AWOL Around Australia...

Rufant

Well-known member
The Red Centre.

Speaking of rocks...

Just look at the lower rocks. You can literally see where the earth has folded them up, crazy.

What I love about these sorts of places is you can literally drive INTO the scenery. Frequently not an option in the more popular tourist spots.









This was as far in as we got.



It was possible to find a way through these rocks and I'm sure Bertha would have made light work of it. However this trip isn't really about wheeling for wheeling sake, so if we don't need to risk it, we won't.



Ruby Gap is a spectacular spot. There were probably another 4 trucks here camping, all well spread out. We wound our way back out and headed back on the single track that leads in and out. Through the forest of white trees.







Back on the main dirt roads, the rocks continued to impress.





















We were now en-route to our next destination, N'Dhala Gorge. First we stopped to have a closer look at these trees that were in flower. We had seen them all over Central Australia and they seemed to be just about he only thing in flower. In this particular spot they were very prolific.



Another Outback traffic jam.

It was mustering season. This lot were being rounded up by a small helicopter, a couple of dirt bikes and a 70 series farm ute.

N'Dhala Gorge was a short walk from the road. It contains some very old Aboriginal rock art, luckily with interpretive signs, as they could really be anything now.

Walking into the gorge.






This is probably more my sort of rock art, by M.Nature.





 

Rufant

Well-known member
The Red Centre.

Back in the car park the Hilux we had passed yesterday pulled in. I chatted with the old boy driving it for a bit, about all sorts as sometimes happens. Finishing up with why Australian don't eat more goats!

We found some paddocks containing mustered cattle and horses, and also a community of black cockatoos. I'm not great at photographing wildlife but I gave it a shot.











We trundled on, I had half an idea to find somewhere to bush camp again that night, but once we got off the stations it was just a main dirt highway, with lots of bull dust. Probably used by the road-trains coming in to pick up all those cattle. Nothing very appealing here, so we just headed back to Alice to get ready to head out west the next day.

Air Up!

Thanks for reading.

Cheers.

https://rufant.com

https://www.instagram.com/rufant_adventures/
 

Rufant

Well-known member
The Red Centre.


After taking some time to exercise, something we are keen to keep on top of when we are on the road. Then restocking and refueling in Alice Springs we head west by a couple of hours. Taking a barely marked dirt road just before the indigenous town of Hermannsberg, a few metres down the dirt road we got a sign, that was more my sort of sign.



Just a normal corrugated dirt road until we got our first signs of what we came for, the Finke River.

‘He frequently employed John McDouall Stuart as travelling companion on these trips: Finke had the resources; Stuart the resourcefulness.’ - Wikipedia

One of several things to be named by explorer John McDouall Stuart (the Australian explorer’s, explorer?) after his sponsor William Finke - although that name probably resonates mostly these days for the Finke desert race, internationally known race down the old train line between Alice Springs and the tiny township of Finke, also referred to by its Aboriginal name of Apatula.

Back to the river. Often referred to as one of the oldest rivers in the world, as with many of Australia’s river systems the vast majority of it, the vast majority of the time it is dry. Or as this one is, a series of waterholes. However in times of flood this one can reach all the way back down to Lake Eyre, that we could see from the start of the Oodnadatta Track - many litres of fuel and two shock absorbers ago... Hard to believe at the moment? Well something shaped these rocks...



Driving in you can see where the river carves between the red rocks.







Blue, red, blue. Again.

There are some sections with some bigger holes, and some that are quite soft sand, at the start. I dropped my tyres coming onto the dirt, but not by that much. If there is a ‘chicken track’ around, I take it.

As usual, looks like nothing in the photo. The right track is borderline digging territory. I've watched videos of people bogged through here, looking afterwards. Although they were towing.

It’s a big landscape.



The track pretty much follows or crosses the dry and sandy riverbed. Now we start to hit some sections where even in low range the truck is labouring. More air comes out of the tyres.



We make it to Boggy Hole, a permanent water hole here. With birdlife and fish on display. All in all a beautiful spot, albeit one with a dark past.







