A trip to the Northern Territory. Part 13.

The End Approaches.

Hi There!

You may have guessed from the last post or even from the heading above that our trip to the Northern Territory was drawing to a close.  In some ways it was good to think that we would be home soon because really deep down at the bottom of your hearts there is no place like ‘HOME’.  This old saying(if that’s what it is) is so true on so many levels it’s not funny!  In other ways it was sad to be leaving the Territory, this natural beating heart of Australia Its grandeur, its beauty, its harshness, its isolation, its story, its cultural significance and many more its.  We have only seen but a portion of it.

Our last day here dawned bright and clear albeit slightly chilly.  We were of to have a camel ride!  These animals having been introduced to Australia, certainly have taken a likening to the Outback and many thousands, roughly 300,000(2013 estimates after a cull which started in 2009, which estimated there to be 600,000 in 2009) roam the outback.  Apparently we are the only country in the world with feral herds of camels and the largest populations of them, seriously??

Here’s a few lined up ready to go on some long tours, we were only going to do the 20 minute version.

Old Tom’s waterhole, not sure who old Tom is.  You can see our rig in the car park all packed and ready to head south(home).

getting up close with our ride!  Here we go!

Time to head towards the Stuart Highway and start our 2,381 kilometre journey home!

Right it is!

A far too common sight on the side of the Stuart Highway.  Rolled and crashed vehicles, obviously too expensive to retrieve out here, wont be long and they will be scavenged and rusted away in this harsh landscape.  Another common sight is road trains, the lifeblood of the outback!  Click HERE for some interesting information on road trains.A couple more photos of these largish trucks!.

Not real great fun overtaking them either as you watch the individual trailers moving around!

We were heading for Marla, 5ookm away in South Australia, our first stop on the way home.  When we set up camp behind the Road House we realised there were seven of us instead of the usual six.  We had picked up a hitch hiker!

Poor little fellow, thought he might like a holiday, we caught him and placed him on the side of a tree at Marla much to the disgust of our youngest who thought we could take him home.

Next morning we continued south to Coober Pedy to have a look at this interesting place, click HERE to find out more about this bizarre place!  You know you are getting close when you come across these mounds.

There is some serious mining for Opals here, it is also known as the opal mining capital of the world with over 70 opal fields.  To me the unfortunate thing is it leaves the landscape looking like the above and below photo’s, interesting but quite ugly!

There are a lot of houses here that are mostly underground or partially underground to escape the searing heat experienced here.  You can see the ventilation shafts in the photo below.

Here’s a panoramic view from the lookout.

Another view.

Time to move on.  unfortunately we found Coober Pedy to be dirty, unappealing and creepy.  Not a glowing endorsement considering plenty of other people find it amazing.  I should also say that we didn’t do any of the underground mine tours or building tours, apparently these are quite good.  We can recommend the Coober Pedy Outback Bar and Grill, we had a really great lunch!  Time to hit the road again and get as far along as we could before it got dark.

Another road photo, not really exciting.  Lots of road to look at.

Last night on the side of the road,  plenty of firewood required for a nice warm fire!

Toasty feet.

It was a cold windy night.  We had one more night before we got home and we decided to book a house at a campground which was sort of nice not to have to unpack and set up the camper trailer, a last night of luxury.  Sort of!  I apologise for all the blurry/grainy photos above, they were all taken on a IPhone 5a, b or c, who would know…Well after 6500 kilometres and three weeks on the road, it was great to be home with a whole heap of memories and experiences which we shall never forget for all the right reasons!  Now the fun starts…..Unpacking!!

That’s just me with my family poking fun at me, never seemed to have the camera away from my eyes!  Oh, and a small bald spot!

Just in case you missed any of my posts on the Northern Territory, here is a recap for you with links to them.

Part 1 – A long time ago now!

Part 2 – Alice Springs – Olive Pink Botanic Garden

Part 3 – Alice Springs Reptile Centre
Part 4 – National Road Transport Hall of Fame.
Part 5 – Alice Springs Desert Park
Part 6 – Alice Springs, a few last glimpses.
Part 7 – Serpentine Gorge
Part 8 – Ormiston Gorge and the Ochre Pits
Part 9 – Kings Canyon
Part 10 – Kathleen Gorge
Part 11 – Uluru
Part 12a – Kata Tjuta – Valley of the Winds
Part 12b – Kata Tjuta – Walpa Gorge
Part 13 – You’re already on it!!
I will finish here with a tribute to the Northern Territory using lyrics from a hugely popular and loved classic of the screen and Broadway.  I couldn’t have said it better!!
“There’s a sad sort of clanging from the clock in the hall
And the bells in the steeple too
And up in the nursery an absurd little bird
Is popping out to say, “Cuckoo”
Cuckoo, cuckoo
Regretfully they tell us cuckoo, cuckoo
But firmly they compel us
To say, “Goodbye”, to youSo long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, good night
I hate to go and leave this pretty sightSo long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, adieu
Adieu, adieu, to you and you and youSo long, farewell, au revoir, auf wiedersehen

I’d like to stay and taste my first champagne

So long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, goodbye
I leave and heave a sigh and say “Goodbye”, goodbye

I’m glad to go, I cannot tell a lie
I flit, I float, I fleetly flee, I fly

The sun has gone to bed and so must I
So long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, goodbye
Goodbye, goodbye, goodbye
Goodbye”

A trip to the Northern Territory. Part 12b.

