Posts Tagged With: outback

The warm, balmy tropical winter weather of Northern Territory, we love it…

The climate is now tropical, a warm 30-32 degrees during the day and only drops to approx 16-17 at night. The sun shines from a clear blue sky. I have stowed away the oil heater and brought out the fan. Jack has discarded his thermals and wooly socks and I have dug out the summer shorts and tops from the bottom box, putting away the jackets, track pants and sweaters. It is now summer on the road and what we have travelled north to find.

I decided that now we do not need power to run a heater, an absolute necessity through the central desert areas when night-time temperatures can drop to 3-4 degrees, we can stay on unpowered campgrounds. So 3 days ago, when we left Katherine, we did a 20 kilometre side trip to Edith Falls National Park.

We arrived at midday and, oh dear, the swarms of people, the car park was crammed, the swimming hole was full of high-spirited, i.e. rowdy, children. We looked at each other, not our scene. So we decided to have lunch and a cuppa, then move on. Then I realised it was a public holiday; picnic day.(not sure what the significance of this holiday is). Feeling more relaxed after a sandwich and coffee we rationalized they will all be back at work and school tomorrow.So we decided we are here now we may as well walk up to the top pool and waterfall and stay the night.

Looks easy on the map…

There are a series of pools joined by cascading waterfalls. The bottom pool, where all the children are playing, is just behind the campground. A 2.6 kilometre round walk takes you up the escarpment to the top pool. a further 8 kilometre trek takes you to the headwaters. We opt for the 2.6 round walk to the top pool

What goes up must come down…

Our fitness levels are not as good as previous years so it is a leisurely, ie slow amble, to the top pool. Lots of steps and rough ground and lots of photo stops!!!! The destination was well worth the journey.

Looking down to the bottom pool from the top pool

Edith falls

After slowly lowering the hot body into the clear, fresh plunge pool below the waterfall and the accompanying gasp, it was blissfully refreshing. Not many people in this pool and only a couple of children.

Jack jumps in I take the photo then follow him

We arrive back at camp as the sun sets, turning the rocks of the escarpment to a molten gold colour.

With glass of wine in hand, feeling so relaxed,we watch the stars appear and the sky turn to velvet. The car park is now empty, all the day-trippers have gone home. It is so quiet we can just hear the distant murmur of the waterfalls.

Next morning we almost have the campground to ourselves. So for the first time this trip we set up the solar panel and decide to stay another day.

Evening reflections in the river

Escarpment reflections

Kapok flowers dance like butterflies in the bush

Grevillea native flower

Beautiful arial perspective

Smoke haze at sunset

The next day we walked part way up the escarpment to watch the sunset. It had an ethereal, mystic look as this time of the year, winter, is “cold burn” time. It is a method of management and control in the bush lands. It has been used for thousands of years by the Aboriginal traditional owners to keep undergrowth down and help prevent summer bush fires and also creates new growth which brought the wild life into their areas for food. Many of the native Australian plants actually need fire to open seed cases and start new plants growing. A very complex system. It is known as patch work burning and the air has a hazy smokey atmosphere most of the time. It is now used by National Park management too.

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Categories: aboriginal history, Australia, australian travel, camping australia, Northern Territory, out back, photos, travel | Tags: , , , , , | 12 Comments

Historical Springvale Homestead and thoughts on travel

In the middle of a burn area this sculptural group survives

Travelling I think is genetic, some people have an urge to move, explore,experience new places. Others are happy to stay in one place, making a nest, putting down roots, surrounded by family and familiar friends.

I know I am the restless gypsy type. To explore and discover new places gives me satisfaction. If I am in one place for long I get restless and start to plan the next trip.

