On 6 June 2010 we left for our Top End adventure travelling through the Flinders Ranges to Maree and onto the Oodnadatta Track. After Oodnadatta we turned off and headed up to Mt Dare before crossing in the Northern Territory and traversing Binns Track to Alice Springs.
After Alice Springs we went out through the East MacDonnell Ranges working our way up into the Davenport Ranges before rejoining the Stuart Hwy at the Devils Marbles. Once on the Stuart Hwy we pushed north up into Mataranka, swimming in the hot springs and onto Katherine.
Leaving Katherine we drove further north to Litchfield National Park camping at Florence Falls which were a delight to swim in at the end of each days exploration. Litchfield led to Darwin where four nights were spent restocking the supplies and taking in the sights before venturing off into Kakudu National Park.
On leaving Kakudu National Park we headed south for a short distance before turning off and heading east along the Savanagh Way to Roper Bar, out through Borroloola, camping on the Robinson River before crossing the border into outback Queensland. Out through Hells Gate we went turning south down into Kingfisher Camp and onto Lawn HIll Gorge where we camped and canoed.
Having had a very relaxing time at Lawn Hill we moved on through outback Queensland to Winton where we took in the Age of Dinosaur exhibition and camped on a cattle property “Windermere” where the kids fed the poddy calves.
The weather started to turn cold so we headed south having travelled 10,961 kilometres arriving home on 17 July 2010.
Flinders Ranges National Park, Australia
A beautiful scenic place to stay and explore. We woke to a very cold 3 degree morning but once the sun started to rise it was magnificent. The last we were here it was in drought and to see it so green was beautiful. Guess we need to book this in for another trip.
Having woken to a magnificent sunrise at Beresford Ruins off the Oodnadatta Track we broke camp and headed west toward the Oodnadatta Roadhouse. A morning tea stop in William Creek and walk around the cemetery opposite the pub was an interesting insight into the history of the area. Further along we reached the “Pink Roadhouse” that had one the oldest swing sets I have seen but that didn’t stop the kids from testing the fun factor. After lunch we drove just out of town before turning right and heading for Mt Dare which was to be our stop for night. Managed to pick up a farm nail in the tyre but it was sealing fine so decided to keep a watch on it as opposed to fix it. Mt Dare is in the Witjira National Park on the western edge of the Simpson Desert.
Old Andado, Australia
Next morning it was on the road again as we pushed north toward Alice Springs. We planned to drive Binns Track which was formally known as Old Andado track. With no expectations we set off. Within 14 kms we were driving through dense bush, home to thousands of green budgies before crossing gibber strewn plains and farming properties. The drive was easy going and nothing difficult and we did see one 4wd coming the other way. By lunch we had reached Old Andando homestead and upon cresting the red sand dune we were confronted by a desert flood. This was nothing short of spectacular and a prime opportunity to photograph the magnificent red dunes and water. The track to the homestead was cut but a bypass track had been dozed around the flood waters. It was here that one of the highlights of the trip was discovered.
On arriving at the homestead we were greeted by the volunteer caretaker who insisted that we come inside for a brew. This was the wish of Molly Clarke the owner. Molly who I thought! Well on leaving this beautifully preserved piece of Australian history I was in awe. Tough country – friendly folk. http://www.oldandado.com.au
A short drive on after lunch brought us to Mac Clarke’s conservation area where a walk of the Waddy trees and more history was digested.
Camp was a simple off the road behind some shrubs for the night.
Alice Springs, Australia
We drove up Binns Track slowly making our way toward Alice Springs. As we came toward the end of the track it changed from red sand to a more black soil with scattered rock. There was obvious flood damage to the track so we took our time. Driving through the Aboriginal community at Santa Therese and heading west we came into Alice Springs.
We checked into the McDonnell Ranges Big 4 caravan park where the kids were quick to eye off the jumping pillow. This was to be camp for the next 48 hours where we were to meet up with Chris (Pav) who had driven down from Darwin to join us as we head north.
