Saturday, May 14, 2011

Depot Creek and Mt Bundy Station next in line

The first free weekend this month will be - at the end of the month. We only managed to get to Depot Creek once last year, but we found a new, closer campsite right next to the creek which looks nicer than the spot we have usually gone to at the top of the gorge.

This one is sandy, whereas the other one is dusty, so it's a nicer site all round. Hopefully this nice cool weather sticks around for a while!

And the first weekend of June looks like we might check out Mt Bundy Station near Adelaide River. It's pet friendly, so that always gets a tick.

In the mean time, Paul has been making up a "camp oven oven" from an old 9kg gas bottle. It will allow a camp oven to be used with heat beads rather than an open fire. Photos of its development to come.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Easter Trip Summary

Here's the trip in brief:

Fueled up Saturday 17.04.11 in Darwin.
Odometer reading: 106337 km
Litres: 119.6
Cost: $1.597/L
Total: $191.10

Thursday 21.04.11
Home in Darwin to Paul's Dad's place in Katherine - 314km

Odometer reading: 106739 km
Litres: 56.24
Cost: $1.569/L
Total: $88.24

Katherine to Elliott Roadhouse - 421km
Elliott Roadhouse to Telecomms Repeater Station near Attack Creek  - 183km

Total: 918km

Friday 22.04.11
Telecomms Repeater Station to Tennant Creek - approx 70km

Odometer reading: 107367 km
Litres: 60.25
Cost: $1.73/L
Total: $104.23

Tennant Creek to Devil's Marbles - 114km
Devil's Marbles to Heritage Caravan Park, Alice Springs - 418km

Total: 591km

Saturday 23.04.11
Odometer reading: 107858 km
Litres: 109.45
Cost: $1.749/L
Total: $191.43

Heritage Caravan Park, Alice Springs to Rainbow Valley - 168km
Plus approx 20km backtracking

Total: 129km

Sunday 24.04.11
Rainbow Valley to Mt Ebenezer Roadhouse - 234km
Mt Ebenezer Roadhouse to Yulara Campground - 231km

Total: 465km

Monday 25.04.11
Yulara Campground to Uluru - 18km
Uluru to Yulara Campground - 18km
Yulara Campground to Kata Tjuta - 51km
Kata Tjuta to Yulara Campground - 51km

Total: 138km

Tuesday 26.04.11
Yulara Campground to Redbank Waterhole, Owen Springs Reserve - approx 400km

Total: 400km

Wednesday 27.04.11
Redbank Waterhole - nil

Thursday 28.04.11
Redbank Waterhole to Alice Springs CBD - approx 30km

Odometer reading: 108982 km
Litres: 156.64
Cost: $1.749/L
Total: $273.96

Alice Springs CBD to Trephina Gorge Campground - 85km

Total: 115km

Friday 29.04.11
Trephina Gorge - nil

Saturday 30.04.11
Trephina Gorge to Paws n Claws, Alice Springs - 76km
Paws n Claws, Alice Springs to Tropic of Capricorn - 29km
Tropic of Capricorn to Stuart Memorial - 173km
Stuart Memorial to Tennant Creek - 314km

Odometer reading: 109608 km
Litres: 91.27
Cost: $1.73/L
Total: $157.90

Tennant Creek to Morphett Creek - approx 80km

Total: 672km

Sunday 01.05.11
Morphett Creek to Larrimah - approx 370km
Larrimah to Paul's Dad's place in Katherine - 184km

Total: 554km

Monday 02.05.11
Katherine to home in Darwin via the Post Office - 320km

Total: 320km

Grand total: 3,919 km in 12 days
Fuel used: 593 litres
Fuel economy: approx 15.14 litres per 100km
Most expensive fuel - $1.749 per litres in Alice Springs
Fuel cost: $1,006.86 or $83.90/day

Monday, May 2, 2011

Monday 02.05.11 Katherine - Darwin

A little over 3 hours to go until the inevitable mountain of washing, unpacking and cleaning the car and trailer.

We left Katherine at about 12.30pm to the stunning news that Osama bin Laden was killed, and we were quite riveted to the news on the radio until the signal died. Just out of Katherine, a big hiss came out of the engine, and from experience, we knew it was one of the hoses from the turbo intercooler getting loose. We then had to spend the next 10 minutes or so looking for a track off the highway to pull over, preferably with shade, with a Greyhound bus on our tail that we had just passed before the hose let go.

