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Entries about aileron

Alice Springs to Kakadu

...via Devil's Marbles, Daly Waters and Mataranka

sunny 31 °C
View Sam Smart in World War II & Return to complete the Lap on SteveJD's travel map.

In the last blog, I omitted a visit to Anzac Hill in Alice Springs and also didn't say how impressed we were with the town. It is is well-laid out and well-treed and generally looks to be a very liveable town. I'm not sure what we expected but it is a lovely, friendly, clean and neat town. Some towns leave a good feeling and Alice Springs is one of those. We were quite sorry to move on!

On Anzac Hill there are engraved panels giving information about all of the campaigns in which ANZAC forces have been involved.

Panoramic view of Alice Springs from Anzac Hill - West McDonnelll main range with East McDonnells behind the tree at the left

Panoramic view of Alice Springs from Anzac Hill - West McDonnelll main range with East McDonnells behind the tree at the left

The Aussie flag flies free on this very well-presented memorial

The Aussie flag flies free on this very well-presented memorial

Somewhat reluctantly, we left the Alice and continued (for about 425km) along the Explorers' Way (aka Stuart Highway). Not far along the road, we came across a memorial to [Colonel] Peter Egerton Warburton. In April 1873, he left this spot, just north of Alice Springs, with his son, Richard and J.W. Lewis, Dennis White, Charley, Sahleh and Halleem. They travelled with camels instead of horses. They had to skirt some desert areas and suffered many privations but successfully crossed the Great Sandy Desert and arrived at Roebourne on the Western Australian coast, in Jan 1874. The following year, Ernest Giles set out from Port Augusta and was successful in crossing the Great Victoria Desert to reach Perth; he set out from Peake Telegraph Station (between William Creek in South Australia and Oodnadatta in the Northern Territory) and crossed the Gibson Desert reaching the Western Australia coast at Geraldton.

A short way on from the Egerton-Warburton memorial, we found a memorial to Ned Ryan who was renowned for his well-sinking exploits in the 1880s, as part of a move by the South Australian Government to encourage settlement along what is now the Explorers' Way. He was also noted for his exploits in earlier explorations which he was lucky to survive. The 19th century seems to have had more than its fair share of adventurers, to judge from the number of explorers and discoverers we are hearing about in our travels.

Memorial to Peter Egerton-Warburton

Memorial to Peter Egerton-Warburton

Renovated hand-dug well built by Ned Ryan in 1889

Renovated hand-dug well built by Ned Ryan in 1889

Travelling along the Stuart Highway can be a bit wearying as the bush does not vary much and is generally low scrub with occasional patches of very open woodland (I use woodland fairly loosely here!). So we were glad to see, as a novelty, the giant figure of an Aboriginal man on a hill behind a roadhouse. This was the Aileron Roadhouse which, as usual, was populated by fascinating characters, an old-timer who was quite a character and a young chap from the Punjab. Outside the roadhouse, there was another huge figure, this time of an Aboriginal woman with an infant and a perentie (goanna). A nearby plaque informed us that the man was Anmatjere Man, created by Mark Egan and weighing in at 8 tonnes and with a height of 17m to the tip of his spear. We could not find information on the ground level sculptures but assume that they were by the same artist, possibly at a later date.

Anmatjere Man

Anmatjere Man

Figures of Aboriginal woman and child with a perentie

Figures of Aboriginal woman and child with a perentie

The only camels we have seen in Australia - in an enclosure at the roadhouse

The only camels we have seen in Australia - in an enclosure at the roadhouse

To return to John McDouall Stuart, his observations led him to record that he was in the centre of Australia when he found what he named Central Mount Sturt in honour of the leader of his first expedition (the government then bestowed the honour on Stuart himself). Having achieved this landmark, he set out to continue north to complete the crossing of the continent and so gain the £2,000 reward offered by the South Australian Government. He discovered Tennant Creek but was still some 960km south of present-day Darwin when his group were attacked by Aborigines as he and his two European companions were about to camp by a creek. Stuart tried to make peace but had no success so that the three men had to fire on the Aborigines in order to drive them off. Stuart was unwilling to risk the lives of his companions so they fell back and returned to Adelaide.

We came across a small monument beside the Stuart Highway, referring to Stuart's discovery of what is now known as Central Mount Stuart. There are several methods of determining the centre of Australia which are generally to the south and west of Alice Springs but I reckon that Stuart should be given the last word, since none of the other proposals seems definitive!

