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!

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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.

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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!!

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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!

A trip to the Northern Territory. Part 8

Ormiston Gorge and the Ochre Pits.

Hi There,

Driving further west on Namatjira Drive you soon come across a sign that says Ochre Pits turn here!  I remember the conversation was like this, “Do we want to turn off here and have a look?”,”not really”, “you sure?”, “yeah, don’t know”, “Well why don’t we have a quick look and see what it’s about, not likely coming down this road again in the near future”.  So we turned off and had a look at the Ochre Pits.  Very glad that we did because we enjoyed it.  The small cliffs are several multi coloured layers of rock showing a wide range of colours.  It was and is still used for ceremonies, trading with other clans, even used to protect weapons, click HEAR to find out how.

img_1870img_1868Layers upon layers of different coloured rock, it was quite stunning and one could imagine the shifts in colour during the day and the seasons.

img_1867img_1873Above is some plant trying to cling on in a very harsh environment.  Some views below of the creek bed that runs through here.

img_1872 img_1859 img_1436-1 img_1874The colours were even evident in the creek bed, see below.

img_1861Here we can see where it has been mined.

img_1863Another colourful photo! Or two or three!

img_1864 img_1430-1 img_1866There’s no point stopping somewhere without checking out the plant life!

img_1437-1Back in the Pajero and another 17 km’s and we have now arrived at Ormiston Gorge.  We had hoped to camp here but the small camp ground was chock-a-block and the sun was on the way down, so we knew we had limited time here which was a shame.  Another beautiful Gorge here in the West Macdonnell Ranges on a similar vein to Serpentine Gorge but quite possibly even prettier!

img_1903Perfect spot for a swim during the heat of the day, alas it was winter time!  Some intriguing rock colour and formations below.

img_1898 img_1889 img_1894 img_0107Of course the plant life here took up some of my time, below is the Long Leafed Corkwood, Hakea suberea , quite common in dry desert regions.  This is a large shrub or small tree 3-8m in height with dark brown cork like bark.  Beautiful flowers produced in winter-spring, 4-15cm in length.

img_1884See above the contorted and gnarly branches and the beautiful flowers below.

img_1886Another interesting plant was Wahlenbergia communis , the Tufted Blue Bell growing to 75cm on alluvial plains and intermittent watercourses plus run off area’s, often found in sandy soils as well.  A wide-spread perennial in all mainland states.

img_1891Not a great photo below but a close-up nether the less.

img_1883 img_1882Here’s some more rugged cliffs.

img_1878 img_1877 img_1900Did you notice the gum tree’s growing on the sides of these cliffs, not many but a few hanging on for dear life!

What about this view below, pretty special I reckon!

img_1888Or even these views…

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Whichever direction you looked it looked pretty special!

Time to get moving the sun was sinking towards the western horizon and we needed to find a camp site.  We continued on past Glen Helen Lodge until we found a track that drifted off the road into the scrub.  Little did we know at the time but we had camped in front of Mt Sonder.  This is one end of the Larapinta trail which runs for 223km to Alice Springs.  The quietness out here was simply breathtaking or maybe blissful or mind-numbing.  Might depend on your mood!

img_1921Below is looking across the valley

img_1922Time to get set up before the sun disappears!

img_1905aSwags, fire and Tea!

img_1908 img_1949Now for a bit of exploring!  That means plant hunting really!

 

Now the plant below I’ve shown before, but here it is again in a pretty cool setting.  Solanum quadriloculatum .

img_1929Plus a couple of close-ups of the flowers, sort of!

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Here’s a couple of sunset type photos.  Amazing how the rock changes colour according to the light.

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Now to sit down and relax and enjoy the cool still silent evening…

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Cheers!

A trip to the Northern Territory. Part 7.

Macdonnell Ranges-Serpentine Gorge

Hi there!

Heading west out of Alice Springs on Namatjira drive you are soon in the heart of the Macdonnell Ranges.  We went past places like, Standley Chasm, Simpsons Gap, Ellery Creek Water Hole and then we pulled up at Serpentine Gorge.  All these places by the way are easily accessible from Alice Springs as Day trips, quite handy if you don’t want to camp out in the wilds!  The Macdonnell Ranges run for about 640 odd km’s east and west of Alice Springs.  Parallel ridges on either side of the valley are quite visible and in these ridges there are gaps which provide spectacular scenery and beautiful waterholes to cool of in the middle of summer.  The Ranges were green from recent rain which really made them standout amongst the surrounding landscape of red and ochre desert colours.  If you want to learn more about the Macdonnell ranges click HERE.

