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.

Coming Home and Lessons Learned

So we’re home. And home is lovely. After months of living in arid landscapes, red dirt and deserts we had forgotten just how ‘green’ Cairns is. It’s so pretty with the mountain backdrop and rainforest. The ocean isn’t the glorious aquamarine of the WA coast but its lovely in a north QLD kind of way. Isn’t it wonderful we have experienced it all?

mick swing
The beach vista in North Queensland. It is rather lovely.

The West Australian Coastline is worlds different in light and water clarity. Totally lovely.

So we did it, the trip of a lifetime, and it was just grand. No regrets. We gave up our jobs and drove 20232 kilometres across the top, down the west coast, across the middle and a quick dash down south. Fantastic. Australia is amazing.

So here are some random statistics on our experience travelling remote Australia by 4WD.

Free camp near Karajini National Park. Totally splendid view and I have ordered this photo as a huge metal artwork for our wall at home. Great photo by Kevin.

The ultimate trip cost

  • We were away for just over 16 weeks in total and we spent $18 681 in total. I’m happy with that. I had budgeted for $1000 per week plus an extra $4000 for car repairs and maintenance. We came in under budget in our weekly spending averaging at $800 per week and went over in the car expenditure which blew out to $5860. Three services in Kununurra, Tom Price and Kapunda, front wheel bearings in Broome, rear parabolic springs and 4 Cooper tyres in Geraldton and, thanks to the Simpson Desert, new rear shock absorbers in Kapunda. We didn’t actually need the new Coopers but we were getting frustrated with the flats we were getting on the skinny split rim tube tyres and opted to replace them with fatter tubeless. No flats since so it was worth it.

    Sexy beach shot on the beach in Geraldton. New shoes and a nice butt lift.
  • We travelled 20232 km and spent $4696 on fuel. The most expensive fuel was at Mt Dare Station SA just before the Simpson Desert at $2.15 per litre and the cheapest in Kapunda SA at $1.21 per litre. That’s a bit uncanny that South Australia wins the crown in both cases and it wasn’t even planned.

    Good on you South Aussie – both cheap and expensive
  • Food came in at $4514 and we ate way too much chocolate. We would stock up on chocolate and other assorted snacks when we got to a big supermarket as that sort of stuff is too expensive to buy in remote locations. We bought 6 blocks of chocolate in Broome (after 2 weeks on the Gibb River Road) as it was so cheap and ate them all in 3 days. That’s why I had to buy moo moo’s in Broome. We ate a little too well and were not as disciplined as we are at home. Let’s not talk about all the kitchener buns and chocolate donuts in Kapunda. I’m paying for that extravagance now.

    A South Australian Kitchener Bun. Taste bud heaven. One for breakfast every day. Need more moo moos.
  • Accommodation costs were very reasonable at $1957. A good mix of free camping, national parks, the luxury of three nights in a cottage at Geraldton and a couple of nights in a cabin at Kapunda because it was freezing cold.

    Free camping at its finest. James Price Point north of Broome
  • Miscellaneous spending was $1654. This money was put aside for tours, entry fees and everything else. There were quite a few Op Shop purchases in there. It was one of my favourite activities in a town; pottering through an Op Shop in an exotic new destination. My wardrobe expanded unnecessarily and exponentially much to Kevin’s perturbed amusement and mild disgust. (Chuckle)

See my other blog on more detailed trip costs The Savannah Way from Cairns QLD to Broome WA: How much does it cost?

Other random observations as follows…..

  1. Between us we managed to read 28 books and listen to 3 audio books. Every book swap was taken advantage of with much gusto. That’s what we did in the evenings. Read books and ate chocolate.
  2. Ugg boots are just the best footwear on holiday, even in warm country (clean feet with ease)
  3. I made bread 14 times in the Weber Baby Q, and with home made lentil soup this was our most popular meal choice. (Chocolate for desert of course) We called our Weber ‘Baby you fat bitch’. A little harsh I know, but she was so big and heavy and took up a lot of space in the camper. We wouldn’t have gone without her though. She gave us so many awesome meals.
  4. The two equally worst roads were the Simpson Desert crossing and the Kalumburu Road to Mitchell Falls in the Kimberly. Both were particularly punishing to our vehicle but the scenic reward was worth it so no real regrets there.

    Simpson Desert bounce over 1000 sand dunes like this. New shock absorbers……

    Corrugations on the Kalumburu Road. They were doozies….

    See my blog THE GIBB RIVER ROAD for more on this…….


  5. People ask what was the absolute highlight of the whole trip and I find it impossible to narrow it down to one place. We saw and did so much that was absolutely stunning, each in its own unique way. So many ‘wow, moments. I loved it all.