Plaque in honour of Stuart and Kekwick ascending Central Mount Stuart

Plaque in honour of Stuart and Kekwick ascending Central Mount Stuart

Central Mount Stuart viewed between some of the sparse trees

Central Mount Stuart viewed between some of the sparse trees

Not much further along the track, Ti-Tree Roadhouse provided a welcome break where we enjoyed a good lunch. The co-manager of the roadhouse turned out to be a lady from Perth and we enjoyed chatting with her about where we had all lived. Her husband looked after maintenance and they were only one of the many couples we came across who were living and working their way around Australia, in no great hurry. We have thought about what freedom such a life would give you but all in all, it is probably not the sort of life we would enjoy for long. One of Judith's photographic contacts has been travelling in this way for some 20 years!

Our overnight destination was the Devil's Marbles Motel at Wauchope but shortly before we got there, we stopped briefly at Wycliffe Well, the UFO centre of Australia!

a00c44a0-85ee-11e9-adad-7761d5b6e0a2.jpgWhat can I add?!

What can I add?!

The origins of Wauchope and Wycliffe Well names are not known but Devil's Marbles are known by the local (Kaytetye, Alyawarra and Warlpiri) Aborigines as Karlu Karlu meaning 'round stones' which seems quite appropriate (Aussie Towns, edited). The origin of the English name for the boulders is the following quote:

"This is the Devil’s country; he’s even emptied his bag of marbles around the place!" - John Ross, Australian Overland Telegraph Line expedition, 1870 (Wikipedia).

Before checking in and early the following morning, we drove a short way beyond the motel to take photographs of the Devil's Marbles in late afternoon and morning light. Before I get to these, I have been meaning to find a way of showing the Eromanga Sea - the sea which covered much of central Australia some 110 million years ago. It was deposits laid down at this time which gave rise to the opals found in Coober Pedy and Lightning Ridge, as well as many other geological formations.

The pale blue colour over much of Australia was the inland sea

The pale blue colour over much of Australia was the inland sea

This sea gave rise to the Great Artesian Basin which is relied on by many inland areas of Australia.

As far as I can make out, the Devil's Marbles were formed before, and just to the west of, the Eromanga Sea. According to Wikipedia, the "..Devil's Marbles constitute a degraded nubbin. The formation is made of granite and is part of the top layer of a formation which penetrates the ground from below, like little geological islands in the desert, surrounded by large amounts of sandstone. The granite was formed millions of years ago as a result of the hardening of magma within the Earth's crust. Thick layers of sandstone on top of the granite exerted extreme downward pressure on the granite. After some time, tectonic forces caused folding of the Earth's crust in the area, which lifted the granite and fractured the sandstone, allowing the granite to come closer to the surface. As the pressure diminished, the granite expanded causing cracks to form, and then the larger formations began to separate into big, square blocks".

"The next phase of the formation of the Marbles started when the blocks were exposed to water. The surface of the blocks began to decay under the influence of the water and a layer of loose material surrounded the individual blocks. When the blocks came to the surface completely, the loose material was eroded away by water and wind".

"The rounding of the granite blocks is a result of chemical and physical (also called mechanical) weathering. Chemical processes cause the surface of the blocks to expand and contract, resulting in thin layers of rock coming off the boulder in a process called exfoliation. This process rounds the granite block because the chemical processes have more effect on areas with edges. The rock begins to look like it is made of layers like an onion. Only the outer few centimetres are affected by chemical weathering in a process called spheroidal weathering." Very similar formations are found in Zimbabwe, just by the by.

Panoramic view across just part of the 'marbles'

Panoramic view across just part of the 'marbles'

29a04cc0-85ef-11e9-b2d1-91d80fba56e0.jpgTwo views of the rocks

Two views of the rocks

298ec090-85ef-11e9-adad-7761d5b6e0a2.jpgMore views with one unusual upright Stonehenge-like stone

More views with one unusual upright Stonehenge-like stone

A balancing rock

A balancing rock

A natural rock garden

A natural rock garden

We did get a bit carried away but these boulders are very photogenic

We did get a bit carried away but these boulders are very photogenic

Before heading off for our morning 'shoot' we enjoyed the best egg and bacon 'sanga' breakfast ever! After spending a bit of time wandering around the rocks, we headed off on our 523km drive to Daly Waters, stopping at Tennant Creek to refuel. A short distance out of town we found the old telegraph station buildings, including a wonderfully cool underground food store. These snapshots of history continue to fascinate us.