Discovering the history of the places we pass through brings the area alive. Over the weekend we stayed in the campground behind Springvale Homestead, 5 kilometres from the town of Katherine. This has a very interesting history and is the oldest surviving homestead in the Northern Territory. Every afternoon at 3pm Wendy gives a very lively and descriptive talk about the history of the place. Since 1877 it has been through good times and bad. Many different types of farming have been tried. For me the individual character of Mary Giles shone through in the talk. She came as a young bride from the city of Adelaide and was the first white woman to to be brought onto a station in the Northern territory. What a strong, resilient pioneer, how lonely she must’ve been, but she planted a vegetable garden and fruit trees, then used the produce to make preserves, jams and chutneys.When the gold rush started a few years later at Pine Creek just 90 kilometres along the road she built a thriving cottage industry selling her produce to the passing crowds going to, hopefully, make their fortune in the gold fields. She even had a separate storehouse built for her business.

Alfred and Mary Giles and family

Eventually the station went broke. Over 4 years the 1200 sheep that had walked over 2000 kilometres from Adelaide had dwindled to 70. The spear grass had got into their gut and poisoned them, and they could not breed. In 1886 the property was put on the market and Alfred and Mary and their 4 surviving children moved on.

Historic Springvale Homestead

But the Homestead remained. It survived fire and flood and in the 1980’s joined the tourist industry with the establishment of a campground and cabins behind the old homestead. The natural hot springs were capped and a swimming pool created with a constant 34 degree temperature. The camp is situated on the banks of a peaceful lagoon. We stayed 3 days in this idyllic setting.

 

The town of Katherine was the scene of one of Australia’s worst floods in 1998. The river rose and the town was inundated. The homestead on the banks of the Katherine River had water up to the roof. Looking at this gently flowing waterway today it is hard to imagine the roaring,giant monster that swept all before it in 1998.

Railway bridge over the Katherine river

This railway bridge was covered, the water came 6 foot over the lines. It is very hard to visualise that much water pouring through.

 

In 2005 I stayed in Katherine backpackers when I travelled around Australia by Greyhound bus (that is another story….) At that time the memories of the flood and the emotions were still very raw. I visited the museum and they had a video made by the SBS TV station showing the horrors and aftermath of that flood. They interviewed locals who shared their stories of loss and grief but also heroism. Being in the town and watching that video had a great impact on me. I felt the sorrow but also the mateship and bonding that great disasters bring to a district.

Next year, 2006,I sat in disbelief, at home, and watched on TV as Katherine, once more, sank beneath the river.

This country is beautiful but capricious and can turn in a moment to danger and disaster.

On a lighter note, when the flood water went down a saltwater crocodile was found swimming around Woolworth’s supermarket meat department….

Family conference termite sculpture

 

As for these characters? We saw them along the road and just had to stop and take their photos, they seemed to call out to us….

Categories: Australia, australian travel, caravan park, floods, Northern Territory, outback, travel | Tags: , , , , , | 5 Comments

The eccentric, quirky, iconic Daly Waters Pub

The Barkly Highway that we have followed across the outback, ends abruptly at Three Ways. It joins into the main north south Stuart Highway. We turn right to head north. To the west of this Highway is largely impenetrable desert. The landscape changes and the volume of traffic increases. This is the route that the explorer John McDouall Stuart discovered in 1860’s and then the telegraph line was put through from Adelaide to Darwin which eventually connected Australia to the world. It is still the only route through the centre of Australia.

The distances between camp grounds dwindles, only approx 150 kilometres. We start to dawdle again, getting up later, stopping for more photo opportunities, taking longer to have lunch.

Lubras Lookout

This amazing rocky outcrop stopped us in our tracks when we came round a bend and it dominated the country side. It had been so flat for days now, so this was quite startling, and I wonder about the geology of this land and how and why this outcrop survived the erosion around it. I made enquiries and was told it has significance in the Aboriginal culture and Dreamtime and the women of the tribe would use it to watch for the men coming back from a hunting expedition.

