A long weekend in the West MacDonnells

Nirbeeja, a happy camper

We were excited to learn that, hot on the heals of the Anzac Day long weekend, we were to have another long weekend here in the Northern Territory.  Who said this was an uncivilised place?  What were we to do with three days off? The answer was obvious – we’d “go bush”.

Now, deciding what to do was the easy part, where to go not so simple.  Alice Springs is the largest settlement for around 1500km in any direction, and Alice has a population of less than 30000.  So you get the idea – there is plenty of bush out here. 


Storm-clouds over Alice – the Todd River flows

Ominous cloud approaching Alice.  9 April 2010

9 April 2010

Alice Springs is famous for its Henley-on-Todd Regatta, an annual ‘boating’ event held on the Todd River in the centre of Alice Springs.  Why is it famous?  Well, because the boat races only ever take place on the dry, sandy river bed.  The ‘boats’ are carried across the sand by their crews in a race to the finish.  Indeed, the only time the Regatta has ever been cancelled has been when there has been water in the river!

It was with this image of the Todd River in mind that we arrived in Alice Springs late last year.  Dry river bed, not a drop of water in sight.  We both spoke of how much we would like to see the river flow, but didn’t hold out any hope.  


Blog 12 – More of the Kimberley, then we cross the border to the NT – October 2009

View across Cambridge Gulf from Five Rivers Lookout, Wyndham WA

We finished our adventure along the Kimberley’s famous Gibb River Road feeling a strange mixture of elation and flatness.  We were elated to have experienced such a rugged, remote and ancient landscape, surprisingly full of wildlife and beauty.  We were also elated and relieved to have survived with car and camper trailer intact.  But we both also felt flat.  How could anything or anywhere live up to what we had just experienced?  How could we rekindle the almost magical quality of that region?

It was with these mixed feelings that we left the dirt and drove up the bitumen highway towards Wyndham, the most northerly major town in the Kimberley.  We had expected to drive along river flats and past mangrove swamps, but the region was surprisingly mountainous.  This was another reminder to us that Australia is a country of surprises.  Wyndham itself is a small place, with two halves separated by several kilometers.  The more modern administrative half appears to be the ‘growth’ district, while the older Wyndham Port features most of the town’s historic buildings.


Blog 11 – We return to the Kimberley, land of the Wandjina and the Boab – August 2009

Manning Gorge


Our last blog finished with us at the DeGrey River campsite, north of Port Hedland.  We had a week to burn before we were to return to Port Hedland for some work on the car.  Where to go?  I know Nirbeeja would have returned to Carawine Gorge in the blink of an eye, but it was quite a distance from Port Hedland, so we opted to travel instead up the coast.  After a couple of false starts we arrived at the Cape Keraudren Coastal Recreation Reserve (try saying that after a couple of wines).  Cape Keraudren is at the southerly edge of the well-known Eighty Mile Beach, so we thought it might give us a taste for the area.

We planned to stay for two nights, but stayed for five.  We loved it.  The area was full of wildlife, the beach was beautiful, we had our first sighting of Brolgas on this trip and we saw many magnificent kangaroos.  We were camped beside Cootenbrand Creek, a lovely sheltered spot that kept us entertained with its massive tidal variations and pale aqua waters.  The only drawback was that the campsite was on a limestone shelf, making it impossible to use pegs to secure the camper trailer.  So we improvised, tying the ropes to large rocks and using boxes to support inside the walls of the bedroom. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.


Blog 10 – Working in Carnarvon, then on the road again – June 2009

Red Bluff, north of Carnarvon WA sunset

Contrary to what you may all be thinking, we are still alive, we are still travelling, we are still together and yes – we are still enjoying our adventure, loving it in fact.  It’s just that life, work and travel have all interfered with our capacity to write this blog.

