Killer trees – the strangler

The strangler fig is a type of Ficus that grows in tropical rainforests and gets its name from the habit of growing on other trees, often resulting in the demise of the host. They are impressive and beautiful, despite their unfortunate behaviour, and are sometimes very old and massive.

And I’m a big fan of them!

For more square trees (trees for squares?) see here.

Gregory Downs, Barkley Homestead, Tennant Creek and Karlu Karlu.

It’s a sign of the times we live in, that our next stretch was mapped according to where we could get a border pass. Covid-19 had meant that travel in Australia had introduced people to where the State borders actually are, and who could cross them.

From Gregory Downs there are three possible roads, or tracks, but only one is bitumen. We stopped at Burke and Wills Roadhouse for fuel (both the car and us) after encountering those tall grey birds again. I’ll include a zoomed shot, just to give you an idea, but it’s pixelated. Diesel was predictably expensive so we didn’t fill.

It might be worth mentioning that Burke and Wills were explorers who, with John King and Charles Gray, became the first Europeans to cross Australia from south to north. It was on their return journey that Burke, Wills and Gray died of malnutrition.

We took the Cloncurry Road, hoping to get NT border passes before Camooweal, and had to drive about 300km to Mt Isa for printing facilities. The Overlanders Way from Cloncurry to Mt Isa is through the Selwyn Ranges and is very pretty, if winding.

Corella Dam camp was recommended along the way, but reviews on WIKICAMPS suggested that we might have trouble with our van, so we ended up making our way to a free campsite just out of Isa, WW2 Memorial. Its a very spacious site, with many toilets, a BBQ and a shelter. Several other campers were there, mostly within a 20m radius, but some were off in the bush somewhere and I could catch a glimpse of van or hear a distant peel of laughter. The guy in the next car was strumming a guitar before dinner which was very civilized. No phone service and intermittent wifi.

The next morning we crossed the border without incident and made it to Barkley Homestead around midday. We’d stopped here briefly in the past, and this time we thought it was a good way to break up the long, straight drives, and decide what direction we’d take, next. We felt due for a bit of luxury, by way of a pool and a laundry – oh the simple pleasures. More tips were gleaned about where to go next – Banga Banga, Daly Waters, Alice Springs.

Barkley Homestead, like an oasis on the highway.

The Homestead includes some old mining and farming machinery on display out the front, and provides a distraction while you stop.

The facilities are a bit old and tired but there is a restaurant, café, cabins and the break was good. As a last minute decision when we woke we headed along the termite-lined highway the next day to Tennant Creek.

Tennant Creek is a town that you will hear a lot about and generally with warnings and trepidation. We had been through quite a few times and thought it was time we had a tourist view of this large outback town.

The town’s importance probably started in 1874 when the Overland Telegraph Station was built and was an integral part of communication between Barrow Creek and Powell Creek. Mining of gold began in the 1930s and some of the mines later became successful copper mines. The Battery Hill Mining Centre is a good source of information and tours and there is a walk you can do to Battery Hill.

Peko mine from Battery Hill
Telegraph wires

A visit to the Nyinkka Nyunyu Art and Culture Centre was remarkable. Some indigenous women were working on their current pieces and we chatted a little with them before walking through the gallery where, we were told, orders are sent through from all over the world. We weren’t surprised.

some of the artwork on display

For lunch, it was a short drive to Lake Mary Ann where there are many facilities, opportunities for water sport, play equipment, but no camping.

Lake Mary Ann

I think the concerns about Tennant Creek are with staying there overnight, but we have stayed in the Outback Caravan Park in the past and been very happy. There are a couple of free camps not far out of town on the Barkley Highway. I wouldn’t walk around at night as there is a bit of drinking in the town and it can get rowdy. We weren’t stopping yet, so made our way to a very exciting spot.

Karlu Karlu, named Devil’s Marbles by Europeans, is definitely a bucket list place to camp.

This was the fourth time we had been there and yet we hadn’t realised it was so expansive or understood how the rocks were formed.

About 1700 million years ago, magma squeezed up from under the Earth’s surface and as it cooled, cracks formed. Over time, water and wind did its work and columns, then boulders formed.

The Day Centre in the distance

We had arrived uncertain whether to stay but quickly made up our mind as there were only 3 others there. We could access free wifi if we were close to the day centre and did 3 of the walks as they were easy.

There were toilets and we paid $3.30 each to camp, using honesty envelopes. We didn’t have the right money so gave a bit extra.

Three hours after we had arrived, at 5.30pm, the place was just about full. Three or four tents went up and the rest were caravans and campers. We were very surprised, but I can’t deny that we were also pretty chuffed that we were part of another great Australian sunset event. As shadows lengthened, it was time to appreciate the colours and textures of this place.

And in the morning, the parade of colour began, again.

first hints
the land washed in light
the horizon darkens
or is it my camera darkening
We all watch in silent wonder

It really is worth the stop if you have your own accommodation. As a sacred site of the Kaytetye, Warumungu and Warlpiri peoples of the area, you are asked to keep to the walking tracks and not photograph in certain areas. It is made pretty clear, with signage.

I hope that I have respected the signs and wishes of the traditional owners and have not included any sensitive sites in my photos. Please let me know if I have and I will remove them.

Travel safe. Take hats, water and sunscreen.

Boodjamulla/Lawn Hill

The first time we came across Lawn Hill was a sign on the Barkley Highway near Camooweal, with pictures of a lush paradise. After that, plenty of travellers were either coming from, or going towards it. So, as our trip unfolded, from the Gulf of Carpentaria we headed west towards Boodjamulla (aka Lawn Hill). The Aboriginal name means Rainbow Serpent Country and it certainly has colours and textures to delight the senses.