Now we are approaching the turn off to Daly Waters Pub. It has a solid reputation as the must stay place. It is an Icon in these parts. In the droving days it was a stop off as it had reliable water source. During WW2 an air port was built here and service men would spend leave here. It’s reputation now is built on its hospitality. First is “happy hour”, a tradition in the camping grounds. Then every night they put on a “Barra n Steak” BBQ and the Barramundi is wild caught and fresh from the gulf and the steak is rib-eye from the local cattle station. The salad bar is help yourself and is fresh and delicious. To top the evening off they have “Chillie” to entertain us. Well by 7-30 when Chillie arrives we are all watered and fed and feeling very mellow. Chillie puts on a great show. He is a stand-up comedian and he knows his audience. Each state plus the Asians plus the Americans are given the once over and we all love it. He sings some Country and Western songs and ends with the patriotic Australian song “We are one, but we are many”. The show is so good that Jack buys his CD. We have sat with another 3 couples and made instant friends and all agree it was a great night.

The weather is warmer and we didn’t need a thick jacket on…

Daly Waters Pub

Oops some one missed the air port

Spare thong and shoe post…

Inside the pub the walls and posts and all surfaces are covered with collections of hats, t-shirts, bras, money of all nationalities, memorabilia of all sorts. It is an entertainment just looking around.

Famous Barra and Steak BBQ

Help your self to all you can eat salad

Stand-up comedian, Chillie

Categories: aboriginal history, Australia, australian travel, Northern Territory, outback, photos, Pubs | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

The outback goes on forever

Barkly Highway, the outback way

As we drive along this Outback way I look out across the plains that stretch to the horizon. I look ahead at the bitumen strip and look in the rear vision mirror as the road unfurls behind us. For many of the miles we are on our own. Mile after mile with no other vehicle in sight. Then a small dot appears on the horizon. It seems to float as though it is a mirage till it flashes passed then disappears in a heat haze behind us. A quick wave of acknowledgement then gone.

I think about the explorers, those brave and driven men, that had a passion to find out what was in the centre of this huge and forbidding land. No track to follow, not knowing what lay ahead, where the next water-hole was. They blazed a trail, then went back to tell of the vast grassland plains they had seen.

I think of the pioneers, full of hope and ambition to carve a living from this alien land. The struggle to bring their stock and possessions into this wilderness of unknown plants and animals and indigenous people who lived such a different lifestyle. How brave they were.

Information boards put up at rest areas tell the stories of the pioneers struggle to survive. We are following the drovers way and do a detour into Newcastle Waters. This was a major meeting point of 3 main droving routes during this period of Australian history. The sweet waters of this place never dried up and a bustling settlement developed.

The large watering hole at Newcastle Waters

The drovers could relax for a day, visit the pubs, meet up with buddies, before moving on with the stock, well watered and ready for the next stage of the perilous journey..

Now it is almost a ghost town. The pub, Junction Hotel, is an empty, dusty barn of a place, but something is happening here. There are signs of work going on around it. The power is on. A fridge is standing in a corner, in the kitchen remnants of a meal lie around. Last time we came through in 2010, it was derelict. No signs of life. We look around to find some one we can question about the changes. But no one is here, just tents behind in the dusty back yard. We can only speculate. Are they changing it into a camp-ground? Are they going to “do-up” the hotel? We wander over to Jones’ Store. It is a museum but not your pristine state of the art place, this has been left as it was. Dust has settled every where, saddle bags with the stuffing hanging out are placed around the walls, and old wood burning stove has rusty saucepans sitting on it. Old, disintegrating lace curtains flutter at the open windows. It has character and a sadness about it. Information boards are around the walls telling the history of the building and stories of the people who owned and operated it. It is heritage listed. Amazingly it seemed exactly the same as 2 years ago. Although it is open and no one lives around it all the old artifacts still seem to be there and no destruction or graffiti apart from the ravages of time.