Kata Tjuta – Walpa Gorge

Hi There,

Continuing our sojourn at Kata Tjuta, we next moved onto Walpa Gorge, a much shorter walk of about 1 hour return, this is a desert refuge for plants and animals as the soaring high walls shield the gorge from the hot sun.

Notice above on the left hand side on top of the dome, plants in a very exposed situation, coping with all sorts of extreme weather.  Walpa means windy and quite frequently you will get refreshing winds through here.  Refreshing in winter time may mean “cold”.

We didn’t see any animals in this gorge and one could imagine that with the hoards of tourists who come in here everyday, they would be quite selective with the times they would show themselves.

The walls are virtually straight up and down!

Not sure why I included this photo, just like how the water plays across the stony ground.  This is actually a very small stream that was trickling across the pathway.  Might be more apt to call it runoff.  Just imagine its a high-resolution satellite image taken from high altitude of a flooded plain.  Amazing what you can see in a picture!  Look at the size of those people walking compared to the gorge walls!

Here’s a few more water related shots.  No doubt the native fauna enjoys these cool ponds.

A nice reflection.

We are nearing the end of the track here and the flora landscape is dominated by the Spear wood vine, Pandorea doratoxylon ,  which is making very large shrubs and thickets here.  We have seen this at a few locations now, click HERE to revisit this plant at Serpentine Gorge, or just have another look at Serpentine Gorge, it is spectacular!  We even spotted it at Kings Canyon, now that’s a spectacular place, hint..hint

An interesting information panel above.  Below you can see some of the Spearwood in flower(white dots on green foliage, if you squint).

Well, we’ve reached the end of the track and officially our feet are now sore and tired after two days of a fair bit of walking, but we are at peace with the landscape and our minds are refreshed.

Thanks Kata Tjuta, we may or may not ever see you again, but your features and form are forever indelibly inked in our minds.

As we make our way back to camp for our last night in the Territory, we make one final stop at the beating heart of our great land.

So long Uluru, it has been wonderful!

Cheers!

A trip to the Northern Territory. Part 12a.

Kata Tjuta – Valley of the Winds

Hi There,

The next day dawned bright and not a cloud in sight, a bit different from yesterdays weather at Uluru(see part 11).  Todays adventure was being held at Kata Tjuta aka the Olga’s.  Another amazing landform not far from Uluru with rich cultural attachments for the local people.

Kata Tjuta is Pitjantjatjara meaning ‘many heads’, clearly evident in the above photo how they got to that name!  More formally you would describe it as an imposing series of mounds and domes that rise out of the surrounding landscape to an astonishing height of 546 metres above the plane(or 1066 metres above sea level).  That’s a staggering 200 metres(roughly) taller than Uluru(Ayres Rock), yet I don’t think it is as well-known as Uluru.  I suppose the difference is you can’t climb Kata Tjuta whereas you can Uluru occasionally!  What is it with us white fella’s wanting to climb and stomp over everything anyway… I digress, there will be no more political leanings or thoughts from now on!  As is the case with Uluru, these rock formations are just the tip of a huge slab of conglomerate that may extend up to 6 kilometres underground.  What is conglomerate?  I will get to that later!

These two photos were taken from the dune viewing area where there were some interesting plants to check out as well, always a good thing.

This is the Broad leaf Parakeelya, Calandrinia balonensis, an annual or perennial growing to 30cm either way with a basal rosette of fleshy linear to lanceolate leaves up to 10 cm long and 1 cm wide.  A good indicator plant of recent good rain, if there’s a good number and they are of a good size-this indicates recent good rain as they grow rapidly during wet seasons and store water for the dry times.  It has a small purple poppy like flower on  tallish stems that dance around in the breeze, if there is one!

Also from the dune viewing platform, you can swivel 90 degrees to the right and this is what you see below.

The only other imposing rock that’s around here!  The tree’s you see in the distance are Desert Oak, Allocasuarina decaisneana , also look at the first two photos of this post, the majority are all Desert Oak, quite common across the spinifex grasslands.  Juvenile Desert Oak are quite different in appearance compared to mature examples.  More will be revealed about these trees in a future post! Now lets head off and have a look at this place.

Kata Tjuta is a Anangu mens site and sacred under traditional law, which means for us tourists there is no wandering off the pathways.  There are plenty of different walks here and lots to see, so as we meander along, please stay with me!  No wandering off!  Note in the above photo the puddle of water which is a byproduct of rain we had here the day before.  If you have read part 11 of this series you would realise this, but now we were enjoying the crisp sunshine, it is winter by the way!  A balmy 17 degrees Celsius!  You can see a bunch of people above, and to their left a green patch.  I will concentrate on that now, the patch that is.

Here’s that green patch.  Wanderrie grass , Eriachne scleranthoides , a very rare type of grass, see quote from Grasses of Australia, “Known from two localities in SW central Australia. Conglomerate monoliths (Mt Olga and Mt Currie) growing on crests, scree slopes, in chasms and crevices, in shallow sand, gravelly slopes or shallow stony red soil, sometimes in seepage from
massive boulders. Flowers May (late-autumn) and Aug.-Oct. (late-winter to mid-spring)”.  Above we have a seepage area on a scree slope, which is where it likes to grow.

Quite a sharp prickly grass, looks more shrub like though doesn’t it!  Even closer below.

This is a problem I find, I get distracted by things off to the side of the pathway and lo and behold the next time I look up the family is gone!!  I’m sure I’ll catch them somewhere.