    Dales Gorge at Karajini National park

    So the highlight has to be the length of our trip. Four months was an ideal time frame. We didn’t feel pressured for time and we felt the pure joy of freedom to explore at our leisure. That was a sufficient length of time though as by the end we were both weary. I don’t think you can keep appreciating it as much if you do it perpetually. It was time to come home and we actually started to look forward to a couch, a TV, our own toilet and a bed where Kevin doesn’t have to climb over me to go out for a wee. It’s the little things.

  6. Kevin and I, for the first time, spent 24 hours a day with each other, for four months in a confined living arrangement. We survived, we laughed a lot, we became more tolerant, we relaxed into a comfortable camaraderie and it made our relationship stronger. It was a fantastic experience to share.

    A shared experience at its finest

    See my blog for more on snorkelling with whalesharks Waves, Wild Wind and Whalesharks

  7. We saw hundreds of emus in all states. They were the dominant wildlife on this trip which was great because I love them. They’re so quirky.

Lessons learnt along the way

Follow the weather. The perception of a holiday is 95% dictated by the weather, especially when living under a canvas roof. A place that is simply magnificent in sunshine becomes bleak and horrid in wet, bleak, cold and overcast weather. During the winter months the North of Australia is the place to be. Gotta love warmth and sunshine.

Just add sunshine to turn an ordinary scene into paradise


Less is more and will save you grief. We overpacked. Too much ‘stuff’. I tried to be minimalist when we packed but failed and it became obvious when at our first service, the mechanic assumed we were there to get our suddenly sagging rear springs replaced. We carried too much ‘just in case’ stuff and things that only got minimal use. The heavy generator and max tracks sat on the roof rack the whole way with no use, the boat only got used twice, the BBQ plate that got used once, there was too much stuff in our internal cupboards like the heavy camp oven that didn’t get used, too many clothes (in my section). The excessive weight of our vehicle became stringently obvious in Kapunda when the mechanic replacing the shockers couldn’t lift the vehicle with a 4 tonne hoist (our gvm is 3.3 tonnes). No wonder we suffered trying to cross the Simpson Desert and had the considerable expense of replacing our suspension.

Up and over the dunes with our heavy load. There is a lot of useless weight on that roof rack just to start with and I’m pretty sure ‘Baby the fat bitch’ was bouncing her way up and down the floor. See my blog Crossing the Simpson Desert: What the heck were we thinking?

It’s nice to have a home to come back too. We did actually consider selling up everything to travel perpetually prior to this trip. Sell the house, hit the road and be totally free. That’s a romantic notion though and I’m glad we didn’t go down that path. It’s wonderful to be free but living in a confined space, always on the move takes its toll. I’m positive that the thrill of travel wouldn’t be as great if it was a way of life rather than just a holiday. I guess it’s a personal thing because some people happily do it but we need a place to go ‘home’. Then we can plan and get excited about the next adventure. And there will be more………..

Thank you

So to those people that faithfully followed my blog on this adventure, thank you for coming with us, thank you for the likes and nice comments and I hope you enjoyed the journey. I hope I encouraged other people to do similar and inspired you to visit these amazing places in our beautiful country. It is so worth it. We are much richer for the experience. Kevin and I have luckily both got our jobs back straight away so we didn’t even have to line up at Centrelink, which is a huge bonus. We took a risk and the reward was beyond our expectations.

There will be more………….

Cape Leveque with my favourite WA colour scheme

Broome and Dampier Peninsula


Laverton to Uluru: The Great Central Road into Australia’s RED HEART.

Just what is it about Lawn Hill Gorge?


Adrenaline filled adventure at Karajini National Park

and more …….

millaa millaa
Home is beautiful too, lets never forget that.

Laverton to Uluru: The Great Central Road into Australia’s RED HEART.

Sunrise on a chilly morning

The Red Centre is truly Australia’s heart (literally and figuratively) and once again has captured our hearts. It’s so unique to our country and people from all over the world flock here to see the landscape and the colours of the ‘real’ Australia – the red sand, the blue sky, the gold spinifex plains and the myriad shades of pink, gold, purple and red in the flowering native shrubs. The sky has layers of pastel shades at dusk and at night it glitters with diamond stars in a inky black nightscape. Statuesque desert oak trees whisper in the wind and of course the sight of Uluru is something to behold. That great big ochre sandstone monolith that juts from the flat spinifex plain and has different moods according to the angle of that ever present golden sunshine. It’s glorious.
The Great Central Road was quite simply a brilliant shortcut from the WA coastline to this region of the NT. We expected a lengthy, sandy, rutted 4WD track over the 1150km distance from Laverton to Yulara but we were treated to a dirt super highway. It was a fraction rougher around the border crossing and sandier on the NT side but not a challenging journey at all.

