Vista 4x4 to Ayers Rock - September/October 2002.
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Saturday 14th September
Well - the day has arrived when we start our trip to Ayers Rock. The drivers are:-

  • Barry with a Land Rover Discovery and a Campermatic hard floor camper trailer.
  • Tony with a outback soft floor camper and
  • Frank who the night before we started broke his camper so with a last minute change of plans Frank loaded up his 6x4 trailer and packed a tent for the trip.
This is Vista4x4's first Outback Adventure, and the plan for today is to travel 550 kilimetres through Caboolture, Yarraman, Chinchilla, Miles then up to Taroom to the dirt track that leads to the Starkvale Camping Area at Robinson Gorge.


Meeting point 7:00 am
As with all of our trips, the first morning we gathered at MacDonald's for brekkie - where we are heading there are no junk food shops.
After travelling for about 2.5 hours with a lot of chit chat and games of I spy over the two-way radios, we were looking for somewhere to have smoko and found the ideal place to enjoy morning tea. Tony noticed a sign - wine tasting - maybe a little early for most to have a wine or two, but we are on holidays. We arrived at Rimfire Winery at 9.55 am so only had to wait 5 minutes to open for wine tasting, and I must say a very nice selection of wines to taste - a must stop for all travelling this way. Morning tea finished at 11.30 am, a little long you might think, but we were all feeling very happy and refreshed.


Rimfire winery
With some new directions from the winery, we head off to our first nights camp at Starkvale Camping Area at Robinson Gorge in Expedition National Park. Just 20k north of Taroom we had our first taste of dirt roads, which had some of us wondering if we had made the right decision to come. A must for this trip is to have a very good sense of humour and thick skin. With a few creek crossings to traverse, the one named Charles creek brought some laughter to the group. Those who know me will understand why, and with that the next creek to cross was fossil creek, which became Franks nickname. Our trip planning was a little our as we were travelling the track into the gorge in the dark which made for a very interesting drive in to the camp site as the track was narrow with quite a few ruts and creek crossings. But we all made it through safely without any mishaps, although putting campers and tents up in the dark was a challenge. That night when every one was relaxing around the campfire really made the long day driving worthwhile.


Camp

Robinson Gorge

Cave

Camp

Sunday 15th September

Robinson Gorge
Waking up to the sounds of nature is always a wonderful experience. So the plan for today was to explore the area and with only a short 200 metre walk to the gorge we were all stunned at the wonderful views to be seen. The kids were also off exploring the area and found a cave with some bones in it so there were plenty of stories to be told about where the bones came from. Tony suggested brekkie at the gorge would be a great sight with the morning sun coming up over the gorge and it was.

Monday 16th September

Camp
Day three and the plan is to head for Carnarvon Gorge for 2 days of exploring. Stopping at Rolleston for lunch and to call ahead to book into the Tackeraka Resort at Carnarvon Gorge. They were not able to fit us in till the next day so we decided to camp at the caravan park at Rolleston. And what a good decision it was with a very friendly pub only a short walk away. Rolleston is located in the Bauhinia Shire in Queensland's Central Highlands and can be reached by travelling along the Great Inland Way. Rolleston is 70 kilometres east of Springsure and is the last fuel stop before heading to the world renowned Carnarvon Gorge National Park.
The boundary rider's hut from 'Purbook' has been resited and restored at Beazley Park as a memorial to the area's pioneers. Rolleston is also the closest town to Lake Nuga Nuga and sits above a natural gas field.

Tuesday 17th September
Day four we head off bright and early to the tackerackar resort 10k before Carnarvon Gorge excellent camping area with the best camp kitchen the next morning we head to the gorge to check out the views. Carnarvon Gorge is an oasis in the semi-arid heart of Queensland. Here, in the Carnarvon Gorge Section of Carnarvon National Park, towering white sandstone cliffs form a spectacular steep-sided gorge with narrow, vibrantly coloured and lush side gorges. Boulder-strewn Carnarvon Creek winds through the gorge.

Remnant rainforest flourishes in the sheltered side gorges while endemic Livistona nitida cabbage tree palms, ancient cycads, ferns, flowering shrubs and gums trees line the meandering main gorge. Grassy open forest grows on the cliff-tops. The park's creeks attract a wide variety of animals including more than 173 species of birds.
Aboriginal rock art on the sandstone overhangs is a fragile reminder of the Aboriginal people who used the gorge for thousands of years. Rock engravings, ochre stencils and freehand paintings at Cathedral Cave, Baloon Cave and the Art Gallery include some of the finest rock art in Australia.
This rugged 16,000ha section is the most popular tourist destination in Queensland's central highlands.