Serpentine Gorge was created by a south flowing creek which has cut through two ridges of Heavitree Quartzite leaving a spectacular gorge.  The road in is not too bad for a dirt road and once you get to the parking area it’s about a 1.5km walk in to the gorge across dry creek beds and scrubland.  If you’re lucky and are here after rain there are lots of wildflowers to see.  I was the one lagging behind taking photos of plants and flowers as the rest of the family steamed ahead to the heady heights of the gorge lookout.  Now if you want to see pictures of Serpentine Gorge in all its glory, I’m not going to show them right now!  You will need to scroll through this post to find them, cruel I know but well worth it!

Here is one of the dry creek beds, very rocky as you can see.

img_1749This is what a lot of the surrounding plant scape looks like, uninspiring you may say but you just need to look closely to find its beauty.

img_1786Larapinta trail marker, this walking trail is 223km in length across the Macdonnell ranges, click on this link, maybe one day!

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If you’re walking too fast you will miss this little plant.  Brachyscome ciliaris also known as Variable Daisy is found in all states of Australia and usually in sand and gibber plains(extended plain with loose rocks).  Grows to about 45cm.  Brachyscome quite often seen in nurseries and gardens around the country even more exciting to find it out here!

img_1784Remember!  Don’t just look ahead, cast your eye’s down and to the sides of where you’re walking, you’ll never know what you will find or see next.

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Above is a couple of more photos of this little gem.  Now, what about some Nightshade!  Solanum quadriloculatum.  That’s a mouthful, Wild Tomato sound better? Be very wary, this plants fruit are poisonous, another reason why common names are misleading.  This plant grows to 50 x 50cm near flooded watercourses and or low sand dunes.  It’s quite prickly and flowers in winter and spring.  

img_1416-1Below is Senna artemisoides subsp. artemisoides, another mouthful but a very beautiful shrub which grows to about 1-2 metres with beautiful yellow buttercup flowers in winter and spring.

img_1774 img_1788Maybe you can just call it the Silver Cassia.  Now for an Emu Bush.  Eremophila latrobei , commonly known as the Crimson Turkeybush, click HERE if you want to read more about this plant.  Quite beautiful!

img_1366-1 img_1426-1Another stunning Emu bush is Eremophila longifolia , also known as Berrigan, tall shrub to small tree weeping in form, click HERE if you want to know more about the Berrigan.

img_1770Sorry, I got distracted with the plants in the Serpentine Gorge, lets move onto the scenery.  This is the first sort of glimpse of the gorge and it looks like its sort of straight up to the top, hmm!

img_1781Lets go for it!  Now we are starting the climb up and here you can clearly see the parallel ridge lines that run through the Macdonnell Ranges.

img_1797Another couple of views of those ridge lines

img_1801 img_1805Yes, as you can see above we are getting higher, quite spectacular!  It is quite a rocky landscape and on these hillsides there is a lot of Porcupine grass, Trioda irritans.  The last past of its botanic name sums it up very well indeed, very irritating because it’s quite prickly.

img_1819 img_1800Below are more views across the valley.

img_1347-1 img_1794Another plant of interest for me to see in the wild was Dodonaea viscosa , the Broad leaf Hop Bush or just plain Hop Bush, very common in gardens around the country and useful for many things from hedging to specimen plantings.  It’s a very variable plant in the wild and widespread across the country.

img_1792 img_1798Now I know photos are great but there’s just no comparison to actually being there and seeing this landscape.  I have a great digital SLR camera but it doesn’t capture the WOW! The size, scope and detail of what your eyes are looking at or what your feeling right then and there as you look at this amazing country.  Below is the Serpentine Gorge.

 

 

img_1814 img_1808 img_1817 img_1807Where does one go now from these heights?  Down one would expect and lo and behold something I missed on the way up nearly hit me fair and square in the head on the way down.

img_1830Leaning over the rocky pathway was this intriguing large shrub with what looked like  stems twining around themselves like a climbing plant.  This is Pandorea doratoxylon also known as the Spearwood Vine.  The Aboriginal people use this plant for spears hence its common name. The long twining stems are light weight and are straightened and hardened over a fire.  The flowers are quite pretty when one comes upon them in such a tough landscape.

img_1828If they look familiar to you, you may be thinking of Pandorea jasminoides the Wonga Wonga vine or also known as the Bower Vine or one of the many hybrids available today.  You would be correct because they are in the same family Bignoniaceae.  Check out this closeup below!

img_1829This next photo doesn’t show too much, I just liked the detail of the bark.  To me it tells a story of the harsh landscape in which it resides.

