This Adventurous Age

Adventures travelling and working around Australia.

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2011 Travels February 17


Woke about 6am, and got up. We were dressed by the time the  hostess brought our morning coffees.

Outside was scrub country, nothing to identify where we were.

Went to breakfast. This was a great spread. Choice of juices, and fruit. We both had the cooked breakfast – bacon, egg, mushrooms, tomato, plus toast and jam. It was all very nice. I could easily get used to the lifestyle we’d enjoyed on this trip!

Outside, ranges came into view – the Harts Ranges around the Gemtree area, I thought. The rail route did pass well to the east of the Stuart Highway for much of the way south from Tennant Creek, which we must have passed through in the night.

Country to the north of Alice Springs

In contrast to yesterday, during the night it seemed we had totally outrun the bad weather – blue sky and sunshine outside.

We were back in our compartment, now changed back to day time mode, for a short while, before we cruised into Alice Springs, about 9am.

Passengers were not allowed to remain on the train here, because it was cleaned. Several tour options were offered – user pays. They were all to sights we’d visited in the past, so we really did not want to re-do any as part of a tour group. So we decided to walk into town and wander about there.

A surprising number of passengers left the train totally, at Alice Springs. I speculated that some might stay and “do” the tourist things, then fly elsewhere, or catch the next train, next week, south. I doubted that there were many residents among them.

Where the train pulled in – again a disembarkation down steps – was just a ground level area. We were about a ten or fifteen minute walk from the town centre. There was lots of broken glass on the footpath. It was quite hot to be out walking.

We went to the Mbantua Gallery – a favourite of ours. Here, we browsed for ages; it was that sort of place. They had wonderful and varied art works, at reasonable prices. We ended up buying a small painting on canvas, a sort of “leaf” style, by a young woman painter.

Then we wandered the Mall, looking in a couple more galleries.

My leg – the one affected by nerve damage in my spine – was hurting and my feet were tired. John was tired too, so we walked back to the train, knowing we were allowed to re-embark at 11.40. We timed it well, were checked on and soon back in “our” train home.

The Ghan at Alice Springs Station

Alice Springs, in the brief time we were out and about, seemed more threatening than we remembered from four years ago. We’d passed some large groups of “locals” who muttered and commented as we went and I’d been grateful that on this weekday morning, there were plenty of other people around. Still, in passing, we got some good whiffs of “eau de town camp” or maybe of Todd River bed camp. Either way, most unpleasant.

The train pulled out again, about 12.30. It was interesting to be on it, going through the narrow Heavitree Gap, in the McDonnell Ranges, instead of watching the train from the roadside, as we’d done on a few occasions. Road and railway are close together, through The Gap.

Stuart Highway and the railway converging through Heavitree Gap (Google)

We sat and watched the passing scenery. Adverse weather seemed to have caught up with us again. Storm clouds were building, and John finally got to see a good forked lightning display.

Storm clouds just south of Alice Springs

The Red Centre was the Green Centre. La Nina weather conditions for Australia, this summer, had clearly bought decent rains to the Centre.

Green countryside to the south of Alice Springs

We went to lunch, as we were – as near as we could work out – about level with Rainbow Valley and the Hugh Stock Route, both of which we’d previously driven. Whilst eating lunch, we saw Chambers Pillar in the distance.

A bit more arid looking now….

This was our first lunch on board the train, thanks to yesterday’s debacle, and it offered a good range of choices too, and yummy food.

We were just finishing lunch when the train slowed and the speaker system announced we were about to cross the Finke River. John quickly went to fetch the camera, and took photos.

Approaching the Finke River
Finke River with water in it

We spent the afternoon in the compartment, watching the passing country. It was all greener and much more lush than we had ever seen it. Overseas, or even local, travellers experiencing the Centre for the first time right now, must be wondering why on earth it was supposed to be arid country.

After lunch, our toilet wouldn’t flush. Much angst, wondering what we’d done wrong to make it malfunction. John went and found our hostess and reported the problem, prepared  for us to be embarrassed. Turned out it affected our whole carriage – the air compressor had tripped. No one else had been to hostess, though. Obviously everyone thought it was just them – as we had – and were feeling mortified. It was quickly fixed, thankfully, and clearly a common occurrence.

I sewed a bit. John sat by the window, gazing out and napping.