Thursday 19th September
Day six we are heading for Emerald we stayed at Lake Maraboon Holiday Village. Lake Maraboon is Queensland's second largest lake. At a massive 15000 hectares surface area when full and holding 1.3 million mega litres of water, the Fairbairn Dam was constructed in 1972. The Emerald Shire is a modern and comfortable place to live, invest or visit. The friendly and hard working community of approximately 13,200 people enjoy a lifestyle that is rich with social, recreational, community and sporting activities.
The Emerald Shire spans 10,000km and is well serviced by established transport networks including road, rail and air infrastructure. Modern communications and energy infrastructure are also established in the shire, through private and public domains.
The region has a diverse industry base including coal mining, grazing, agriculture (grain and cotton), horticulture (grapes and citrus) and gem fossicking. This diversity of activities and production in the shire ensures its economic strength and ongoing expansion. Emerald offers investment opportunities that are unmatched in many other rural areas.
The Emerald Shire has a warm, dry climate with two distinct seasons, a dry winter season and a wet summer season. Winter temperatures average from 8 to 23C, while summer temperatures range from around 22 to 34C. The shire averages approximately 640mm of rainfall each year, falling mostly in the summer months.

Saturday 21st September
Day 8 we head for the gem fields to try our hand at fossicking for some sapphires camped at Rubyvale caravan park quite a nice park and with all the right facilities handy the main one being the local hotel where we enjoyed a night of playing pool and darts. Central Queensland is a gem of a place in more ways than one. There are few parts of Australia where the names of the towns and villages so reflect their character as in the Central Highlands and Gemfields. Emerald, Rubyvale, Sapphire, Anakie and The Willows - if you don't strike it rich here, you'll have a good time trying.


Big Ring
Emerald is located some 263km west of Rockhampton and is the hub of the Central Highlands. Great shopping, first class accommodation and restaurants as well as activities such as the annual Easter Sunflower Festival will make your stay memorable. Then there are the gemfields. The lucky folk who did find the big one left a legacy in the names they gave their mining fields. Reward, Middle Ridge, Glenalva, Big Bessie, Graves Hill and Tomahawk Creek are just a few of the signposts to direct you as you discover this part of Queensland. With annual festivals such as the Wheelbarrow Derby in June and The Gemfest in August, the Gemfields become a hive of activity. Here you will find the largest sapphire fields in the southern hemisphere and fossicking licences are available.

Monday 23rd September

Tony heads back
Day 10 and Tony's preparing to finish this part of the trip with us and head for home.
We continue on to Longreach and camp on the banks of the Thompson River. In 1860, William Landsborough and Nat Buchanan, searching for new grazing land, came upon this area and saw in it a potential not appreciated by former explorers. The verdant Mitchell Grass plains, interspersed with broken boree, gidyea scrub and Flinders grass, and the Thomson River, which had been named after Edward Deas Thomson by Edmund Kennedy in 1847, were deemed suitable for their pastoral aspirations.
In 1863 a pastoral lease was granted to the partnership of the Scottish Australia Company, William Landsborough, Nat Buchanan and Edward Cornish. This lease, named 'Bowen Downs', covered an area of approximately 2000 square miles and was eventually stocked with about 350,000 sheep and 35,000 cattle. In 1872, following management difficulties, not the least of which was the infamous cattle theft by Henry Readford, the company divided 'Bowen Downs' in two. 'Mt Cornish' covered an area of approximately 2,500,000 acres, extending from near Muttaburra to below Longreach. It was first managed by E. R. Edkins (a family name synonymous with the history of Longreach), who had driven 10,000 cattle down from the company runs near Burketown, which had been wiped out by black fever in 1871. In 1887 'Bowen Downs' was resumed and blocks of approximately 40,000 acres were thrown open for selection. Many of these selections have changed ownership a number of times since then, but descendents of the original selector families, such as Avery, Coxon, Coade, Edkins and Haywards, can still be found in the district.
In 1886 the railways were surveying for the rail line west of Rockhampton and found the present site of Longreach to be suitable for the terminus of the rail line. In November 1887, the township of Longreach was gazetted. The name 'Longreach' had been used prior to the establishment of the town by an outstation of 'Mt Cornish', which was located in the vicinity of the present day 'Nogo'. This outstation, like the town, may have derived its' name from the 'long reach' of the Thomson River. In December 1887, the first sale of Longreach town allotments was held at Barcaldine. The first sale was to the Queensland National Bank for 107 pounds. A block of land opposite was purchased by Mr J. M. Savage for 103 pounds, this site is presently occupied by the Video 2000 franchise.
Following the completion of the rail link in 1892, the growth of Longreach accelerated, soon boasting a post office, court house, police station and lockup, a state school, churches, businesses and residences.

