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Australia - August 2017


Northern Territory, NT 

There are only 2 seasons: The dry season which starts in April/May and runs until October/November, bringing sunny weather, clear blue skies, balmy nights and warm days and the wet season with steamy weather, the odd lightening and spectacular intense rains. Large floods and cyclones are common during the wet season.
NT lies between the Red Center and the tropical tip of Darwin with some of Australia’s most rugged and spectacular landscapes ... and an abundance of flies ... a good fly net is priceless … 


Alice Springs (Palm Valley), NT 

Alice Springs is the second-largest town in the Northern Territory and located near Australia's geographic center and equidistant from Adelaide in the South (1530 km) and Darwin in the North (1480 km). The surrounding region is known as Central Australia or the Red Center.
Alice Springs has a good infrastructure but is not a pleasant town to stay. Alice Springs is one of the most dangerous towns in Australia … and you feel it when driving around at night or when staying near liquor-shops, taverns or supermarkets, where large numbers of indigenous people gather together.
The tourist loop Namatjira-Larapinta Drive offers an opportunity to visit the West MacDonnell Ranges: Simpsons Gap, Standley Chasm, Ellery Creek Waterhole, Serpentine Gorge, Ochre Pits, Ormiston Gorge, Glen Helen Gorge and Redbank Gorge. Don’t expect amazing view or nature wonders … everything is over-commercialized and adapted to the crowd of day-visitors. If you are looking for a quiet place in a natural untouched surrounding, then don’t stop there. 

Finke Gorge NP: Palm Valley is a remnant of the rain forests that once covered the continent and now acts as the last niche for a diverse range of plant species, many that are rare and unique to the area. One of these is the Red Cabbage Palm, which is only found within the park and has a population of only 3,000 individual plants. Apart from the adventure of driving in one of the oldest river of the world, Palm Valley is a maze of sandstone amphitheaters, pinnacles and gorges. For the first time since departing from Cairns, we really had to use the 4WD (not only the 4H but also the 4L for the last part of the track) … deep sand, beds of pebbles, rocky escarpment with high steps! But Palm Valley is worth the effort: a magnificent secluded oasis surrounded by high red cliffs, a wonderful place to be!


Yulara (Uluru & Kata Tjuta) NT, the cultural shock 

So far in the caravan parks, we encountered mostly Australians long-term campers, very friendly, educated and well-behaved, offering interesting conversations. You arrive at the campsite and immediately you feel at home, drinking a beer  with your nice neighbors: well, this not the case in Yulara.
The disrespectful and unfriendly campers here are mainly one-day visitors, coming to just see the “Rock”. They are consumer freaks and don't care about nature. In the resort, the atmosphere is even worse as far as ridiculous … where people are either dressed like Crocodile Dundee or dressed up like George Clooney! With their nice shining shoes … and Lamborghini, McLaren, Ferrari & Co parked there!
We’ve been almost the only foreigners in the past weeks on the dirt tracks. Now, it feels like being in Las Vegas where you can hear the Italians lamenting that they don’t understand English or the French complaining about the food ...
Remember, we are in the middle of a vast desert with no water. At the Resort, you have lots of air-conditioned restaurants, lounges, bars and shops not forgetting the swimming pools and beautiful green lawns ... apparently still not enough for the spoiled guests. What a huge waste of resources that will never regenerate ...
But to save the day, the majestic Uluru and breathtaking Kata Tjuta remind us how wonderful and precious nature is. The trail around the Kata Tjuta is a must do. Of course, the climbing of the Uluru is on our don't do list. Uluru has been sacred to the Anangu people for tens of thousands of years. From 26 October 2019, the 34th anniversary of the handback to the traditional owners, the climb is not anymore allowed. Why it has taken 34 years to the Anangu to decide about this ?
In the Red Center, the temperatures can vary dramatically. We had 32 to 34 degrees during the day and a drop below zero at night! To be precise, we had -4 ºC in our camper ...