“This is the scene of one of the most shameful episodes in the settlement of Central Australia when a mounted constable, William Willshire, and his four native constables were based here to help control cattle killing by the local Aboriginal people. Willshire was implicated in a number of killings and was later charged with murder - the first policeman to be so charged in Australian history; he was controversially acquitted. “ - Ron and Viv Moon, 4x4 Australia.





Speaking of birdlife. All through the Territory we have been entertained by the vibrant flashes of the Rainbow Bee-Eater, way too small and fast for a photo, but worth keeping your eye out for if you're up this way.





The track now climbed away from the river for the first time. Up into higher, rockier country.







We wound on, after one dead end we decided to trust the sporadic signage rather than my instincts. Although we came across a junction with signposts but no signs (washed away?), I guessed that the other track with a signpost must be the main one, and that seemed to work out when we then passed the only other vehicle we would see that day. A couple of generations old Toyota Prado, with seemingly minimal modifications. He didn’t stop to chat. I would normally have swapped notes on the track we had just done, but so be it.

Another junction with dubious signage. Again I choose what seemed to be the logical direction (you are not supposed to leave the main track through this National Park), which seemed to be justified with some well established wheel tracks in front of us.

A few k’s later we again came across the river, this time very much a defined riverbed. However, our previously well defined track disappeared. As usual when I lose a track I stop immediately. The Australian bush is very effective at disorientating you in my experience, so before I lose where we came from, I confirm that, before worrying about where, or if we go forwards.

I have a wander around and can vaguely see some tracks leading up the other side of the river bank, the track must get lost through the now rocky river bed. We drop down the river bank, press on and the track leads us directly down the river, the track feint but still there. I’m looking at the raised river banks thinking we probably have to get up them at some point.

She must be a big river when she flows.



Eventually our track heads out of the river bed, this sand is the softest yet. We get about halfway before Bertha grinds to a halt (at least when I decide we’re not going to make it and just take my foot off the gas rather than braking to a stop, and creating little sandbanks in front of the wheels). N asks “how did that Prado make it through?” I mumble something about it being much lighter, but it’s a good point.
I back up, we’ve still got some pressure to come out of the tyres if need be, but I’ve been kind of forgetting I went to the trouble and expense of fitting differential lockers before this trip. So I lock in the rear and have another go, with a bit more throttle this time. We make it no problem, and the track goes exactly nowhere...



Looking back.

We both get out and have a scout around. We’re not the first to do this, there are several tyre tracks and a few venture off into the bush, but not very far. There are banks and gullys too steep for a big 4x4 and nothing obvious afterwards to even make it worth trying to traverse them.

Nothing for it but to back track (N later admitted to me that after our exercise session that morning she was feeling way too tired to be properly lost, she had the good sense not express this directly at the time!), then just as the track goes back into the river bed, we see a side track that goes straight up the riverbank.



Soft, steep and bumpy (as usual the photo makes it look like nothing) I say “that must be where the track goes, we missed it barreling out of the river bed” N says “can we make it up there?” remember now we are at full touring load, over three metric ton. I pop in both lockers and holler “big girls can dance!” and gun Bertha up the riverbank. We shoot over the top and land, yep, on the actual track...

Smooth and well driven, it leads back the way we came down the river, but along the top of the bank rather than in the bed. That must have been the way the Prado went, helps explain why he didn’t stop to discuss track conditions. I hope they get through the soft stuff at Boggy Hole ok. Also explains that all the checking I was doing on the GPS to make sure we were still on the actual track didn’t show any deviation. We couldn’t have been more than a few hundred metres away. So we took the wrong turn at the last unmarked junction, we weren’t the only ones, ******** happens.

Soon out of the park we were onto a station. No do/do not signs so, just the Territory 4x4 club signs we’ve seen on many tracks. The track through the station is interesting enough to keep you awake.





As the shadows get long we start to look for somewhere to camp. It’s mostly spinifex, and more spinifex, until N spots a ‘clearing’ under some native pine trees that drop enough needles the spinifex won’t grow there. We burble off the track and set up under the trees.



I clear an area and set the fire pit going with some charcoal. We’ve been hauling a piece of pork belly around for the last few days waiting for the opportunity to cook it on a fire. Not sure I’d have a ground fire here, but the fire pit allows a nicely controllable and mess free option.