The remarkable thing about Kata Tjuta is that it’s composed of a different type of rock than what Uluru(made of sandstone) is which is only 50 kilometres away(by road, 32 as the crow flies).  Katu Tjuta is a conglomerate, a gravel consisting of pebbles, boulders and cobbles cemented by sand and mud.  Conglomerate is also a sedimentary type rock.  From a distance Kata Tjuta looks like the other big rock just around the corner, but up close its quite rough, see below photo.

Don’t know why, but I found this quite fascinating.  Here in the middle of no where, the only two objects that rise above the plain separated by a mere 50 kilometres are made of completely different rock.  I’m sure this happens everywhere, but I just found it fascinating..  Click HERE for more geology information on this rock formation.  If this was originally a huge slab of rock, how did it become domes and valleys?  This is likely to be mechanical erosion of sand from the rock and other chemical erosion caused by moisture.  The major Valley may have been fractured from the time of the Alice Springs Orogeny.  Chemical weathering due to ground water widened the fissures and rainwater run off gradually formed the domes and canyons we now see.

Now for some more wildflowers.  Look at that patch of Pussytails, Ptilotis.

Closer view here. This is actually Hairy Mulla Mulla, Ptilotus helipteroides .  The stems and leaves have a persistent covering of medium to dense hairs, giving it its common name.

It is an annual herb growing to about 50cm and usually occurs on rocky or gravelly ranges, hills or rises and on acidic rock and also found in Mulga dominated red plains and other locations.

Flowering from June until November, now for a real close-up!

We were heading to the Valley of the Winds and eventually the Karingana lookout, a return trip of 2.5 hours on a grade 4 – difficult track according to the visitor guide.  I think it was more in line with moderate track!  Here we are well into the Valley of the Winds and yes it was slightly breezy here!

It’s at this point in the above photo that if the temperature is over 36 deg Celsius at 11am, the track is closed.  This is the Karu Lookout, impressive to say the last.  Those mounds in the distance look like a flight of stairs, sort of!

As you can see it is quite rocky here.

Nothing amazing with the above photo, just showing more rock and more conglomerate, you can also see water seeping out from under that large slab.  Below is a swathe of Hairy Mulla Mulla, quite impressive to see it like this in its natural environment.

Again not a great photo but it just shows a lovely natural garden bed with no human influence!  I read something recently which I hadn’t really thought of before and that was someone’s thought on grouping colours in the garden as we do, pastels here, bright hot colours over there and so on.  The thought was (not exactly in these words)”Nature doesn’t separate plants into colour groupings, so I’m not going too.  There is just a riot of colour throughout my garden”.  I really liked that and it may just become my new mantra.  Not sure what the old mantra was!!

Lovely clear stream!

These plants I have no idea at the moment what they are, they are a work in progress.

Pretty, never the less!

In the above photo we are nearing the Karingana Lookout.  You can see it in the distance, the high part in between the two walls.  The walls of the domes just seemed to rise and rise into the bright noon day sun.Well!  We made it, what an amazing panorama greeted us!

Time to sit down for a quick bite to eat.  The 3 oldest boys decided they would keep going on the circuit walk and us oldies along with our youngest lad turned back here.  Here they are heading off at breakneck speed as per normal!

Below is another beautiful spot to recharge your batteries!

Heading back to Karu Lookout.  Below we have another Pussytail, Ptilotus exaltus , also known as Tall Mulla Mulla.

Grows to about 1.5 metres tall forming large showy drifts in open scrub and mulga country.  The flowers start off cone shape then eventually lengthen to be elongated and cylindrical 3-20cm in length and 4.5cm in diameter.  Compare the above two photos.  The leaves are quite thick and rubbery looking,  flowering from early spring until summer.  Widespread across all mainland states.  Here’s a small drift of them below.

Simply gorgeous!

Below is another plant that has featured in quite a few of these Northern Territory posts.  Solanum quadriloculatum

Another plant we saw was , Hakea subarea . This small tree also made an appearance at Ormiston Gorge.  Click HERE if you can’t remember!

Here’s a beautiful Eremophila as well.  Quite possibly Eremophila latrobei .

Some walls for perspective!  Note the little pocket of green three-quarters of the way up.  Plants Hey!  Amazing.

More tall walls, this one below includes small people, well not small people, just normal ones!

This is a small person one though!

He’s also carrying a firearm( a gun I was told!).

Here are some more flowering meadows(for want of a better word) which were good to see.

Oops! forgot about this little fellow. sorry!

This plant below is Cattle bush or Camel bush.  Yet again you see the need for scientific names!!  Two common names for the same plant, not confusing at all!  It is actually Trichodesma zeylanicum .  A perennial plant growing to 1 metre occurring on rocky hills and sand dunes, stony alluvial soils or areas subjected to seasonal flooding, flowering in winter and spring.

It was originally eaten by camels in the outback, hence one of its common names.  One presumes then that cattle also ate or still eat it!  Summer forage option!  Here’s a few more random plant photos!

More stunning scenery!

Here’s one last plant I noticed when we had nearly finished the Valley of the Winds Circuit walk.  I walked right past this on the way in!  Go figure.

Obviously a Brachyscome of some description, beautiful anyway.

A nice sculpture below.  The dead tree that is.

Now we are nearly back to the start of this circuit walk.  We did another small walk after this one but I will cover that next time round, i.e. part 12b!  To finish off, I have added the below photos sans words as a parting gesture to the Valley of the Winds at Kata Tjuta.  They speak for themselves!

Cheers!