Went to the lounge car to have a drink, before tea.

Into South Australia……

There was a small range of souvenirs available to buy. Purchased John a very nice red-brown polo shirt, good quality weave, with a small Ghan logo on the pocket. Unfortunately, there was no stock in my size.

Tea offered lots of choices again. The Ghan food was certainly excellent. Spreading the meal out over three courses passed the time. By the time we finished dinner, the train was stopped at a siding near Coober Pedy and it was dark.

Back in our cabin, magically transformed into bedroom mode, we had a nightcap of our remaining wine, and went to bed.

Again, the night’s sleep was excellent.

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2007 Travels May 31


Back to the shops…..the Skins were in!  Bloody expensive for what was, basically, a set of stretchy long johns!

Decided to – finally – do something “touristy”. It was not easy to find something we had not previously done. Not to be misunderstood – places like Simpsons Gap and Standley Chasm are excellent, and should be visited by travellers to the Centre. But once seen, they become the places where the crowds are, and we wanted  different.

John donned his new Skins, to see if they lessened the pain in his hip.

Drove out Larapinta Drive and then Namatjira Drive and, within the Owen Springs Reserve, turned north along a track that took us to a parking area, from whence we could walk to Birthday Creek Waterhole.

This Reserve, formerly Owen Springs cattle station, had only been open to the public since 2003, so was not yet widely known about. It straddled Namatjira Drive, with the larger portion stretching from that to Larapinta Drive. Basically it encloses a section of the Hugh River – at this time of year really a series of waterholes.

We thought about trying to  tackle the 4WD section between the Drives, but decided on a walk instead – some exercise!

We parked up then walked along the Birthday Creek Waterhole Track, following the Hugh River.

This was “quietly” typical Central Australia – meaning it wasn’t the dramatic country of much of the Western Mc Donnell Ranges. Great clumps of grasses grew at the sides of waterholes along the river, where pools remained from the last decent flows, which could have been years rather than months ago.

Hugh River

The local river red gums, so often featured in art works of the Centre, with their white trunks, were ever-present.

Central Australian red gums

It was really pleasant walking on mostly flat terrain, a bit sandy underfoot, at times.

About ninety minutes walking brought us to Birthday Waterhole – the best part of 10kms from the vehicles.

Birthday Waterhole

Birthday Waterhole was worth the walk, in a low key sort of way. The outcropping rocks in the water were decorated with long white streaks – indicative of the birds that had rested there, possibly fish-hunting cormorants.

We ate our packed lunch there, overlooking the water.

John and I then retraced our way back to Truck. That was far enough for us, probably about an 18km walk.  But M opted to walk on further, for another hour, to reach Hugh Gorge, which she reported, later, was a lovely small gorge, but similar to the others along the range.

We returned to town to do a final stock up of supplies, for what could be another extgended period between supermarkets.  Refuelled again at Woolworths – the price had gone up to $1.42 cpl.

M arrived back at the caravan park about the time we got back from the shopping.

We all felt as though our spirits had been lifted by the walk today.

John thought the discomfort in his hip was somewhat eased by the Skins.

It was 1 degree again, through the night. Brrr some more!

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2007 Travels May 26-30


I woke with a headache and feeling generally out of sorts, due to poor sleep.

We drove into town where I collected the new battery for my camera, which had arrived in. That was good service. But it was a costly item!

Bought the weekend papers – great to have them again. Had another Subway lunch.

Then it was off to bowls in the afternoon. A local man and I beat John and M. John did not play well – I have yet to be convinced that these new bowls suit him. In a minor stroke of genius, I offered him the use of mine, for tomorrow, and I would stay at camp with my sore foot…..

Thinking he was doing the cook a favour, after her hard day at bowls, and because he really loves take away chicken, John went and bought Red Rooster chicken meals for tea. Mine did not look at all well cooked, but – for the sake of peace – I ate it.

We watched some TV for a while. The dreaded Imparja, with its nightly entreaty to children to brush teeth before going to bed.

Yamba the honey ant (Imparja)

I was missing the bush and the nightly campfires!


In the morning, I had a major stomach upset. Knew I shouldn’t have eaten that chook! Spent most of the morning haunting the amenities block…..

John and M went to bowls after lunch. John did use my bowls and apparently played better with them.