Charred pork belly and cauliflower, plus a sunset that highlights the beauty of where we are. This is what we do this for.

Good day.



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Rufant

Well-known member

We awoke to the sound of Dingoes howling. An iconic and special outback experience. There's is a stance that the dingo is not a native species, and you can chase that argument back as far as you like. At the end of the day it's basically a cultural debate in my opinion, I've never thought of them as anything but Australian animals. Sometimes I feel we are trying to preserve nature (or the idea of that) as we see it. Not grasping that we (humans) are part of nature, and our introducing species is just part of the natural process.

Nature has always been a cruel mistress. Does this mean we should just give up on 'native' species? I don't have the answer unfortunately.

A quick scout around the small sand dune we were camped at the bottom of revealed a hive of activity of the small kind overnight.















The golden hour.



An easy drive out, maybe an hour or so back to the main dirt road.

Across a dry lake.



Then a minor dust storm.





As usual, the camera 'sees' better than the Mk1 human eyeball in these situations, but we've definitely been through worse.

Now we were on the 'Red Centre Way' a tourist route that encapsulates many of this region's highlights, partly bitumen and partly dirt road.





Wide, but again super rough dirt road, due to the volume of traffic it sees (all at road tyre pressures). You have to pay for a nominal $5 permit, for the Aboriginal land part of the route passes through, I would have happily paid $50 if they could send the grader through a bit more often...

I figured remote bush camping, a la - last night, was probably going to be off the menu whilst we were on this route. So this meant we would either be staying at Kings Canyon or Glen Herron Resorts (resort is a relative term...). After a big day yesterday and our tolerance for being beaten up by corrugations wearing thin, we settled for the (much) nearer Kings Canyon. This is often talked up as being (at least) the equal of Uluru, I'm not really into making these things a competition, but as we did Uluru back in the last century. Let's check out this bad boy.

On the road in we passed a turn off for Kathleen Springs, this is my Mum's name. So even though I know there were going to be many, many of these little turn offs coming up, if I was going to do any of them, better start here! One of the permanent water holes in the region, treasured by the indigenous people, initially abused by the settlers. Now many are strung together to make the Laparinta Trail, a hike that seems worth coming back for - I was hoping to hike a small section of it on this trip, but events overtook us in the end).

Kathleen Springs, certainly a pretty detour.







Oh yeah, now we're into this sort of country...



We checked into the campground at the resort. Lots of facilities, restaurants, etc. The campground seemed pretty quiet all things considered, although it was still early afternoon. Once we got set up, the first of three coach loads of school groups rolled in and set up their tents, maybe not so quiet after all.







I'm not complaining. You can't expect to pitch up at the Red Centre's second biggest attraction and expect to have the place to ourselves. Anyway, it was a bit of entertainment, also watching the servo getting emptied of ice cream.

We kicked back, did some writing and reading. I went down to take a few shots of Kings Canyon from the back of the campsite - not the actual canyon itself just the outside of the rocks. The weather wasn't quite playing ball in terms of letting the setting sun bask on the rocks, but it's still a mighty boulder.











Being careful to clean up well after dinner. There are warnings of Dingoes coming into tents in search of food.

I set my alarm for the first time in weeks. Planning to get into the canyon for sunrise.
 

Rufant

Well-known member
As usual the alarm wasn't required, I was well awake in time. Coaches pulling back in serves as a pretty good alarm clock anyway. Leaving N and the boys snuggling up in the bed I take the short drive into the canyon. I try the new spotlights, wary of the feral camels we saw yesterday driving in, you do not want to hit one of those... New lights are good, too good with lots of road signs reflecting back at you. Arriving at the car park for the canyon I am pleased, although slightly surprised to find it is completely empty. It is only about half an hour before sunrise, having been to Uluru, I expected it to be busier.

Still properly dark, I grab some water and a torch, and go take a look at the signs to work out where I need to go. There are various trails, but the one that goes straight up the canyon wall seems the go. By the time I get to the 'up' bit I switch iff the torch and decide I can see well enough. It is properly steep, but a well worn path, so I can make good time on the ascent. I do have to stop for a breather, and take a few layers off around halfway, as is the steepness of the trail.

I get to the top, find spot to watch the sun crest the canyon.



