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Let the crocodile eat the bride first. A remote honeymoon tale.

I’m not sure what Kevin and I were thinking when planning our honeymoon 29 years ago. It was a bizarre destination but we were so excited, so eager and so bloody naive.

Other newly-weds honeymooned at 5 star resorts in tropical island paradises sipping cocktails and taking romantic strolls along palm fringed beaches.

Not us. Its bull dust all the way.

Not a palm tree in sight. I get to pose against a magnetic termite mound on my honeymoon.

We spent our honeymoon in our 4WD travelling to the Kimberley’s up the top of Western Australia. From Alice Springs. Across deserts. In October.

Yes, we were ignorant Central Australian dwellers who had no concept of “the build up to the wet” in Northern Australia. The time of year when ‘mango madness‘ sets in and everyone goes ‘troppo’.

For the clarity of any foreigners reading this post, both terms are Aussie Slang for “the irrational behaviour of a person suffering from the effects of living in tropical heat”.

It was hot up North. It was so bloody hot. We slept in a double swag on the roof rack of our Mitsubishi Triton 4WD. Romantic in a distinctly Aussie kind of way I guess. It was so hot that we would spray each other with a squirty bottle at night and hope for a stray breeze.

Purely luxury accommodations. That’s me up there in the master bedroom. (Sorry about photo quality- 29 year old photos)

Our wedding gift from our work colleagues was a 12V three way travelling fridge, which was perfect and so generous. Except, we couldn’t get it to work on gas. So there we were at night, lying on top of our swag, getting bitten by mosquitoes, squirting each other with water and we didn’t even have a cold drink because the fridge didn’t work. “I’d kill you right now for a cold drink of water” we would say to each other. At least we were both in sync.

I do love that our honeymoon was an adventure though. As a result of our naivety we had a couple of bonuses. Firstly, there was hardly another soul travelling the infamous Gibb River Road in October. We had most places to ourselves because no one else was crazy enough. Secondly, because it was so hot we swam in every glorious, picturesque waterhole in the Kimberley. That was wonderful.

That brings me to Fitzroy Crossing, just after we had crossed the Tanami Desert and visited Wolf Creek Crater. (You know – Wolf Creek, a bloke called Mick Taylor lives there and savagely murders tourists) Fortunately that classic movie came out a few years after our honeymoon.

Fitzroy Crossing is a Kimberley town with character. We booked ourselves on a boat cruise of Geikie Gorge, which was carved by the mighty Fitzroy River. Its a spectacular gorge with towering white and grey walls. The cruise was great but it was just so HOT. The cruise operator told us where we could go for a refreshing swim in the river.

Irresistible. In we plunge, just Kevin and I. We splashed around a bit then were just floating serenely a few metres apart, enjoying the coolness.

Suddenly, right in front of Kevin, two eyes pop up out of water. Two armoured, evil, yellow reptilian eyes that look him straight in the face.

“CROCODILE” he yells, in a highly agitated voice, scaring the crap out of me as I was blissfully unaware. There’s a huge flurry of splashing as he literally runs on water to get back to the bank.

And leaves his new bride in the river to get eaten by a crocodile………

He’s very sheepish when we tell this story now. His excuse is “well, I didn’t really know you very well back then”

What we didn’t know back then was that there are two kinds of crocodile in the North. Very bad ones and not so bad ones. Saltwater crocodiles are real bad and you never, ever want to be in the water with one. They will make a meal out of you before you can blink. Fortunately, Geikie Gorge has the other variety. Freshwater crocodiles are quite harmless unless provoked. He was just popping his head out of the water out of curiosity.

However, my loving new husband didn’t know that. I did make it back to the bank safely under my own steam, just a few seconds after him. It seems that I too can run on water……..

Believe it or not, 29 years later, we are still together. We have a good laugh about that incident. Apparently he has finally gotten to know me by now and finds me quite valuable. We are still in sync. We tried a resort style holiday once and it just wasn’t our thing. Together our hearts still long for dusty roads and remote waterholes. Although we no longer sleep in a dusty swag on the roof rack. Our “Royal Swag” on the roof these days has fly screens, a sink and a really cold fridge. There will always be another adventure just around the corner and that is what my travel blog is all about. Read on……..

This is me showering ‘honeymoon style’ I coloured this photo in with texta years ago to make it appropriate and ‘g’ rated.

A honeymoon with character that’s for sure in our Triton with swag on roof
Giekie Gorge 29 years ago. The colours in the photo are dreadful now but it is the genuine article.
1989 So blissfully naive but the taste for adventurous Aussie road trips was there right from the start

Buying Freedom

The Cost to Travel around Australia in a Caravan


It’s a bit cliche but TIME waits for no one. And it’s sneaky. When your busy not paying attention it passes by so quickly. One day you realise that there’s only a finite amount of it left.

And there’s so many things on your bucket list left to do.

Number one on our list is a big one – travel Australia in a caravan. A whole year of really living life – hiking, exploring, beach combing in new places instead of just being busy ‘making a living’. Or just existing to pay our bills.

If like us, you are still of working age, the concept of giving up your source of income for a lengthy period to idly circumnavigate Australia is fraught with complexity.
I won’t deny that there are many competing emotions. There is the occasional battle between head and heart. Our minds are so traitorous, so good at destroying what the heart wants.