I downloaded camera cards to the lap top and sorted and named them. It was the first chance I’d had to really look at what I’d taken over the past few weeks. I was pleased – think I’d taken some good photos, to date.

In the afternoon, there was an audience gathering by a tree near our van. There was a juvenile channel-bill cuckoo there, causing much interest, because it was way out of its supposed range and season  and hence a novelty in Central Australia. Because it was a cuckoo, we wondered whether its unsuspecting surrogate parents migrated to this area, and it came with them? Normally, these birds are only present in northern Australia in the Wet Season – they are also locally called Storm  Birds, for that reason. So this was one very lost bird!

I made Zucchini Slice for tea, for the bowlers, using the electric frypan as an oven. It took a couple of hours to cook, but turned out alright. I had a little soup, only!


I was still feeling poorly, this morning, but improved a bit later in the day.

I read, and did embroidery for much of the day. My foot was also still a bit sore.

John and M walked into town, intending to get some exercise, and to buy a piece of roasting pork for dinner. They both had a craving for same. I was distinctly uninterested in things food, right now!

Attractive, pink topped local grass

There was a good walking/bike path from out here, through the Heavitree Gap and into town. They were away for ages, most of the afternoon in fact. It turned out that, as they were walking on the path through the Gap, a lady tourist from this caravan park, came off her bicycle. She broke her ankle – quite badly. John and M (both with First Aid training) dealt with her, called the ambulance and waited with her. Guess that was going to drastically affect her holiday!

It was a long walk anyway, even without that delay. So, by the time they returned, it was too late to cook the piece of pork they brought back. It was the last thing I felt like, anyway. No – make that second last, after chicken! I cooked them some fried rice and I had some soup.

I had an early night – hadn’t been a great couple of days.

It was quite humid and much warmer than the previous nights. Then, it unexpectedly teemed rain, for about twenty minutes, and there was some thunder. It was quite pleasant, at night, cosily tucked up, listening to the rain on the roof.

My leg ached a lot through the night.


After breakfast, drove into town again. Although there are some brilliant tourist attractions in Alice Springs, ranging from historic items through to wildlife, we had already visited these on previous stays, as had M. We had also done all the main day walk attractions, like Simpsons Gap. So this period was rather tedious. We were here so John could play bowls, but there were not many days when there was bowls happening!

Alice Springs camp

Decided that there were several aboriginal art galleries that would be interesting to look through. We avoided the very touristy oriented outlets that stocked lots of cheap artifacts and works of unacknowledged origin.

We ended up spending a couple of hours at the  Mbantua Gallery, which had excellent displays, both of collected works and works for sale. The items  were varied and – we thought – very reasonably priced. Found much to interest us there, but we were really strong and resisted making any purchases, for once. However, lived vicariously, helping M choose a work on canvas to buy.

This Gallery had just released for sale a couple of works by the same Litchfield lady whose works we had bought a number of, last year. There were no prices on them, though. I thought it was reassuring that they had acquired them in the first place.

In a nod to the really cold nights, I went to KMart and bought some track pants – utilitarian ones, not trendy!

John decided to buy a set of Skins, such as sports people had recently taking to wearing, to see if they would ease the aching hip that really needed replacing. The man at the sports store was really helpful in discussing what John needed, but would have to get John’s Medium size in – might be in tomorrow? However, we knew the NT of old, and figured that could mean any time from tomorrow (unlikely) to several days hence – or more.

John and I lazed around camp for the rest of the day. M went off to look at a couple of places she had not been to before.


It was 1 degree last night. Brrr….

Back to the shops. The Skins had not arrived. There’s a surprise!

I found a fabric/patchwork shop, called “Polkadot”,  that stocked some really interesting aboriginal design fabrics. Bought a length of one design that really appealed  – to be put away at home against the day when I actually get around to learning how to do patchwork and quilting.

We extended our stay by another day, to wait for the Skins. Considered ourselves fortunate that we could extend on the same sites.

John washed Truck and the van. That took much of the afternoon.

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2007 Travels May 25


The plus side of the cold Central Australian nights at this time of year is beautiful sunny days.

John spent time downloading emails and dealing with them. It had been a while so this took some time.

I phoned son’s home and connected with daughter in law. Hadn’t been able to get through to either of them last night and wondered briefly if all was well. So it was a relief to speak to her today. I really wanted to find out if grandsons’s parcel, sent from Broken Hill, had arrived. Yes, it had been delivered.