It becomes apparent that that big bank of cloud is going to deny me a sunrise, it will just get light. Oh well, that's just how it is sometimes. I can tell you this was still a special experience, just me and a few spirits of times past.

I crack on, round the top of the canyon to see what I can find before the hoards show up. It is a beautiful landscape.













Only just dawn, hence everything is a bit dark, but worth it for the solitude.

Right on cue!



There were about 4 groups being guided up the canyon side, I had a few amusing exchanges as I was coming down the canyon - 'yes, it was dark when I got here...'

I had a wander up the path that runs along the bottom of the canyon, it is a mighty thing, but also mighty hard to photograph. Anyway, I gave it a shot - I noticed later the the postcards in the servo at the resort weren't much better, some things are just too big to take in really.



















I headed back to the now full car park. Tourist box ticked, it was time to move on.

Following the Red Centre Way, which was still tiresomely rough on the long dirt sections. The occasional normal car or car-like SUV limping along at the very side of the road, trying to run two wheels in something approaching a flat surface, we thundered past trying to keep the speed up enough to smooth the ride out.

We stopped for lunch at the ambitiously named Glen Herron Resort (more of a dirt campsite with a bar), which sits at the feet of the West Macdonnell Ranges, from here it is bitumen road back to Alice Springs, with many small detours into the ranges for the spectacular water holes. A few of which we did detour too, all very pretty, all very busy. Car parks full of 'built' 4x4s, must be to handle to 500m of smooth dirt road leading to the car park...

Ormiston Gorge.









Friendly little chap.

Ochre pits - not as vibrant as the ones we saw in SA.





Ellery Creek Big Hole.



This was our last stop-offs, we could either head back to Alice or have another night in the bush. Bush got the vote in this small democracy..

We headed into the Owen Springs Reserve, this should be a fairly straightforward tourist dirt drive close to Alice Springs.

West Macdonnell Ranges in the background.

Firstly some ruins, all the more distinctive for being marked out in white.



We were on Stuart's original route, which was cool.

 

Rufant

Well-known member
Driving into the Waterhouse Range, we started to hit a few fesh-fesh (bull dust) pits. Like a sort of dry mud, they can test your vehicle's articulation and traction just as much as the wet variety, they just look like nothing.

This is one we just drove through, impossible to tell how deep the ruts are because the dust is just so fine.


Those are my fresh footprints, give you an idea of just how powdery it is.


We rolled into the camping area at Redbank Waterhole, another truck based camper was already there. However the area is expansive so we just dropped in and out of the dry river bed until we found our own little spot.





A simple set up and a cauliflower and lentil curry, just as the sun went down. Definitely glad we took the extra night in the bush.



The morning light was good.









On my morning check over of the Land Cruiser I found that the exhaust mounting bracket had finally succumbed to the corrugations, or maybe those bull dust pits yesterday. Anyway, I fixed it up with some genuine Toyota fencing wire.





Our oldest dog Alby had been a bit under the weather the last few days. However now his breathing had become quite laboured, so once we got back to Alice we took him to the vet. The vet diagnosed him having fluid on the lungs, and we should be prepared that we might have to put him down if he doesn't get better. We made the decision then just to head for home. Although obviously stressful, he is somewhere from 15 to 115 years old so it's not totally unexpected.

Of course by the time we've completed the day and a half drive home, the little bugger is on the mend and looking at us as if to say 'what are we doing here?' and running back to get back in the 4x4!

Anyway, at time of writing he is back to his old self, so hopefully around for a bit longer yet. We are due to head out again in a couple of days, so he'll get back to his favourite thing, touring Australia.

Outback Alby!

Thanks for reading.

https://rufant.com

https://www.instagram.com/rufant_adventures/
 

Saint Nick

Active member
Mind you I've just spent today working on the Cruiser (some things a legacy from this Red Centre trip as it happens) in forty degree heat. So, swings and roundabouts :confused:
I know what I'd rather be doing ;) Glad to hear your little fella is on the mend (y) It's been an enjoyable thread, so thanks for sharing.

Nick.
 

Rufant

Well-known member
The Great Green South.

South Australia.