Some down time, food restocked, beer and wine onboard and plenty of fuel. We were ready to continue the touring holiday.
Arltunga Historical Reserve, Australia
Now with Pav having arrived it was time to hit the road again with a traveling companion. A quick check of the vehicles in the morning revealed the Britz had a leaking tyre. We got this changed fairly quickly and headed off into the East MacDonnell Ranges. Our aim was to camp the night at Ruby Gap. This was my second attempt to get there having been beaten by time some years ago on a previous trip. We arrived at Arltunga historical area in time for lunch and on going into the ranges office we read the road to Ruby Gap was closed due to flood damage. Beaten again! On the bright side there is an excuse for another trip.
Having to chose another camp for the night Gem Tree was decided. We had an explore and stretch of the legs around the historical area and ventured out to the old gold mines. These were great and some were open so you could crawl through with the torches and experience the conditions as they were back then. We took Cattle Pass Way track (by mistake) to Gem Tree which saw some low range driving up the hills. The drive was very scenic and well worth the error. The climbs were tough, the ground very rocky and narrow in places but forced slower speeds meant we were able to take in the bird life, terrain and views. Gem Tree was an interesting camp ground and one that we will plan to stay at another time and explore the gem fields held by this property. The owner here was very hospitable and even had diesel supplies.
Old Policemans Waterhole
Gem Tree was a great place to stop for the night and we weren’t that organised int he morning. We started planning the road further north trying to work out which will be the nest route to take. It was decided to head toward Policeman’s Waterhole via the dirt tracks as opposed to the bitumen highway. I had expressed my concerns regarding this route as we had not left early enough and the distance was of concern but alas I was over ruled and out voted.
To say we had not left early enough was an understatement. We drove some of the most scenic outback tracks, crossing massive dry river systems surrounded by magnificent red sands. The going was slow and before we knew it the sun was setting. We had entered Aboriginal lands where camping was not permitted so we needed to continue driving. Two screaming kids carrying on in the back that were hungry, a track that was narrow, winding, twisting and crossing washouts and rivers with headlights and driving lights on. This was not an enjoyable time and was exhausting to drive. We made it to camp around 7.30 p.m., dirty,, dusty, hungry and exhausted. Baked Beans on toast was the dinner of choice.
Next morning it was decided that a day of rest was needed and no driving was going to happen. We spent the day exploring the perimeter of the waterhole, watching eagles overhead swooping the field for food. This was a great camp site within the National Park and definitely a place to return to. Emily performed a dance to the Australian Crawl song ‘Reckless’ which is an indication of the music she is being raised on.
After a day of rest we continued the journey although this was going to be an easy day of driving. We did not have far to drive to reach the Devils Marbles on the Stuart Hwy. The drive out of Policemans Waterhole was less adventurist as coming in but very scenic just the same. We past another camp ground within the National Park and again this would also make a great couple of nights to rest up.
We arrived at the marbles around lunch time meaning we got to choose the best campsite as all the other travellers had not arrived as yet. The site we grabbed was prime! We parked up for lunch and Pav headed off to Tennet Creek to get the spare tyre repaired as the day was still young. We set about exploring the marbles and climbing up and down the magnificent granite rocks. These are absolutely amazing and fun for everyone to explore regardless of age.
Litchfield National Park, Australia
Kakadu National Park
Robinson River, Australia
Having driven the one million corrugations out of Lorella Springs we continued on the Savannah Way heading for Borroloola which was to be the lunch stop. It was an easy and very scenic drive and although we only saw a couple of cars, we could others nearby over the radio. Wasn’t much to see or do in Boorooloola except look straight ahead and take no photos. The servo was a great stop for lunch as they had the fried Dim Sim and crinkle cut chips hot and ready to eat. Suffice to say it was an enjoyable feast. On leaving town we head for the Robinson River where we would look for a camp. The book told us to cross the river and turn left and sure enough there was this tiny little over grown track. Hmmm why not – so we did. Well this opened to a treed grass land with four sites backing onto the river but a good 400 meters on high bank. Safe from the Crocs for another night. This ended up being a good free camp spot that we would have no hesitation in staying again.
