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Travel Australia with Kids

Saturday, 27th August 2011

Parmiss Keyhani - Tuesday, August 30, 2011

There was an enormous cloud of smoke over the McDonnell Ranges as we travelled into Alice Springs - we have seen quite a bit of bushfire smoke around in the Northern Territory so far.  We did the usual chore stuff while in the city, but did plenty of fun stuff too (well mostly the kids and I did as Mike was busy most of the time doing repairs on the caravan - yes, poor baby!).  The caravan park we stayed at, Heavitree Lodge, is at the base of Heavitree Gap (convenient geography) where a mob of rock wallabies reside and you can feed them every night around dusk - they were the cutest thing and the kids loved that they could get so close to "wild" wallabies.

The nights are very cold, the days start off cool and very windy but warm up by mid-day. We spent the better part of one day at the Alice Springs Desert Park which is quite extensive - it has an enormous enclosed nocturnal house (we had 2 turns in there - the kids loved looking around the dark glassed cages for the animals) and about a dozen different bird enclosures with pretty much every bird you can think of! One of Tiran's off-on hobbies on the trip has been collecting feathers, so he was mesmerised with all the different colours on offer.  Kia was most excited by the massive red kangaroo - he was quite impressive actually, wouldn't want to get into a tiff with him.  Watched a very hazy but beautiful sunset from Anzac Hill and on the way back down saw a bushfire in the town - fire seems to be everywhere around here!

We had been warned to be wary of the aboriginal people in Alice Springs - I can honestly say we had no troubles at all.  A very quiet and shy aboriginal couple came to our camp one night to sell one of their paintings, one of which we did buy for $30, a bargain for authentic aboriginal art if you ask me (well it was a painting and it was done by an aboriginal, so to my art-naive mind, it was authentic indeed!).  I also got my culture fix at the Central Australian Museum and the Strenlow Research Centre - very interesting information about the Strenlow family, one of whom collected an enormous audio-visual library of aboriginal sacred ceremonies (the majority of which can't be shown to the public). There is also quite a large Art Gallery with a large selection of Albert Namitjira art on display.

Heading north from Alice Springs, we detoured to Gemtree for a bit of garnet fossicking; the whole setting reminded me of a cowboy-western movie set - from the little pond you cross to the fences and signs. We chose the easiest option by buying a bucket of dirt all ready to be fossicked!  There's nothing to it really: put some dirt into a pan and shake out the dirt, remove the large worthless rocks, then give the rest a good wash and hold it up to the light of the sun - the garnet's red colour shines through and you pick them out.  Kia gave up after 10 minutes - not enough action to keep him interested. Tiran on the other hand was born to the task - it got so he could pick out the larger garnets before even washing them! We were very happy with our loot and the proprietor was duly impressed that a 4 year old had found so many jewels in a bucket of dirt.

We stopped off again at Devil's Marbles for lunch and saw our old friend the dingo - and then we saw a complete moron throw him some food!!!!  I've lost track of the number of signs we've seen everywhere about not feeding wildlife - I was pretty certain the majority of people who had a driver's licence could read, but obviously I had jumped to conclusions! Mike actually went over and told them that he was an off-duty park ranger from NSW and gave him a big lecture about the dangers of feeding wild animals - he did quite nicely (as only Mike could because I would have been reduced to much profanity if I were to do it!). So a marathon drive of 800km over 2 days saw us reach the "middle" of Northern Territory and we spent a hugely enjoyable night at the Daly Waters Pub - absolutely the best steak I have had since leaving Sydney and a hilarious one-man show to boot.  It was a great atmosphere and the caravan park was completely packed, which meant that the boys found some kids their own age to play with for the afternoon.

Mataranka Hot Springs had been earmarked for certain visitation after watching the Gall Boys DVDs (makers of Kedron caravans and several DVDs about travelling in very inhospitable terrain with their caravans) - it certainly lived up to the hype. Naturally hot springs (well warm actually but extremely pleasant) in a tropical setting; thankfully not very crowded at all on our visit so we spent a very happy and relaxing 2 hours soaking!

We passed through the town of Katherine (stopping only to stock up on supplies, fuel and water) and drove straight to Litchfield National Park (one of Michael's fondest memories from his RAF days and a place that has changed tremendously since then).  We spent 4 lovely (but quite hot) days at Litchfield visiting the Lost City (enormous varied-shaped rocks which really did look like a miniature ancient city), Blythe Homestead, the magnetic termite mounds (unfortunately couldn't get too close to these), a few enormous "regular" termite mounds and the multitude of falls (Tolmer Falls, Florence Falls and the lovely Wangi Falls where we had a swim nearly every day). We met a very friendly off-duty park ranger our first day there and in the course of our conversation I mentioned all the fire smoke we'd seen in the Northern Territory over the past 3 weeks - he told us that they are all deliberately lit (as back-burning season ends in early July).  How unbelievable is that??

As lovely as Litchfield had been we were looking forward to reaching Darwin - mainly for some air-conditioning!


Massive cloud of fire smoke over West McDonnell Ranges - NT (16Aug11)Kia & Tiran with new friend at Alice Springs Desert Park - Alice Springs, NT (17Aug11)Tiran with his old friend the quoll (has never forgiven one for stealing one of his shoes in Tasmania) - Alice Springs Desert Park, NT (17Aug11)Impessive red kangaroo - Alice Springs Desert Park, NT (17Aug11)
Feeding the Feeding the Smoky sunset from Anzac Hill - Alice Springs, NT (17Aug11)Smoky sunset from Anzac Hill - Alice Springs, NT (17Aug11)
Bushire! - Alice Springs, NT (17Aug11)Mum & joey wallaby - Heavitree Gap, NT (18Aug11)Tiran feeding mum & joey wallabies - Heavitree Gap, NT (18Aug11)Learning the art of fossicking - Gemtree, NT (19Aug11)

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