So, after a few weeks at home. Normal life stuff. Dogs back mended, or at least back to being grumpy old men. Plenty done to the Cruiser as well, some stuff like the suspension and exhaust needed doing. Some other bits, well you just never stop learning or thinking of ways to improve your touring set up.

Anyway, on the flip side you can keep tinkering for ever. Sometimes you just have to pick a date and go. So back on the road it was.



We had a rough plan to head down to the south east corner of South Australia. N wanted to see the sinkholes and sunken gardens in Mount Gambier. So we would start there and just play it by ear.

‘Not all those who wander are lost’ as the cliche goes. (JR Tolkien)

So, whilst I normally try to get as much of a journey, out of the journey as possible. This time I just decided to bolt a few hours down the highway, to get to some more unfamiliar country. We peeled off at Bordertown, not actually on the border with Victoria despite the name. Originally set up to transport gold from the Victorian goldfields to Adelaide, it was established as close to the border as practical for a town.

From here we were now on a mixture of farm tracks, country roads and what must have been the service road for the train line that ran from Naracoorte to the small township of Wolseley. The train line, now abandoned, is a different gauge to what is now used in Australia.















We were heading for Mullinger Swamp, a conservation park on the border. Not sure exactly what we were going to get, but the swamp itself was impressive.

'Moonrise' - that night.


A natural swamp, it has been a place of recreation for many years. We had it to ourselves that night. Peaceful, well except for the ‘zombie’ sheep in the adjacent farm, whose weird low moaning kept us awake a good deal of the night. N seemed to think they were communicating with sheep in the neighbouring farm, or maybe this is how the zombie apocalypse starts... Anyway, I hadn’t heard sheep doing that before.

Still, good day to start our trip again with.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


Good morning!


Next day we trundled down some more dirt roads to Mount Gambier. South Australia’s second biggest town. N wanted to see some of the sunken gardens, so we just did some normal tourist things.













We headed out to try and find some more sinkholes in the bush. Despite being in the right area according to the vague tourist map, I couldn’t find Hell’s Hole. We drove on through the timber plantations (timber is one of the main industries in this part of the world) to take up another campsite, again on the border and this time on the banks of the Glenelg River. The camping was just down a little dirt road leading to some fishing shacks. We shared it with some brothers from Ireland traveling around, and a foreign couple who didn’t say much. Although they understood my gesticulations when they drove off in the morning with a pair of shoes on the roof of the car!

A couple of different sets of locals turned up around sundown, and headed out to fish. They were gone by morning, so I'm guessing nighttime is the most productive for fishing there.



Next morning we backtracked into SA, down along the coast to Port Macdonnell - ‘the largest rock lobster fishing port in South Australia. A somewhat thriving little town because it still has a relevant industry, unlike so many country small ports and towns.

We stopped at Feast’s Museum, and eccentric and eclectic collection of mostly cars and model cars. Well mostly Chrysler Valiants to be honest, but there is probably something for everyone somewhere in there, and most definitely worth the ten bucks to get in. Old mate is a good character too.





Nice pair!


Cheer up.


Massive collection of James Bond model cars.














 
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Rufant

Well-known member
Next stop was Ewen Ponds. Similar to the nearby Piccaninie Ponds, which I had visited before, these are a series of Limestone Sinkholes, notable for the amazing clarity and clearness of the water.

This is probably looking down at least 5 metres.


You can easily see plants at the bottom of the pond. Not to mention they support some unique wildlife, including Lampreys! The ponds are normally open for snorkelling and diving but are currently shut for rehabilitation, not surprising considering there seems to be no permit or control system. Amazing considering some of the hoops you have to jump through to access other wild parts of the state...

We made our way back up through the logging country, still on the hunt for sinkholes. We found one!

Caroline Sinkhole.





Again no signage to get you there. I don’t think the timber companies really want visitors to the area. We redirected another couple who had driven past the turn off. I tried several tracks in the area Hells Hole is meant to be, including some through the native vegetation parts of the area, which unlike the logging roads kind of meandered off into the bush and clearly didn’t get driven much “Do we have enough fuel to get lost?”said N, “yeah babe, lost for days” she loves it when I just wander around, off any map...



In the end I admitted defeat. For now... Time to move on.