M and I hit the park laundry, early on. We both had loads of grotty clothes bearing some of the Old Ghan Track with them.

After breakfast, drove back into the town centre. M needed to try to track a parcel she’d sent to a friend that had not arrived at its destination, so it was to the PO for her. Later in the day, friend phoned: parcel found. The postie had put it in the meter box!

We drove out to the Head Office of the construction company we’d recently worked for. I met in person  several  of the people who had only been names on emails, or phone voices, whilst I was Site Clerk over in the Pilbara. It was good to meet up in person. Big Boss was there and we had a chat – mostly about the aftermath of the destructive Cyclone George. Obviously, enquiries were ongoing about that and he said some of the company’s staff had already been questioned. I wondered to myself if we would become embroiled in that, seeing as we were on site virtually throughout the project? BB said that Village 1 was being rebuilt, by a different company. He was adamant that the place had been supposed to be evacuated in the event of a cyclone, and that was why no cyclone shelter had been included in the original plans. He also mentioned that there was a video circulating on the internet, showing men at the camp having a drunken cyclone party – with the walls shaking behind them. It was pleasant to catch up again, even under these rather subdued circumstances.

We had been having issues with the working of the CB radio for much of the trip to date. It was useful to be able to communicate with M, as we were driving, on that. We went to the outlet of the firm that did the comms at the Villages. The boss, who we’d worked with there, was out, so we didn’t get to see him but John bought a new aerial, to see if that fixed the problem.

Neither of them scores well on the parking scale!

Our mail was in. John went to collect it, whilst I went to the public toilet nearby. An unpleasant experience, despite the 50c charge to users: the money did not appear to go into cleaning and upkeep!

We all had a Subway lunch, then John insisted that we all go and practice bowls. That made my Achilles start complaining again. John did not do well with his almost new, bright orange bowls. He did better for a few ends after I persuaded him to use mine, light though they were and several sizes smaller. M was rather erratic. She had not been playing the game for long at all.

Fuelled up Truck at Woolworth’s fuel outlet – $1.39 cpl. That did not hurt so much!

There was nothing of note in the mail bag, except for notification that I would receive the $1500 superannuation bonus payment this year. Due to recent Budget measures, that would be doubled. All very good!

I cooked fish for tea – of the frozen packet variety. M and John went off to buy chips to go with that.

There was a flurry then, because John could not find the mobile phone. He had taken it when he went to the PO this morning, but couldn’t remember what he’d done with it after that. There was much hunting, high and low. I had visions of a massive bill being racked up by some opportunist! Eventually, M prevailed upon St Anthony, the patron saint of lost items, and John  found the errant item – in his bowls bag! He got very grumpy after all that. I guess we did give him a hard time about it! Glasses, keys, wallet, phone – what next?

It was a really cold night, so I went to bed very early. My heel was very painful through the night, and its matching knee joined the party. Eventually I had to get up and take pain killers.

John played computer games until the early hours.

I did not sleep well!

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2007 Travels May 24


We had driven this stretch of highway several times before. No drama, not a great deal of interest, a good road.

Refuelled at Erldunda RH – $1.57cpl. John just topped up the tank with 15 litres, to make sure we had enough to get to Alice Springs with no worry. Being at the corner of the road to Ayers Rock, this Roadhouse was always busy.

On to Alice Springs, with no other stops.

Our powered site at the McDonnell Ranges Caravan Park cost $27 a night, after discount. It is a large park, with modern amenities. Sites were only average size but with good shade trees. We like this park for its cleanliness and for some interesting activities put on for guests, like pancake breakfasts. And – best of all – it was a bit out of town and thus less noisy and, we thought,  more secure.

After setting up, we drove off to the town centre and the shops.

M had been having trouble with the lilo she used for a bed in the back of the Troopy – it kept going down and she couldn’t find the source of the leak. She bought some foam from a swag maker, to replace the lilo. Problem solved!

We checked at the PO for our mail – not in yet. Bought some groceries and fresh foods.

At a camera shop, I ordered a new battery for my Pentax Optio camera – so I would be able to have a spare one charged up all the time.

I was looking forward to borrowing some library books and having a reading binge, so went to the town library. Discovered that it charged $25 for non-residents to borrow books – non-refundable. Thought that was a bit steep, but maybe it was a reflection of the nature of the town  with a high number of transient tourists.