img_1803These next photos show an interesting Grevillea, the Holly Leaf Grevillea, Grevillea wickhamii.  There are a few sub species but I’m not sure which one this is.  I have pictures of this flowering at a different location which will be revealed at a later date!

img_1833 img_1827 You can see above that the new growth gives the plant a tinge of yellow which from a distance look like flowers.img_1826Some more plants of interest here included another beautiful Emu Bush, Eremophila freelingii. The Rock Fuchsia Bush.

img_1353-1 img_1355-1A characteristic of this plant is that it sheds its lower leaves during drought to conserve moisture, you can see that quite clearly in the above photo, the plant looks half dead but it’s not!  Grows to about 1.5 metres.  The lilac flowers are stunning and are produced after it rains.  Just a few more views below of this beautiful plant on the sides of Serpentine Gorge.

img_1793 img_1789 img_1354-1Funnily enough another surprise was what looked to be some type of Fern here as well and yes it was.  Not sure of its identity but quite possibly Cheilanthes brownie , The Northern Rock Fern, either way still remarkable to me to see a fern out here.  Nature is amazing.

img_1834 img_1780Another interesting plant we saw was a parasite.  Lysiana exocarpi , the Harlequin Mistletoe.  This parasite is found mostly in inland locations and is very colourful.

img_1778 img_1776Now we have made it back down and headed into the cool of the gorge, being winter it wasn’t hot out in the open so one could imagine how nice and cool it would be in the heat of summer.

img_1842In the above photo in the distance you can see some cycads, Macrozamia macdonnellii , the Macdonnell Ranges Cycad.  Here they are below as well.

img_1841Ah well!  That’s about it for the Serpentine Gorge, here’s a few last photos of plants and foliage.

Lets have some lunch, its been a great morning in the Macdonnell Ranges.  Serpentine Gorge has been a truly magical experience.

img_1422-a-1Finally a last look into the gorge.

img_1359-1Cheers!

A trip to the Northern Territory. Part 6.

Hi There!

A few last glimpses of Alice Springs

As our time in Alice springs starts to come to an end, our thoughts turn to the Macdonnell Ranges which are our next destination, but before that we spent an afternoon at the Old Telegraph Station situated beside the Todd River, a mostly dry river that runs through Alice Springs.  Here we caught up with a friend from our old Melbourne days, the mountain bikes got ridden(finally) and a dingo made an appearance.  Luck would have it that the week before we were in Alice Springs they had a huge storm which put some water into the Todd river.  All that was left were a few puddles, so we got to see the Todd with a smidge of moisture in it.  Here’s the Todd River in all its empty glory!

img_1328-1Yes it is empty, this is only some puddles that are not moving.

img_1736Some of the kids having a ball in the puddles.

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The mountain bikes getting a run, and a soggy crossing!

img_1728 img_1731Here’s the dingo stalking a galah…..

img_1718 img_1720 img_1721Missed it.. ah well, there’s always next time.

One of the many quirky things in Alice Springs is a Beanie Festival in June.  Yes I get it, its winter time and yes it can get cold in Alice Springs in winter time and the desert gets cold overnight, but!!  Well that’s just another whole level of Irony right there!  It was fun though!!  Sorry some of these are blurry but they just had to be included!!

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Here’s some more views of the Todd River sans water.

img_1324-1 img_1322-1 img_1738 img_1730 img_1741Well maybe just a smidgen of water.  The parting shot of Alice Springs for this post is from Anzac Hill.  A memorial to the ANZAC’S on a small hill one end of town.  The view was quite something.

img_1335-1 img_1340-1 img_1344-1Thanks “ALICE” it was a blast!!

Cheers!

A trip to the Northern Territory. Part 5

Alice Springs Desert Park

Hi There,

Its been a few months since I last posted about our trip to the territory, so I thought it might be time to get back in the groove.  Another great thing to do while in Alice Springs is to visit the Alice Springs Desert Park.  Here you will see an amazing array of Flora and Fauna which is indigenous to the Northern Territory.  You will need at least a 1/2 to a full day I reckon and whatever you do, do not miss the nocturnal house!  It is magnificent.  There are Bilbies, Quolls, Numbats, Pie dish beetles, tiny little jumping mice thingies, spiders, nocturnal snakes and many other nocturnal animals.  I unfortunately didn’t get any photos of the Bilbies, but here are some of the Numbat.

img_1596 img_1599Of course there were all sorts of snakes and lizards, sorry about the blurry picture but I just had to include this nasty looking fellow!