But we have taken a leap of faith because here we are. On the cusp. In a few short weeks we hit the road.

So what is it costing us to buy complete freedom to travel around Australia for an extended time frame? How much did we have to save?

Firstly, we are completely debt free with very few expenses. It’s a great feeling of freedom and it’s much easier to save money when a big portion is not going to bills and loans.

There’s only three necessities for life on the road. A vehicle, a home and money to spend. It’s that simple.

We had the car already, our trusty Landcruiser ute, so that was easy but we purchased a caravan within our means and saved cash dollars enough to last the length of time we envision.

We know we need $900 per week minimum as our spending budget – it’s been tried and tested on previous trips. That’s for food, fuel, camp site fees and a small amount for miscellaneous costs such as tours, entry fees and gas. $45K was our savings target. Enough to last us 50 weeks. PLUS another 5K in the bank is set aside for car and van expenses – registrations, insurance, maintenance. PLUS another 10K tucked away as an emergency fund – which hopefully we won’t need to touch.

To be comfortable with the thought of giving up work to travel for a long period these savings goals were absolutely essential to achieve prior to departure. I wouldn’t do it otherwise as I don’t want to spend the trip fraught with worry about money.

And we’ve worked hard to achieve this target. Long hours at work have been worth it because I knew there was a light at the end of the tunnel. Every fortnight it got a little closer.

To keep in perspective we remind ourselves that we went on a three week holiday tour to Italy in 2019 which cost us $30K. I love holidays and it was absolutely fabulous but only 3 short weeks.

Double that amount of money and we are buying a whole year of freedom to travel this beautiful country. That for me is priceless. The memories we will create over that time span will be amazing.

The benefits to our mind, body and soul cannot be under estimated either. We will be in a perpetual relaxed holiday state of mind for a year. Communing with nature out in the fresh air every day with no stress or pressure. It’s gotta be good for our health. Every sunrise and sunset will be ours to enjoy. We will learn to eat simply. We will exercise more naturally just seeing new things. We will socialise with like minded people more. We will read lots and learn a different pace of life.

So, we are buying ourselves a year of freedom to travel Australia in a caravan. I have a feeling that it will be the best value for money purchase that we have ever made.

Some things in life are priceless

2022 – Going ‘Waltzing Matilda’ in a Jurgens Van

Our Jurgens Tooradin Van. Light weight and 23 foot of travel comfort

THE COUNTDOWN HAS BEGUN FOR OUR YEAR OF TRAVEL

Finally. We are doing it. 2022 is our year of doing the lap of Australia. We are going ‘Waltzing Matilda’ in the caravan.

No surprise I guess. We had a couple of practice sessions. Four months in 2017 and four months early 2021. Both times travelling with a Trayon Camper. We loved the lifestyle but at the same time learnt some lessons along the way. Hence, we now have a Jurgens 23 foot Caravan. Never thought the day would come but there you go – we are now caravaners. No matter the weather we have accommodation with all the comforts of home (albeit a bit smaller). Short term you can handle a bit of discomfort living under a canvas roof (put it down to adventure) but long term, definitely not. The disadvantage is that some places will be inaccessible with a van but we still have camping gear and a 4WD.

In our previous travels living under canvas sometimes wasn’t ideal – but what an adventure this was in Tasmania

WHY ARE WE DOING IT NOW AND NOT WAITING UNTIL WE GET THAT RETIREMENT PENSION INCOME?

Our government policy deems that I must continue to work until I’m seventy before I qualify to get the pension. Blimey that’s ludicrous. Seventy! Honestly, who knows what the future holds? The only time that’s relevant is now and we are daring to live the life we want. No excuses. The most important thing is we know 100% that the travelling lifestyle makes us happy. It’s that feeling of ultimate freedom. Each day is different. We wake up to different views out the window – sometimes ocean, sometimes outback, sometimes forests. Different sounds – the sound of waves crashing, or the sound of dingoes howling, or the sounds of wind and birdsong in the trees. We don’t think about household bills, monotonous work routines or feel our restless souls getting frustrated. Each day holds a bit of mystery. Always new things to experience. We have our health and physically right now we are still capable of hiking, exploring and immersing ourselves in the natural world. Why put it off for a day that may never come?

For me happiness is just being out there

TO DO THE BIG LAP OF AUSTRALIA SOME PEOPLE RENT OUT THEIR HOUSE OR SOME SELL UP COMPLETELY. WHAT DID WE DO?


It has been a process getting ourselves in exactly the right position to do it our way. We like the ‘keep it simple’ philosophy. We sold up. Not really intending to do The Lap at the time but we happen to be in that position so the timing is perfect. Embracing a minimalistic lifestyle we literally now own nothing but cars and a van. It feels good to not be encumbered by stuff and reduces our expenses. Maybe a little unsettling to realise we don’t actually have a bricks and mortar base anymore but our home is now where we tow it. Maybe on our travels we will find “that” place that we want to call home but now is our time to travel.

For now home is where we park it. Looking forward to an ocean view after enjoying red centre life.

SO HAVE WE RETIRED? HOW WILL WE FUND OUR TRAVEL?

