Having decided to head to Uluru from the north, rather than from South Australia as originally planned, certainly increased the excitement level in the car a notch!
This had always been one of the ‘biggies’ on our list and we were going to be there in just days and not the expected months. Awesome!!
It was apparent to get there though, that some backtracking would be needed, no matter which way we came from. As we (I) had decided that we (I) wanted to have a look at The Devil’s Marbles, which are below Three Ways – the turnoff to Queensland but above Alice Springs – the furthest north we were likely to go from the SA border, we (Paul) worked out the kilometres we would double up on and decided ‘what the heck, we’ve come this far – let’s do it now!’.
We stopped for diesel in Tenant Creek ($1.675L) which was just as well as the next price we saw at Wycliffe Well was $1.999L! It was also here that we stopped to check out the ‘UFO Centre’ which turned out to be a strange set up in the roadhouse there. Apparently this is the UFO Capital of Australia and there are lots of newspaper cuttings and the like about the various documented sightings. The roadhouse boasts that if you were to stay there at night you would be unlucky NOT to see something. As tempting as that was we decided to keep going!!
We got to The Devil’s Marbles (Karlu Karlu) and had a good look around at these huge granite boulders perched on top of one another. They were really quite amazing and are supposed to be lovely at sunset/rise and although camping is available (around $3.30 an adult a night) we still had a bit of time up our sleeves and decided to head further down the road.
Well, our overnight destination ended up being at Barrow Creek in the ‘caravan park’. This was basically a patch of dirt next to the pub, at the cost of $15. Although we both kept a brave face in front of the kids, this has been the only place in the entire trip where we have thought to ourselves ‘what are we doing?’. I’m pretty sure we slept with one eye open. Basically we were the only people there, (apart from the publican) in the middle of nowhere, in the dead of night. People from the local indigenous communities were turning up at all hours to buy supplies from the pub. We left the car hitched up, didn’t worry about putting the stabilisers down and at one point Paul was considering driving at night to get us away from there.
As it turned out this was probably unnecessary paranoia, when we dropped in on our return trip for a toilet stop we got to meet some of the locals, had a chat and even bought some beautiful artwork. Perhaps when choosing an overnight camping spot we should all remember the immortal words uttered by good ol’ Johnny Howard ‘be alert but not alarmed’
To be fair, although I wouldn’t recommend an overnight stay here I would suggest travellers stop at Barrow Creek and have a look around. As well as the pub, which is quite interesting, there is the preserved telegraph station that you can walk through, (Barrow Creek was once an important outpost) and there are also the original graves of the station master and linesman killed by aboriginals in 1874.
After hightailing it from Barrow Creek we stopped at Ti Tree for some fuel but when we saw it was $1.977L we just grabbed enough to get us to Alice Springs where we hoped it would be cheaper – it was at $1.669L.
Now, you know those discount fuel vouchers you can get when grocery shopping? Well, these have become prized possessions and although home in Perth they were likely to get binned they are now presented over the counter with a flourish! These will easily save us $100’s over the duration of the trip.
I have been a bit slack recently with keeping records of fuel/accommodation/tour costs but once I have caught up again I will share some of the $ amounts we have spent so far. Everyone loves them stats!
We stopped in Alice for two nights to have a look around. There is a bit to see and do here and it is quite a big place. We checked out some local artwork, which can be bought direct from the artists in the mall or from some of the pimped up galleries with a hefty mark up. We went up the Anzac Hill Lookout to check out the view over Alice and also called into the Reptile Centre where we loved the Gecko Cave and we got to hold an olive python, a blue tongue lizard and a bearded dragon (my favourite once I realised the Thorny Devils were playing hard to get!). Although the centre is fairly small, there is a wide range of reptiles to look at and the staff give really informative talks. Photos are encouraged (without the added costs you might find in other places) and the $30 fee we were charged was more than reasonable for the couple of hours we spent there.
Unsure of whether we would get out to the West MacDonnell Ranges after going to Uluru, The Olgas and Kings Canyon (we didn’t) we headed out to Simpson’s Gap to catch a Guided Ranger Talk. After having a chuckle to find out it had been cancelled we headed down for a look anyway. It was a really beautiful spot and we were lucky enough to spy a couple of the resident Black-footed Rock Wallabies. There are plenty of walking tracks to check out as well free gas barbeques in the picnic area. Loads of information about the area – its history, fauna, flora etc is also on display and it is only 20 odd km from Alice Springs.
The kids have done really well at getting stuck into doing schoolwork in the car and this seems to help pass the time. Although, we could never complain about how they travel – they are ALL champs. Whiteboard markers have become a bit of a favourite, they get used for writing times tables on the windows, writing out spelling words as well as the odd game of noughts and crosses! It was actually hang-man that helped pass the time driving the 200km from Alice Springs to the turn off at Erldunda – Emma does particularly well but I’m not sure that her word remains the same from the start of the game to the finish!
After a quick stretch of the legs and toilet stop at Erldunda, where we checked the diesel price ($1.90L)and saw that they had these huge frightening looking Echidna and Frilled Neck Lizard, we jumped back into Patricia.
This was it, the home stretch, only 256km to go.
Uluru here we come!!