After a quick tyre rotation at Gemtree, and with 27,400 km on the Big Lap odometer, we hit the blessed bitumen and headed towards Alice Springs. En route we spotted a magnificent pair of Wedge Tailed Eagles feasting on carrion just before crossing the Tropic of Capricorn. These huge birds are easy to spot, but hard to photograph. They always seem to fly away from you once spooked. Most inconvenient.
Our fourth crossing of 23° 26′ 22″ South. The tropic of Capricorn is the southernmost latitude where the Sun can still be directly overhead.
Driving into Alice I spotted a public weighbridge and decided to check our bloat. With near empty fuel tanks, van and truck tipped the scales at 5.40 t! Then, after a quick flyby into Alice Springs to refuel and restock at Coles, we headed back out (roughly) into the East MacDonnell Ranges. This 250 km long mountain range, which formed a billion years ago, and once dwarfed the Himalayas 400 million years ago, is said to be the forgotten treasure of the Red centre. The drive in was certainly spectacular as we made our way to a NP camp ground at Trephina Gorge. Unfortunately all the water holes here are currently dry. The downsides were no swimming holes to cool off in and no large bodies of water for the feral European bees to be distracted by.
We discovered this about half an hour after setting up camp when we noticed lots of bees crowding around a nearby dripping tap, then later, buzzing around moist socks, boots, us, or anything with even a skerrick of moisture. Their thirst is not surprising considering the humidity is well under 20%, read super brut-de-brut. An unpleasant by-product of this is static electricity build-up and the inevitable electrocution that follows. I tricked the little blighters later by turning the tap off tight and putting a sacrificial container of water well away from the van. This worked a treat and also became a bit of a gathering place for local birds.
Some photographic fun at night, courtesy of steel wool lit in the fire.
We spent our days here walking around Trephina Gorge, including several trips up to the panoramic lookout to watch the sunset and stars pop out one by one, just magnificent. We also checked out some indigenous petroglyphs at N’Dhala Gorge, apparently some are of caterpillars.
The mesmerizing view from the Panorama Lookout, Trephina Gorge.
Petroglyphs at N’Dhala Gorge. Hard to see, even with some Photoshop help!
Next visit was out to Arltunga, the site of a gold rush in the 1880’s and actually the largest European settlement in the NT at the time. It boasted 100 people in its heyday. Sam was very disappointed by the false advertising in the visitor information centre, which said you could try panning for gold. The creeks were dry, and the visitor information centre was open but had only rusted out pans and no wash in site. We called in to one of the underground gold mine entrances, wisely backfilled to prevent FARTS (Fatal Acts of Regular Tourism Stupidity). At least it was cool in the mine entrance.
The dire circumstances that motivated people to hand push a wheel barrow 800 km from the last railhead at Marree through the most inhospitable country imaginable are simply unfathomable today. Most made only meagre livings and very few ‘struck it rich’. The last old-timer gold prospector, Jack Shaw died here in the 1980’s.
K – As a treat James and I walked up to the top of Panorama lookout on the last evening and watched all the stars come out. It was truly a beautiful thing to share even though we were both a bit spooked after being kept awake the night before by several dingoes howling as they passed through the area. Given the daily temps were now sitting around 34 degrees and the general lack of water we felt four nights out here was more than enough and were glad to be heading back into to Alice Springs where such things as air conditioning and pools would surely cool us down.