So no doubt people will think we have ‘retired’. Nope. We have been saving hard to fund us for a while but if work opportunities present themselves as we travel we may well ‘top up the coffers’ along the way. If opportunity knocks we will answer as we don’t have the luxury of huge superannuation funds to fall back on. We are not using the proceeds of our home sale to travel – that’s to buy another home one day. I guess we have accepted the fact that we will never be wealthy but we won’t let that stop us travelling. Our wealth is in our experiences and the memories we make and I think that is more important at the end of the day.

DO WE PLAN OUR TRAVEL OR JUST WING IT?

I love a good plan. Our plan first and foremost is to follow the weather mainly. To the South Australian beaches for a bit over the summer. Learn to fish again. Do the post work wind down which we know from experience takes a while. Then head across the Nullabour to the West. At least until Easter in the South West and then up the coast toward Broome. From there is yet unplanned.
I have a rough itinerary for the first few months simply because it’s school holidays and the popular places are impossible to get into. So I have a few bookings to ensure we don’t miss something special. (A camp site at Lucky Bay in Cape LeGrand National Park near Esperance. I managed to get two nights in February. Crazy popular but stunningly beautiful. I’d hate to miss the experience)
I love to achieve that fine balance between planning a bit and being flexible. Do a bit of research before we go so we know what the best attractions are. I know that works best for us otherwise we wander around aimlessly and find out later that we missed stuff. I get immense satisfaction when a good plan comes together, like the time I managed to snag the best camp spot at Osprey Bay at Ningaloo because I booked 6 months in advance. We just kept the booking in mind and made sure we were in that vicinity around the right time. It was so worth it as the campgrounds were fully booked out. We wouldn’t have got in otherwise and it was so special swimming with the whale sharks.

WE HAVE NEVER BEEN IN A BETTER POSITION TO GO THAN RIGHT NOW

So a couple more months more working and tucking money away in Alice Springs and then mid December we hook up the caravan and finally tow it down the South Stuart Highway. We have been living in it since July so it already feels like we are on a working holiday anyway. Got used to the quirks of permanent Van life.

So, Cheers to Waltzing Matilda around this beautiful diverse country in 2022. It’s taken at least 30 years to get ourselves in the position to do it and we can’t wait.

May many more road side stops be like this one

My Australian Quarantine Facility Prison Experience

If there’s is a blog post that precisely fits my “let us be free” domain name, well this is it.

There’s no denying it. I’m in the Alice Springs Quarantine facility and having a taste of life on the inside.

Yes, I’m confined to a comfortable hotel room. But this space is the sum total of my existence. Like a parrot in a golden cage. My freedom is completely denied.

There is a guard posted in the corridor outside to ensure I don’t leave the room. I can hear the constant chatter on his two way radio reminding me of my status. No one is allowed in my room and I’m not allowed out.

Meals are delivered to my door in takeaway containers. I don’t meet the person who ensures I have basic food for sustenance. It’s a knock and run thing. Just a bag left at the door and I put on a mask before I open it. Everyday I’m able to request from the menu but to be honest the choices are limited and small. Some meals are pretty good and others are disappointing. You learn.

This was my evening meal one night. What the heck!

Exercise is granted twice a day for 20 minutes. There are about 10 inmates per session. We are allowed in a small fenced off enclosure with a well worn cattle pad around the inside perimeter. In masks, we silently walk around and around in circles soaking up some sunshine and breathing fresh air through fabric, with guards watching of course.

Food packages and goody bags from family are denied unless you gain permission from the welfare team with a concise explanation of what, why, where, who, how. Apparently at some earlier time someone has smuggled drugs inside and ruined it for everyone. Thanks a lot a***hole! Strictly no takeout delivery either. Uber eats out of the question. Definitely no alcohol allowed. Be warned alcoholics as you will go cold turkey. The only privilege – online orders from Coles and Woolies permitted.

I needed my runners as I only had my thongs to walk the cattle pad. And I wanted to jog. After contacting Welfare and arranging appropriate approval, my husband was allowed to deliver them to the facility for someone to leave at my door. You learn to be thankful.

There is nothing voluntary about being in Covid quarantine. Once your inside the facility the bureaucratic process has to run its course. Your life is out of your hands. The system has complete control. Even though they deny using these words, you are a prisoner.

I know I’m in here because I ordered a coffee in a cafe where I was potentially exposed to a person who later developed Covid symptoms. By being in the Quarantine facility I’m protecting the greater society from a virulent virus. Doing my bit for the welfare of all.

It is hard because I physically feel good. Absolutely zero symptoms, Covid tests all negative. I know one hundred percent that I’m innocent but that has absolutely no bearing.

Does escape cross my mind? Naturally. I could squeeze out the window, crawl across the verandah roof, jump into a nearby tree, climb to the ground, scale the fence and I’m outta here. My only option really as the cardboard cutlery supplied with meals is useless as tools to make an escape hole in the wall. I chuckle as I write this but my mind definitely wanders here.

The mental ramifications of an experience like this are not to be brushed aside. It does your head in. I have anger. I have tears. It’s not a ‘zen’ experience.

It isn’t all bad. In this crazy busy world I suddenly have a lot of ‘me’ time. I do yoga everyday. I watch Netflix guilt free. I spend time just sitting letting my mind wander hither and thither. By the window watching the birds. I’m lucky I have a window and even one that opens to let in fresh air. For that I’m grateful. And I have social media to remain in contact with the outside world.

My thinking seat by the window. Note the coat hanger to hold it open.