Kulgera Roadhouse, NT 

The first and the last pub in the Northern Territory!
A traditional roadhouse with plenty of atmosphere of the old good times in the outback … very rare in today’s world … Most traditional roadhouses have been replaced by modern gas stations without soul. Definitely worth stopping in Kulgera if in the area! 


Mount Dare Hotel (Simpson Desert), SA (South Australia) 

This is the door to the Witjira and Simpson Desert NP and the only pub/ roadhouse/ petrol station for 510 km.

The Dalhousie Springs is the most northern group of mound springs in SA and the largest artesian springs in Australia. It’s estimated that water takes 2,5 million years to pass from the recharge to the discharge areas. Many of the artesian springs discharge a comfortable 38-40 degrees temperature water but it can be as high as 85 degrees! The average rainfall is 130 mm/ year and the evaporation rate is 4000 mm/year! The rainfall is always unpredictable and unreliable which makes this place a wonder.

In 1963, the French oil exploring Compagnie Générale de Géophysique started their drilling program to the rim of the Simpsons Desert in the search of mineral wealth. They left as a legacy their access road, the famous French Line and QAA Line, which has since opened up the Simpson Desert to 4WD-tourism.
The crossing of the desert from Birdsville to Mount Dare along the French-QAA Line runs through 1101 sand dunes and 501 km!! This is the world's largest parallel sand dune desert! The French Line is the most direct route from East to West. However, this route will put your sand driving skills to the test. Indeed, the "road" consists of a narrow ditch through the sand dunes.
The sand dunes and the vast flat valleys between them seem endless: it’s a parallel dunal desert. The dunes high up to 40 meters, are made of very fine sand of various colors. From each towering crest you have the same view and every time you feel the sheer immensity of space and the grandiosity of this landscape.

Mount Dare is an experience on its own: real outback and a friendly familial atmosphere. Beautiful!




Barrow Creek, NT 

Barrow Creek is a very small town, the current population is of 11 inhabitants, located on the Stuart Highway, about half way from Alice Springs to Tennant Creek. The main feature of the town is the roadhouse.
It’s a must to stop at this historic outback pub opened in November 1932, in three months from now it will celebrate its 85th anniversary. This old pub still has the original old bar, underground cellar and tin ceilings. The fresh beer is still stored in the original underground cellar. The place is a popular stop for travelers along the highway and contains a tremendous collection of memorabilia and items of interest which have been gathered over the years. A curiosity is the "Barrow Creek Bank": travelers post on the wall a signed banknote of their native country, to be used in a later journey in case they need a beer! Bring your flag or banknote, hat or business card and pin it up on the wall!


Tennant Creek, NT 

The site of Australia’s last gold rush. It’s a soulless town in the middle of nowhere but still welcomed after a long ride on a boring never-ending highway.
The only interesting attraction in the area are the Devil’s marbles (Karlu Karlu). Those are huge, spherical granite boulders that balance precariously on top of one another. Take the trail of the beaten track to admire this surreal landscape of giant Easter eggs!

Daly Waters, NT 

Home to a truly historical pub with a terrific atmosphere and live entertainment. The icing on the cake is the best grilled barra ever eaten in Australia since we arrived. A real highlight during this otherwise unexciting journey. Don’t miss stopping here!


Mataranka, NT 

The main attraction here are the hot springs. If you have to choose between Rainbow and Bitter Springs: it’s a no brainer. Rainbow Spring is a pool in concrete, the same you can find in any town, located within a private resort but still considered a National Park? Forget it …  Bitter Springs is in comparison an amazing experience ... A hot river flowing across a lush Livistona palm forest. The very best experience is to swim early morning when you can see the steam rising above the crystal clear water… Paradise 


Katherine (Katherine Gorge and Edith Falls), NT 

Katherine is the fourth largest settlement in the Territory and is known as the place where "the outback meets the tropics". Katherine has grown with the development of transport and mining, more recently also as a tourism gateway to the attractions of nearby Nitmiluk National Park (Katherine Gorge and Edith Falls). Katherine Gorge is a money-maker commercial attraction and Edith Falls is a recreational pond with a lot of people. Choose the upper pool for a refreshing swim and a relaxing moment away from the crowd (2 km return walk).