Majestic Trees of Beechworth

Hi There,

A visit to Beechworth on the Labour day weekend for our annual catchup with relatives highlighted again for me that there are plenty of trees here that are of majestic proportion.  Majestic enough to even be on the National Trust Significant Tree register.  Fuelled by a chat to one of Janet’s nieces about trees,  I decided that an afternoon would be spent in the Town Hall Gardens in Beechworth where there are some lovely old trees.  Most of these magnificent specimens were donated by Ferdinand Von Mueller in 1875.  Click here to find out more about the great Von Mueller.

We will start with the Bunya Pine.  Araucaria bidwillii

I love how the branches radiate out from the trunk on this one.  Native to Queensland, this evergreen coniferous tree can grow to somewhere between 30-45 metres.  The Bunya Pine is the last surviving species in the section Bunya of the genus Araucaria.  Fossils from section Bunya have been found in South America and Europe.  This tree was around during the Jurassic.

Leaves of the Bunya above, bark below.

Caution must be used when standing under these tree’s.  Why?  Check out the photo below!

That’s part of the Bunya Pine cone!  Weighing in at an impressive 18 kg (roughly) and the size of a football.  a hard hat may be called for if you decide to spend an extended amount of time under the Bunya.  Living for about 500 years, the Bunya pine makes for an impressive looking tree in a weird sort of way!

Next up we have the Atlas Cedar,  Cedrus atlantica

Atlas Cedar is a Cedar native to the Atlas mountains in Morocco, reaching a height of 30-35 metre with a girth of up to 2 metres.  Here is the bark with Lichen.

One of the smaller trees in this park is the Irish Strawberry Tree, Arbutus unedo .  Can be either a large shrub or small tree, grows to about 10 metres and native to Mediterranean areas and parts of Ireland.  It has white Erica like flowers that turn into large red berries, a bit like a strawberry!  Here are its leaves.

Arbutus unedo is normally multi trunked.  It was first described by Carl Linnaeus in 1753 in volume one of his landmark book Species Plantarum.  Click on his name to find out more.

The bark of the Irish Strawberry tree is quite remarkable as well.

Another Cedrus here is Cedrus deodara, also known as the Deodar Cedar.

Looks a bit like the Whomping Willow, don’t you think?  Not that I’ve ever stood under the Whomping Willow, I just feel that this Deodar Cedar is tensing up its boughs to fling them around!

Bark above and cones below.

The Deodar Cedar is native to the Western Himalayas in Eastern Afghanistan through to Western Nepal.  Grows to about 40-50 metres and occasionally 60 metres with a girth of up to 3 metres.  This is also the national tree of Pakistan.

Next we have the Canary Island Pine, Pinus canariensis .

Obviously native to the Canary Islands, this is a sub tropical pine which doesn’t like cold temperatures.  Growing to about 30 – 40 metres but also able to reach 60 metres, with a girth of 2.5 metres.  It has extremely long leaves which are needle like, see below.

The bark is interesting as well.

Fun fact!  “The tree’s  long needles make a significant contribution to the islands water supply, trapping large amounts of condensation from the moist air coming off the Atlantic with the prevailing north-eastern wind (locally called “alisios”). The condensation then drops to the ground and is quickly absorbed by the soil, eventually percolating down to the underground aquifers”.

Lets have a look at the Western Yellow Pine, Pinus ponderosa .  This pine hails from the Western United States and Canada and is the official state tree of Montana.

Not sure where the top is in the above photo, in the wild one of these has been measured at 81.77 metres tall, now that’s tall!  Check out its bark, that’s pretty cool too!

One more look at this tall tree.

Now, finally to the mummy or daddy of them all.  Sequoiadendron giganteum .  The Sierra Redwood.  Although not the tallest tree in the world, that belongs to Sequoia sempervirens the coastal redwood, the Sierra Redwoods are the largest single tree’s and largest living thing (by volume) in the world.  The biggest one, known as General Sherman is 83.8 metres tall with a girth of 31.3 metres at ground level.  Yes, that’s not a typo!  31.3 metres at ground level.  That’s a volume of 1,486.9 cubic metres!

The bark can be up to 90cm thick, making it quite fire-proof.  The oldest known Sierra Redwood is thought to be 3,500 years old.

A large tree can have about 11,000 cones and surprisingly for such a large tree the cones are quite small.  Here’s a collection that someone’s gathered.

As the name may suggest, this tree comes from the Sierra Nevada Mountains in California.  Here’s a row of them below.

Here they are in their full glory

A couple more photos.

To finish off, here is a small plaque in the gardens, nodding to the great botanist Ferdinand von Mueller, who had the foresight to donate these tree’s and seeds for future generations to enjoy, not only here but  in many public gardens and Botanic gardens throughout the state.  Thankyou!

Cheers!

A trip to the Northern Territory. Part 11

ULURU

Hi There!

Well we were on our way to Uluru, previously known as Ayres Rock.  What would we see?  What would we feel?  How would we react when we saw the rock?  Is this the ultimate destination in Australia?  Lots of questions, I know, but relevant I would think.  The boys were excited, the other half was excited.  Me?  Not sure.  I wonder what people over the world would think of when prompted about Australia?  When questioned would they say yes, we know of the Great Barrier Reef,  the Sydney Opera House and yes Kangaroo’s.  Malcolm Turnbull?  Bob Hawke?  Paul Hogan?  Sorry! I digress.  Would they say, Ayres Rock(Uluru)?  I somehow think that yes Uluru would be near or at the top of the list.  I think for most of us Australians its a pilgrimage of sorts.  Not sure if that’s true or not but most people have either been or want to go and I’m sure there’s some that just couldn’t be bothered.  I must admit that as we drew closer to seeing the “Rock” the excitement level was rising. You don’t see much from the road as you approach Yulara(town/resort next to Uluru), but it’s still a “WOW” moment when you catch that first glimpse.  Here’s this great monolith of a rock that just protrudes from the surrounding landscape in what is practically the centre of Australia.  Yes I know it’s not the geographical centre of Australia, that’s only about 300km away as the crow flies.  We did notice four-wheel drive vehicles up on top of the sand dunes getting clear views of the Rock, but we were pressing on to the Yulara and the Ayres Rock Resort-Ayres rock Campground.