However, force-ably being denied your liberty of freedom as an extreme precautionary measure is something that is hard. And it seems really unfair when you know you are fit and healthy.

I know now that I will do everything in my power to avoid being put in this situation again. I’m desperate to attain that fully vaccinated status to start with (I’m only partially protected with AstraZeneca at the moment). Another month to go.

The government has a plan that indicates by next year vaccinated Australian citizens will be entitled to avoid the quarantine process. It’s a no brainer for me. Just do it. If our freedom has to come at a price, well, that’s a simple, small price to pay.

So thanks to Covid, I feel I’ve experienced life on the inside. There’s nothing so harsh as to be denied your freedom. Trust me on this. You don’t want to have the quarantine facility experience if it can be avoided. Wear a mask, get the jab and never. NEVER have another coffee at that cafe that put you in this predicament.

I watch a lot of TV and of course it’s Covid, Covid, Covid…..

A 4WD called Orlando – 4×4 life in Australia

Does everyone else give their car a name? Give it a personality?

Orlando is our 4WD Landcruiser (hence the name adaptation) 😬 He’s worthy of a little humanising. The most solid, reliable, trustworthy, tough, adventurous hunk of metal we have ever had the pleasure of owning. With a little house on his back he takes us the most amazing places and gives us so much joy. We follow remote dirt tracks with complete faith and confidence in his ability and because of that we see some bloody beautiful places. Crawling at a snails pace, windows down, a warm breeze messing up my hair, the fragrance of bull dust and gum trees in the air and sunshine glinting off the windscreen. Our happy place 🤗.

And you know what? Orlando just loves living in Central Australia. He really hates travelling fast on bitumen roads with lots of traffic and he despises big cities. Give him a rough dirt track to follow in the heart of the outback and he purrs like a kitten. Well, actually, with his big V8 engine it’s more like a throaty growl.

There’s no airs and graces. No bells and whistles. He’s not sleek and sophisticated to look at it. Comfort is not his finest feature. It’s what’s below the surface that counts – under the bonnet. Where other people fear to tread he just never lets us down. I like my cars like I like my men 😬.

Yes, we have definitely humanised our car. To the extent that Kevin makes me apologise to him if I dare say anything derogatory. After all, we don’t want to hurt his feelings. It’s a partnership. We look after him and he looks after us and our life sure would be a whole lot less fun without him.

That’s what 4WD ownership is all about. We wouldn’t have it any other way 😊.

These photos were taken around Ross River Homestead in the Eastern MacDonnell Ranges.

I guess all three of us are guilty of style flaws. Lucky it doesn’t matter when we have it all to ourselves.
A chair, a campfire, a 4WD with a house on its back. Simple yet the best life ever

The Finke River 4WD Route (The Boggy Hole Track)

Remote. Adventure. Bloody good scenery. To top it off it’s a must do if you visit Central Australia seeking to utilise your 4×4 in the manner it was created for.

The Finke River Route is fun, not too extreme and certainly do-able over 2 days. In fact its do-able as a day trip but an overnight camp surrounded by such spectacular Central Australian scenery is part of the experience.

On this occasion we did the track from South to North – the Finke River 4WD Route starts at Ernest Giles Road and finishes at Hermansburg (or visa versa), a distance of 70 odd km that will take 5.5 hours.

We did the track on a normal weekend. Of course, in our case there was a fair distance of bitumen bashing to get too and from either end from Alice Springs.

Rules, so many rules

The signage on Ernest Giles Road (which is the dirt road short cut to Kings Canyon) suggests that you should travel in a group of at least two vehicles and carry epirb, sat phone and sufficient recovery gear. We went solo and at no stage even came close to needing any recovery gear. With a high clearance 4×4 and good tyres with reduced tyre pressure it is no problem. A few slow going rocky sections, a few deep sandy sections and quite a bit of easy pleasant driving.

At the start of the track we stopped to reduce the pressure in the Cooper Tyres.

The scenery all the way was really lovely. Through and over red sand dunes at the beginning and then zig zagging along the Finke River, between red gorge walls. It’s slow going but an enjoyable drive. On a few occasions the track meanders both ways and you seem to have a choice of directions but we never lost our way. All tracks follow the course of the Finke and just deviate for camp spots or to avoid chopped up or challenging sections of track.

And who can resist this as a way to end a day of 4WD adventures

So what were my highlights of the weekend? Driving through red sand dunes, detouring to Illamurta Springs Conservation Reserve, camping overnight at Running Waters which was so lovely for a swim and the reflections of glowing red rock in the water at Sunset. Boggy Hole was a really nice remote camping spot too but I think Running Waters was better camping for easier access to the waterhole and the ability to spread out more. We discovered Running Waters on Wiki Camps.

Running Waters billabong

I would classify this as an iconic Central Australian 4WD experience not to be missed.

