Plenty to the Tanami

18/6/14 – Another cool night, it’s the wind that is the killer, without that it wouldn’t be so bad. The only sound we heard last night was a few dingoes.
Tower-Reserve Morning-LightWe were up well before the sun, early breaky waiting for the sun to light up the rocks. On the road by 8.30am Qld time, since we will only be in NT for a few days no point changing clocks, it’s still dark at 7am. We turned left when we came out of the reserve, which would see us doing a loop and joining back up onto the Binns Track and up round to Old Mac Donald Downs (farm).
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The last 96kms of the Plenty Hwy is bitumen.
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Once off the Plenty we headed into Alice Springs to have lunch, fill up fuel and drinking water and go on the net and send off some posts. Can’t say we like Alice, filling up with water was not an easy task. We found out that you either need to fill up at a van park or at a servo as there are no taps. We happen to pick the Shell servo on the way out of town that only had one diesel pump and the only tap to fill up water was at that same pump. Rather ridiculous but we got there in the end.

Make sure everything is locked up at your vehicles and don’t leave them too long if it can be avoided. I had to pop into Coles and Chris stayed at the Ute. 2 local kids came and checked the ute and trailer out looking like they were up to no good. They didn’t know Chris was watching them in the rear vision camera. Once they saw him they took off like a bat out of hell. It was so nice to be back out of town and starting down the Tanami Track

Tanami-RoadWest-MacDonnell-RangesWe stopped for the night approx 123km from Alice at Charlie Creek Rest Area. It’s a big flat area, some trees, nice vista, has bins, shelter and tables, some gravel which was a nice change from red dust. One other traveler was there. An very interesting man traveling alone in his home made off road caravan. Lots of amazing stories and tales to tell. He could talk the hind leg off a donkey. It was nice to sit and chat, admire the million of stars and not have that chilly wind for a change.
Night-Spot The-View

Old Telegraph Station Alice Springs

Wed 8th – After packing up we called into the Old Telegraph Station a few km’s out of town. $9 per adult. It was a really lovely spot, so peaceful, in a tranquil bush setting. If you have stopped at some of the old telegraph stations in other places it’s well worth stopping at the Alice Springs one, it ties in all the other points along the old line. Puts thing into perspective, lots of information boards explaining the history of the place. It was actually the Telegraph Station that was name after Mrs Alice Todd, the town we now know as Alice Springs was actually called Sturt and renamed Alice Springs when the telegraph station people moved, something like that anyway.

Telegraph-Station

The station was open in 1872.  There are several restored buildings including the Station Master’s residence, the kitchen, barracks, post office and telegraph office, battery room, shoeing yard and buggy shed and store. All set on the banks of the Todd River with a water hole that was the reason for naming the place Alice Springs.

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There are several walks and lots of tress and green grass to have a picnic in the lovely setting.

Telegraph-Office

After lunch we pushed north and stopped about 20kms outside Wycliffe Well. We did have a look at a rest area called Taylor’s Creek but it didn’t do anything for us, so we went on a bit further. Our spot was private, not seen from the road and no one else was there.

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Alice, Reptile Centre & Desert Park

Mon 6th – Brr it was a cold night and morning. The gas bottle ran it during the night and it was too cold to get up and change it over, so we didn’t have the heater. We were woken up early by early noisy day visitors.

We had an interesting experience late yesterday. We have had a lot of comments and interest shown to the Ute with its set up and the Aussie Swag. We have had several people ask for a tour of the trailer and one lot waited for us to pack it up so they could see how it did. Mmm maybe we should ask the guys for commission :). Anyway yesterday we had some people who were so impressed with our whole set up they insisted on taking photos of the Ute and the trailer with us in the front of it.

The first Monday in August is Picnic Day in NT, so we were a bit caught out with nearly all shops closed. The supermarkets were open, so we were able to do a big shop. Couldn’t fill up the gas bottle.

We are staying at the Wintersun again but this time we asked for a slab site and one we could also put the Ute on, which we got.

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Tues 7th – Today we went to the Reptile Centre as we had heard good reports about it from other trailers. $14 for Adults. It’s worth it, lots of lizards, geckos, snakes and even a croc.

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Thorny-Devil

There was also a talk on some of the reptiles and then we got to pat and hold some of the animals. This included a python that wrap itself around you, it was quiet heavy. We were warned the python had a mind of its own, so watch out if you have shorts or a skirt on. The show was great.

Chris-and-the-friendly-Python Kate-and-the-friendly-Python

We popped back for lunch and tried to fill up the gas at the place we had filled up before but they had run out of gas until tomorrow. We ended up finding a servo that filled gas but ouch on the price $40.50 for 9 kg. This was a lot cheaper than another place.

After lunch we went to the Desert Park, $25 for adults but we had a 20% discount voucher. You are given an audio device to punch in numbers to listen to points of interest along the way.

Kingfisher

The bird flight show was excellent and not to be missed. There are a few bird aviaries, some walk in, we found them pretty good.

Bush-CurlewOwl Feed-me

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Apart from that the place didn’t do a lot for us but it depends on where you have been and what you have seen. Lots of wildflowers, but we have seen heaps of them on our trip. If you were someone that hadn’t been into the desert areas, seen clay and salt pans then you would find it interesting, for us we had seen all these things for real in there natural state.

