Day 19: Off to the Top End

After a weird morning, we started the day at the local Botanical Gardens in Alice Springs. We heard that the café over there served a really decent breakfast, and that their prices also were just right. And we can now fully corroborate both statements! The food was great, and prices ditto. The only downside to this all was that all seating is outside, and at 09:00 still in the shade. Normally, this would be a nice and welcome change from the blistering heat in the middle of the country, but today it is cold. Really cold. At slightly under 10 degrees Celsius it is chilly, even for us Dutch people.

As the café is in the botanical gardens, it attracts a lot of wildlife, especially birds. We sat there for quite some time enjoying the tranquil sounds of the birds still waking up and getting to grips with the present cold temperature. A few visited us very regularly to see whether we had spilled any of our bread, as they probably were hungry as well. Our stay at the gardens was over as we had to be back at the airport in time to return our Toyota FJ Cruiser, and catch the flight to Darwin.

We flew out of Alice Springs right on time, and landed in Darwin a mere two hours later after a truly uneventful flight. The only thing noting was that right before we took off at ASP, a humongous Hercules plane from the USAF landed. That thing is enormous! It easily dwarfs our puny Boeing 717. We couldn’t fathom why it visited Alice Springs, but apparently they had a delivery to make as that seemed to be what they were doing, unloading something on a semi trailer.

The weather in Darwin couldn’t be more different than in Alice Springs, it was around 10 degrees with lots of wind over there, and here it is 32 degrees with a gentle sea breeze. That is great news! We can finally wear our shorts again! After riding an airport shuttle service to our hotel we did some quick grocery shopping at a nearby IGA and went out for dinner at the Cullen Bay Marina. We found an upscale Greek Taverna, and dined there. Best Souvlaki in town!

Tomorrow, we’ll pick up our car and head out to the Litchfield NP. Let’s see what this part of the country has in store for us!

Day 18: Back to Alice Springs

Yesterday, we watched the sun rise on Kata Tjuta (The Olgas), and set on Uluru. So this morning, we set out to see the sun rise with Uluru as our main view. But it was cold! At approximately 6 degrees and with the wind blowing, it was not the nicest place to be at 06:30. The sun rising was really nice, and Uluru got a nice extra reddish colour from it, but we have been cold four hours after that.

We have to leave Yulara today to head back to Alice Springs, as we fly out to Darwin tomorrow. We also have to hand in our car at the airport, so gas has to be put in. This Toyota FJ Cruiser has not one but two fuel tanks, for a grand total of around 160 litres. And it needs it all, as the gas mileage is not great. One might even say it is bad. The 4 litre V6 is burning through the stuff at a staggering rate. Today, I got half a tank of gas for $160 AU! For those keeping count, that is well over €110. I did put in around 75 litres, but still.

The drive back from Yulara is awesome! Clocking in at about 450kms, it takes you through an arid desert with great variance in colours and vegetation. It also is much greener and much denser in growth that you’d expect. With the great West MacDonnell Ranges as its backdrop, it is breathtaking views all around. And you still have to focus on driving on the wrong side of the road at 130km/h on a narrow two lane road where the other lane has oncoming traffic!

The weather has been great today, albeit a little cold. We hit a high of 16 degrees today. Just as a reminder: in a few months it’ll regularly be over 40 degrees, so it is quite chilly out right now. After arriving at Alice Springs, we went for a stroll in the nearby Old Telegraph Station Reserve in the hopes of spotting some wildlife. And we did! Back in the resort we determined we saw Euros, a kind of Wallaroo. This is an animal similar to a Kangaroo and a Wallaby, but in height just between them. The Euro is the most common of them. But they are a joy to watch. 🙂

Day 14: To Glen Helen Gorge

Yep, we are in a desert all right! Tonight has been really cold, and this morning is no different. Even though we only have to travel about 150kms we need to stock up on our supplies as the flight from Adelaide meant we had nothing left.

As this is Australia and not The Netherlands, supermarkets open at 6AM. On a Sunday. Which also happens to be Mothersday. We didn’t go there that early in the morning, but we were inside well before 8, and got out shortly thereafter. The bakery opposite to the supermarket (Woolworths if anyone is interested) also was open for business, and that is where we bought our breakfast and lunch for today. They didn’t sell coffee, so we got that at the nearest Sushi place. Yes, Australia is a weird place. And all this before 08:30 in the morning, on Mothersday.

On route to Glen Helen, there are loads of things to do, among which are: Simpsons Gap, Standley Chasm, Ellery Creek Bighole, Serpentine Gorge, Ochre Pits and Ormiston Gorge. They basically all are gaps between the mountains where there is water to be found as it collects there and is sheltered from the relentless sun. The scenery here is delightfully weird, as you drive between two mountain ridges where you are constantly dipping in and out of deep indentations where the floodwaters rush through when the rain has fallen. The mountains consist of pretty soft rock, which has allowed them to be eroded all the way down from about 10000 metres to 1000 metres tall nowadays in a few hundred million years. That is the awesome power of water and wind.

Glen Helen consists of a parking lot for the Glen Helen Gorge and the Glen Helen Homestead, and that is about it. There is a single (diesel) gas pump, a campground, a restaurant, and a few extra buildings, but it is more than enough as we are booked and confirmed to spend the night here. The restaurant offers great food, the beer is cold and we are completely cut off from the outside world as the nearest cell phone reception is about 4 hours of hiking away. Also, there is no WiFi, so this will be available a little later than usual. 🙂

Tomorrow, we take the Mereenie Loop (off-road) to Kings Creek Station, where we’ll definitely see camels!

Day 13: Going further inland

Let’s break it down to the important part first: we are wearing shorts!

Today, we are to fly from Adelaide to Alice Springs, which is about exactly halfway between both coasts. With slightly over 800 miles to fly today we are in for a very short flight of about 2 hours. As our hotel is really close to the airport, we drove for about 5 minutes, turned in our car and had our traditional breakfast at the there present Subway restaurant.

Our flight left at 10:20, and was really calm. It gave awesome views of Australia’s Outback, and it’s arid expanses. Arriving in Alice Spings was a nice change in weather compared to the cool Place we came from, it’s 22 degrees over here with clear skies. But what would you expect from a desert!

We picked up our car at the airport, and were surprised by the sheer size of the thing, it’s a Toyota FJ Cruiser! In the awful colour Desert, it sits brownish but with the 200kwh 4 litre V6 ready for our stuff. Its maiden voyage with us is only a few kilometres to the hotel in town, and as it is only early in the afternoon, we spent the rest of the day walking a trail to an old Telegraph Station and just enjoying the scenery and climate.

Tomorrow, we leave this town to drive trailhead down the MacDonnel Range towards Glen Helen Gorge, which is only 150kms away. But as this is the Outback, it going to be something else anyway! We probably don’t have WiFi over there though! 🙂