While ‘discover’ is a word bandied about freely in guidebooks, this truly is another place of discovery within Australia, and not just the natural beauty. If you take the time, you may just discover a bit about yourself as well, and how you fit into the scheme of things. Take the time out to explore a little and you will be surprised at wjat lines around the next corner!
The feral buffalo has been a major environmental disaster in the wetlands of the Top End. When the population was at it highest, from the 1960s to the 1980s, the feral buffalo grossly altered the character of the northern floodplains. With its wallows, trails, dung, trampling and disturbance, it caused soil erosion, channelling of floodwaters, increased intrusion of saltwater into freshwater habitats and destruction of wetland vegetation. These effects were worse during dry periods when animals concentrated at receding water.
Feral buffalos eat large volumes of grasses and other plants, removing this food source for native wildlife, and they can damage the trees they regularly rub against. Their trampling and soil disturbance also promotes the spread of weeds across the landscape.
Feral buffalos were all but eliminated from Kakadu National Park and the northern wetlands in a massive shooting program that was part of the Brucellosis and Tuberculosis Eradication Campaign. Beginning in 1979 and lasting until 1997, feral buffalos were shot from helicopters. The difficult terrain made full eradication impossible, but only small, isolated populations remain in the wild.
If you are dying to know what you may be missing by not climbing Ayers Rock, I am posting a photo that I took in 1990. The top surface is not flat, as you might expect, but has an undulating, wavy landscape as you can see. Off to the far left of the photo you can see The Olgas in the distance.
This National Park is located 138 kms west of Alice Springs and is accessed by an unsealed road.
Most people come to see Palm Valley but there is also a campground here and nearby, the Kalaranga Lookout Walk, which affords panoramic views of the rocky landscape, as seen in the photo.
Most people don't venture to Palm Valley, I hadn't even heard of it on my first visit to Australia in 1990 until a friend told me about it years later. This time I joined a 5 day camping trip that included Palm Valley and it was just as my friend described. It is a beautiful oasis of water pools and palm trees in a setting of red rock.
My favourite time spent in Alice Springs was on a visit to the Telegraph Station. I rented a bike from the hostel, rode a very scenic 4km path along the west bank of the Todd River to get there and then parked the bike for a picnic lunch and some easy walks around the Telegraph Station.
You will spot many rock wallabies along the Todd River path in the morning.
The John Flynn Memorial is located at the junction of the Stuart and Barkly Highways, near Tennant Creek. A remarkable man whose mame lives on in the Territory is the late Rev. John Flynn..."Flynn of Inland"...a Prebyterian missionary who travelled the centre country for 40 years and who founded the Bush Hospitals, the Pedal Wireless Network and the Royal Flying Doctor Service in Australia.
Ormiston Gorge is another great spot for hiking in the West MacDonnell National Park. There is also a permanent 14m deep waterhole for swimming and some basic camping facilities.
Ormiston Gorge is located 60kms west of Alice Springs.
I'd say you'd be off the beaten path once you take to the air, so I think this tip belongs here.
If you have the opportunity to take a hot air balloon ride, you should, at least once in your life. We flew with Outback Ballooning and it was a wonderful experience, despite the fact that we had to wake up at 4am.
Your adventure will begin before sunrise while the air is at its calmest. You will have a wonderful view as the sun rises and a sumptuous champagne breakfast afterward.
Although I did climb "the rock" on my last visit in 1990, this time I decided to try the 9km hike around the circumference of Ayers Rock. And I really enjoyed it. Uluru appears to be a giant orange waterfall dwarfing the full size trees at its base, not to mention us hikers.
And I guarantee you won't have to wait your turn behind busloads of other tourists.
When I took the Greyhound bus from Darwin to Alice Springs (5-8 Aug 2010), Aileron was the last bus stop before Alice Springs. It is located ~130 km north of Alice Springs on a 1.7 km loop road off the Stuart Highway. The sun was just rising when we arrived. It is actually a very interesting spot with some huge, spectacular Aboriginal sculptures by Mark Egan. The Aileron Roadhouse (see a videoclip) is nice too and even has a pet eagle named Bozo. There are motel rooms and campsites, a gas station, and a mini-market. I only had 20 minutes but used them to take pictures and videos instead of eating or drinking coffee as most of the other passengers did. One thing that I did not realize until I researched this tip is that the roadhouse displays eight original Albert Namatjira paintings worth more than 1 million AUD! Wish I had known that when I was there.
The 17-meter tall Anmatjere Man sculpture on the hill was dedicated in 2005. I thought the giant sculpture of the Anmatjere woman and child was even better though. See also a videoclip and a travelogue about the Anmatjere Homestead Art Gallery with views of the sculptures. Today (3 Aug 2012) while searching for information for a Devil's Marbles tip, I found some pictures from Aileron in a new blog. The Anmatjere woman and child sculpture has already changed.
The Greyhound bus (going south on the Stuart Highway) picked me up right on time at the Mataranka Homestead Tourist Resort at 18:45 on 7 Aug 2010. We arrived in Dunmarra around 21:30. The stop was for 45 minutes. I skipped the "Man Meals" at the "Dunmarra's Famous Grill" and got a "Bucket of Chips" for 3 AUD that was so big that I could not finish it. There is a small museum next to the dining area.