That’s an oxymoron if ever there was one!  Resort, ha!  Not this campground.  Else where maybe if you were paying big bucks at one of the fine and dandy accommodation resorts.  You see, we hadn’t booked a campsite.  Mind you we had rung about 4 days out but it was fully booked out, great I thought!  “Don’t worry” they said, ‘just turn up and you can find a spot in the overflow section and its only $10 dollars a night”.  Click, click, mental arithmetic happening, 3 nights, 10 dollars a night, got it, $30 bucks, gee that’s cheap, end of mental arithmetic.  They also said get there early in the day to get the best spots(aka-closest spots to the amenities block in the actual campground).  We have noticed in the Northern Territory that at the big campgrounds there are queuing up lanes to get in and they are usually full towards the end of the day or even after lunch!  So we got there in the early afternoon and a bonus we didn’t have to wait too long and we were in looking for the overflow section.  I guarantee you that the overflow section was in the vicinity of 10-20 times bigger than the actual campground and the front section(aka-closest to the amenities block) was virtually full.  If you ever want to see what caravans and camper trailers are in use around Australia this would be the place to go!  We found a spot amongst some small scrubby plants including Grevillea and set up camp, got the binoculars out to look for the amenities block and discovered them about 600 metres away!  Time to set up a shuttle bus to get to the toilet!!

img_1898_1Not a great picture but this is the Shanty Town-Overflow section or most of it!.  Below is the section closest to the amenities on the right which you cant see and we are located in the left of this picture.  The Khaki setup on the left at the front.  The funny thing is that this overflow virtually empties and fills every day, which is not surprising when you see the amount of travellers on the road!  There was also some campers here in this section that obviously were spending a week or two here and they had worked their way to the front of the overflow section therefore being only 40-50 metres away from the amenities.  They were also from the Territory and obviously knew about the cheap overflow section.

img_1899The sun was now starting to sink and the park had a sunset viewing area of the rock.  So off we trundled with the crowds to have a look.  The area was slightly busy, so we worked our way along the dunes until we had our own mostly private viewing area.  This is what we saw!  At last, Uluru in all its glory.

img_2341Again with different colours.

img_2357A bit later.

img_2361And now no sun.  Beautiful!

img_2364

How is it that Uluru changes colour so much?  Well, the answer is quite simple.  The colour changes as a result from the effects of the earths atmosphere on the suns incoming rays.  Dust, ash and water vapour in the atmosphere act as a filter which can remove the bluer light from the suns rays, allowing redder light through at different times of the day.  When the sun is directly overhead, the suns rays only have to pass through a thin atmosphere therefore minimising the filtering effect.  Whereas in the mornings or evenings when the sun is low on either horizon, the suns rays have to travel through a thicker layer of atmosphere to reach a certain point on the earths surface.  The light reaching Uluru at sunset or sunrise is mainly from the red end of the spectrum and its reflection from the rock and clouds in the sky cause the spectacular colours.  The surrounding landscape further enhances these effects.

img_2353A peculiar plant caught my eye on these dunes know as Green Bird flower,  Crotalaria cunninghamii.  This shrub growing between 1 and 3 metres is found in inland areas on red sand dunes.  Can be erect or sprawling with velvety stems. Large yellow-green flowers striped with fine black or purple pin strips are present on terminal racemes to 22cm in length during winter and spring.

img_2356

img_2350Time to head back to camp and cook tea.  Check out the amazing colour of the dirt(sand really!).img_1885

Today was a holiday in the Northern Territory, Territory Day!  This is the only day of the year you can buy fireworks and let them off in the Northern Territory!!  We had been warned and sure enough well into the night and even early next morning fireworks were going off everywhere at Yulara.  What a racket!  Could only imagine what it would be like in Alice Springs or even Darwin!  The next morning greeted us with drizzly rain and puddles.  What a day to visit Uluru, yuck, it wasn’t looking good.

img_1596_1We made our way to Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park getting glimpses of a wet rock on the way.  It still looked amazing and impressive in the landscape.

img_2445img_1645_1Here are some Honey Grevillea’s, Grevillea eriostachya, these were everywhere around Uluru, flashes of brilliant yellow amongst a red and green background.  Grows to about 3 metres and flowers for a long time in winter and spring.  We made our way to the Cultural centre to escape the rain and learn more of Uluru and the Anangu Land which is run by the traditional landowners who are the Yankunyjatjara and Pitjantjatjara people.  From the guide-book, “This land was created by the creation ancestors.  In their travels they left marks in the land and made laws for us to keep and live by.  We hope that during your visit you will learn about some of our ancestors and culture.  Please respect this knowledge and open your minds and hearts so you can really appreciate our enduring culture”  There were lots of things to see and do in the Cultural Centre.  I overheard a tourist asking a Park employee what was worth looking at Uluru during the rain.  The response was “do the Mala walk, it has brilliant waterfalls during wet weather”.  So off we trundled into the rain to do the Mala Walk.  Its only 2km return and flat, so very easy.  Our plan had been to cycle around Uluru but the hire company doesn’t operate in the wet.  As we had two bikes with us, we needed another 4.  That wasn’t going to work, was it!  Back to the Mala walk, Mala is Aboriginal for Rufous hare-wallaby.  Click HERE to see what it looks like.  Could be an overgrown rat crossed with a Hare!!  In this section there were sheer vertical cliffs which were impressive.