Lawn Hill National Park, Australia
Another beautiful morning and on the road heading for Queensland. The roads were quiet which was no suprise and pace was relaxed. We headed down into another river crossing which was quite wide. The drive in was easy and as we started to exit – BANG. That sickening sound of rock on metal. We looked at each other wondering what was broken. We drove to the top of crossing and a quick inspection showed nothing out of the ordinary so on we went. We crossed over into Queensland at Wollogorang and the gravel road immediately changed. Yep an unkept, heavily corrugated, pot holed track inside Queensland. We slowed down, took our time and made it to Hells Gate for lunch. This was an interesting place to stop for a bite to eat and the history of the name is worth the google. On leaving we headed for Kingfisher Camp on Bowthron Station. As I veered out something didn’t feel right with the front end so another quick inspection again showed no obvious signs so on we went. We turned right and head south off the Savannah Way. The road into the camp was a good black soil track with lots of bends. On arriving at camp I drove the truck and trailer around the camp ground to drive through our site and couldn’t turn left. Something was definately wrong. A five point turn, towing a trailer in a camp ground with every camper watching is pressure. Eventually got the car around and drove into the site. An inspection of lying underneath found that the rock had collided with the steering dampner preventing the wheels turning left. The station hand was a good bush mechanic who gave the following advice…. (now say it slowly)…..”just take it off. You don’t need them they just get bent up on rocks”. So with the help of some fellow travellers off came the dampner.
Next stop was down into Lawn Hill Gorge via Bowthron Station. This was a pleasant drive, with bulldust holes, lots of cattle gates, some good long and wide river crossings and very scenic. We eventually pulled into Lawn Hill and decided to camp at Adel’s Grove. $40 per night for the family so three nights were booked. After the third night we discuss staying another two to three nights. This is an amazing camp ground set amongst Palm Trees on a magnificient river that has fresh water crocs and plenty of fish. It was safe for swimming and hiring the canoe was sensational. $50 for 2 hours to paddle up the gorge, drag it around to a second gorge and continue paddling. The views, atmosphere, bird life, fish and crocs. This is was relaxing and a place we look forward to returning to.
Lawn Hill to Home
Leaving Lawn Hill was hard but it was time to move on. It was to be a simple drive as we slowly headed south for home with the rest of the trip on the bitumen. We drove through to Cloncurry for a nights stop at the Top Tourist Park and the next day onto Winton. On arriving at Winton there really wasn’t any of those nice green grassy campsites that we all enjoy. A poster stuck on a post advertised a farm stay just out of town so to try something different the decision was made. Well it was a cattle property but the hosts could not have been friendlier. They had golf clubs and balls, a large fire with the wood supplied, basic camp kitchen and toilets. In the afternoon our little city slickers were invited to feed the pody calves and turkeys which was a treat. This was an nice quiet spot to camp outside of the city centre and well worth it.
The next day we went on to the Age of Dinosaur centre on the outskirts of town. This was a magnificent place set at the top of a mountain range looking back over channel country. To think it was only 10 years ago when the Dinosaur bones were found in Winton and watching them slowly reconstruct these prehistoric beasts was every boys dream. Even the girls enjoyed the tour. I look forward to visiting again in another 5 or so years and seeing the progress.
After Winton we drove to Longreach for lunch and Blackall for the night. Oops no spare sites at the camp ground so we got put into the town over flow at the sports ground. Great spot no being cramped in with every other tourist and hot showers. Didn’t mind this at all.
The rest of the trip home was easy driving at a relaxed pace with the first rain since the morning we left experienced one hour out of Melbourne.
A great adventure had by all.