Living Life in Alice Springs

It’s now been twelve months since Kevin and I relocated from Cairns to Alice Springs. It’s taken me this long to formulate an opinion on the journey from then to now and continue the story I started the night before I left Cairns. A life changing road trip from Cairns to Alice Springs (click on link)

It’s certainly been an interesting adventure from the day I drove myself the formidable distance of 3500km, over 4 days. Despite saying I never would, I actually passed four quadruple road trains (53+ metres in length). They are just too slow for even me to sit behind. Gripping the steering wheel really tight and a line of concentration on my brow, I just put my foot down and went for it. Each time was the longest 20 seconds of my life. I learnt early on that truck drivers don’t like being followed when one pulled over to get rid of me after I sat behind him for at least 100km out of Charters Towers. I stayed overnight in a cabin in Charters Towers, a cheap motel in Mt Isa and a tiny donga in Wauchope and then I was in Alice Springs. For me, just getting here took me so far out of my comfort zone. I was so proud of me and felt so brave.

This was an awesome moment. I made it all by myself.

For a couple weeks we lived in our Trayon Camper in a caravan park. The novelty wore off that very quickly. We bought a lovely modern unit in a nice location as renting in Alice Springs is astronomical in terms of cost and there was no way we could live long term in a Caravan Park – jammed in like in a sardine can, listening to the musical accompaniments in the facilities every morning not to mention the delightful aromas that waft by during the morning shower.

We needed our own little sanctuary. A place to call home and we found that to perfection. No regrets. I have lovely Sturt Desert Pea flowers growing in red sand. My life here is complete 😊.

One thing special about Alice Springs is the abundance of work. If you want a job you’ll find one easily. Within a month of moving here I had a new career. Kevin went from coming here as a truck driver to running the depot within six months. That’s Alice Springs. A guy we knew from our tourism past 20 years ago who was making scones at Mt Ebenezer roadhouse is now the Mayor. Our Chief Minister of the NT worked at Big W. Want to climb the career ladder fast, come to Alice.

So the move wasn’t a step backwards for us. It brought new opportunities. Someone asked me early on if our move here was a permanent thing or just an adventure. I wasn’t sure then but now I know the answer.

There are things I love about life in Alice and things I don’t like.

For people like us who love remote camping, 4×4 adventures, constant sunny blue skies, outback scenery, stunning sunrise and sunsets and the feeling of vast spaces, it’s a fantastic sojourn. Every weekend we have free we are out and about. There is so much to do and see out of town. I’ll never tire of campfires under the most amazing night skies and the sounds of the birds. Just wonderful. Alice Springs for us, is and has always been, about the stunning landscape around it.

From hiking the Larapinta Trail to 4×4 adventures. Life in Alice is fantastic for outdoor enthusiasts
There’s been many a walk down dusty tracks

The town itself has issues related to the high indigenous population. It’s very much a government town now with a high need for health and other government interventions. This is just how it is. Just little things annoy me, like not wanting to go to the cinema at night and risk my car windows getting smashed by roaming packs of kids. You wouldn’t believe how common this is. Getting the third degree by police going into a bottle shop – where will I be drinking and whom will I be drinking with and showing of ID to prove I’m me? I feel guilty just going in there to buy a fine liqueur to sip. Just a couple of examples. There are quite a few.

The weather here is both wonderful and awful to live with. Most days are so bloody perfect and it’s very liveable. In summer though the temperature can get scorching for a couple of months straight (45 degrees C), dust storms roll in frequently and the damn flies drive you insane. In winter the bird bath freezes in the bitterly cold morning, that all day cold wind gets right into your bones and ugg boots are a necessity. It can be a place of dramatic extremes. There are at least 4 months of the year where we didn’t use the reverse cycle split system air conditioners though. Perfect weather. So perfect. And I must mention how exciting it is when it does actually rain here – especially when it’s enough to make the dry Todd River flow. The feeling in town is pure elation and everyone’s out taking photos of a light sprinkling of rain.

Yes I photographed rain drops on my Akubra Hat. Such a rare sight to see in Alice.
The dust storms that roll in over the summer are quite an awesome sight. It’s get in every crevice if a window at home happens to be open.

I am so glad we came back here. There’s been times when the rose coloured glasses slipped off and my world became a bit bleak and grey. The Corona Virus situation made us feel trapped and isolated and I miss being close to family. There’s a sense of isolation living here, it’s very expensive to fly out of but overall I feel that I’ve gained a lot. Change, although hard to do, really is good for us as human beings. We grow. We evolve. We expand our horizons and attitudes. We learn what’s important.

So, is Alice Springs our forever place? An unequivocal NO. Has it been a wonderful adventure? Hell YES. It feels like we are on a working holiday trying to squeeze as much experience out of living in this amazing landscape as we can before we do move on one day.

I wouldn’t have missed this opportunity. Not for one moment. The photographs below say more than words.

Alice Springs – This is why you need to make a pilgrimage here.

I can hear you thinking already ” What? A holiday to Alice Springs? A dry, dusty town in the middle of nowhere? Surely there’s nothing to do or see. Its too remote, way too hot or way too cold and too many flies.”

Sunrises and Sunsets are always magical in The Red Centre

Let me set you straight. Every one must have a pilgrimage to the red heart of Australia. Its a destination where we reconnect. With each other, with the natural environment and with this beautiful country. The outback has charms that international visitors long to experience. The colour, the soul and the heart of this unique landscape will leave an imprint on the soul of every member of your family in some way. You’ll cover some distance but its a vast region.

During the day this is red rock, blue sky country. In summer its hot, in winter it can get very cold but those colours are always there. Bright and cheerful. No gloomy, dismal grey skies here. Nights are just as special. This is dark sky country at night. The chandelier of stars will leave you spellbound. This part of Australia is dramatic and its extreme. Its the real Australia, the outback, and believe me that red sand gets into your blood.