Tuesday 24th September

Thompson River Camp
Day 11 take us through Winton which is the birth place of QANTAS and Winton has a rich history with links to the Great Shearers' Strike, Waltzing Matilda, but today the town is almost as well known for something far more ancient - dinosaurs. The largest dinosaur skeleton found in Australia, a 20-30 tonne sauropod nicknamed 'Elliot', was discovered on a property outside Winton in 1999. Lark Quarry, southwest of Winton, contains the world's only record of a dinosaur stampede.
Leaving Winton we head along the min min highway towards the Boulia Caravan Park on the edge of the Simpson Desert - not to much grass to see out here.


Boulia Caravan Park
Boulia is part of Australian mythology - the home of the mysterious Min Min lights.
Located 1719 km from Brisbane, 305 km south of Mt Isa and 364 km west of Winton, Boulia is a small settlement of approximately 300 people. It is the administrative centre for an area covering 61,176 sq. km which boasts a total shire population of less than 600.
No-one is quite sure what the name Boulia means but the most popular explanations include 'waterhole' and 'clear water', from the language of the local Aborigines.
The first Europeans to pass through the area were the ill-fated Burke and Wills. Burke gave his name to the river upon which the town is located and the Wills river is only 14 km away.
The town was first settled in 1876. The push for pastoral land had reached its limits in the west. Only the lands in the north-west gulf area were unoccupied by the end of the 1870s and Boulia was a kind of last outpost before the deserts. The town's fame rests largely on its association with the mysterious Min Min lights. No-one seems to know just exactly what the phenomenon is but there have been sightings now for nearly a century and even sceptics are convinced that the phenomenon really exists.
The Min Min lights first appeared near the site of the old Min Min Hotel which is located 73 km east of the town at the junction of the roads from McKinlay and Winton. The old hotel is now little more than a ruin although the bottles and the nearby graveyard are a reminder that it obviously had a colourful past.
The hotel burned down in 1918 and shortly after that a stockman was followed by a light on his journey to Boulia. It often appears just after dark and is said to be similar to a car headlight except that it manifests itself as a small ball and often follows a traveller for some kilometres before disappearing into the darkness. Among the many rumours associated with the light is the suggestion that anyone who chases it and catches it will disappear.
Boulia gained publicity in October 1990 when an elusive night parrot was found dead beside the road about 35 km north of the township. It was first sighted by Europeans in 1845 when John Harris Browne, a member of Charles Sturt's expedition into central Australia, reported and recorded its existence. Long thought to be extinct, the dead bird (hardly something to catch the eye of the average traveller) was miraculously spotted by Walter Boles from the Australian Museum. In total only 23 of the birds have ever been captured or collected. The first was shot by John McDouall Stuart during Sturt's 1844-46 expedition.

Wednesday 25th September

Northern Territory border

Tobermory Border crossing
Day 12 we head along the Donohue Hwy towards the Northern Territory Border on crossing the border frank destroys a tyre after changing the tyre a few ks down the road the spares tyre off franks trailer fly's off we find our way to Tobermory Station which is a great place to camp after a hard days driving.

Thursday 26th September

Tobermory Station campsite
Day 13 We leave a Tobermory Station and the road has a name change to the Plenty Stock Route I think it stands for (plenty of Bull dust, Plenty of rocks, Plenty of flies and endless corrugations) then 45k further along frank destroys a third tyre lucky we are near Jervois Station where we can get replacement tyre and continue on. Then came my turn to hold up proceedings as the road had taken it toll on my camper and destroyed the poll carrier. We made it to Alice Springs that nights for a well deserve rest.

