North of Alice Springs and South of Tennant Creek is Karlu Karlu, which means round boulders in the language of the first nation’s people of the area. They’re my entry to Becky’s squares.
Once anglicized as Devil’s marbles, most people are changing to the traditional name.
Despite their appearance of having been dropped or hurled there, the boulders have been formed by wind, heat and water erosion over millions of years.
It is believed that a large granite mass, of which they are a part, was formed by volcanic activity, 1700 million years ago. Fissures in the mass allowed the erosion and the rounding of the blocks occurred.
Stunning at sunrise and sunset, I’ve tried to select photos that are not culturally sensitive to the Arrernte people. If you come this way, do stay overnight for a small fee (it was $3.30pp) and do walks, enjoy the vibe, learn some stuff.
Still looking to the trees, for Becky’s ‘kind’ squares, but this time it’s in Alice Springs, Northern Territory.
The red-tailed, black cockatoo is found only in Australia. In some regions it’s uncommon, but from the numbers, here, this must have been a common sight. The birds are nomadic, so they probably follow water and foliage, and were definitely on the move this day.
There are very long stretches of road in Australia, that in parts of the world would get you to another country or the other side of a country. But here, you can still be in the same State, in the middle of nowhere and have seen few towns.
Some of these stretches have variation and others do not. Notorious for the latter is the Hay plains, the Explorer’s Highway between Alice Springs and Tennant Creek and the Barkly Highway between Tennant Creek and Cloncurry. Luckily, it was not long after rain, so there was a variety of vegetation and we amused ourselves with spotting unusual cloud patterns to pass the 7 hours it took to get from Alice to Tennant Creek.
The explorer highway goes from Darwin to Adelaide and was mapped out by John Stuart. In fact, it’s correct name is Stuart Highway but, as it’s an iconic Australian drive, it got a nickname (of course). Although Tennant Creek is still on this, it’s also the start of the other highway.
Once we hit Tennant Creek we found somewhere safe for the evening, as it can be a bit wild there. We discovered later that there are 2 free camps about 20 minutes further on, that have good wiki camp reviews.
The Outback caravan park had some interesting artwork in the trees.
Leaving Tennant Creek the following morning, we had an 8 hour drive to Mt Isa. Again, the scenery only offers minor changes, but a pleasant distraction at one point was a cloud of small birds (finches?) swarming toward us, followed by another and more. I think they ‘attacked’ us for a stretch of 200km and hopefully the video will let you share the experience. You’ll get a few looks at my husband’s legs – sorry, we’re amateur.
If not, in the picture, what looks like leaves is actually the little birds, stopping to rest and chatter.
Barkley homestead is an oasis on the journey and you can stay there. They have an interesting display of old steam engines out the front, with which to amuse yourself as you have lunch.
As we neared Mt Isa we passed some places worth returning to, such as Gregory Creek and Lawn Hill, but those dirt roads would be major diversions.
There are plenty of frequent toilet spots that are usually kept very clean and can provide an emergency stop if you can handle the highway traffic.
Soon the chimney stack appeared and we made last minute arrangements for a caravan park.
I’ll do a separate post on Mt Isa as it is a large mining town, warranting some discussion.
Safe travels. Always, always carry lots of water and a roll of toilet paper!
It isn’t far from the border to Alice Springs, so we arrived before midday and had time to set up and explore the caravan park, with it’s many facilities, then plan our first day of venturing further.
We began in the town, which has plenty of shops and facilities, and although it was, uncharacteristically, almost empty of people, we read about the first hospital in central Australia and peeked through the windows to where small gatherings sometimes occur.
A bigger day followed and we started at Redbank Gorge, some 150km from Alice Springs along the Larapinta and Namatjira Drives. It is a beautiful gorge, with easy access, although it is mostly on sand, so definitely not for wheelchairs or those with dodgy ankles. It was tranquil and displayed such a huge range of colours, both pastel and bold.
A short drive from here, heading back, to the Mt Sonder lookout gave us fabulous views of the mountain and surrounding ranges.
Ormiston Gorge was about 15km away and you have a choice of walks. We took the loop, from the carpark, up the hill to the lookout over the gorge, then along the hill and returning by the river bed. This is definitely the direction to take if you do the loop, as the uphill is steep but short and aided by stone steps which never go beyond 20 without a break. Again, this part isn’t suitable for wheelchairs, but the short carpark to pond walkway is and should be done. The colours and textures of this gorge are, again, stunning. If you go around a lagoon one way, look back to see the aspect on the other side, because sometimes it is so very different, it’s like being in another location. Parts of the gorge were a seabed, 800 million years ago and geologists believe something extraordinary happened in the area 300-400 million years ago to cause the seabed to rise and turn on its side. You can easily see the layers.
We decided that, as most of Australia was in a cold snap, we’d capitalise on the 27C and heated pools and headed back for some poolside traveler tips (with slide show).
Our final day we kept light, with a trip to Anzac Hill and then out to Emily and Jessie Gaps. The first provides 360 degree views of Alice Springs township and memorial information.
Emily and Jessie Gaps were disappointing, as they are very small and it was pretty blustery, so an ideal enclosure for sand blasting. The walk takes less than a minute each time and there are very unusual rock paintings of caterpillars, which the original owners ate here, and completed by women. You are asked not to photograph them as they are sacred to the people. The towering red rock faces are beautiful, and it’s a short drive out of town to the east, but I’d see Stanley Chasm or Simpson’s Gap in preference.
On our return we came across a huge flock of red tailed black cockatoos, which are considered rare, so I was very happy to get some photos of them.
Even when it’s cool, take plenty of water and a hat with you.
Having arrived at the South Australia/Northern Territory border, we handed over our paperwork (COVID-19 arrangements) and were free to go through, but not stay at this beautiful, free campsite. The officer suggested Kulgera, down the road about 20km.
We had been here before for fuel, but had not experienced its hospitality. There is a reasonable store on site, an art gallery that showcased local work and a pub.
Famous (?) for the big 4X can, it also had its own travellers ‘artwork’/ collection – of sandshoes in this case.
Good, clean amenities and plenty of room, with drive-through sites.
Once seen as some kind of weird Aussie joke, termite mounds ‘dressed to impress’, appearing here for Becky’s squares, have sparked recent conversation due to their deterioration.
Could those funny threads now be merely that – threads? Flapping away in the breeze or carried over flora, are they future litter?
I read a suggestion that people could consider where they place these colonies of ‘people’ and enable viewers to enjoy them, but help clean them up as they weather – like near picnic tables or rest stops.
Heck, some of us just want to photograph the tallest termite mound we find. Most of these appear between Alice Springs and Katherine, in the Northern Territory.