The journey can be undertaken a few ways and none are for the faint-hearted. We decided to go on bitumen roads from Karumba, through Normanton, south to the Burke and Wills roadhouse and then west from there to Gregory Downs. As mentioned in another post, there are several stretches where it is a single lane, so you have to move over for oncoming traffic.

We had trouble finding the free campground, so unhitched in the park behind the hotel, where you can get a good meal, fuel and information about the roads nearby. We could choose our unpowered site, had a peaceful sunset and a good night’s sleep.

The road out to Boodjamulla is just around the corner from the hotel. As is the free campsite, with flowing river and plenty of room!! The road is pretty badly corrugated, with a few bone-rattling stretches so we were glad we had unhitched the van. We’d been advised to drop our tyre pressure, so found it quite ok, but didn’t get over 80km/hr very often after maybe 10km of bitumen at the start.

The first place you come to is Adels Grove campground and you can get a variety of accommodation here or continue on to Lawn Hill. I suggest you read the reviews, as new owners have taken over and I think it will take some time for them to get their heads around it.

The last stretch, from Adels Grove to Lawn Hill, is almost worse than the earlier travel, as you have potholes and dips as well as corrugation, but it is short-lived. People do the trip in regular cars, but I think you’d be damaging them and better off in a 4WD if that’s an option.

Information abounds
well-signed trails

Once in the National Park, there is plenty of information and, having arrived early as advised, we decided to do the Duwadarri Lookout walk and continued to the Indarri Falls walk (which was easier, as it was flatter). It took less than 2 hours, including stops to chat to other walkers and a quick dip in the falls before heading back. You won’t be able to resist it, so go prepared.

We began alongside the river
The lookout takes in the red limestone cliffs
And back along the river
Where lower gorge meets upper gorge

Securing a canoe is a fair-priced must, and we had time for lunch before ours was due. There are a few tables and chairs, but if it was very busy, you may want to bring your own or find a spot by the river. Our only company was a buff-sided robin, keen to be photographed (or get scraps).

buff-sided robin

The tandem canoe trip takes you through emerald waters, caused by calcium carbonate, from lower gorge to the upper gorge, between high red limestone cliffs or thick green foliage.

At the junction of the two gorges, there are 2 small waterfalls and you can tie up your canoe and take to the water.

If you stay by the side, you can be entertained by the archerfish, especially if you have some tidbits to feed them.

On our way up we saw whole families, including young children, who were merely floating the extent on their swim rings. At the junction, many people leave the water, carrying their canoe about 20 metres to the upper junction and putting in there to complete the gorge. We were concerned that we’d run out of time and not have much fun under the waterfalls, so we just stayed there until we headed back and then headed home.

We treated ourselves to a drink in the hotel yard after dinner and my husband tried his luck at getting the bar staff to change the sport from Rugby to AFL, with success.

It was a great place to have seen but a very long way from anything to recommend it wholeheartedly. There were a lot of young families doing the National Road Trip. One day was very special, but enough for us, and our trip out of Gregory Downs, the next day, was by bitumen. You’d really need to check the condition of the many dirt tracks leading out, as some are horrendous.

Happy travels. Carry water, hat and sunscreen.

Tree diagrams

Not the sole province of mathematics, tree diagrams go as far back as 1296 and have been used to organise information in every field of knowledge.

What they do have in common is a hierarchy and branches, but they can be rotated and tilted depending on the user and the purpose.

I was going to sketch up another example, but I thought I’d just borrow them from Creative Commons and square them up, and had a wealth of learning. Bits will be missing because, just like living trees, tree diagrams are rarely square.

From top left to right, we have Darwin’s tree of life 1859, a syntax tree, a family tree template, Phylogenetic tree of Theropods respiratory system, Haeckel’s foundations of science tree 1866, and one and a half medieval trees of knowledge.

But it can’t finish there, can it? I must include the famous Monty Hall Problem – that a contestant in a game show is presented with 3 doors, behind one of which is a great prize and the others have goats, or nothing. The contestant picks a door. The host reveals what is behind another door, which is (predictably) a goat. Two doors remain and the contestant is asked if they want to change their mind.

This tree looks at the probability of whether the contestant should switch.

If you’re having trouble reading it, and ever find yourself as the contestant – switch.

I’ll return to the more predictable trees in future – 100%, despite stem-and-leaf plots calling and data needing truncation.

For more tree squares, go to Becky’s challenge.

Railway station mural

Here is my entry in Marsha’s Always Write blog,PPAC#5. It features a mural, by Marra Dreaming, on the walls of a railway building.

Construction work is happening at the moment, so you’ll have to mentally remove the gatework and other pieces that don’t quite fit.

No plaque or sign explains the work, so I looked it up and this is what the indigenous group of artists has to say:

I live near the Para (or Pari) River and hadn’t heard about the correct name. It’s beautiful work and only about a year old. I’m hoping there’ll be more and see that the group will happily answer requests.

Tallest ghost

The Corymbia aparrerinja, or ghost gum, usually grows to 15m. Our star, or square, here, has been measured at 33m tall and is recorded in the National Register of Big Trees as the largest ghost gum in the country.

The stark white trunk of the ghost gum stands out against its background

As it is estimated to be 300 years old, it also appears in the Northern Territory Register of Significant Trees and it’s now appeared in Becky’s squares.

The tree’s home is Trephina Gorge Nature Park, East MacDonnell Ranges, just out of Alice Springs. Definitely worth a visit.