Intrepid travellers Lee & Russ are out exploring again with their Lifestyle Reconn R2 in tow. Last seen heading towards the Northern Territory, Lee reports …
With the Northern Territory border open to well behaved South Australians, it seemed like a Red Centre adventure was on the cards, particularly as our Kimberley itinerary fell victim to COVID closures.
Four vehicles and six participants (in total) were ripe for the challenge to poke around the Red Centre and traverse as much unsealed terrain as possible. And so, with our Border Entry Permits in hand we hit the road.
The Police greeted us at the SA/NT border, pleased to see we had paperwork completed, and following a few quick checks, we were ushered on our way.
Shortly after, we turned west onto the unsealed Mulga Park Road, as a backroad entry to Yulara. We found another roadblock shortly after, protecting the border from back runners. All good, we got waved through. It was a long drive on a well-maintained dusty road, and we finally made it to a camp just before sunset.
A new day and a new direction, now forging north towards Curtain Springs. We discovered yet another roadblock with Police and Air Force personnel in attendance. It was apparent they hadn’t seen anyone in quite a while as they were quite chatty with an endless array of questions.
We finally made it to Yulara and booked in for a couple of nights at the resort, so we could have a good look around at Uluru (Ayres Rock) and Kata Tjuta (The Olgas). Fees in the National Park were waived due the low visitor numbers which was a win.
‘The Field of Light’ exhibition by artist Bruce Monroe was a highlight, enjoyed with a drinks and nibbles package while admiring the sunset over Uluru.
The next day we drove to Kata Tjuta and spent the day looking around. Photos will never do justice. Again, not many people around.
Our next day travel was to Kings Canyon and the resort of the same name. There were plenty of camping areas, clean amenities, and camp kitchens, although some sections were closed due to low visitor numbers. There was a general store (nearly out of ice creams), fuel, and basic food items plus souvenirs. And the best part is, the hotel is walking distance! We booked into the hotel for a wonderful dinner and campfire.
Another amazing experience is the Canyon Rim walk, yes, it’s a 4-hour walk, but worth every minute.
With sore muscles the next day from our walk, we drove north east to Boggy Hole, in the Finke Gorge National Park. This was one of my favourite spots. We were surprised to see so much water in the various water holes along the supposed dry Finke River.
A great fun drive although sandy and somewhat soft (hence the name I suppose). There were many stunning camp spots along this area, and we were surprised to see another two vehicles with a similar conclusion.
Next morning, off to Hermannsburg – one of the many Indigenous Communities in the NT, also birthplace to the famous artist Albert Namatjira. I was looking forward to seeing some of Albert’s artworks on display, but alas, the Historic Precinct was closed due to renovations (taking advantage of the very few travellers).
We fuelled up, had a quick look around at the original cemetery, and continued onto our destination for the night at Palm Valley campground, back in the Finke Gorge National Park. Lucky we did, as this place was very swarming when we returned. Most people were from Alice Springs nearby.
What a gem of a spot. Community fire rings, clean flushing toilets, and showers. We did our walk through Palm Valley to see the amazing rare and unique Cabbage Palms. Hard to describe this incredible sight of palms in a dry and inhospitable desert landscape. Just stunning!
Onwards towards Glen Helen Gorge, we stopped at a place called Tnorala (Gosse Bluff) which is an eroded remnant from an impact crater. Just amazing in the middle of all this flatness. Better viewed from Tyler’s pass a couple of kilometres down the road (also a large free camp spot).
With Glen Helen Lodge closed permanently due to COVID, we made our way to Finke River 2 Mile camp for the night. Great bush camping, a river with fish and hawks soaring high above, a view of the ranges at sunset, wildflowers, and great company. We could have easily stayed here longer!
Other must-see spots along the way: Ochre Pits, Ellery Creek Big Hole (water), Standley Chasm, & Simpson Gap (water). Then of course Alice Springs.
Two days in Alice Springs was enough to see the sights including the Old Telegraph Station and Anzac Hill Lookout (great 360 degrees view over Alice). We ate at the local RSL and enjoyed great meals and better prices!
With supplies in vans, fridges and pantries stocked, we set off along the southern leg of Binns Track towards the Mount Dare Hotel. Corrugations and well-placed potholes kept us awake but were easily massaged out by our Isuzu tow vehicle and Reconn R2 hybrid camper.
We visited Old Andado station. The station was exactly how Molly, the former owner had left it. It’s now run by volunteers and caretakers. Fantastic campgrounds, with flushing toilets, a shower, firepits, and a camp kitchen. Could easily have spent more time looking around in the homestead, but time was against us.
Early next morning after the road trains passed through, we continued south towards Finke. Despite driving along the fringe of the Simpson Desert, the road was in remarkably good condition.
Finke was most definitely not open to visitors. Huge signs on the entrance to Finke saying STOP, no entry, no visitors.
Onto the Lambert Centre of Australia (200kms south east of Alice). An interesting journey in itself, with plenty of turns and corrugations, which was a challenge for our camper, but we survived save for another scratch or two. It’s hard to imagine, being the centre of Australia, but it happened. Plenty of room for great bush camping. A couple of very long drop toilets.
After signing the book to say, ‘we are here’, we headed off again for our next overnighter, stopping at Kulgera Roadhouse for fuel, a lunch stop, and look around at the local pub.
We stopped overnight along the Oodnadatta track. Despite earlier flooding, the track was open, and to our delight, it had recently been graded. We were hoping to get to Painted Hills (near Arkaringa Station), but we were all exhausted, and happy to pull up. So grateful for an easy camp set up. Handbrake to beer in less than 10 minutes!
Painted Hills was a stunning site in the middle of such vastness (similar to the Breakaways near Coober Pedy). Recent rains had brought the colours to light.
We had always talked about stopping at Ippinitchie Campgrounds at Wirrabara Forest near Port Pirie. Another free camp. First time with water in the creek (yay, we had a water crossing!).
All we could hear was the wind in the trees, and the frogs. There were plenty of other campers, but it was like you had the place to yourselves. Sheltered, from the weather (which had turned for the worse), a long drop toilet, and fire pits. Great spot for an overnighter (or a week) to reminisce about our two-week holiday and 4600km adventure.
Home time …. Sunday and a must stop for brekkie at Stone Hut bakery. If you haven’t been there yet, do yourself a favour and get out there!