Jones store now a museum

Living area back of Jones Store

Jones store

Old saddle bags

It is lunchtime and across from the small school-house (that seems to be in use, there is a working cattle station along the road so we assume they will be the children from those workers and managers of the station) is a grassed area with an eight foot tall bronze sculpture of a horse-tailer. We were told at the Drovers shed in Camooweal that he is depicted with the saddle bags that are to be put on a pack-horse and they must be both even weight with 50 pound in each and that is an essential part of the drovers life to take care of the horses.

So we make a sandwich, have a cuppa from the thermos and travel on, with my head full of stories from the droving days…

8 foot tall sculpture, monument to the drovers

 

 

Categories: australian travel, droving, Ghost town, old derelict buildings, out back, outback, photos, travel | Tags: , , , , | 5 Comments

Across the border…

Crossing the border into Northern Territory

This is the border crossing from Queensland into Northern Territory. The Territorians have had a reputation in the past of being lawless larrikin. This is a vast open plain and a flat landscape that seems to stretch forever in all directions. The sky is a flawless blue arc. This is cattle station country with acreage of many stations being bigger than some European countries. Alexandria Station is one such property the road dissects. It is 17,500 square miles or 4.3 million acres. I find it hard to visualize these figures. I learnt these statistics at the Drover Shed.

With the exception of a large 10 kilometre stretch of road works, the roads are in good condition and flat, the speed limit is 130 K/hr. The vehicles are few and far between and most drivers give a friendly salute, tip of the finger or wave of the hand.

Barkly Highway stretches forever

I feel very small when I look around the landscape. With the haunting melody from the theme of “The Godfather” and then John Williams superb classical guitar music playing the miles float away under our wheels. Every 60 to 70 kilometres there is a rest area to stop, stretch your legs, use the toilets, have a cuppa, maybe chat with another traveller if is some one is also stopped.

This is classic outback country, nothing for miles just you and the road and occasionally a herd of cows. Suddenly, way in the distance I see something different. I cannot quite make it out. As we draw closer I recognise a bike, a recliner bike, with a bright orange flag and a fit young fellow taking on the great round Australia bike ride. We stop and Jack takes a photo and we chat for a while. Igor Bilek is a man with a dream. It was very interesting talking to him and he also has a blog site. www.igorbilek.com It is worth having a look at. I really admire people who just get up and do it.

Igor Bilek on his reclining bike riding around Australia

Nearly 300 kilometres and we reach Barkly Homestead, our home for 2 days and where we saw the budgies. Unbelievably it has internet connection. ( 2 years ago when we travelled this way internet was very hit and miss, how times have changed!!) So now I am caught up with my blog journey notes and tomorrow we head another 200 kilometres before we meet up with the great Stuart Highway that goes from top to bottom of the continent.

 

Categories: Australia, australian travel, Northern Territory, out back, photos | Tags: , , , | 14 Comments

The Drovers Shed

Ride ’em cowboy…

Two years ago almost to the day we passed through Camooweal. The highlight back then was the Drovers Shed. So we went to visit it again.

This is a wonderful achievement of a group of dedicated and passionate people who could see the legend and stories of the drovers and their life-style disappearing as the men and women that lived that legend died. So in 2002 they started tracing the people still left from that era, recording their stories, collecting the equipment they used and raising money to preserve it all.

Their creation is “The Drovers Shed”, a large corrugated iron barn, 1 kilometre east of Camooweal, set in the heart of droving territory, among the huge cattle stations.

They do not charge admission, a donation is all they suggest and a donation box is located at the entrance door.

Battered and sweat stained Akubras

 

It is like entering another world and era. There are well-worn saddles scattered about. The pack saddles and camp ovens are around the imitation camp fire. Hanging on a branch are battered, sweat-soaked Akubras and raw hide whips. The swags and camp cart stand waiting to be used. Along the walls are large information boards with photos, diagrams and history of the droving era.

A life-size mural is around another wall and it shows a mob of cattle settled for the night with the cook preparing the meal. In front is the imitation fire and pack saddles laid ready for the morning.

