This Adventurous Age

Adventures travelling and working around Australia.

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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 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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1999 Travels June 7


The day began still cloudy, but the rain had stopped.

We set out to visit the Olgas, stopping on the way at the Kata Tjuta Viewing Area, for some photos of the Olgas domes from a distance.

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The Olgas seen from the approach road

Left Truck in the Valley of the Winds car park and set out to walk, with lunch and the little first aid kit in my day pack, and our water bottles.

My first impression was that quite a lot of track works have been done here in the six years since we visited. And it is evident that a lot of feet have come this way since then.

Signs to the two domes lookouts basically ensure that those walking the Valley of the Winds circuit do so anti-clockwise. I seem to remember that in 1993, one could go either way, and we went the other way then. So today’s experience seemed quite different, more interesting, and much easier than in my memory.

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The track towards the First Lookout has plenty that is of interest

The full circuit walk is about 8kms. We managed it well.

The first lookout, about a km in, gives a vista of some of the dome formations. They are a red sandstone, like Ayers Rock, but otherwise totally different in appearance.

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The First Lookout is in the cleft in the centre of the photo

The second lookout, about another 1500 metres further in, requires a climb up a narrow gap between domes. From there is a great view down into what appears to be a central valley between multiple domes.

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The Valley of the Winds from the Second Lookout – and the walking track down into the Valley


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Looking back up to the Second Lookout, from the track down

From the car park to the first lookout, we were in the company of a number of other walkers. Some of these dropped away after that point, but some continued, with us, to the second lookout. However, we were the only walkers in that cluster, to continue on. I guess people think that they have seen enough, from the lookout, but they really miss an excellent experience by not going on. Walking down in the valleys, surrounded by the complexity of the domes, and with changing vegetation, little creek gullies, and constantly changing perspectives, is really quite memorable.

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Down in the Valley of the Winds


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Surrounded by domes in the Valley of the Winds

Down in the valley, we ate our lunch beside the track. Whilst there, we were passed by a couple of walkers. I just can’t believe how few walkers there are here. Guess it was the same on the Rock circuits – people drive around it on the road, but very few do the walk.

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We crossed a number of dry creek beds

With lots of photo stops, as well as the lunch stop, the full walk – almost 8kms – took us three hours.

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The track in went via the valley between the domes – we are almost back to the start, here

Drove back to Yulara. There was no mail for us, and no papers in.

John wanted pizzas for tea, so we bought some ingredients to make our own.

Since the mail hasn’t come, stopped at the office and booked in for another day.

Made the pizzas and cooked them in the van oven. We ate one for tea and left the second one for tomorrow’s tea.

K phoned us to say that the mail room at his work had messed up, and our bag of mail has ended up back in his pigeon-hole there! At least we now know where it is. I told him to send it to Alice Springs, instead. He had been fishing and caught a huge trout that had to be bent to fit in the oven – such fishing seems a remote concept, from here. They had lost Fox dog – for two days. She got out when he was mowing. I think John was kind of pleased that he is now not the only one who has lost her. Little varmint. Our Butch, of course, stayed put.

Now we have an extra day here that we really do not need, because we have done all that we wanted. Oh well.

John stayed up until 6am, having a real session with his computer game.