Judbarra NP, NT 

The park is the second largest national park in the Northern Territory, after Kakadu National Park, with an area of 13'000 km2. Ecologically, it’s in the transition between tropical and semi-arid zones. 
The park is considered one of the most prolific sites for aboriginal rock art with engraved and painted human figures. We believe that the “good” rock art sites are hidden somewhere in the bush and not disclosed. We saw only very few paintings of doubtful quality along a precarious escarpment walk (Nawulbinbin Walk), the only one in the park marked with an aboriginal rock art sign.


Keep River NP, NT 

The striking beehive-shaped sandstone formations that define the park are most commonly referred to as mini Bungle Bungles. Various walks offer panoramic views of rock formations, natural archways and gorges formed by the erosion of the soft sedimentary sandstone.


Western Australia (WA) 

Crossing the border to WA is a serious matter. All vehicles are stopped and thoroughly checked. Any fruit, veggies, seeds or even garlic and onions you have, will be trashed by the border control officers. 
WA is Australia’s largest state, covering one third of the country. It shares borders with SA and NT.
Between the South and the North WA, there is a wealth of climates and landscapes.


Kununurra, WA 

Kununurra is a town in far Northern Western Australia located at the Eastern extremity of the Kimberley Region, only a few kms away from the border with the Northern Territory. The town is situated among the scenic hills of the Kimberley Region, having an abundance of fresh water, conserved by the Ord River Diversion dam and the main Ord River Dam.

Kununurra was developed to service the Ord River Irrigation Scheme. Begun in 1958, the Ord Irrigation Scheme was an ambitious idea to capture the huge volume of water during the monsoon season for irrigation of the fertile plains. The first stage was completed in 1963 with the construction of the Diversion Dam, creating Lake Kununurra. The second stage saw the building of the Ord River Dam and creating Lake Argyle.
A cruise and a swim in Lake Argyle provide a good opportunity to discover this water immensity.
Kununurra has been a gastronomic discovery!
The Hoochery Distillery is making the best Australian Rum (Gold Medal Winners and Champion Rum in 2014 2015 & 2016)! Built on a farm outside of Kununurra, this very small pot distillery has the capacity to produce 50,000 bottles of Ord River Rum a year. Nearly all manufacturing steps are handmade! We recommend the Ord River Rum Overproof (56.4% ABV) with a nice slice of the homemade Ord River Rum Cake … exquisite! 


El Questro Wilderness Park, WA 

Waterfalls, swimming holes, gorges, thermal springs, hikes and treks ...
This is a private holiday destination but offers everything that most National Parks are not able to deliver: untouched nature. The environment is protected and areas of interest are sensitively developed with sometimes challenging hiking trails, this in contrast to National Parks with their large artificial pathways that are killing any sense of nature. 
For the first time, after two months spent in Australia, we have a hiking trail that is a trail! Most of the trails provide the opportunity for a refreshing swim in a crystal clear waterfall or pond. 
El Questro should be on everyone’s to do list! 
Be aware that at El Questro, when they recommend the use of 4WD, it is really needed! To access the camping site, you already need to cross two rivers. Besides, some tracks are very steep, narrow, rocky and challenging, sometimes with deep river crossing, requiring good all-terrain expertise and a 4WD with snorkel and 4L gears.


Grey Nomads 

The “Land Down Under” provides the ideal habitat for the recently discovered new species of Homo Sapiens: the Grey Nomad. 

The grey nomad is a retired person who travels independently and for an extended period in a caravan or motor home across the country and has a particular lifestyle. Rarely sighted in cities, the grey nomad migrates North during the wintertime, where they frequent isolated coastal regions, the Top End and are spotted in the Red Center. They are known to be very friendly, tranquil and approachable if offered beer or wine. They have their own website and their own brand of wine! That’s living ... je suis Grey Nomad!




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