The Great Central Road on the WA side of the border
And on the NT side of the border. See the colours of Central Australia coming into view

The road is remote, passing by an occasional Aboriginal community but easy traveling and the sky at night in the Gibson Desert was incredible. For the first time in my life I could see the spiral arm of our Milky Way galaxy extend completely across the sky from one horizon to another. That’s the joy of being in one of the worlds great dark night sky regions. Incredible stars.

Starry, starry night in the blackest night sky where the Milky Way extended from horizon to horizon

After the border crossing its only 200km to Yulara and the ‘Namatjira’ colours of the Red Centre become obvious (Albert Namatjira was a famous Aborginal landscape painter who captured the colours to perfection).

Kevin, a bit of a history buff, has had a long held fascination with the tale of Harold Bell Lassetter and his infamous long lost reef of gold. It was a Central Australian yarn and tale of woe that he told with much flourish to his tour groups many years ago. So he was literally jumping out of his seat with excitement to finally have the opportunity to spend a moment or two in THE very cave and the region where Lassetter spent his last 22 days before perishing in the desert. Lassetters Cave is not far from the border and an interesting historic stop on our journey and sadly, although I looked, no gold was found.

Kevin at the entrance to Lassetters Cave(special moment)
The tragic tale of Harold Lassetter

Then, 35 km away from our destination, the Olgas (Kata Tjuta) start looming into view and it’s such an incredible sight after over 1000km of flat desert. We approach from the west in the afternoon sunshine and, like huge sentinels guarding the landscape, they glow red against the brilliant blue sky and send shivers down our spine. Stunning sight to behold.

Hello Olgas and The Red Centre

This portion of the trip is nostalgic for us. Kevin and I met 28 years ago here at the Ayers Rock sunset viewing area so it’s a trip down memory lane re-exploring this region, although things change. The natural landscape is unchanged (if anything it’s more beautiful) but since our time here a lot more focus has been placed upon the traditional aboriginal perspective around the Yulara Resort and at the rock itself. It is now seriously frowned upon by the ‘traditional owners’ to climb Uluru, a pursuit that used to be a crowning glory of a visit to this 348 metre monolith. Signs and and all the Park literature ‘suggests’ that visitors respect the traditional owners and ‘don’t climb the rock’.

A complicated sign

However, it is not banned and still an optional choice. An optional choice that we and many other visitors choose to participate in willingly on that day. This is not out of any disrespect to the ‘traditional owners’ but simply because it’s what we love to do and while we still can we will. It’s how we savour a place. We walk it and we climb it. That’s how we connect with the landscape. You just can’t get that intimate connection looking out a bus window, riding a Segway or peering through fences.

Glorious moment on top of the rock up where the wedge tailed eagles soar

So on a sunny winters day we climb to the summit marker and feel a great sense of achievement. The views are incredible and I even meditate for a few minutes feeling like an eagle way above the plains. There’s just something really special about being on top of Uluru.We then walk the 10.6 km around the base of the rock. So much of it is fenced off now but Kevin knows this place intimately after many years tour guiding and tells me what secrets are behind the barriers in the silent crevices. The native shrubs are in flower early this year so we walk past mulla mulla, honey grevillea, wattle, acacia and many more in lovely sunshine. The following day we walk the Valley of the Winds at Kata Tjuta, my first time even though I spent time working out here. This was icing on the cake and I was in awe. A beautiful 7.4km walk through the towering domes of the Olgas and once again I had the insights and knowledge of my personal tour guide. IMG_20170817_142200

Lastly, Ayers Rock and The Olgas are 600 million years old and it bemuses me that the word owner and the concept of money is bandied around in relation to them these days. This place is so ancient and timeless and its just such a privilege to feel the soul of the landscape. It’s always an amazing experience.

The spinifex really does turn gold

Next stop is an afternoon hiking around the rim of Kings Canyon. The walk was lovely but it has been ‘manicured’ since we last did it 20 odd years ago. No more slithering through slippery caves and perilous clambering down rock faces. Had to happen but the adventure has diminished somewhat. Still nice though as the scenery is impressive.

Beautiful Ormiston Gorge

Then a couple of nights camping at Ormiston Gorge in the Western MacDonnell Ranges where we hiked the 4 hour Ormiston Pound circuit. One evening I was sitting here alone by the waterhole at dusk being mellow and enjoying the stillness and serenity. A hippy chick with dreadlocks walked past me deeper into the Gorge and a few minutes later she started chanting in a pure, high voice. It was magical as it echoed through the gorge. Moments like this make holidays so special.

The very lovely Ormiston Gorge. The rock on the right extending into the water was where I was sitting at dusk when the chanting sent chills down my spine.

Next stop on the journey – our old hometown of Alice Springs. Now that will be a jaunt down memory lane.hdr