We crossed over into Victoria proper. We made tracks up through more timber country. Stopping to collect a few pine cones for ease of lighting fires along the way.



Not much traffic out here, but I spot something up ahead.

I slow right down as I can see a dog running in the road an someone by the side of the road. The dog is going mental and looks a bit crazy, continually barking and running in front of the Land Cruiser’s front wheel... The guy standing by the side of the road is about middle aged, and has a walking frame. He is looking a little disheveled and dirty like he might have fallen over. A quick scan round the general scene, whilst still trying not to run the nutter dog over I stop and wind down the passenger window to talk “everything alright mate?”. So, it transpires that Geoff would like us to go to his parents house and ask them to come and pick him up. Geoff has a few issues and so can’t quite tell us where his house is, just it’s “in the bush and a fair way up this road”. To be honest if the Cruiser wasn’t strictly a two seater in touring mode and a I could have secured Geoff’s crazy dog and walker, I would have just driven him home (although with hindsight, that probably just would have got everyone lost). Anyway, we checked he was good for water and got as much information out of him as we could - not overly easy. We drove on slowly looking for any sign of properties. After about a kilometre we got to the end of the logging track and to a minor bitumen road. BEEP BEEP! Went one of our phones and a delayed text message urgently made itself known. Ok, we’re back in service we said in unison. Having seen no houses, and not being able to see any now, apart from a farm very far off in the distance that didn’t appear to have any access from here. N tried to google some of the information Geoff had given us - his full name, his parents name, the name of the house. Whilst I tried looking for the nearest police station. Aaannndd then our phones stopped working. We drove back 100m to the place they had first come to life which seemed to be the only pocket of service around.

No luck with the googling. I called the nearest police station, which diverted to Portland, about 100km away. Apparently the original station I called is currently unmanned. Anyway, I explained the situation to Ken the policeman. A bit of back and forth as we got a grip on each others situation, the long and short of it, is there wasn’t a cop for 100km (interesting...). Ken tried to find out what he could on the special police super computer network (google), and a couple of times suggested we head back to Geoff and hand the phone over, each time I had to reassure Ken that there was definitely no phone reception there, we barely had it here.

Anyway, I said I’d do what I could to sort it out, and would let him know either way.

We drive on up the bitumen road a bit, soon coming to a small house. We pulled in, I knocked on the door and a young Mum and her little boy answered - luckily I’d parked the Cruiser so she could see N and Rollo was sticking his head out looking cute to boot. Anyway, she didn’t seem bothered and invited me in when I explained the situation. A couple of calls to neighbours and she was soon through to Geoff’s house and speaking to his parents and then Geoff who had made it back home safely.

Apparently he walks that road everyday. Anyway, a quick call to my new mate Ken once we were back out on the road, we pressed on with a clear consciences.

We arrived at the small village of Dartmoor. Plenty of free camping here, we left the main area to the ‘vans and motorhomes and found spot on our own down a side track on the riverbank. Although where we ended up was about 100m from our original site, after a ‘piece of wood’ ended up being two ducks sheltering their young in the grass. As I got close they flew off and pretended to be wounded to distract us from the two ducklings hidden in the grass. The ducklings looked quite old, and I was glad the entire family had moved on when I went back for a quiet look sometime later after we, very gingerly, drove on a bit further.





This trickle is the Glenelg River, that we were camping on last night, where it was a 100m wide expanse with fishing shacks on the bank.


We stayed down by the river for a couple of days. Set up the shower. Did some exercise. I tried fishing for yabbies with no success. We watched a couple of locals digging up the worms that live in the mud, must make good bait. Had a wander around the village.









Mad dog lady.










Time came to press on. We drove north east, as we would do for the next week or so, as we made our way slowly up towards northern New South Wales, for the final round of the World Rally Championship, happening in mid November, around the town of Coffs Harbour.

Through the attractive country town of Hamilton. Which seemed to mark the border between the lush and green south (seriously greener than any other part of Australia we have been to - N started looking at house prices...!) and the drier country further north.



Thanks for reading.

 

Saint Nick

Active member
Another great set of photos and words Ant. Good on you for helping out Geoff (y) Finally, you've got far too much time on your hands! :LOL: (He says going green with envy :cry:)

Nick.
 
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