We were able to pull off the highway onto the Old Stuart Highway, which was in much better condition than we expected, considering it wouldn't have had any upkeep in 30-odd years. We stopped at the Edith River where a few people were swimming in some gentle rapids. Rachel took the boys for a quick swim while Paul re-tightened the hose, and then we were off home, arriving about 5pm.

We have about 3 or 4 weekends in a row at the end of May/early June, so that looks like when we will get out next trip in, probably to one of our favourite places, Depot Creek, just south of Hayes Creek, about 2 hours south of Darwin.

Sunday 01.05.11 Morphett Creek - Larrimah - Katherine

Another uneventful getaway by about 9.30am, stopping only at Fran's Tea House at Larrimah for lunch. Unfortunately we couldn't eat in with the dogs, but we got a couple of enormous homemade beef pies and ate them in some nearby shade. Another couple of hours got us in to Katherine at around 4pm, with a roast on offer at Paul's brother Andrew's place for the evening.

The best part of the day was our first hot shower, or any shower at all, for the last 5 days. Bliss!

We had our last night in the camper in the front yard of Paul's Dad's place, listening to a neighbour's dog bark for about an hour and a half. Welcome to suburbia.

Saturday 30.04.11 Trephina Gorge - Alice Springs - Morphett Creek

We managed to get away the earliest on the trip at about 9.15am, probably the anticipation of getting the boys back from the kennel in Alice Springs was motivation enough! They were very excited to see us, and within 5 minutes they had assumed the position and were asleep on the back seat.

We stopped briefly at the Tropic of Capricorn monument, then continued on for close to another couple of hundred kilometres to the Stuart Memorial rest stop, approx 15km north of Ti-Tree, where we had lunch.

The next stop was Tennant Creek for more fuel at around 4.30pm, and we drove on for another half hour or so looking for a track off the highway to camp for the night. We considered going back onto the Old Stuart Highway to stop at the repeater station where we camped on the way down, but liked the idea of staying somewhere different. We found a spot just as the sun was going down on the banks of Morphett Creek not far from Muckaty Station where the Federal Government is considering putting a radioactive waste deposit site.

The temperature quickly dropped, but we weren't bothered with too many bugs, or mice, this time. Off in the distance on the other side of the creek we heard dingoes howling and yipping, perhaps one adult and two pups. Fortunately, they were far enough away not to attract the boys attention.

Friday 29.04.11 Trephina Gorge

We got up at around 7.30am, had juice, coffee and bacon, eggs and baked beans to give us the energy boost to do a couple of walks around the Gorge. We got away around 10am after Steve did some experimental plugging up of the hole in his tyre that seemed to do the job. We walked along the ridge top of the Gorge, back down to Trephina Creek and took our boots off to walk back through the mostly ankle deep, but cold, creek. It was absolutely stunning scenery with warm but not hot temperatures, although it's easy to see that in the height of summer it would be blisteringly hot.

Along the way, Steve and Sophie were up ahead and called out that they could see a snake swimming just in front of them. Being fairly knowledgeable about Australian snakes, Paul identified it as possibly a juvenile western brown snake, so we gave it the respect it justifiably deserved. It wasn't very big, perhaps 40cm long, and was dark grey in colour with a coppery coloured head and tail.

We continued on, stopped to put our boots back on and did the second of the shorter walks, the Panorama Trail, that wound its way up the other side of the gorge. This took about another hour, and in hindsight perhaps should be walked first, as the walk back to camp through the creek is a highlight.

Back at camp we had lunch and had a quiet little afternoon of not doing much at all. Paul tried his hand at his first ever damper, which was a great success with butter and honey. We then chopped up the veggies to go in the camp stew for the evening. A cast iron camp oven definitely imparts intangible flavours that can't be captured in a kitchen-based pot or slow cooker, we all agreed that it was the best one ever.

It was a much quieter night mouse-wise, with only a few heard scrabbling on the canvas during the night. One definitely did get in and took about half an hour for us not to find it at all. That makes it a bit harder to fall asleep, but it seems to have got away.

Thursday 28.04.11 Redbank Waterhole - Alice Springs - Trephina Gorge

Another nice warming breakfast of freshly ground coffee and porridge was had before the inevitable pack up and move on to the next and final destination before heading home - Trephina Gorge. Instead of going back to the Stuart Highway to Alice Springs we continued on the 4WD track up Owen Spring Reserve towards Larapinta Drive. This is a gorgeous drive winding along the Hugh River, requiring a couple of easy river crossings. We stopped at the ruins of the Old Owen Springs Homestead for some photos and marvelling at what a place to live with such a spectacular backdrop, then just past the Ranger's station Steve got his first ever flat tyre. That delayed our lunch stop in Alice Springs for a short while, but we survived.

