Discovering the rest of the Stuart Highway

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If you recall from a couple of posts ago, we had skipped ahead in the timeline to let everyone know about our close call at Pinnaroo when the wheel bearing failed on the Cub Camper.

Going through the rest of our photos from our journey down the Stuart Highway, we realised we had some pretty awesome ones to share with you!

Heading south towards Alice Springs, we stopped to see some wonderful sights. Fuelling up at Elliot Roadhouse, a local indigenous man stopped to talk with the children and show them an artwork he had produced. The kids recognised some of the animals, and Johnny Devlin (as we came to know him) told them the names of the animals in his own language, explaining that when he and his family get hungry, they go out into the bush and hunt the animals like the ones he’s painted. Johnny offered to sell us the painting, and we were more than happy to buy this wonderful piece whose story we had just learned. The best part about this purchase – the money went straight to the artist’s pocket, not just a royalty as happens when you buy from many galleries.

The kids were raving excitedly about their experience at Elliott, as we rolled in to see Karlu Karlu/Karlwekarlwe, the Devils Marbles, after an overnight stop at Tennant Creek. Four local Aboriginal peoples of the Kaytetye, Warumungu, Anmatyerr and Alyawarr have strong connections to this sacred place.

Taken from an information board there, this story is haunting and timeless:

The dreaming is still here

Aboriginal people believe that people from the dreaming at Karlwekarlwe live in the caves under the rocks here.

“They’re real people like us. You can see them. A long time ago I went with my billycan down to the creek here to get some water. One of these secret people came out and started playing with me. I couldn’t go away.

My mother came and got me, saved me. After that we never camped at this place again, never. They’re kind these secret people, but they can make you mad. They can change you into one of them. They can say, ‘Follow me’, and you can’t go back.

It happened like that for my cousin. He disappeared. The old people made a big ceremony, singing the ground and the rocks to make them let my cousin come back. We’ve lost that song now. We’ve got no song to bring children back.”

A Senior Traditional Owner

After reading this, and from our perspective as non-indigenous people, standing at those rocks, listening to the wind and watching the shadows underneath beckon to us to explore, we wouldn’t at all have been surprised if someone had appeared from a cave!

Next stop was only a short trip down the road at Wycliffe Well, also known as the UFO Capital of Australia. Well, didn’t the kids have a ball here, with all the alien merchandise and photo opportunities. Inside the roadhouse, there are walls covered with newspaper articles about UFO sightings and alien abductions. Regardless of whether you “Believe”, there have been some fascinating close encounters reported in the Australian outback, so be sure to stop at Wycliffe Well, have your photo taken with the space ship and green alien, and grab a feed while you read up about visitors from another world.

A quick photo stop at the Tropic of Capricorn, marking the official start/stop between the Desert and the Tropics, and we pulled into Alice Springs. We had contacted the Big 4 MacDonnell Ranges to ask about staying in a cabin for a couple of nights instead of setting up camp in the heat. They were amazing, and gave us a special rate for our stay, airconditioned relief from the heat of Alice in the summer. As much as we love camping, staying in one of these beautifully appointed spacious cabins was a real treat. A shady carport for the Legend and our Cub, bunk beds for the kids, comfy bed for Paul & Kirstine, and great kitchen facilities.

We only had one full day in Alice Springs and decided to travel part of the Red Centre Way, to explore some of the famous gorges. The West MacDonnell Ranges are unique and utterly beautiful, and even the kids enjoyed the drive. Our stops in the West MacDonnell/Tjoritja National Park included the Ellery Creek Big Hole, Ormiston Gorge, Ochre Pits, and Glen Helen Gorge. Swimming in a gorge in the middle of the desert, is a sublime experience, which should absolutely be on your Bucket List. The kids had their goggles and were on a mission to find the native fish in the waterholes, and they did!

Home in time for the kids to have a few rides down the waterslide, they fell asleep that night with smiles on their faces, exhausted from the day’s adventures. Sometimes our travel itinerary appears not very kids-friendly, but we always make time for them to have fun and be kids. It is a joy to have them appreciate being able to have free time, rather than expect it and drive us nuts asking!

We had been due to stay for two nights at the Voyages Ayers Rock Campgrounds in a cabin, but realising we had miscalculated a day on our itinerary meant that we had to leave after one. We are very grateful to Voyages for their support of our journey! Our eldest son was amazed at the size of Uluru and Kata-Tjuta, though we didn’t have enough time to go and visit up close and personal. With the high temperatures, many of the walks were closed or had to close by 9am for safety reasons. There is more to explore at this beautiful place, so I think we’ll be back!

We splurged and booked an underground stay again at Coober Pedy, with our eldest son having missed that experience earlier in the trip. The apartment at the Comfort Inn Coober Pedy Experience, is spectacular. Super spacious, it’s basically a house underground! Paul and Kirstine actually think it would be great to live there. Whilst we didn’t take photos, we did take some video, which we’ll put up when it’s been edited. The kids noodled for opals next door at the pit outside the mine, and we had some very tasty pizza for tea. It’s surreal climbing into bed underground. The lighting in the apartment highlighted the stunning colours and cut in the ceiling and walls. It’s dark, it’s quiet, and it’s peaceful, everything that many city dwellers would find disconcerting, having become accustomed to the noise and light pollution that goes with dense populations.

Even now as we write this, there are cyclones moving around the north-west of Western Australia, and Northern Territory. By the time we get back up north, the worst of these will have subsided, but then we’ll have tourist traffic to contend with. You know what? Bring it on – more people = more conversations = more people spreading the word about mental health. There’s method to our own Madness!

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