This Adventurous Age

Adventures travelling and working around Australia.

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2004 Travels September 11


We left Yulara at 8.30am. At least John did not insist on a really early start!

Today’s was a long drive, not improved by being all over roads that we’d travelled before, more than once.

Refuelled at Erldunda – $1.29cpl – and Marla Roadhouse – $1.38cpl.

In keeping with his usual attitude, John was determined to push on and make Coober Pedy. I had wanted to take two days to do that distance – not because of wanting to sight see, but because I get so uncomfortable just sitting, over so many hours. Even doing an hour or so of driving, periodically, did not help, but just changed the location of the cramping bits!

Ideally, I should be stopping every hour to walk around for 10 minutes or so, to boost the leg circulation, but that did not happen.

My legs were really painful by the time we reached Coober Pedy, just at dusk.

Travelling like that was just not enjoyable.

We went into the Stuart Range Caravan Park, on the edge of town. It was $20 for the night. The site was gravel, as one would expect, here. We were able to stay hitched up.

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Drive-through site at Coober Pedy

We had stayed in Coober Pedy on a couple of previous occasions, so felt absolutely no need to go exploring at all.

I made a quick pasta meal. Had a lovely, much appreciated shower in the very good amenity block. Fell into bed.

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2004 Travels September 10


John spent the day fitting the new magnets to the caravan brakes.

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Inside the caravan wheel – lot of red dust in there…….

He had to phone Hardings a few times to check the different bits, and how they went together. They were very helpful and it all got done. The wheel spun freely with the brakes off. It slowed when the brakes were applied – we had to pull Truck up close to the van front, to get close enough to hook up the electricals to do this.

John took Truck to the servo and refuelled – $1.28cpl.

We packed up the awning and the outside stuff.

There were ten nights before we needed to be home.

At least, the Yulara stay had been a good break from days of driving. I had a feeling they were about to start again!

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2004 Travels September 9


In the morning, while John was having computer time, I walked to the main part of the village.

I browsed in the Gallery at Sails in the Desert – the up market accommodation section of the resort. They had an interesting collection of art works.

I sought out information about employment at Yulara. Having spoken with a couple of the check out operators at the supermarket. I knew that there were grey nomads temporarily employed here. I found it an interesting possible option for a future year – there would be a lot worse places to spend some months.

After lunch, it was back to the PO. The brake parts had finally arrived! The parcel had not been sent Express at all – no wonder it took so long.

As we were leaving the car park, had a little collision with another 4WD. It was one of those situations where neither driver was more to blame. We were both reversing to our lefts, out of nose-in parking bays on opposite sides of the access road. Both seemed to have blind spots at the left rear. The result was a little meeting of the two vehicles. No damage to us – the back was rather protected by the spare wheel carrier and the protruding tow hitch. There was a dent in the other vehicle though!

It was too late to try to work on the van today. I extended our stay yet another day. Luckily, at this time of year they could be a bit flexible.

We had been alternately amazed and annoyed with a neighbour behind us, who came in a couple of days ago, with a camper trailer. We couldn’t work out whether he was trying to maximize his space on the rather small site, or merely miscalculated his trailer position. Either way, he pitched the canvas part of the camper over and around the big fire hose and stand that was between the two sites and at the back of our van. Had there been a fire, ready access to the hose would have been difficult.

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Site behind us at Yulara

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Too bad about access to the fire hydrant!

He really could have pitched much further forward on his site, or to the side, and avoided the fire hose box. As it was, he was certainly close enough to get the full sound from our TV at night – hope he appreciated it! We were not retiring early, either! The sites, although not all that large, were set out so that rigs did not have to be butt up against each other, but offset. Not this guy!

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Near neighbour!

Some campers do incredibly stupid things!

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2004 Travels September 8


Today we went off to do the Valley of the Winds walk, at the Olgas.

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Sign near the turn off to Docker River and the Great Central Road

This circuit walk was 7.4kms long, and relatively easy going, apart from near the start, where there is a little climb up to the second lookout point.

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Walking track from the car park

It was still a magic walk, even though this was the third time we’d done it. The trick was to start out too late for the early tour groups and keen walkers, but before the middle of the day groups arrived.

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It is a walk of contrasts.

One starts out from the car park usually with a cluster of other people. The going is open, the path wide and smooth.

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A more narrow section of path

Past the first lookout of the domes, some of the numbers drop off. The way narrows as it rises to the second lookout, which is in a cleft between two tall domes, with a view down the valley thus created, to more domes.

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The way continues down then, to the central valley, from where the path meanders around some domes and eventually rejoins the car park path.

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We were mostly alone after the second lookout and it was lovely to stroll along, admiring the outlook, without having lots of others around. I remain really surprised at how many people do not do the full walk here. Ditto the really easy walk around the base of Ayers Rock.

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Nonetheless, neither of these are walks one should contemplate undertaking in the summer months. The heat reflected off red soil and rock would be too intense for safety.

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We found a spot in the central valley where we could sit and eat lunch and just soak in the beauty and peacefulness around us.

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As with so much of the central deserts, this year, there was plenty of vegetation and wildflowers growing.

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The contrasts of spinifex, shrubs and wild flowers

A pair of budgerigars were keeping guard over their nesting hollow.

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We took our time. I dawdled, taking photos. So the walk took us the best part of five hours. We had all day to fill in.

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Looking to the west – Great Central Road country

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Back at Yulara, checked the PO – no parcel.

Obviously, we were not going to be travelling on Friday, so I went to the office and extended our stay by a day.

Then we just relaxed for the rest of the day. Doing a lovely long walk makes me feel quite virtuous!

I was pleased we were here long enough to do the Olgas walk, but all the same it was frustrating that our remaining time was being frittered away like this.

Over the course of this year’s trip, I had gradually been learning how to use the new digital camera. More importantly, learning to trust it to record what I saw and the effects I wanted to get. Now I was definitely a convert to digital! It was wonderful to be able to walk at a place like the Olgas and be able to take as many photos  as I wanted, without having to justify and debate with myself about whether a potential image was worth committing to the limited – and expensive – film. Very liberating.

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2004 Travels September 7


A rest day today.

John spent much of the day on the computer. I read, sewed, and went for a walk around the village again.

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Our Yulara site

When we checked at the PO, there was no parcel. John was quite annoyed that it still had not arrived. He phoned and checked and was reassured that it had been sent, as promised, on Friday.

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Uluru. The climb track passes just to the right of the large hole.

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2004 Travels September 6


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


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


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


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


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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