We went back to the Red Dog Cafe in the Todd Mall so Rachel could have another roo burger, then Paul and Rachel spent a good hour in a camping shop trying on half a dozen pair of boots before Rachel settled on yet another pair of Scarpas. A bag of replacement supplies at Woolies, and then we were off to Trephina Gorge.

We got to the Gorge Campground around 5pm and quickly set up. This campground is in a bit of a valley, with sheer ochre red cliffs on one side where the setting sun hits them brilliantly. The temperature quickly dropped, while the numbers of mice exploded. A quick and easy dinner of pumpkin, feta and sage risotto with a creamed rice chaser meant we were in bed early at around 9pm. Just as well, for what was soon to come, as we discovered in the time it took for us to get dessert out from the stash of food under the bed in the camper and in bed about an hour later, there was evidence of a mouse in da house. We pulled everything out, but it appeared to have gone.

Around 11pm Paul woke up from a mouse crawling on his arm that then went into one of the storage spaces next to the bed and couldn't get out. it was lifted out with some "gentle persuasion" from Paul, and we spent the next hour watching about half a dozen mice getting in and out of the camper from four separate places. The camper is virtually weather-proof, but it appears not to be vermin-proof, and the spots the mice could access are not ones that can easily be sealed up. Paul plugged up the gaps with gaffer tape, and we seemed to have a relatively quiet night after that. Not happy, Jan.

Wednesday 27.04.11 - Redbank Waterhole

With a nice dark camper and no need to rush, we slept in until after 8am and had a leisurely breakfast of bacon, eggs and baked beans. We did a bit of a walk exploring along the waterhole, with a nice sandy beach perfect for Sophie to have a bit of a dip. Us adults didn't have the ticker for the kind of water temperature. We saw some flocks of budgies, some Major Mitchell cockatoos, finches and magpies, as well as willie wagtails, cormorants and hawks.

Back to camp for a lunch of noodles, surprise peas and corn and some ham, when Steve discovered his second battery wasn't holding charge. As most of our power was coming from the trailer, we weren't using our second car battery, so Paul and Steve moved it over to Steve's car. After that little exercise, it was time to get the roast and veggies on the Cobb cooker, and of course, more social lubrication and bikkies and cheese. We are not suffering! Afterwards, there was the obligatory staring into the bush tv.

The roast was superb, although at 2.7kg for 2.5 people, there was plenty left over. Steve then cooked up his famous (for us) baked apricot custard, and even though we full from the entree and main course, there is ALWAYS room in the dessert stomach. As may be evident right about now, our camping trips are as much about checking out new places as they are for lurching from one feeding frenzy to the next!

Tuesday 26.04.11 Yulara - Redbank Waterhole

We got away from Yulara about 10.30am and headed for Redbank Waterhole in Owen's Springs Reserve about 60km south of Alice Springs. Rather than going on the Stuart Highway where we had already been, we planned on going up towards King's Canyon on Luritja Rd, and then east along the Ernest Giles Highway. We had a roadside stop for lunch, then onto the wide dirt road of the Ernest Giles that had a few ditches and corrugations along the way but was otherwise a good dirt road. It's a little bit more picturesque than the Stuart Highway as well, and provided the opportunity to see some countryside we hadn't seen before, and may not get a chance to see again, even if it is more of the same!

We then turned off this and back onto the blacktop of the Stuart Highway heading north, with just a short stretch before the turnoff to Owen's Springs Reserve. Redbank Waterhole was only about 6km from the turnoff on an easy but sandy 4WD track, and there were numerous choices for setting up camp along the waterhole. 

We set up, had a hunt for timber to set up a fire, and settled down with a couple of wee drinkies and bikes and cheese watching the sun go down through the gum trees - a very picturesque and peaceful setting.

Paul got to play with the new camera some more, and tested out some night time star shots. We didn't get to see any shooting stars or satellites, but we weren't disappointed.

Despite being the last day of an unusually long 5 day long weekend (Easter and Anzac Day back to back) there was little evidence of intensive recent use in the area and we only saw two other cars parked nearby. One car followed us in just after dark and continued along past us and camped at least another 500m away, so they may as well not have been there. We had dinner and watched the bush tv for a while, then headed for bed. The mice were friendly here too and kept Steve awake all night; they scrabbled on the canvas of the camper a few times but not enough to bother us too much.