img_1604The Thorny devils are always great to watch, these fellows were standing there and eating the ants as they went past them.  Their tongues would just flick out and snaffle them up.

img_1605 img_1696 img_1694 img_1692 img_1688As you can see they are certainly thorny, also very well camouflaged for the desert environment.  The Lizard below is just hanging out, I don’t know his name.

img_1602What I noticed a lot of in the park were lots of different Erimophila shrubs.  There are about 260 Erimophila species endemic to Australia, also known as Emu Bushes.  There are also many cultivars available in nurseries now.  Here’s a few from the Desert Park.

img_1576 img_1580 img_1581 img_1574 img_1575 img_1710If I say Dingo, what is the first thing that pops into your mind?  If you come from Australia like me, I would haphazard a guess that the name Azaria Chamberlin would spring to mind.  If you don’t know what I’m referring to, click on her name!  Canus lupus dingo, also know as a Dingo(click here for more info) is a wild dog found in Australia.  It’s the largest terrestrial predator in the country.  There are quite a few around Alice Springs particularly the old Telegraph Station.  There is an excellent talk about these wild dogs at the Desert Park, very informative.

img_1584 img_1583They blend in quite beautifully with their surroundings as you can see.  They also come with different coat colours depending on what habitat they live in.  Interesting!

img_1606Here’s another plant that’s prominent in the Alice Springs area Senna artemisiodes subsp. oligophylla, also known as Oval Leaf Cassia.  A beautiful yellow flowering shrub to 2 metres.

img_1577 img_1578 img_1305-1Another very exciting exhibit at the Alice Springs Desert Park is the Birds of Prey demonstration.  Keep your head low!!  A couple of Kites put on quite a masterful aerial display.

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The owl was quite stunning as well!

img_1645 img_1647 img_1644 img_1649Of course the star of the show is the mighty Wedge Tail Eagle.  These are quite widespread across the country and we see lots at home but still they are impressive wherever you see them.

img_1672 img_1671 img_1666 img_1665Check out his Wedgesticks(drumsticks) and not to mention his talons!

img_1668 img_1669 img_1670And of course that big rudder at the back-wedge tail.  Need to know more?? Click HERE.

Here’s a few more feathered friends from the Desert Park.

Now a few more plants from the Park!

The landscape around the park is impressive as well!

img_1608 img_1582Of course there are plenty of other animals here, this is only a snapshot of a few.  I will finish with one of our most iconic marsupials, Big Red.  Macropus rufus.

img_1681Cheers!

Cactus Country. Part 2.

Hi There!

Lets continue our journey around Cactus Country.  All I can remember saying was wow!  Look at this one, look at that!  It was pretty awe-inspiring to see so many different types of cacti.  They had a pretty informative guide-book and a find it sheet for kids, but I do have a couple of gripes.

1.There were no identification name tag/plates thingies or whatever you want to call them.  So how does a cacti novice like me know what I’m looking at or want to purchase for myself later down the track???  I know it might cost a lot of money and take time to do and maintain but plant names are highly important in my mind.

2. Then when we get to the nursery area its nigh on empty!!  What the!!  I could have counted on my fingers and toes the amount of different species in the nursery.  Consider this, Cactus country has 10 acres of display gardens and their website states ” Australia’s largest Cactus garden with an extensive plant sales area”.

Maybe I was just there at the wrong time, maybe someone had bought all their stock the day before, maybe I just missed out.  Maybe I was just feeling deflated that I couldn’t dive straight into a cacti collecting frenzy.

Enough of the self-pity, one thing is for sure.  I will be going back to Cactus Country, it really was quite fantastic!

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Stay tuned for part 3, the finale!

Cheers!

Cactus Country. Part 1

Hi There!

Cactus and Succulents are plants that are not really in my sphere of interest, I’ve taken this point of view for nigh on twenty years and I’ve been strong in my dislike for them.  I can’t explain what has happened because I don’t know what has happen because now I seem to be softening in my stance towards these plants.  So much so that in the last six months I have started to look at them and admire them.  I now look at things like World of Succulents on Facebook,  Danger Garden and Succulents and More(2 excellent blogs that I read).  I also discovered recently a place called Cactus Country which is located in Strathmerton, Victoria about an hour and 50 minutes from us.  So we decided a visit was required and this is what we saw!

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I’m sorry I don’t have names for any of these, I don’t have the foggiest idea!  I know some are Ferocactus, Agaves, Opuntias, Cereus, Saguaro, Trichocereus and Yuccas.  But that’s about it.  For now I just hope you have enjoyed the photos of these amazing plants in all their varied shapes, colours and spines!

Cheers!