outbackjoe

a camping trip of ridiculous proportions

kings canyon


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Kings Canyon, Palm Valley and Hermansburg

Kings Canyon is a gorge a few hundred kilometers from Uluru that we didn’t get to see last time we traveled through. Actually we missed a whole chunk of spots in the area. This time we left Uluru and did Kings Canyon, then the badly corrugated Mereenie Loop Track up to Hermannsburg and Palm Valley.

kings canyon 2

Kings Canyon

Palm Valley in Finke Gorge National Park was a standout. The awesomeness starts immediately with the track going in. The track is easy so doesn’t feel like you’re hammering the crap out of your car, but still feels like fun offroading as it follows the Finke River through some hills and arid landscapes. Often the track is actually the Finke River itself. It’s not often you get to navigate a river in a car!

Driving on Finke River

Driving on Finke River in Finke Gorge National Park

The camp grounds are also great. It’s set among some beautiful red hills and cliffs and has good facilities: water, gas bbqs, flushing toilets and even warm showers. This is all at standard Northern Territory national park prices. There’s a nice little walk out of the camp grounds to Kalarranga rock formations.

Kalarranga rocks 2 Kalarranga rocks

Then Palm Valley itself is also awesome. The short vehicle track from the camp ground to Palm Valley travels through some nice red cliffs and rock formations and through a few steep dry creek crossings. It’s much rougher than the first track into the camp grounds but it’s only a few km long.

driving to palm valley

Track into Palm Valley

palm valley rocky track

Steep rocky section of track

The Palm Valley walk is easy and a bit different than your usual gorge walk. A lot of the walk is in the river valley itself, which is a piece of cake since the valley is bed rock worn smooth by the water flow a few years ago. The palms and dark red cliffs and smooth river valley make it a unique walk.

palm valley walking trail

Here is an artistic photo of the red cliffs with the shadows of the palms on the cliffs. Most people just take photos of the actual palms.

palm valley cliff face

After a couple of nights in Palm Valley we visited Hermannsburg – an old aboriginal community that started as a Lutheran mission in 1877. We grabbed a pie at the bakery, coffee and scones at the cafe and checked out some of the old buildings.

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uluru base walk cave


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Uluru and Kata Tjuta

We we’re a bit rushed last time we visted Uluru so we had to have another look. This time, with a baby in tow, we decided against the steep, treacherous and sometimes deadly climb to the top and instead did the 10km base walk.

On the base walk we found some sandalwood bush plum. They weren’t very sweet, tasted bitter and sour with possibly a slight hint of plum flavour.

uluru bush plum sandalwood bush plums found around ulurusandalwood bush plum

The different perspective of the base walk was great. We got to see lots of different views of the rock that we had never seen before. The next day we did the valley of the winds walk through Kata Tjuta / Olgas and had a fancy dinner at Yulara Resort.

On the way out of Uluru we stayed at Curtin Springs road house. We ended up having a big night out at the bar, drinking beers and chatting with the owner of the Curtin Springs cattle station until late. In the morning we felt a bit ginger so decided on another visit to the bar for a bacon and egg sandwich before heading off for Kings Canyon.

empress springs descending ladder


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Back On The Road

Apart from the occasional short trip out of Perth, recently we’ve had a serious shortage of camping missions and outback exploring. The blame lies solely with our participation in the rat race. Fortunately this situation has been corrected and we’re back on the road for some proper long term travel around oz.

This time round we’ve made some improvements to our setup. I’m not going to list them all here, but the main change is to our solar panel arrangement, making it lighter, simpler, more aerodynamic and easier to deploy. Oh and our two person team has expanded to three.

hilux with new solar panels

Our hilux  keeping beer cold with the new solar panel setup.

new team

The new three person team.

We’re a bit behind on the blog and have already made it to Broome. This post covers from Perth to the WA border via Great Central Road.