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Our trip so far.

Alice Springs

Sat 21st to 23rd – We were up at dawn to take some photos of the pillar, it was freezing cold. We packed up and then headed into Alice.

The road into Alice was much smoother than the previous dirt roads we had been on. As you approach Alice from the south heading north you go through this amazing pass with deep red cliffs on either side of you. When we arrived in Alice we looked up where to stay, avoiding anything close to the Todd River as we had heard by several good sources it could get very noisy. We decided on the Wintersun Caravan park, more on this later.

They say first impressions count, so that is what we will give you of Alice Springs, but to be fair we spent all of our time there doing, washing, shopping, chasing around bits and pieces and fixing up a serious issue we had with the ute that we didn’t know about until we got to Alice, our time was not relaxing.

Things can be a little hard to find as things are spread out, which would be typical of a lot of large country towns. In the cities we have shopping centres that have everything in the one spot, in Alice, Target is in one area of town, Kmart in another, little shopping complexes here and there. Just takes a bit of getting used too. There are great supplies at Woolworths and Coles. There is a sort of industrial area that has heaps of different business including hardware stores, camping, Harvey Norman, Super Cheap, Repco as well as your more industrial type of businesses like engineering, bolts supplies etc. Alice pretty well has everything covered, prices were a little dearer than the cities but that’s to be expected but they weren’t exorbitant. Every shop keeper we dealt with was very friendly.

To get the best view of Alice and help put where everything is into perspective go up to Anzac Hill, great view of the whole town and you can clearly see where it sits in relation to the ranges and why it would of been an ideal spot to establish a town.

View-from-Anzac-Hill View-from-Anzac-Hill-1

The bad, the place is filthy. There are free toilets near the info centre in town which are filthy and stink, you can also have a shower there for $3.50. The toilets in the Woolworths shopping centre cost 50 cents, you can workout yourself why they charge you to use loos in Alice. Some of the locals gather in small or large groups and just sit around. In the gutters, in the parks, on rocks, on dry creek beds, anywhere. On several occasions we saw groups with lots of rubbish around them. We’re had heard that some of the locals gather on the Todd River, which is usually dry, have fires, makes lots of noise and often fight. Our caravan park was across the road from Charles River, also dry. Every night we heard lots of yelling and screaming that went on into the wee hours. We heard several gun shots every night. Most places have high fences with barbed wire on the top, our caravan park included. When we checked into our park we were handed a brochure on personal security of yourself and belongings.  There are lots of police around the town and the Woolworths shopping complex seems to hires it’s own security with at least 3 guards walking around the place. At the time we were there, there was some sort of rally or protest in one of the parks opposite the police and court house. TV crews where there and more police than protesters. This went on for at least two days. We heard from some others travellers that they were told to stay away from Alice for several days due to something being on and that police reinforcements were call in. Of course that wouldn’t happen every day. Nevertheless  we certainly were very aware to keep everything locked and not leave the ute unattended for too long.

This was our experience and could change from one visit to another. It’s a pity there is this element that isn’t very pleasant as it could be an amazing town in an awesome location. Because of our situation we didn’t get to just stroll up the streets and fully take the town in, we hope to be able to do this when we got back after doing the ranges and Ayers Rock.

The Wintersun caravan park was ok, our biggest issue was we were stuck on a small site, where it was previously part of a bigger site that had been cut in half. Our site backed onto a high fence with barbed wire, so the view wasn’t great. The second issue was the grass or lack off was very very dry, to us worst than the dust as bits of grass would get onto everything. We were told by people who had been there before years ago the grass and grounds used to be well watered, not the case now. We have learnt to ask for a concert slab next time and a larger site. The area was noisy, dogs howling at night, gunshots, and yelling and screaming from the locals, all none of the parks fault. Price was $34 a night for powered which isn’t too bad. If you want better then expected to pay for it, the Big 4 caravan park that is in a quieter area is $47.

Todd-River Todd-River-2

These extremely rough, corrugated roads sort out the strong and week points of any vehicles .  Last time it was the tyres and springs for us. This time the bolts that hold the canopy to the chassis of the ute had come loose or had broken leaving only one of the six bolts loose but there. We could of lost the canopy on the side of the road somewhere thank God we hadn’t. Long story short with some suggestions from the manufacture of the canopy Chris found a suitable solution to the problem, which included replacing the bolts with high tensile bolts and Ross Engineering making up some plates for the front brackets/support of the chassis that had actually broken. End result it is probably stronger that it was to start with. Metalink will do a proper repair when we get home. Metalink did say that when they do go on rough roads they check the bolts that hold the canopy on to their vehicle at the end of everyday. Something they neglected to tell us, so Chris will now add them to the list of things to check everyday.

All these things run fine and smooth in the main towns and on the bitumen but some of these outback roads are very harsh and hard on any vehicle, it’s a real test on man and vehicle. As the say “stuff happens”, we could stay at home or stick to the black top, play it safe but then we wouldn’t see all these amazing things. Gives you a real appreciation of how harsh and difficult it would of been for our early settlers and explorers.

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