Thursday, May 2, 2013

The Stuart Hwy; Coober Pedy, Ayers Rock and Kings Canyon

April 15th 2013 to May 2nd 2013

Finally after a couple of more nights in Ceduna, we left the seaboard to commence our journey up the centre of Australia. We travelled along the Eyre Hwy and decided on an overnight stop at Kimba. We chose the Apex Park for this stay as it was clean with plenty of facilities. They only request a gold coin donation to maintain the area which isn’t much to ask. It is maintained by local retirees and they do a fabulous job, with clean toilets, an undercover barbecue area and an outdoor but undercover library facility. Kimba is halfway across Australia on the Eyre Highway and is famous for the Big Galah and is the gateway to the Gawler Ranges. It is a lovely rural and friendly community which opens its arms to travellers.

After leaving Kimba we went back to Port Augusta for a couple of days before embarking on our journey along the Stuart Highway. We left Port Augusta on Sunday 21st April to head to Coober Pedy. Our intention was to complete this trip in one day, but it was just a little bit far. From observation and what others tell us, we were prepared for quite a dull journey. We expected the same scenery; flat uninteresting landscape for mile after mile, but we were pleasantly surprised with the changes in the landscape along the way. There were a number of great photo opportunities at Island Lagoon lookout and Lake Gardiner lookout.  As bare as this landscape is, at times it is truly beautiful.

We decided to call in to Woomera along the way to check out what that town has to offer. It is quite a nice town, a little village in the desert with an amazing history. It consists of only about 100 residents, but the town is so beautifully maintained. They have many sports facilities, swimming pool, bowling lanes, hotels, a library and a wonderful information centre and cafe. Woomera is most famous for its Prohibited area which is the largest land based missile and rocket range in the western world. They have a great free exhibition in the town at the Missile Park, which gives an insight into the activities of this area.

We moved along still with the intention of reaching Coober Pedy, but by 4.30 pm we were just too tired to continue, so we pulled in at a roadside stop called Bon Bon about 168 kms south of our destination to spend the night. There were a few other travellers here plus about 2 million flies, seriously. It was here that we met John and Janice from Innisfail in Queensland. The reason we were first acquainted is because they were towing the same brand van as ours Evolution and neither of us had ever seen one on the road before, so it was interesting to have a chat. When were in Tenterfield, NSW in 2011 a couple we met at the roadside stop there, write down all caravan brand names as they are travelling. Their count was up to 74 but they had also had not come across an Evolution. At this stop in Bon Bon we also met Peter and Corrie from Morisset in NSW. All six of us were travelling on to Coober Pedy, so we met up there and spent a few days together at the Opal Inn Caravan Park.  We enjoyed a couple of happy hours together swapping travelling stories and generally enjoying the company of two lovely couples.

Coober Pedy is an extremely interesting town and different to say the least. It is of course most famous for its opal mining and 70% of its population live underground, where the temperature maintains a constant 24 degrees. Coober Pedy is surrounded by a most amazing landscape, from the opal diggings to the Moon Plains and the exquisitely beautiful Breakaways, which are flat- topped colourful mounds that have risen from the desert floor. When we went on a tour we couldn’t help but be mesmerised by this quickly changing and extremely colourful landscape.

We visited a private underground home, the beautiful underground Serbian Orthodox church, an old mine, drilling shafts, The Breakaways, the Dingo Fence, the Moon Plains and various other points of interest around the town. Coober Pedy is well worth the visit and a great start to our journey up the centre of Australia. 
Island Lagoon Lookout

Lake Gardiner Lookout

Beautiful Opal

Opal diggings

The magnificent Breakaways

The Breakaways

The dingo fence

                                                                 Underground House

Underground mine

                                                                                     Serbian church

After we left Coober Pedy we were on our way to the magnificent Ayers Rock. It was a long journey and after three short stops, one at Marla, one at the SA/NT border and one at Kulgera for fuel, we found a roadside stop about 140 kms east of Ayers Rock to camp for the night. It had been another hot day, so it was nice to stop, refresh and rehydrate (if you know what I mean) before spending a couple of days at the Ayers Rock Resort Campground.  We arrived at the campground just before lunch the following day, so we able to set up, eat lunch and prepare for the wonderful sites that were to welcome us.