Where did the time go?  Well, since our previous blog way back in October 2008 we’ve been pretty busy.  (more…)

Blog 9 – Karijini and beyond – adventures in the Pilbara – October 2008

The gorges converge at Oxer Lookout, Karijini National Park

We learned of Karijini National Park while we were still in Canberra.  A Tai Chi student of Peter’s showed us photos of his many travels around Australia, and we remember being struck by the ones of ‘that place with the magnificent gorges’.

Next, we heard about the park while staying in Ceduna, just before we crossed the Nullarbor.  A very friendly, enthusiastic lady from Mandurah, south of Perth, was going around the caravan park telling all of us easterners that we must visit Karijini.  This became a standing joke between us – “Young lady/man, you really must visit Karijini”. 

So we did. (more…)

Blog 8 – We explore WA’s Murchison & Gascoyne regions, then have a first taste of the Pilbara – September 2008

Murchison River late afternoon – near campsite

Hello everyone.  Our previous entry was written in Kalbarri.  We spent several more days in the region, camped at the Murchison House Station on the banks of the Murchison River.  We had a lovely time there, enjoying campfires morning and night and heading off each day to explore somewhere else in the region.  And did we mention the wildflowers?  Yes, of course we have, over and over, but it’s difficult to get over such a display.  They were beautiful.

Apart from looking at the flowers, we did manage a few other things, including the 8km Loop Walk around the gorges along the Murchison River.  It was beautiful, with dramatic cliffs and rocks forming a backdrop along the walk.  Everywhere we looked wildflowers were in bloom (oops, mentioned them again). (more…)

Blog 7 – Work and play in WA’s Central West – August 2008

The sunrises almost made the 4am starts worthwhile

Hello again!  We are writing this blog in Kalbarri, a delightful coastal town north of Geraldton, having arrived yesterday. Over the past five weeks we’ve been at our second housesit, on this occasion for Alick and Willemina in the countryside about 20 kilometres north of Geraldton.  They made us very welcome at their home and we were able to spend some quality time with them at the end of our housesit after they returned from a tag-along 4WD tour they led into the Pilbara.  Alick was also generous in providing us with lots of great information for our forthcoming adventures into the Pilbara.  (more…)

Blog 6 – Further explorations in WA’s South West, then we venture north – June 2008

Near Cape Naturaliste, WA                                            Well, despite what you may think, we haven’t disappeared, nor have we been abducted by aliens.  We are, in fact, writing to you from Geraldton on the mid west coast of Western Australia.  We are nearing the end of our first housesit, looking after the home and pets of a couple named Gloria and Rob while they enjoy a holiday in Bali.  We have plenty of company here in their home – 6 dogs, comprising a beautiful Rottweiller named Chloe, 5 pugs – Shortie, Mack, Fifi, Burtae and Misty – who are full of mischief and personality, a talking female Corella named Bob, two more birds and a couple of fish.  So, after many months without any pets, we have gone into saturation mode.  We’ve had an enjoyable and entertaining time looking after them all.

Before we go any further, we should fill you in and what we’ve been up to for the past few months.  After many months of touring and camping in national parks, we’ve had a few changes to our routine.  Since our last blog we’ve mainly stayed in towns, entertained guests from home, worked for a living, Peter had a whirlwind trip home to Canberra, and, as we mentioned above, we’ve been doing our first housesit.  The months have simply flown by. (more…)

Blog 5 – Westward Ho! – March 2008

The Nullarbor Cliffs - a spectacular sight.

Our journey across the Great Australian Bight to the Nullarbor Plain and beyond commenced on Australia Day, which seemed to us a very appropriate time to visit such landmarks.

The Nullarbor Plain – plain sailing ahead!                                       Warning signs – an interesting line-up.

Our first stop was at Cactus Beach, a surf beach famous for its point break (whatever that means).  Yes, it did look like a great place for surfing but we were keen to see the Nullarbor cliffs, so we continued on our way.  We reached the Great Australian Bight Marine Park which stretches along the coastline of South Australia across the Bight.  The cliffs vary from between 60 to 90 metres in height, and rather disconcertingly are often undercut by erosion.  The views from the sheer cliffs into the surging Southern Ocean far below were breathtaking.