img_1627 img_2406It was simply stunning to see Uluru in the rain.  It had stopped mostly but the waterfalls were still running albeit slower and smaller.  I have since seen photos after and during major deluges on Uluru which show water cascading down everywhere in huge quantities.

img_2369Everywhere you turned to look at Uluru you would see different colours in the rock and this changes as the sun rises and sets on it as well.

img_2373 img_2376Cave right at the base of Uluru

img_2386 Notice above how the rain has changed the colour of the rockimg_2414What is Uluru composed of?  “Uluru is composed of arkose, a coarse-grained sandstone rich in the mineral feldspar. The sandy sediment, which hardened to form this arkose, was eroded from high mountains composed largely of granite” , this is quoted from the online Department of the Environment and Energy.  Click HERE if you want to know more of the Geology of Uluru.  An interesting piece of information is that Uluru is a visible tip of a huge rock slab that extends possibly 6 kilometres underground!  The exposed bit is supposed to be the biggest exposed rock going around, imagine if it was all exposed!!

img_1624 img_2422 img_2378

Waterfalls everywhere!

img_2379 img_2397Crystal clear water.

img_2370Beautiful scenery where ever you turned.  Below is Kantju Gorge a wonderful location with a lovely waterfall.

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Not much to say really, simply enchanting.  We then drove around to the sunset/sunrise viewing area which is on the opposite side to the Mala walk and here you get a completely different aspect of Uluru.

img_1653_1Another view from the sunset/sunrise viewing area.

img_1656The Wattle above is Acacia ligulata, also known as Umbrella Bush, this grows to about 4 metres.

img_2482When you look closely at the surface of Uluru, it looks like its flaking and it is.  This is caused by a chemical decay of minerals.  The rusty colour of the exposed surface of these flakes is caused by the oxidation (rusting) of the iron in the Arkose.  Fresh Arkose is grey in colour.  Some more examples below.

img_2492 img_2491Below is Ptilotus obovatus, a lovely little shrub to about 1 metre high and across has pink flowers frequently after rain.  Often seen on shallow stony ground.  The leaves are covered with star-shaped hairs giving the plant a silvery appearance.  I saw this one on the Kuniya Walk, which is an easy walk to the Mutijulu Waterhole home of Wanampi, an ancestral water snake.

img_2467 Closeup of Ptilotus flowersimg_2468Here is the Mutitjula Waterhole, another special place at Uluru.

img_1684 The photo below in some way summed up Uluru for us.  The comment was made something along the lines of “look its breathing” or something of that effect.  Well! It did sort of feel alive, maybe it was just the flow of Arkose Sandstone and how it was shaped or how the rain ran off it, maybe its cultural significance, even its history over time or maybe all of the previous combined.  It just felt significant.  I can now understand why the traditional owners revere it.  This is a special place.

img_2506Here’s a few more plants I noticed on our travels around Uluru.

img_2448This is Upside down plant, Leptosema chambersii.  Obviously you can see how it got its common name.  It’s a bit topsy turvy with the flowers at the bottom.  A small shrub with leaves reduced to scales.  Lives on sand plains and dunes normally with Triodia sp.  Closeup below.

img_2446 img_2447

Another interesting plant was Bush Plum, Santalum lanceolatum, it grows to about 7 metres as a shrub or small tree on a wide variety of habitats and flowers throughout the year.  Fruit is usually eaten straight from the tree, older branches are also harvested for sandlewood.

img_1662 img_2458This one below is one of the Triodia species, usually quite a sharp and prickly clumping grass

img_2457The large trees around Uluru were Desert Bloodwood, also known as Corymbia terminalis .

img_2419There were also a large Grevillea called Beefwood.  Grevillea striata.

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Well the day was coming to an end and we hadn’t done everything we wanted to due to the weather and consideration for children.  We were damp, tired and pretty chuffed that we had finally made it to this legend of our great southern land, Uluru, a monolithic breathing living monstrous rock.

Finally, a last parting glance for this day at this magical place known as Uluru.

img_2444Cheers!

A trip to the Northern Territory. Part 10

Kathleen Springs

Hi There,

Having spent 2 nights at Kings Canyon, it was time to move on towards the ultimate destination in the Northern Territory, maybe even the whole of Australia??  If you’re not sure what that might be stay tuned for part 11 while we have a quick look at Kathleen Springs.  We stopped here while travelling onto that great destination.  Kathleen Springs is an easy 2.5km return walk through lots of interesting flora to a permanent spring.  Along the way there are remnants of old cattle yards which show its previous history and descriptive marker boards relating to Aboriginal activities here.

img_2276img_2281Below is quite a bizarre looking plant called the Orange Spade Flower, Hybanthus aurantiacus .  This is a small erect shrub to about 40cm and quite widespread although I only saw it in a couple of places.  The flowers have five petals, four very small ones and one large one shaped like a shovel!!