It’s in my blood. Red sand. The feel of it running through your fingers under a blue sky. Magic.

A holiday to Alice Springs is mostly about exploring the natural world. Not playgrounds, fancy resorts or man made attractions. Its a place to get immersed in the large scale scenery that’s just so uniquely Australian, under a perpetually bright blue sky. What ever mode of transport takes your fancy – a camel, a bicycle, a segway, a 4WD vehicle, your two legs with a backpack or even a noodle in a waterhole. There’s exploring to be done. Adventure filled days. Over red sand dunes, through dry riverbeds, to gaps, gorges, chasms and of course you just gotta camp a night or two. A night sharing stories and quality time around a blazing campfire with a billion stars overhead and the howl of a dingo in the distance is unforgettable.

Exploring noodle style in Redbank Gorge

So where to start? The Desert Wildlife Park is a fantastic introduction to the Central Australian environment. An absolute must do and so cleverly done to completely blend with the landscape. The best way to see our dangerous snakes and our birds of prey up close. The finale at the end will send tingles down your spine but I don’t want to ruin the surprise so I’ll just leave you hanging.

The Gaps, Gorges and Chasms of the Western MacDonnell Ranges that extend 130km+ west from Alice Springs are quite extraordinary and will be a highlight. Its an easy sealed bitumen road all the way to Glen Helen Gorge and so many stops on the way. The scenery is pure magic and the swimming always an adventure. Nothing beats a waterhole crawl and, yes, there are beaches – outback style. Click on my link here for more information THE AMAZING OUTBACK WATERHOLES AROUND ALICE SPRINGS

If you’re anything like me, while in Central Australia, you will definitely want to sit on top of a red sand dune under that blue outback sky. An absolute must. Its just something you have to tick off that bucket list. Uluru will give you this opportunity in a fashion but for me the sand dunes of the Simpson Desert are unrivaled and you don’t have to drive all the way across the desert to Birdsville. A little bit of 4WD adventuring can take you out to Old Andado Homestead in about 5 hours through some amazing remote scenery. This place will allow you to sit on a red sand dune and look into the horizon at dune after dune after dune. Its something special. Read more about Old Andado by clicking on this link Old Andado Homestead and the Red Sand of the Simpson Desert.

While your out and about in a 4WD, a camping trip to Ruby Gap Nature Park is a must do. You can get cabin accommodation at nearby Hale River Homestead and do a day trip from there but camping in this remote wilderness is my personal preference. Ruby Gap is in the Eastern MacDonnell Ranges, the scenery is magic+ and a bit of 4WD action is always loads of fun. A bit of sand and rocks to low range through beside towering red gorge walls. A swim in the silent, majestic Glen Annie Gorge was just sublime and who doesn’t love searching for garnets in a dry river bed? This place just blew me away. See more by clicking on this link RUBY GAP NATURE PARK – Paradise Found in Central Australia

Stunning Glen Annie Gorge at Ruby Gap Nature Park

If exploring by 4WD is just not in your list of capabilities but you still want an authentic, rustic experience in the outback, I would highly recommend Ooraminna Station Homestead only 25km out of Alice Springs down the Maryvale dirt road. Spend a night or two in a charming, authentic stone, timber, tin or log cabin. Our rustic log cabin had an open fireplace, so much character and beds for a family of five. I absolutely loved the experience. Absolutely charming. Dinner at the Homestead ‘hotel’ was just excellent, the views stunning and you can do a little exploring on foot in red sand country. A larger budget required but worth splurging just a bit.

The Log Cabin at Ooraminna
Rustic, authentic and utterly charming

So have I whet your appetite just a little? I’ve only touched the tip of the iceberg with a few of my favourite options for a holiday here. I’m an adventurer at heart and Central Australia is always awe inspiring and never boring. The Outback holds a special place in my heart. Trust me it grows on you. Yes, there are flies. In summer in particular. Bring fly nets to keep your sanity. They are a life saver. Yes, it gets hot in summer but those waterholes are always cool and wonderful to swim in. Yes, the mornings and evenings can get below zero in winter but you’ll usually be back in a tee shirt by lunch time and that winter sunshine and blue sky is just bloody perfect.

Where is this? You’ll just have to come explore to find out……. 😁 Winter in Alice Springs
Cold in the mornings? Just a little! Bring ugg boots. The galahs ice skate in the bird bath 😁

Our borders are open tomorrow (sorry Victoria and Sydney) Get ya bums over here and enjoy what’s left this year of winter sunshine.

Old Andado Homestead and the Red Sand of the Simpson Desert.

In the sand dune country of the Simpson Desert, where the sand is red and the sky is blue, is an old station homestead called Old Andado. The homestead is perched in the valley between two parallel red sand dunes so is the perfect opportunity for a genuine desert experience. Not only that but the little ramshackle corrugated iron homestead with its dusty concrete floors is a living museum of the past. No one lives here now but inside it is as it was. A relic. It’s a home filled with the contents of a persons life that belongs to another era of time. The beds are made but covered in thick dust. There’s trinkets in the cabinets, pots on the old wood stove, a tea pot in a knitted cozy on the table, clothes in the wardrobe, a bottle of perfume on the dresser, drums of flour and sugar, photos of family, a long abandoned child’s tricycle out the front.