General view of the main Telegraph Station buildings

General view of the main Telegraph Station buildings

The Blacksmith's Shop

The Blacksmith's Shop

The foremost building has a deep and cool cellar

The foremost building has a deep and cool cellar

46ba2380-8de2-11e9-9116-3fcae133b891.jpgTwo views of some of the termite mounds which were appearing more frequently

Two views of some of the termite mounds which were appearing more frequently

We had a coffee break at Attack Creek but this was own brew and in the vehicle as the flies were so bad! Along the road this day we saw many birds of prey, including at least six Wedgetail Eagles circling around. Generally these birds have been scarcer than on our last trip, mainly as there seem to be fewer animals and less roadkill for the birds to feast on.

About 100km south of Daly Waters, the bush changed from mainly desert-like areas to very open woodland with low scrub and low trees (mainly eucalypts and acacias) to much greener and denser woodland with some big areas of very handsome casuarinas. At Daly Waters, we found that we could at last dispense with our flynets! What a relief.

This brings us to another stage in the expeditions of Stuart and his companions. A grant was made to equip Stuart's fifth expedition and he set out with 12 men and 49 horses on New Year's Day 1861. This time they were untroubled by Aborigines and pressed on past the site of attack and discovered Newcastle Waters. However, by this time, men and horses were failing and once again he had to turn back. Back in Adelaide, Stuart heard of the search parties looking for Burke & Wills and, in due course, the discovery of Wills' journals which brought the news that they had been the first to cross the continent south to north, although they had not actually been able to reach the sea in the Gulf of Carpentaria due to impenetrable tidal mangrove swamps. From his expeditions, Stuart was sure that with a few wells sunk along the route, it would be possible to complete the Overland Telegraph. The South Australian Government paid for the outfitting of his sixth expedition. This time, after recovering from injuries sustained from an accident with a rearing horse, Stuart joined the rest of his party north of the Flinders Ranges at Moolooloo Station from where they set off on New Year's Day 1862. In three months, they covered the 2,414km to Newcastle Waters. They reached an arid plan and Stuart rode ahead to see if he could find water, which he did at what he called Daly Waters, after the new governor of South Australia, Sir Dominick Daly, in 1862.

General view of the pub with lovely bougainvillea covering the roof

General view of the pub with lovely bougainvillea covering the roof

The Servo - and military cast-off!

The Servo - and military cast-off!

The Highway Patrol

The Highway Patrol

A new bird for us - a Great Bowerbird

A new bird for us - a Great Bowerbird

The entrance to the pub

The entrance to the pub

a23ba020-8de3-11e9-9a67-819934345768.jpgTwo views of some of the internal 'decor'

Two views of some of the internal 'decor'

Daly Creek is one of those places that you just have to visit. There is nothing but the pub but it is one that is full of character, good food, good drink, good company and, on the one night we were there, good music. As we are now getting closer to the coast, fresh barramundi is appearing on menus and we opted for the Daly Waters special of Barra and Beef - a lovely fillet of tasty fish with a beautifully cooked steak.

The trees and undergrowth were a lot more what we had expected, rather than the dry and bleached country we had travelled through up until now. We expected a lot of desert conditions but not quite the extent of dryness that we experienced. Daly Waters was to us an oasis. More comfortable to be out and around and much more birdlife to attract our attention. Just behind the campground, there is a stump of a tree which is all that remains of 'The Stuart Tree', a tree on which Stuart carved a large 'S' - rather a sad memorial to a remarkable achievement.

As you will see from some of the photos, Daly Waters has put Army surplus to good (?) use. From here to Darwin, the area is littered with the remnants of airfields and other military establishments, mostly dating back to WWII when Darwin was bombed by the Japanese. More of this in due course.

Some of the termite mounds we saw had been dressed and others took on interesting shapes.

Mounds dressed in their Sunday best

Mounds dressed in their Sunday best

A termite 'chateau'

A termite 'chateau'

From Daly Waters, we had a short drive of 184km to Mataranka but stopped by the road to look at another memorial. This one was in honour of Alexander Forrest who brought the telegraph from a point on the Western Australia coast to a point on the Overland Telegraph at this point between Daly Waters and Mataranka.