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Here is a closeup of the shovel!

img_2271Here’s some more sea ripples, although the indigenous people have a slightly different story about these ripples.

img_2293If you remember in Part 9, we saw some of these ripples on the Rim Walk at Kings Canyon.  See below for a different take on these!

img_2292I don’t particularly want to meet Inturrkunya!!

img_1568-1 img_2278Golden Orb Spider with its young, we get these at home as well although this one was massive!  Below we have Hibiscus leptocladys also known as the Variable Leaf Hibiscus.

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It grows to about 1.5m or occasionally to 2m and is quite widespread in the Northern Territory.

img_2320 img_2314Another piece of rock…

img_2326This is Abutilon leucopetalum, also known as Lantern Bush, grows to about 1m or less.

img_2317img_1560-1This one I think is Swainsona flavicarinata, Known as Swainsona or Yellow Keeled Swainsona.  This is a prostrate herb.

img_2296 img_2295More rock!

img_2294This one is quite possibly Indigofera basedowii, a perennial shrub to 1 metre with grey-pubescent foliage with inflorescences to 11cm long.

img_2304 img_1535-1Here’s a close-up of the flowers

img_2306Some more plants

img_2321 img_2303A small creek

img_2299This one is Senecio gregorii , alson known as Annual Yellowtop, grows to 40cm high and is an annual.  Widespread throughout all states.

img_1563-1This is Scaevola parvibarbata a perennial growing to about 50cm, widespread on sandy areas.img_2318img_1560-1 img_1525-1So there you have it, a short interlude at Kathleen Springs on our way to another great destination in the Northern Territory!

 

Cheers!

A trip to the Northern Territory. Part 9.

 

Kings Canyon

Hi There,

Now I never thought that I would do a nine part and counting series on our three-week holiday  to the Northern Territory, but here we are!  No need to panic just yet, I can assure you that it wont be long and we’ll be on the home stretch.  Meanwhile the stretch of road we were facing now was the Meerenie Loop.  A 154km stretch of dirt road which is a short cut to get to Kings Canyon, you can go the long way its only about 500km!  For the Meerenie loop you need a permit as it goes through some Aboriginal Land Trust area, also a 4 wheel drive vehicle of some description would be beneficial although not mandatory.  I’ve taken the next bit from The Outback Travellers Track Guide Book for Alice Springs to Yulara.  “The Meerenie Loop is very undulating with many crests, dips and creek floodways.  This area is mainly gravel with some rocky sections but is often plagued with corrugations and dusty conditions”.

img_1974To say it was corrugated and dusty would be a slight understatement to say the least!  The first section was an absolute quagmire of corrugations and at a slow speed you felt like you were on some sort of manic rollercoaster, every bump was a shudder of immense proportions.  This was going to be great for another 140 kilometres.  It did improve though.  We decided to see what would happen at a faster speed!  Well it was an improvement at a speed of 75-85kmh, mind you it was now a constant smaller shuddering.  I can only describe it as a cat the size of an elephant purring beneath your car with the reverberations oozing up into the vehicle and oneself.  Everything was just a constant shudder!

img_1992 img_1977You can see above the dips and creek floodways, these were the worst.  As you approached you would slow down to get across them and occasionally some were quite deep with pot holes in them which the front tyres would slam into with a tremendous thump.  It all sounds bad but it was an enjoyable experience and the scenery was quite beautiful.  Look at the rolling seam of rock in the left side of the photo above.

img_1979 img_1993There was a couple of classic road signs we saw, both on 44 gallon drums, one before a corner “LIFT UM FOOT” and the other around the corner “PUTTUN BACK DOWN”.  I  was too slow in getting any shots but click HERE to check them out!  What a classic!.  Having stopped for lunch and then continued on our way we soon came to Ginty’s Lookout.

img_2004In the distance you can see George Gills Range and Kings Canyon is at the right hand end of this range in these photos.

img_2005I think the boys enjoyed a chance to stretch and let off some steam, also gave me a chance to quickly check the vehicle and camper trailer were all in one piece.  There was a slight problem with the bike rack attachment on the camper trailer, parts of it had come loose and needed replacement, luckily I had spares!

img_2006Of course there were plants to admire, check out this pretty Erimophila!

img_2001Cant remember how long it took to complete our journey along the Meerenie loop but we had finally arrive at Kings Canyon.  Just in time to set up camp and then watch the suns rays set on the entrance to the canyon.

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img_2025The next morning dawned fresh and bright and away we went to get amongst the Canyon.  Kings Canyon is part of the Watarrka National Park and sits at the west end of the George Gills Range.  The walls in the canyon are over 100 metres high and make for some great panoramic views.  Here we go on the rim walk which is highly recommended, give yourself at least 4 hours to truly appreciate this place and watch out for the opening climb, it will test you!  Make sure you stop on the way up this straight up climb to admire the views, just don’t let on that you’re puffed!

img_2031Here’s one of my scenic views(puff,puff,puff) lucky there was some plants to look at!

img_2036img_2041 Above is Tall Mulla Mula also known as Pussytails or scientifically as Ptilotus exaltatus.  Below is a Blue Bush. Maireana sp, I’m not sure which one, there are 57 specie endemic to Australia.img_2039 img_2040Now that I’ve got my breath back, lets continue up the steep climb!

img_2038 img_2042In the above photo in the middle on the right you can see the car park receding in the distance.  Below you can see the canyon walls starting to come into view.  The river of green at the bottom is Kings Creek, providing the life blood for those plants.img_2048