Mural of the mob settled for the night and the cook preparing the evening meal

 

Along another wall is a large as life photo of a crowd watching a rodeo, and the life-size bull you can climb on, if you dare…

But the real highlight, what makes this so special, is you are given a one hour tour of the exhibits and shed by a genuine living legend, a man who started droving when he was 18 and lived the life of a drover for more than 20 years. He explained what the equipment was and told stories and anecdotes of the men and women he drove the huge mobs of cattle with. Average number of cattle would be 1200 to 1500 in one mob. 8 people would move that number over huge distances averaging 14 kilometres a day. Old style droving finished in the 1960’s when the roads were improved through the outback, and road trains took over the job of moving cattle.

The last place we go is into a separate room that is the gallery. This is a very special art gallery of portraits of all the drovers that are still living. Beautifully drawn in pastel. Some have since died but their stories have been recorded. Also many news paper articles of relevance.

This is a very special place and is made that way by the passion and dedication of the people who have spent many hours tracking down all these objects and telling the stories of an era that is uniquely Australian and that shaped our nation.

Eric telling us stories about droving

 

 

Categories: australian travel, drovers shed, droving, out back, travel | Tags: , , , , | 8 Comments

Huge flock of budgies in the outback

I just had to share this amazing experience with you.

As we had breakfast this morning I heard, then saw thousands of birds swarming like bees above us. I grabbed the camera. It was hard to follow and focus on them they moved so fast. They were budgies, those cute little pet birds you see in a cage, turning and swirling around then dropping onto a small puddle of water before soaring away again. Then I saw a hawk diving in among them. It was his breakfast time too…

I was entranced and stood watching for almost 20 minutes before they finally disappeared over the horizon.

We were going to move on today but as there is WiFi connection here we will stay another night to catch up with emails, blogs etc.

Categories: australian travel, out back, photos, travel, video | Tags: , , , , | 11 Comments

Last day in Queensland

After our stay in the ghost town it was back onto the Barkly Highway and heading for Mt Isa. The Isa is the mining and mineral capital of Queensland. It is pumping money into the economy 24/7 and it is also the FIFO work force that keeps it going. I have heard that approx 70% of the mining workforce do not live in the Isa but have families and homes all over Australia, consequently “fly in, fly out”. It is not tourist friendly most of the caravan parks now cater for the workers with very few sites for tourists and also they are very expensive. So we just stop to stock up on groceries and keep going.

Mineral mountains, actually old eroded hills

 

Sparkling mica crystals in the rocks when the sun catches it.

 

Termite town

The termites build these hills and they go well underground. Cities of millions of busy little creatures.

Road train on the Barkly Highway

These are the Kings of the road and this is only a small one. Quite often they will have 4 trailers on.

Curious cows

 

After passing through Mt Isa it is now pastoral country again and these are the type of cattle that the road trains are carrying. We are in Camooweal tonight and this was droving country. We will be following the old droving trails and learning about the life and times of the droving legends.

Windmills bringing water up from the artesian water table

The stock can only survive if it has water and until the discovery of a huge underground artesian lake, 4000 feet under ground, the squatters could only rely on the rainfall, which was very unreliable. Now you see these huge windmills dotted around bringing up a reliable source of water for the stock.

Tomorrow we will cross the border into Northern Territory. I think the internet connection will then be unreliable. We will also be doing more freedom camping so it may be a while before I can up-date the posts….

 

 

 

 

 

 

Categories: australian travel, mining, Mt Isa, out back, photos | Tags: , , | 4 Comments

Freedom camping in a ghost town among the ghost gums…

Ghost gums at Mary Kathleen, ghost town

Tonight we are freedom camping in an old uranium mining town of Mary Kathleen.