John found a $5 note in the street, so bought a lottery ticket with it. He sussed out the bowls club and lost no time booking us in for games on Saturday and Sunday. Damn! Suspected  that would stir the Achilles’ up again, nicely.

Now that he did not need to conserve the van’s battery power at nights, John played computer games until after 1am.

Another really cold night. At least, with 240v power, we could now run the little electric fan heater in the van.

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1999 Travels August 1


We were up at about 8am. Left at 10, which was not bad, considering that we had not done a great deal of pre-packing, and we’d been here nearly a month. I would not have predicted that we would have been here for nearly this long! It is a measure of the really pleasant camp ground and the draw of the wonderful range country, more than the mining itself. It has been a great stay.

We called in at the office to say goodbye. The owner showed us a zircon that he’d found in 1986, that he had just cut for a German tourist – $900 worth. It was a wonderful purple colour. We decided, very early in our stay here, that we would not get our finds cut here, because that can be done more cheaply elsewhere.

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Goodbye to Gemtree

Topped up the fuel at Gemtree, to be on the safe side. 99cpl.

The skies looked quite threatening as we left Gemtree, but remained as cloud only, with no rain.

It was an uneventful drive back to Alice Springs, but not boring, with the distant ranges ahead and to the sides.

We went back into the McDonnell Ranges Caravan Park – $17.10 a night, after Big 4 discount.

Set up. Had lunch. Then it was off to the shops to stock up on things we had run out of. Wine was one of these.

In the car park outside Coles, there were several aboriginals – of both genders – begging shoppers for money. There are no security services on duty on Sunday, it seems – usually they patrol the carpark. When a couple of individuals – separately – asked us for money to buy food, John offered to go and buy them something to eat and bring it back for them. They swore at him! Not so hungry, after all – just thirsty!

Tea was soup, rissoles, vegies.

We have TV again. Has been a pleasant break from it, for me!

I phoned K to report our location, and John phoned daughter S.

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1999 Travels June 21


Another beautiful day.

After a lazy morning, we set out to visit some of the tourist attractions of the town, but soon got distracted.

Drove through town and up Anzac Hill, just to the north, from where there are good views over the town and surrounds. The size and spread of Alice Springs is evident from up here.

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Central Alice Springs, seen from Anzac Hill. Heavitree Gap is straight ahead.

06-18-1999 west Alice Springs from Anzac Hill

Looking to the west, from Anzac Hill, over the light industrial area.

Then my plans were hijacked, when John saw where the light industrial area was and decided to drive around exploring that. Doesn’t everyone? He spied an auction house, so had to go look at what goodies they might have on offer. He really enjoys auctions, and needs to be watched closely!

There were all sorts of offerings that might have tempted him – had we not been living in a small caravan! But amongst the very diverse items were windcheaters and T shirts from the Desert Park, bundled in assorted sizes. I was not sure whether these were discontinued lines, or whether the place had changed its name. We decided to come to the auction, being held tomorrow, and bid on some of these, as they would make good presents for the family.

For someone setting up house in Alice Springs, this place would be a great source of necessities. It appears as if it is more economic for people leaving town to sell their goods, rather than have them transported elsewhere.

After a couple of hours at the auction house, it was too late to do much except go back to camp.

Tea was sausages, potato and salad.

John phoned S and had a long talk.

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1999 Travels June 19


Another pleasant day.

Although this caravan park is a busy one, it is not all that noisy in the mornings and we are able to sleep in.

I went and bought the paper and we read that.

After an early lunch, John played bowls at the Memorial Club.

I read. Went for a walk around the park, which is a large one. It has a backdrop of the range that bisects Alice Springs. Originally, the settlement was on the northern side, and the major part of town still is, but there has been some spread to the south. The Todd River passes through the range at Heavitree Gap, as do the Stuart Highway and the railway line.

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The range, seen from the caravan park

Roasted a chicken and vegetables for tea.

John was able to watch football on TV in the evening.

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1999 Travels June 16


It was another beautiful sunny day with a cloudless blue sky.

We got away quite well, at 9.30am.

The Mereenie Loop Road was varied going, but always interesting scenery. There were some corrugated sections, some areas of road works. In places, surface runoff in storms has cut into the road and made channels and sections where only one vehicle can squeeze through. This damage does not look all that recent.