Once you get to the top the rest of the Rim walk is quite easy and breathtaking at the same time!  Firstly you are walking through scrubland and rocky formations before you really get anywhere near the rim.  Mind you, you don’t want to get too close to the edge!

img_2057 img_2060 Picture below is of Sandstone mounds which are quite prolific up on the top of the George Gills Range.  They are known as Mereenie Sandstone which has been cross bedded.  Basically over time(lots of time) wind has deposited sand in different directions(see description in next photo).  The domes you see have been eroded along joint-bounded blocks with rain and wind eroding the corners and sides of the blocks giving us these domed shaped sandstone mounds.img_2090 img_2061img_2080 Looking closely below you will see Rhinoceros Rock.  Well that’s what I called it!img_2143These two photos you can see those Sandstone domes I mentioned earlier.img_2084 img_2103Now we come to parts where you need to hold your breath as you edge closer to the edge.

img_2088 It is a shear drop off the edge there!

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Kings Canyon sits in what is known as the Amadeus Basin which is a intracratonic depression covering approximately 170,000 square Kilometres in Central Australia.  Interpret that as an inland sea I would think! Now I will quote the Geology of Kings Canyon National Park by L. Bages, report 4 for the Northern Territory Geological Survey.  “The oldest exposed rocks in the park are those of the shallow-marine to continental Cambrian Pertaoorrta Group.  This group is conformably overlain by the marine Cambro-Ordovician Larapinta Group which is conformably overlain by the shallow-marine Mereenie Sandstone.  The sequence was gently folded, faulted and partly joined during the Alice Springs Orogeny between 400-300 million years ago.  Since the Carboniferous, the area has undergone a long period of erosion.  During the Tertiary, the climate was tropical; fluvial sediments were deposited in places and silcrete and ferricrete were formed.  During a period which lasted from the late Tertiary to the Quaternary, acolian sand dunes and sheets, which now cover large areas in Central Australia, were deposited under arid conditions.” Did you get all that??  Basically means what a fantastic landscape we are looking at now!! Here we have the ocean floor with ripples in it, incredible!img_2117img_2097Above we are looking out towards the car park and yes, the views are quite beautiful.img_2104 Yes you are correct, those are people  on the opposite side of the canyon looking over the edge!  No fences here!  Scary!img_2100img_2085Not a great photo below but just showing a chasm(Joint) and the cross bedding(layers) in the sandstone. img_2098Lets have a look at a few of the plants up here.  The Desert Heath Myrtle, Thryptomene maisonneuve were in full flower.  These Thryptomenes are widespread throughout arid Australia and can grow to 1.5m high. img_2056

The ones on top of Kings Canyon in the open were quite close to the ground to get out of the wind!img_2197Below is Macrozamia macdonnellii, The Macdonnell Ranges Cycad, interesting to see cycads out in arid country!img_2063 This one below looks like some kind of Hibbertia sp.  Also know as Guinea Flowers, pretty nether the less.img_2065 Not sure of this one, obviously situated in the Daisy family, could be a Calotis or a Minuria or some form of Brachycome or I could be totally off the money.  Nice flowers though!img_2066This is Pandorea doratoxylon which we saw at Serpentine Gorge .img_2075 This is the stunning Holly Leaf Grevillea, Grevillea wickhamii.img_2070 img_2071A shrub or small tree 1-4m or even 8m tall in places, seen in Western Australia and inland Northern Territory.

img_2151We’ll leave the plants alone for a little while and head back into the scenic elements of Kings Canyon.

img_2207Below we are looking into the Garden of Eden, an oasis in the middle of Kings Canyon fed via Kings Creek which creates a sublime environment in the heart of this arid country.img_2210img_2146Look at the reflection in the water, beautiful! img_2159Here is a stand of the Macdonnell Ranges Cycads.

img_2136 img_2130Check out these reflections!  Not Bad!

img_2165 The one below is actually taken looking directly into the water!img_2171Staircase leading out of the Garden of Eden and on towards the rest of the Rim Walk.img_2124Here we are around the other side of the rim.  That edge to the right of those people is a straight drop of about 100m or more and then maybe double that to Kings creek  at the bottom, scary stuff!

img_2224 img_2213 On this Sandstone cliff you can see the horizontal layers that have been laid down over time.img_2221Wow!

img_2230 img_2226A bit more information above and no we didn’t smash any rocks to check the insides!img_2228 The colours were truly amazing!img_2227

The photos below show to good effect the Sandstone domes and layers

img_2214 img_2202 img_2201 img_2110I like this one above, it shows a couple of fault lines running in different directions.  We are now on our way back towards ground level and the finish of the Rim Walk, a few more plants have caught my eye!  I think this one is either a Goodenia,  Lechenaultia or Velleia sp.  Pretty little shrub on the sandstone hills on top of the canyon.

img_2096This one below is quite possibly Goodenia cycloptera.

img_2198Plants have an amazing knack of growing anywhere, have a look at this fig below.

img_2234This one below looks like a bit of an oddity and haven’t been able to work it out yet!

img_2225A few more pics of Ptilotus exaltatus.

img_2263 img_2265Here’s a good photo of one we’ve seen before, Solanum quadriloculatum.

img_2180This is Kestrel Falls, apparently where lots of Kestrel’s roost and also some good waterfalls here during the wet season.

img_2255A few more plant photos showing the tough environment here.

Well I must admit that’s about it.  It was a big day and everyone enjoyed it even though we were tired!

img_2219 img_2207It was good to sit down again!

img_2269Cheers!