The town was built in 1958 to support the Mary Kathleen mine. A bustling community of 400 lived here until the mine closed in 1982. Two years later all the buildings were auctioned, the biggest property auction ever conducted in Australia, the buildings removed and all that remains are the bitumen roads and concrete pads that once had houses standing on them. It is quite eerie to see the large area stripped of all life and imagine the community that once lived, laughed, cried, worked and played here. Tonight there are 4 vans of various types spread around the town. As I look over I can see on one of the distant roads a couple of the campers have camp fires going, glowing in the dark. There are no facilities of any sort, no water, no showers, no power, no loos. This is camping stripped to the basics, but I was amazed to find there is internet connection here. So we can still connect to the world in cyberspace….

It is half way between Conclurry and Mt Isa on the Barkly Highway. We have just spent 3 nights in a lovely caravan park in Cloncurry. The Oasis was peaceful, grassed sites with clean amenities so decided to stay and catch up with laundry, e-mails, blogs etc.

We have now left the Matilda Highway and onto the Barkly Highway which is known as the centre of the outback country. The scenery has changed dramatically, no more sweeping plains. The road undulates along between mineral rich, rocky outcrops. This is now mining country. Long bridges span winter dry creek beds, waiting for the onslaught of summer rain. Gum trees line the road covered in glorious creamy yellow blossom. The wedge tail eagles, kites and crows cluster around road-kill and as each vehicle passes they leave the feast to soar and wheel above till the road is clear and then descend again to continue with the meal.

Mineral rich rocky outcrops

Jack exploring dry creek bed

We wandered along the dry creek beds and as the sun catches the sandy soil it glistens with a million mineral particles. I try to catch the sparkle with a photograph but it does not show it.

These are our neighbours

Apart from the few other campers these are our cute neighbours for the night…

Jack exploring dry creek bed

 

Categories: australian travel, camping australia, freedom camping, Ghost town, gum trees, outback, photos, travel | Tags: , , , , , | 8 Comments

Last brush with Banjo

Track through the Mitchell grass to the Combo waterhole

We had 6 very interesting days in Winton but it is now time to get on the road again. The road is heading north/west and the weather is warmer. Tonight I plan to stop at an old outback pub called “Blue Heeler”, another pub Banjo Patterson frequented, he certainly enjoyed outback life, his poems capture that outback spirit and the characters he met.

One more iconic place to visit is just before we reach “Blue Heeler”. 6 kilometres drive down a narrow dirt track takes us to the start of the 2 kilometre walk to the famous billabong featured in “Waltzing Matilda”. The track winds through lush stands of Mitchell grass across the braided channels of the Diamantina river. It was interesting to see the influence of the chinese again in this area where they had built stone overflows to hold back the river after heavy rain and create waterholes. These were built over 100 years ago, by hand, each stone put in place one at a time, and still working today creating waterholes for the stock.

Stone overflows on the Diamantina River

We crossed 4 of these overflows. It was a well-defined path and approx an hours walk past the coolibah trees. There are a lot of young saplings growing, a sign that it has been a good rainfall this past season. Also the lushness of the grass. The rain mainly falls in summer, winter is a dry season,a good year can be 400ml but all in a short time so it can be flood then dry for months so these overflows are very important.

Finally we reach the billabong, Combo waterhole. This is where the swagman drowned and not be taken by the troopers and put in prison. The water is clay coloured and though this is a favourite picnic and swimming spot for local people I would not like a dip in these muddy waters. We stood and listened but the ghost didn’t talk to us!!!!!

The billabong in the song Waltzing Matilda

Jack sitting under a coolibah tree at the billabong

Picnic party at the Combo waterhole 1800’s

An hours walk back to our Matilda patiently waiting in the car park and on to the “Blue Heeler”. The caravan park is behind the pub and rather dusty but the amenities are clean with good hot water. It is Sunday night, so time to have a Sunday night dinner in the pub. Amazingly the dining room is crowded. We find out why when we order the roast of the day. It is buffet style, help yourself to as much as you can eat. Truckies love this type of meal, so do we…..

Categories: australian travel, out back, photos, Pubs, travel, Waltzing Matilda | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

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