A fairly featureless, rough haul, the Plenty Highway is useful if you're travelling from Brisbane to Alice Springs, being the shortest route available. It takes a relatively long time to negotiate however and passes through some extremely isolated and inhospitable country so you'll have to be well prepared. Facilities along the way are few and far between! The Plenty is usually passable to conventional vehicles and caravans (both with extreme care) from the Stuart Highway junction to Tobermorey Homestead, indeed it's sealed for the first 100km as far as Ongeva Creek. Beyond this, it is not suitable for caravans. The going is extremely rocky for most of the trip and may prove to be beyond the capability of a conventional vehicle - check all road conditions thoroughly before departure. After Tobermorey, where the road becomes the Donohue Highway, you'll need a 4WD to reach Boulia as the Donohue is little more than a basic track. Road trains frequently use the Plenty - watch out for them. A couple of words of warning, but first the good news. You can now pick up fuel and supplies at Tobermorey Homestead, which means that you no longer have to face the prospect of 500km with no fuel stops between Jervois Homestead and Boulia. You still, however, should ask about the amount of water in the Georgina River before embarking on the journey - if it's flowing, you may have problems getting through. Importantly, you should not attempt the Plenty after rain. Another tip is to carry two spare tyres and a good puncture repair kit - you could well need them. Lower tyre pressure by about 25 per cent and remember you need to reduce your speed when travelling on reduced tyre pressures. Shredded rubber remains are a common sight along the Plenty - be prepared and make sure your tyres don't join them on the wayside. The junction of the Stuart and Plenty Highways is 68km north of Alice Springs

Friday 27th September
Day 14 the girls need some retail therapy after not seeing a shopping centre for 2 weeks while Frank made some new friends at Bob Jane Tmarts.
Alice Springs makes a great base for a holiday in the centre. As the communications and service hub for central Australia Alice Springs has most of the facilities you would expect in any Australian capital city.To do central Australia, and yourself, justice you'll need 7 to 10 days to explore the region thoroughly. But even if you can only spare three or four days to see the highlights, you'll have a fantastic time. Be warned though, it will leave you wanting to come back again.

Saturday 28th September

Curtin Springs

Camp
Day 15 We are now heading down the Stuart Hwy towards Ayers Rock Tonight we will camp at Curtin Springs Station 80k from Ayers Rock The camping area is free and there are showers and toilets there is also a Bar and restaurant there.

Sunday 29th September
Day 16 Up early for the 80k drive to the rock which sets a Grand sight on the horizon On Arriving at Ayers Rock you start to gather the magnitude of the size of such a Amazing sight. The Climb to the top and back is a struggle but one I will never regret making the round trip is 3k and a suggested 3 hours to complete. The view from the top of Ayers Rock is spectacular and quite surprisingly, the mobile works on the top.


Ayers Rock

Ayers Rock

Ayers Rock

Ayers Rock.
Situated 335 km south-west of Alice Springs in the Northern Territory, this large rock mass is an erosional remnant made of a sedimentary rock, a feldspar-rich sandstone called arkose. It was originally laid down as a sediment in an inland sea in Cambrian times, about 500 million years ago. Earth movements such as uplifting and folding about 300 - 400 million years ago have pushed up the rock and tipped the original horizontal strata into a vertical position, so we see sets of prominent vertical banding. The arkose has impurities of iron oxide, so there are strong red and brown colours in the rock. The present smooth outline is the result of spalling, where sheets of rock have peeled off as a result of expansion and contraction from continual heating and cooling.


Ayers Rock

Ayers Rock

Ayers Rock

The rock mass emerges from a wide sandy plain, but it is not just sitting on top of the ground, it is continuous with the same kind of rock under the ground. The perimeter of the base of the rock is 8.8 km, the rock mass itself is 3.6 km long and 2.4 km wide, and stands 348.7 m above the surrounding plain. At sunrise and sunset the colours of Uluru are constantly changing, from pink to red, purple and brown.

Tuesday 1st October
Day 18 we leave Curtin Springs and head for Coober Pedy on the way we stop for lunch at

Kulgera Pub sign
Kulgera

At Cooper Pedy we stayed in an under ground motel. Coober Pedy is the 'Opal capital' of Australia, set in a rather dry, desolate and hostile environment. Coober Pedy comes from Kupa meaning 'white man' and Piti meaning 'hole'. It is translated from Aboriginals to 'white fellow's hole in the ground', which suitably reflects the way in which most people live. Many of the people live in dugouts due to the extreme climate conditions within the area.