Old Andado Homestead

This is Molly Clark’s beloved home. Molly is still here but her body lies in a peaceful grave at the base of the sand dune 200 metres away. Her final resting place forever. She died in 2012 at the age of 89. I can feel her presence though as her home is exactly as she left it, full of her life. The old front door is unlocked and upon entering it’s like stepping into another era preserved by a patina of red desert dust. Frozen in time. A living museum.

A corrugated iron kitchen with tree beams slung together with wire and an old wood stove.

Old Andado in 1993 was listed in the Heritage register so today is an untouched piece of history for 4×4 adventurers like us to wonder through. You half expect Molly to step around the corner and offer you a cup of tea and a scone. But it’s just silent. Just the desert wind blowing through the screen windows. The same wind that brings the dust. The atmosphere inside is so hard to describe and it certainly makes you more than a little introspective. It’s fascinating. I feel like a ghost from the future, intruding on a scene from the past. It’s eerie but peaceful. Looking at it with rose coloured glasses on a cool winters day, her life looks kind of idyllic but it would have been incredibly hard. Fifty degrees in summer under a few sheets of tin and a meat house out the back.

This was the refrigerator for the meat

Molly Clarke with her husband Mac and three sons arrived at Andado Station in 1955. Tragically she lost her husband and her oldest son in the 1970’s. Then she lost her livelihood when the NT government forced her to destroy all her cattle due to a brucellosis and tuberculosis outbreak in southern states. Molly sold the property but retained the old homestead and a 45 square km block. With remarkable ingenuity she found a new business venture in tourism and set up camping facilities at the homestead and cooked meals for visitors.

The campground next to the homestead. Due to Covid a bit lonely but a great spot.

After 50 years, poor health meant that she finally had to leave and move full time into Alice Springs, but right until the end Old Andado was always her home. It still is. The epitaph on her grave stone reads “At home in the country you loved. When the times get tough, the tough get going”. That tells us a little bit about Molly Clarke.

The dust is obvious but the message still resonates

For a time volunteers and a caretaker looked after the homestead and her granddaughters continued on the legacy of preserving it. At the time we visit here today, there is no caretaker and nature is stealthily making its presence felt.

I love this little doll sitting in a high chair covered in red sand, slowly deteriorating Poignant picture.

For now, I kind of like it though. It adds to the authenticity of an era now gone. It would be sad to see it disappear totally into the sands of time though.

A gate with so much character just like the rest of the homestead

In the visitor book on the kitchen table is a recent comment from one of the owners “It’s been a bloody long time between visits from me. I knew the place would be covered in dust and lots of dead plants. Sad to see after everyone’s hard work. Time to let bygones be bygones and secure the future of the place”.

Sounds like all is not lost and Molly’s legacy out here on the remote edge of the Simpson Desert may well continue for future generations. That’s a good thing. There is just so much potential to keep Molly’s tourism dream alive. It’s a special place.

Molly’s corner
Her home

To be able to camp here between the red dunes is a true Simpson Desert experience. I understand why Molly loved it here for so long despite the hardship and the remoteness. Her front verandah is the epitome of peacefulness. The silence is absolute and standing on the crest of a red sand dune under a vibrant blue sky looking at dune after dune on the horizon is just mesmerising.

This is the Simpson Desert. Red dunes, blue sky

The 4×4 Track here from Alice Springs is incorporated into the Binns Track which stretches from Mt Dare to Timber Creek at the top of the NT. We however, came here especially just as a long weekend jaunt from Alice Springs. The 330km track via Santa Teresa took us a bit over 5 hours and was a lovely scenic drive. A bit of bull dust, corrugations and sand but overall an easy drive. Certainly a fantastic way to experience the red dunes of the Simpson Desert without having to drive all the way across to Birdsville.

So to Molly Clarke, we thank you. I’m sitting here in Molly’s kitchen writing this.We were first here 30 years ago and it feels exactly the same now as then. Molly had gone into town at the time. It feels like that now.

Taken from Molly’s front verandah. It’s peaceful and has so many stories to tell.
Barefoot on a red sand dune. No place I’d rather be.

THE AMAZING OUTBACK WATERHOLES AROUND ALICE SPRINGS

NOTHING BEATS A SWIM IN THE RED HEART OF AUSTRALIA

Hidden throughout the panoramic Western MacDonnell Ranges, to the West of Alice Springs, are a myriad of Gaps and Gorges with pristine waterholes.

These waterholes are beyond a doubt, in my opinion, the most exquisite feature of Central Australia. Tourists worldwide flock to that big red rock, Uluru, which is special, but an expensive and commercialised natural attraction. For me, its the natural and serene gaps, gorges and chasms of the MacDonnell Ranges, the spine of this ancient landscape, that totally capture my heart.

The landscape around the town of Alice Springs is as old as time and visually striking. Its the way the colours change with the direction of the sunshine that makes the magic. The ranges glow like fire at sunrise and sunset, like they are filled with a strange energy source . During the day are stunning shades of red, orange, pink, ochre and purple on the sheer walls of rock framed by an endless blue sky. Clumps of golden spinifex grass and a lonely white ghost gum perched elegantly on red rock paints the scene. These are the colours of Central Australia. The reflection of this landscape in a pristine, cool waterhole is the pure magic of Central Australia.