The campground is huge and is situated within the resort. The resort itself houses many forms of accommodation from over the top luxury to tent sites within the campground. It also has a supermarket, fuel, a few shops, a police station and a fire station among others. All of which are overpriced as you would expect for one of the biggest tourist destinations in Australia. Entry to the National Park, which is where you need to go to see Ayers Rock and The Olgas, costs $25 per person. We saw a lot of $25 in the 2 days we were there, so they are certainly reaping their reward. Aside from the expense, it is well worth the visit.

We took the 40km journey out to the Olgas and were suitably impressed.  They are truly spectacular and the walk to the lookout was more than worth the journey. We then went to Ayers Rock and drove around the base, it has many faces, and after only seeing photos from the one angle it was nice to see it from all sides. They discourage climbing the rock, but it is still allowed and many people (not us) did exactly that. It looked way too steep for me and a number of people commenced but did not complete the climb.

The sunset is the best viewing for the rock and we took our wine, beer and nibbles out there around 5.30 pm to watch the magnificent show. We were truly captivated by the colour changes; from a deep sandy colour to an orange to a bright red and then shades of lilac and back to orange all within an hour from just before sunset to just after. It was truly amazing and I guess is why some people fly in just to view the sunset and then fly out again.
Us at the border

Us at Kulgera he he!

The beautiful Olgas

Greg at the Olgas

Me at the Olgas

Us at Ayers Rock sunset

20 mins before sunset

5 mins before sunset


10 mins after sunset

20 mins after sunset

On Tuesday 30th April we headed for Kings Canyon, about 270 kms north east of Ayers Rock, but because we have a dog, we couldn’t stay within the resort as it is part of the National Park. Kings Creek Station is about 35 kms south of the Canyon resort and this is where we camped for 2 nights. This camp is set amongst natural bushland, which is very tranquil and has everything you need, including a pool, which we needed as soon as we arrived because it was very hot. They offer camel rides, quad bike tours and helicopter rides. It was the latter that we decided to indulge in and what a breathtaking adventure it was. We set off in the late afternoon so that we could take in the gorgeous colours of the sunset.

The helicopter took us on an unforgettable, awe inspiring 100 kilometre journey which we will never forget. We flew at 300 metres and at about 180 kph and at our own request and the blessing of the pilot, with all four doors removed. It was so magical; I can hardly find the words to describe it. We saw so much of this beautiful landscape that cannot be seen from ground level.  The flight through Peterman Pound and along the top of George Gill Range, a bird’s eye view of Carmichael Crag to the spectacular Kings Canyon, with magnificent views of the Lost City, the Garden of Eden and onto Kathleen Springs, Reedy Gorge and over two Aboriginal Communities, was one of the best experiences of our lives. We were able to take our Go Pro on board, attached to the windscreen, so have the most fantastic wide view video to watch over and over again of this magnificent adventure, one that was over all too soon.
Ready for the ride

From the air Carmichael Crag and Dingo pups

From the air The Lost City

Kings Canyon

Kings Canyon

Part of the George Gill Range

We left on Thursday 2nd May 2013 to head to Alice Springs. We arrived in the late afternoon and plan to spend about a week here. We need to get the Cruiser serviced; the tyres rotated etc, all the things that can only be done in a major centre. So this is where I will leave you, until next time when our journey continues on towards Darwin.

Cheers til next time.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Teen and brother Gregory,well I finally got to read your blog,i found it fascinating I couldn't believe the underground house at cooper pedy,just think I am 57 and the first time I have ever seen one all thanks to you both.The views from the helicopter were amazing and of course so are all the pics.Till next and miss you both.