Understated and weathered memorial to Alexander Forrest

Understated and weathered memorial to Alexander Forrest

A little further we stopped for a coffee break, not because we needed one but because we could not resist trying the Pink Panther pub at Larrimah.
This is another quirky Outback pub but doesn't quite measure up to Daly Waters, although it is fun and the people were very friendly.

b4d4e870-8de5-11e9-afcd-854cc139d787.jpgThe Pink Panther Pub

The Pink Panther Pub

An interesting menu

An interesting menu

Judith couldn't resist a load of Teddy bears!

Judith couldn't resist a load of Teddy bears!

Unfortunately, much of the bush to the west of the road had been burnt, a seasonal occurrence. Finally, we reached Mataranka, which is known for its hot springs and for being the location for the replica house which was built for the 1980s remake of the film "We of the Never Never", a classic Australian story. For those unfamiliar with the story, Aeneas Gunn took up a quarter share of Elsey Station and arrived with his wife, Jeannie, in 1902. Sadly, Aeneas died in 1903 of blackwater fever and Jeannie returned to Melbourne, In 1908, she wrote the book "We of the Never Never" and in 1946, her book was first turned into a film. We had lunch in the Homestead restaurant, during which they showed the 1980s version of the film.

Mataranka is a Yangman Aboriginal word meaning 'home of the snake'!

There is a lovely thermal pool within about 500 metres of the Mataranka Homestead accommodation. Usually, another pool, about a kilometre away is open but while we were there it was closed, we think because the water level was too low after lower than usual rainfall in the Wet.

The floor was covered with dead palm fronds

The floor was covered with dead palm fronds

A walk through the forest

A walk through the forest

The Roper River

The Roper River

The replica homestead

The replica homestead

A Water Buffalo was a surprise - turned out to be 'tame'

A Water Buffalo was a surprise - turned out to be 'tame'

Sulphur-crested Cockatoo

Sulphur-crested Cockatoo

Unidentified butterfly

Unidentified butterfly

Another surprise visitor to our cabin

Another surprise visitor to our cabin

An unidentified roadside flower

An unidentified roadside flower

An Apostlebird

An Apostlebird

A well-camouflaged skink

A well-camouflaged skink

An Agile Wallaby

An Agile Wallaby

A short drive away is Bitter Springs which is, if anything, a prettier setting with a pleasant walk around the pool. We started to get the tropical feel while we were in this area.

Grey Fantail

Grey Fantail

Rufous Whistler

Rufous Whistler

One of the pools at Bitter Springs

One of the pools at Bitter Springs

Tawny Coster butterfly

Tawny Coster butterfly

Unidentified dragonfly

Unidentified dragonfly

Unidentified dragonfly

Unidentified dragonfly

White-throated Gerygone

White-throated Gerygone

Bitter Springs reflections

Bitter Springs reflections

Blue waterlily

Blue waterlily

Another part of the Roper River

Another part of the Roper River

Our last day for this blog saw us leaving Mataranka and driving 377km to Cooinda in Kakadu National Park. We stopped in Katherine to refuel and then again in Pine Creek to try cakes and coffee at Mayse's Cafe - well worth a stop! The town seemed another neat and interesting town but we did not really have time to explore, so left the Stuart Highway to take the Kakadu Highway to Cooinda. About 100km of this journey, most of the trip, had been subject to controlled or patch burns so was not as lush as we had expected - also, pretty devoid of wildlife. Some areas were still burning! We had not known when we set out that May is the time for controlled burns, very sensibly but a bit disappointing for tourists. However, Cooinda itself was very pleasant and our accommodation in Cooinda Lodge was extremely good.

Welcome to Kakadu

Welcome to Kakadu

Kites wheeling around as bushfire drives prey out (and smokes out cars!)

Kites wheeling around as bushfire drives prey out (and smokes out cars!)

d3c68fe0-8dea-11e9-b928-dbf71937a702.jpgOur cabin and the lovely treed gardens

Our cabin and the lovely treed gardens

Unidentified blue butterfly

Unidentified blue butterfly

Unidentified black and white butterfly

Unidentified black and white butterfly

Posted by SteveJD 04:46 Archived in Australia Tagged alice_springs daly_waters mataranka aileron devil's_marbles Comments (0)

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