Our route has taken us to Kalgoorlie, Menzies, the Lake Ballard sculptures, Kookynie, Leonora, Laverton and onto the corrugations of the Great Central Road. On the way we found some bush banana. Tastes like peas.

bush banana prep bush banana

We detoured off Great Central Road, heading north on David Carnegie Road to visit Empress Spring. This spring saved the lives of David Carnegie and his party whilst exploring the Gibson and Great Sandy deserts a few years ago. They were out of water and nearly dead, so captured an aborigine, fed him salted beef and held him hostage until he led them to a water supply.

empress spring descending ladder empress spring

After a night at Empress Spring the plan was to continue north on David Carnegie Road and then traverse the Gunbarrel Highway across to Warburton where we’d rejoin the Great Central Road. We made it easily to Empress Spring and then a further 100km north but our efforts were thwarted by some deep washouts on the track. With only modest ground clearance, the washouts were pushing the limits on our vehicle’s capability. Falling into a big rut could have us stranded since we were travelling alone with no other vehicles to assist in recovery. I believed that with some minor reshaping of the track with a shovel there was a better than 50% chance of making it through, and if not we had plenty of food, water and beer on board. Sharni on the other hand chickened out and ordered an immediate u-turn.

david carnegie road ruts

Although it doesn’t look it on the photo, these ruts were probably half a meter deep.

So it was back south down the slow, rutted and spinifex laden track where we again picked up the Great Central Road from where we left it a few days before.

david carnegie road spinifex

Continuing east towards the WA border was uneventful apart from the ongoing corrugations. One of the hilux badges fell off our car and the CB radio antenna broke off (this is the second time we’ve had this happen). Here’s a few more photos of the trip up to Lasseters Cave just inside the Northern Territory Border. From here we continue to Uluru and beyond.


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Ledge Point Camping

Over the Christmas break I headed north to Ledge Point for a couple of days bush camping with mum and nonna. Some other chaps met up with us, some for a day on the beach and some for a night or two camping as well. We did a bit of fishing and managed a few small whiting and herring but nothing more.

A bunch of highly intelligent professors thought it would be funny to light a flare off at night into the dunes. As expected it started a fire which then spread towards town due to the blustery winds. The fire brigade had to come out to fight it and luckily later into the night the winds died off and it was under control. It pissed off the locals and the ranger pretty good. Over the next couple of days the ranger was pretty cranky, giving people fines and stuff. Can’t blame him I suppose when he needs to cater for the all the thoughtful intellectuals who start fires and leave rubbish behind.

Apart from the fire and cranky ranger we had a jolly good time. I’ve always said that you feel a million dollars when camping out in the bush and this was verified by nonna who said her aching bones and arthritis seemed to subside whilst camping out. Just another reason why we should all be doing a lot more camping!


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Buggered Suspension Bushes

I noticed as we progressed on our trip around oz the hilux handling and steering response became somewhat poorer than what it was when we started the trip. I’m no mechanic but in my opinion this bush from the rear suspension is in need of replacement and probably the cause of the poor handling!

hilux buggered suspension bush

That’s what ya get for beating around the bush with a fully laden vehicle. Several thousand kilometers of corrugations don’t help much either.hilux suspension bushes new vs old


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Tablelands Hwy, Northern Territory

Leaving Borroloola, we back tracked to Cape Crawford then headed south on Tablelands Hwy – a single lane sealed road that runs for about 500km, joining up with the Barkley Hwy which is the main thoroughfare connecting northern NT to Queensland. The sealed road is wide enough for one car only. When an oncoming car approaches you need to take to the gravel gutter. This is very flat flood plain country, quite remote just south of the Gulf of Carpenteria. We stopped off on the side of the road for an overnight rest. Across the road there was some recently burnt out scrub, which along with the setting sun and incoming storm clouds created some interesting colours and a nice photo. A few burnt out cars and cattle around the place too. Note how the contrasting images, with the 44 gallon drum and the burnt out car, make a statement about our impact on the earth and the environment.