Wednesday October 2nd

South Australia Border

Lake Hart
Day19 On the road again passing many sights taking not the since we entered South Australia is is the most baron part of the country the we have seen yet We stopped at lake Hart for lunch it is a salt lake and stretches as far as the eyes can See. We made Adelaide and stayed the night at a hotel. I am led to believe the are some beautiful places in South Australia - seems I did not look hard enough.

Thursday 3rd October

Mount Gambier
Day 19 We make our way along the south Australian coast to Mount Gambier near the Victorian Border where we visit the sinkholes We stayed at a caravan part there and dinner is at the RSL. Mount Gambier the 'Blue Lake City' is South Australia's second largest City, located midway between the major capital cities of Melbourne and Adelaide, set amidst a unique and ancient landscape of volcanic craters, lakes, caves and mysterious underground aquifers.
Mount Gambier was sighted and named, in honour of Lord James Gambier, Admiral of the Fleet, by Lieutenant James Grant in December 1800 whilst on a survey voyage in the Brig, HMS Lady Nelson.
Stephen Henty a grazier from Portland was the first white man to set eyes upon the wondrous Blue Lake and used the Valley Lake crater to graze his stock.
The Henty brothers, who first settled in the area to graze cattle, never officially laid claim to the land and were forced to leave when the first lease was granted to Evelyn Sturt, brother to the famous explorer Charles Sturt. "Gambiertown" as it was known in early years was founded by Hastings Cunningham who in 1854 subdivided a section of 77 acres for the establishment of a town.
The first Town Council was formed in 1876 with Mount Gambier being officially declared a City in 1954. Today's Mount Gambier with a population approaching 24,000 people is the regional centre for South East South Australia and Western Districts of Victoria, servicing the commercial, retail, social, sporting and cultural needs of the region. With a diverse and stable economic base, the Mount Gambier region is one of the most significant contributors to the South Australian economy in both export and local income.
The multi million dollar softwoods timber industry continues to be a key contributor to the local economy and has heavily influenced the social and cultural heritage of the city and the region.
The City has always been renowned for its spectacular gardens, quality recreational facilities and is increasingly being recognized as a quality conference and event destination.
Mount Gambier boasts all the amenities of a progressive and vibrant City and is ideally located to attract visitors from the Great Ocean Road, the Grampians, the nearby coastline and beaches or the Coorong who are keen to experience the natural and cultural beauty of the Mount Gambier region.
Mount Gambier ............ "the best of the city in the heart of the country".

Friday 4th October
Day 20 sees us crossing the Border into Victoria Heading for Melbourne we travel along the great ocean road with many wonderful sights. That night we stayed at the Apollo Bay Caravan Park a very picture perfect place and the greenest grass I have ever seen.


Victorian Border

Twelve Apostles

London Bridge

Camp

Starting 100km south west of Melbourne the Great Ocean Road works its way along the stunning coastline of Victoria's southwest. Recognised as one of the world's most scenic drives, the Great Ocean Road stretches for over 300 kilometres, from Torquay, just south of Geelong, to Warrnambool. For most of the distance the road hugs the coastline. Torquay is a popular surfing spot and the Road leads past a collection of surfing and swimming beaches. Between Anglesea, Lorne and Apollo Bay the road features the beautiful contrast of the ocean beaches on one side and the forests and mountains of the Otway Ranges on the other. The Otway Ranges stretch from Anglesea to Cape Otway and offer beautiful hills, waterfalls, excellent walking tracks and picnic spots. At Apollo Bay the Great Ocean Road leaves the coast and winds through the rainforest of Cape Otway.
The Great Ocean Road returns to hug the coastline along the entire length of the Port Campbell National Park. This stretch offers dramatic coastal scenery, with the road twisting and turning. Along this stretch of the Great Ocean Road is an amazing collection of rock sculptures such as 'The Twelve Apostles' - huge stone pillars looming out of the surf - and 'London Bridge', a rocky promontory arch carved out by the sea.

Saturday 5th October

Day 21 we arrive at Melbourne to prepare for Chris to play in the World Masters Games in the Netball series We spent a week there and to my surprise found it a nice place to holiday with visits to the markets, city central, the Zoo, I found the tram service to be very good but is was time to head for home with a stop over in Coonabarabran we arrive home after a wonderful 5 weeks.