural depressions in the rock, which held water for a long time, and so were valuable wells for the traditional aboriginals – before cars and roadhouses!

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Beegull Rock Holes

We had a bit of a wander around here, whilst eating. It was nice to have a break from Truck!

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Cave at Beegull Rock Holes

The terms of our permit – WA stretch – had been quite adamant that we were not to stray from the road, make any side detours, or camp except at the roadhouses. So we were conscious of this limited access. However, the Rockholes were marked on the map we were following, and its notes indicated exploring here was alright.

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Outlook to the north

There was very little other traffic on the road.

There were lots of abandoned vehicle bodies – burnt out and ratted for parts. Later, we were told that there was a major loss of face for the locals if they abandoned a vehicle that had broken down, only to have someone else get it going! So they burnt them, to make sure that did not happen! Face was a very significant driver of behaviour in indigenous communities.

There were so many car bodies that some humorist had attempted to number them, with white paint.

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We stopped – too briefly – at Tjukayirla Roadhouse. Got fuel – $1.50cpl! The roadhouse appeared well run by the Blackstone community people.

I had planned that we would stop in the campground there, for the night. 300kms from Laverton seemed like a good day to me, on the unsealed roads. But John was determined to push on to Warburton.

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After Tjukayirla, the road was very corrugated for quite some time. That slowed us down and made for unpleasant travel.

There were some small herds of wild camels beside the road.

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We stopped again for another group of aboriginals, whose car was still burning. They were a ruffianly looking lot. They asked if we had cigarettes and Coke. Couldn’t help them on either count, but I went to the van to see what I could dredge up, as a gesture. They crowded me at the van door and seemed unduly anxious to get a look into the caravan. I suspected they were hoping to spot some alcohol – don’t know what might have happened had they done so! I gave them some water and a packet of rice crackers. I was sure that was not what they were hoping for – they did not look impressed! We agreed to take a message to Warburton for them, and were quite relieved to drive away from the group.

We were still driving when dark came, at about 5.30pm. That made driving harder.

We had been going through dune country for some time by now – but the road remained firm, if corrugated. The country was still interesting, even though I was totally fed up with the long driving day.

It was great to come over a dune and see the lights of Warburton in the distance. But it took ages to actually get there – one could see so far out there!

The roadhouse was shut when we got there. There was no answer when I tried what appeared to be the manager’s house.  So we proceeded to set up in the camp area behind the roadhouse. There was a big gate that we had to open.

After some setting up, I went to the toilets – only to discover they were locked. Made sense in a place like that. Luckily, I then saw the manager coming out of the back of the roadhouse, and he got a key for us. I passed on the message from the stranded group.

We paid $18 for the night – and had power.

We were even able to watch The Bill on TV, though the image wasn’t great.

The nearby community seemed pretty quiet, through the night. Some occasional raised voices and barking dogs.

It had been a very long day. Far too long to be enjoyable. I did not like sitting cramped up for such a long time, without much chance to exercise and get the blood circulating again. We had driven , in one day, what I’d intended would take two. It seemed a shame to rush, in this way, a route that we were unlikely to drive again, but I was, literally, not in the driver’s seat.

We were in bed by 10pm.

It was a cold night, but not as bad as the previous three nights had been.

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