All of the bus stops after Dunmarra were at dark, closed stations until we got to Aileron around 07:15 on 8 Aug 2010. We had arrived at Renner Springs at around midnight. Spent 80 minutes at Tennant Creek from 01:50-03:10 waiting on a connecting bus. Had a short stop at Barrow Creek, and had arrived at Ti Tree Well around 06:30. When I went back to Darwin with Zig (1+1) on 24-28 Aug 2010, we did not stop at Dunmarra. I just took a picture as we passed by.
The Wiki Australia Travel Guide tells us: "Located 300 kilometres south of Katherine, Dunmarra is a small settlement on the historical Overland Telegraph Line. Today, the town is little more than a roadhouse providing fuel, motel accommodation, a caravan park and other services to travellers. An interesting story is associated with the area’s name. Overland Telegraph linesman, Dan O’Mara, disappeared in the region in the early 1900s. Drover Noel Healy established a cattle station here in the 1930s and discovered O’Mara’s skeleton in the bush. The local Aboriginal people couldn’t pronounce ‘O’Mara’, and their attempts sounded more like ‘Dunmarra.’ This lead [sic] Healy to the name of his station. There is a monument to the Overland Telegraph Line beside the Stuart Highway south of Dunmarra, dedicated to Sir Charles Todd, Postmaster, General of the Province of South Australia, 1872."
The Parks & Wildlife Commission of the Northern Territory (NT) fact sheet for Karlu Karlu (Devil's Marbles Conservation Reserve) tells us that Karlu Karlu is literally translated as "round boulders" by the Warumungu, Kaytetye, Alyawarra and Warlpiri people that jointly manage this registered sacred site. It is still an important meeting place for them. In the past when it rained, Aboriginal people would stop to drink the water that had collected in the rockholes and hunt the animals that were also attracted by the water.
Karlu Karlu or Karlwekarlwe (same pronunciation) is a place of secrets for Aboriginal people. It is extremely rich in dreaming sites, i.e., places where special events happened during the Altywerre Wirnkarra or Dreamtime. Most of the stories are kept secret. Only appropriate Aboriginal people can know them. A public version of the Kwerreympe / Munga Munga Dreaming, a mystical women's dreaming story, is shared on a signboard at the Loop Trail Kiosk: "Two Warumungu ladies were traveling from Munga Munga (near Tennant Creek) to Karlwekarlwe in the dreaming time. Kaytetye and Anmatyarr women from the south met together with these Warumungu ladies at Karlwekarlwe. Here they made a big ceremony. They were showing each other their dreaming (stories), all those Kwerrwympe. Before white people came, Aboriginal people made big ceremonies here about these Kwerrwympe."
The signboard also says that the dreaming is still here at Karlwekarlwe. Today's Aboriginal people believe that the people from the dreaming time still live in the caves under the rocks. A senior traditional owner told this story: "They're people like us. You can see them. Along time ago I went with my billycan down to the creek here to get some water. One of these secret people came out and started playing with me. I couldn't go away. My mother came and got me, saved me. After that we never camped at this place again, never. They're kind these secret people, but they can make you mad. They can change you into one of them. They can say, 'Follow me,' and you can't go back. It happened like that for my cousin. He disappeared. The old people made a big ceremony, singing the ground and the rocks to make them let my cousin come back. We've lost that song now. We've got no song to bring children back."
Note that at Simpson's Gap there was a signboard that discussed Tnengkarre (pronounced art-nung-gara), the name for the traditional Law that explains existence and guides daily life for the Western Arrernte people. The signboard said that Tnengkarre is called the Dreamtime by non-Aboriginal people. I wonder if that is correct. Are Altywerre Wirnkarra and Tnengkarre the same thing?
The Parks & Wildlife Commission of the Northern Territory (NT) fact sheet for Karlu Karlu (Devil's Marbles Conservation Reserve) has a park map. The central Loop Trail Kiosk is a good place to start. There are dunnies nearby. No fees are required for this part of the Reserve. There is also a simple bush camping area on the southeast end of the Reserve. Please note that no water or firewood is provided, and camping is only allowed in the designated area (fees are payable onsite). The access road for Devil's Marbles was once part of the Stuart Highway. It is good that the traffic on the highway now bypasses the Reserve.
Surprisingly, this famous 1802 hectare (4453 acres) Reserve is not in the VT destination taxonomy. Even though Zig (1+1) and I were there only ~1.5 hours in the afternoon on 24 Aug 2010, we saw many things. Not only are the rock formations spectacular, there are also many unique plants growing among them. It will take several off-the-beaten path tips and travelogues here to record what we saw at Devil's Marbles.
See also a panorama videoclip of the Devil's Marbles Conservation Reserve taken from the rock formation at the south parking area.
Zig (1+1) and I got an early start on 25 Aug 2010. We had aready seen John Flynn's grave near Alice Springs; however, we also stopped at the Threeways John Flynn Memorial. The Very Reverend John Flynn established the Royal Australian Flying Doctors Service. He was nicknamed "Flynn of the Inland." The memorial is located at the original intersection of the Barkly and Stuart Highways, which is ~250 meters north of the present intersection and the Threeways Roadhouse.
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