Nothing is more special than a swim in an Outback waterhole on a hot summer day. A picnic on a sandy beach under the shade of a gum tree. An inviting waterhole with rippled reflections of red rock and blue sky. A little slice of outback heaven. I find the view through a fly net is still lovely too. The little blighters are a bit thick in summer and love to try and get in your eyes and your mouth. I wouldn’t be the first person who has accidentally swallowed a fly here.

Summer flies in Central Australia. Be prepared.

Despite the presence of flies, I love all the waterholes and each one is unique. You can do a waterhole crawl and see them all in one day but each is worthy of spending time, taking a picnic, swimming, exploring, relaxing and just absorbing the view and the serenity of the scene in front of you.

To the west of Alice Springs my favourite waterholes are Ellery Creek Big Hole, Ormiston Gorge, Glen Helen Gorge and last but not least,the adventure swim at Redbank Gorge, 155km from Alice Springs.

ELLERY CREEK BIG HOLE – a very deep big hole and gorgeous swimming
ORMISTON GORGE – a waterhole framed by dramatic scenery with a lovely sandy beach
GLEN HELEN GORGE – a lovely swim with access to a bar, coffee and meals.
REDBANK GORGE – the adventure swim

Redbank Gorge is unique and I classify it as the adventure swim. You need swim across the waterhole to enter a narrow cleft in the range. The further in you swim, the narrower and more stunning it is. Its icy cold, crystal clear and just beautiful with gorge walls towering at arms length on either side and a patch of blue sky way up above. This gorge is the furthermost from Alice and the 1.2km walk in involves a bit of rock hopping.

Of course, the best time to enjoy the waterholes is when its hot and you can savour a cool refreshing swim. There is no finer way to cool off in the Outback when its hot. Alice Springs in summer is hot but the waterholes are blissfully cold and picturesque to boot. Bring a noodle, float in the shade and ENJOY.

RUBY GAP NATURE PARK – Paradise Found in Central Australia

4 x 4 Adventure Trails in the Centre of Australia

The road is rough as guts and a bit of a 4WD adventure but the sight of Ruby Gap and Glen Annie Gorge in Central Australia is so worth every corrugation and diff scraping boulder. This is the real Outback of Australia. Red rock, gum trees in dry river bed and that sky that is the bluest of blues.

“ Surely the sky is not really that blue”, I say to Kevin, as on a warm sunny November day, as we hike along the river bed in Ruby Gorge.

Big blue sky country along a sandy dry river bed

We take off our Polaroid sunglasses to check and it was even bluer without them. An incredible shade of deep sky blue, a stunning backdrop to the red ochre walls of the gorge. These are the colours of the Outback that you won’t find anywhere else in the world. The clarity of light here is brighter and it’s a special sight to behold.

Ruby Gap Nature Park is a “must see” piece of Central Australia. This part of the far Eastern MacDonnell Ranges will leave an imprint on your soul. I kid you not. It’s a remarkably pretty piece of country in a dry arid region. Only accessible by high clearance 4WD, it’s raw, natural and way less touristy than the Western MacDonnell Ranges. No allocated camping bays, no board walks, no fenced off areas, no caravans and most importantly no crowds of people.

So few other people that you can swim in the nuddy (because you walked 3 km to get to Glen Annie Gorge without togs and didn’t know that the swimming hole would be so amazing). We love a place to camp in the bush in solitude. Just the sounds of the wind, the birds, the crackle of a campfire and the wild donkeys that ee-aw from the scrub. This describes our campsite here to perfection.

Ruby Gorge was so named because of the gems scattered in the sandy Hale River bed. They are actually garnets not rubies as first thought by explorer David Lindsey in 1886. We fossick as we hike the visually spectacular 6km return from our campsite to Glen Annie Gorge and collect ourselves a few.

We are rich (in experience) Just worthless garnets but pretty nonetheless
Patches of glowing red garnets in the sand

Glen Annie Gorge is so lovely with a long waterhole framed by reeds and the towering red Gorge walls. It’s peaceful. Just the wind, the ducks and flocks of finches that flit between the gum trees. A swim here is pure magic and just divine on a warm November day. Almost a religious experience.

That would be yours truly in Paradise

At the end of the Gorge we find the lonely grave of JL Fox who died in 1888. No idea who he was but there is an eerie quality finding an old grave in such a remote, timeless place, surrounded by ancient sunbaked hills as old as time. And year, after year, after year, time marches onward and the grave of a man who once existed just bakes in the sun on a lonely hill………..

J L Fox buried here in 1888
A remote lonely, lonely grave in an ancient timeless landscape

A poignant moment and then we swim in the heavenly waterhole. Because right now we are in this lovely gorge under the clearest blue sky and we are alive. Living the life that makes us happy. What more is there?

Is this or is this not just a stunningly beautiful place? Glen Annie Gorge

Gourmet Pizza at Ruby Gap with a long cool spritz. I learnt on this trip that you can indeed make a magnificent Italian Pizza on a gas burner stove in a tiny camper. Oh the joy. Long gone are the days of a tin of baked beans with mini cocktail frankfurters.

Michelle’s new camping specialty
Memories of Italy in the Australian Outback. How awesome that we take a little bit of every holiday with us wherever we go. SALUTE
Cheers to my Outback man who I love to be in a 4WD with