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Gives a new meaning to “beware – soft edges”! Mereenie Loop Road


We stopped at a lookout point back over the George Gill Range.

Encountered a couple of different and amusing road “signs”, each end of quite a sharp bend: Lift um foot………..Puttum back down! Painted on old drums. Guess some of the locals had come to grief on that corner, over time.

06-16-1999 02 meereenie loop sign

Means there is a sharp corner coming up – slow down!

06-16-1999 03 meereenie loop more sign

Beyond the corner. Can speed up. Some punishing corrugations though.

We saw a drilling/bore crew setting up, not far from the road, and from that assumed that the Mereenie oil/gas field is producing. There were also pipeline markers as we got further along.

There was not much traffic on this road. We just took it steadily and carefully, but were passed by a Disco, towing a camper trailer, at speed. He threw up stones over our front.

Came upon a broken down rig – vehicle and trailer – with a couple and two young children. A bracket under the trailer had broken, affecting the axle and wheel. He was not in the NRMA – not that there is any easy way of summoning roadside assistance out here! John helped the guy chain the axle into place, using some chain we had, and we followed them as they drove slowly towards Hermannsburg.

Some time after the road swung back to the east, we could see, coming closer, the hills that mark the Gosse Bluff. This is an old impact crater – probably from a comet that hit the earth a very long time ago, and exploded. Back then, the hills that form the rim of the resulting crater, were very much higher, but erosion over time has worn them well down. But the feature still stands out, very strongly.

06-16-1999 05 gosse bluff

Gosse Bluff from the Mereenie Loop Road

The road deteriorated markedly after the junction with the Gosse Bluff road.

Just before Hermannsburg, we came around a bend – and there was the Disco and camper trailer, all flipped over with wheels in the air and the roof torn off the camper. Two men were getting things out of the interiors. One was the driver, the other was presumably someone from Hermannsburg. The accident had obviously happened a while ago, because it had been a while since he had passed us, and we’d had the other stop since then.

We stopped to see if help was needed. The driver said he was a doctor and his wife had been taken into see a doctor at Hermannsburg, with sore ribs. He seemed remarkably unshocked. It all looked a hell of a mess. He said that he had gotten into the soft sand on the shoulder of the road, lost control, snaked all over the road, hit the bank and flipped, finishing up facing back the way he’d come. He said he’d only been doing about 5kms an hour at the time – no way! Given the speed at which he’d passed us – and, likewise the young couple we were following, who said he’d been doing at least 80kmh – we found that extremely hard to believe. He also said it was a new rig, and he’d left Adelaide the day before. All the hallmarks of a traveller in far too much of a hurry and driving far too fast for these conditions.

06-16-1999 06 oops

Oops! How quickly it can happen

The driver said they were going to try to pull the vehicle back over onto its wheels – like he thought it might still be driveable!

We passed police coming out of Hermannsburg, but no sign of any tow or help equipment.

In at the Hermannsburg settlement, the young couple found they would be able to get welding done to fix their trailer, so we left them there and continued on our way to Alice Springs. Going in along the Larapinta Drive – which became a sealed road about 40kms after Hermannsburg – was really pretty, with the West MacDonnell Ranges looming.

06-16-1999 larapinta rd.jpg

Better road and West MacDonnell Ranges

After an eventful trip, we reached there at 4pm. Booked into the MacDonnell Ranges Caravan Park, at a cost of $113 a week, after Big 4 discount, for three weeks. John thinks we will need that long here, to explore thoroughly – and play bowls. I’d have been more inclined to book in for two weeks. We have been here before – briefly – and on that visit explored out to the east, as far as Trephina Gorge.

We were given a nice big site, with shade trees, looking out towards the ranges to the east. This caravan park is south of the town, through the Heavitree Gap that cuts through the range. We stayed here for a couple of nights on our LSL trip and liked its quiet and security, being out of the town, plus it is modern and very clean.

Just on dark, we drove into town, only a couple of kms away, to buy wine – which we have been out of for a while now – and to get a pizza for tea. Took this back to the van to eat, and it was very nice too.

John’s “good” hip is very sore today, after yesterday’s walk, and he took some Surgam today, to try to ease it.

06-16-1999 kc to alice.JPG