Adelaide and Tennant Creek

Journey                 # 6

Time:                      May/June 2012

Thursday 17th May - Day 1

Having decided to surprise Alison for her 30th birthday, Beryl and I decided to travel to Tennant Creek for the occasion. Mark and Wendy also wanted to come, but Mark had an assignment in the USa and Wendy decided to take on the hardship and go with him, shopping bag in hand.
We had an early flight out of Sydney and left home at 4.30am. Sarah and Owen drove us to the airport where we boarded the Jetstar flight to Adelaide. Arrived there at 8.30am and picked up the hire car as Beryl navigated our way out of the airport. Travelled out to Hahndorf and had breakfast in a German cakeshop/cafe. Had a walk around the village and read some of the history of the place in the little museum there.
From there we drove along the freeway to Mt Barker lookout and found that if you miss the non descriptive turnoff, you need to travel a further 80klm before you can exit and turn around to be greeted by an unspectacular lookout. No worries. Next on to Mt Lofty, which is a lot better and would be good on a clear day. As it was, we had a hazy afternoon which wasn't good for photos. I was waiting for the sun to travel behind us, but hten realised that it was going to set over the water. Duh!!!
Then drove back in to the city to book in to the Oaks hotel. Wow, I thought Sydney traffic was bad. Parked in a no standing zone and dumped the luggage out so that Beryl could lug it in and check us in. I headed off to return the car to Thrify, which luckily was located in the street behind the hotel. Missed the hidden turnoff, due to roadworks but eventually got myself well and truly lost. Called Beryl (who still hadn't managed to check in) and she directed me back to the hotel where I picked her up. Luggage was left in the foyer. We drove down Hindley St but couldn't see the car rental place. I let her out half way along the street and waited. Finally able to get on to Thrifty and got the location. Drove to the end of the road but didn't see the drop off spot. Didn't see Beryl either and it was getting dark. Had to turn on to a major road and then got turned around to the banks of the Torrens River. Finally found my way back to the road where the hotel was located and made it back to the start of Hindley St. Took a good half hour to do so. Beryl was on the phone and I got the warning beep that mine was just about flat. Found the garage for the rental return and Beryl was standing outside the massage parlour next to it. She told me that she suspected we were in a red light district. Too right!!! I was frazzled and we walked back to the hotel. Got checked in and just sat down, when our friend Bronte rang to say he was picking us up for dinner at their place. Good to catch up with the Stanfords and see how much the kids have grown. Slept well that night.

Telephoto view of Adelaide airport from our balcony at the Oaks Embassy

View from Mt Lofty.

Friday 18th May - Day 2

We had a sleep in and after brekkie decided to walk the two blocks to the city centre and have a look around. Walked around the Central Markets and bought a few goodies, including a new camera for Beryl seeing her old one packed it in. Got $90 off the price, so that was good. Had a bit of lunch then caught the tram down to the end of the line at Glenelg. We had organised another visit with some old friends, Phil and Rhonda Munro, so it was really good to catch up with them as well. They took us to an Argentinian restaurant, Gouchos and it was first class, albeit very expensive. We bid them farewell later that night and hope to catch up again before we all get too old.

The old hotel looks timeless from the Glenelg jetty.

Saturday 19th May - Day 3

Today we were picked up by the Stanford mob and taken to Hahndorf for a lunch at the inn. Genuine German cooking was the advertising, but I can assure all, that it wasn't really the case. Not too bad though and Bronte bought me a souvenir beer mug for drinking cordial out of. Nice. The time went all too quickly and we said our goodbyes yet again.

Hahndorf Inn, where we had a delightful German style lunch with the Stanford family.

Sunday 20th May - Day 4

This morning we checked out of the Embassy and caught a cab to Keswick Terminal to embark the Ghan. Turned out to be one of the longest they have ever had, travelling north. Passengers had to board on two platforms and then the engines had to leave the platform and back up to couple onto the carriages on the other platform. The train was one carriage short of a kilometre long. Forty two carriages and two diesel engines. Checking my bag, it was 21.6kg in weight and the maximum allowable was 20kg. Had to remove a few books to drop the 1.6kg and take them as carry on. No problem.
The sleeper cabin was compact, but functional. Had a fold away sink, a couple of hanging closets and two seats with a small table. Big windows afforded plenty of viewing area. A bunk folded out of the wall for the bottom bed and the top bunk slid down from the ceiling. They were not the worst beds I have ever slept in but are right up there in the top two.
After we got underway, we walked back to the next carriage, which was the lounge. Very spacious, comfortable and uncrowded. We spent almost all of our waking hours there. One carriage further back was the dining car for our 'Red Class' sleeper section and it was fine, with good quality food and plenty of tables and chairs. Further back, were the seated passengers. They had to pay a fee to come up and dine or sit in 'our' section. Only a few of them did so.
Train left Adelaide at 12.30pm and when we woke up at 7am next morning we still hadn't left S.A.
We entered into the N.T. later that morning and eventually arrived in Alice Springs around 1.30pm. The trip took some 26 hours but went quite quickly. Waited around until our luggage was offloaded and then packed Chris and Alison's car for the 5 hour drive to Tennant Creek. They had driven down to pick us up, the previous day.
We thought we may have reached the 'Devils Marbles' before dark, but it wasn't to be. Saw them in the moonlight and got to their house an hour or so further up the highway. Their home was our home for the next two weeks.

The Ghan train on this trip, was one of the longest they have had.41 carriages.

The lounge car, where we spent most of the travelling time.

Monday 22nd May - Day 5
Ali and Chris have had to work this week and the next, so we just walked up to town for a look around. The population is roughly 6,300 but it varies with the influx and movement of the aboriginal clans which make up over 50% of the population. We had coffee at the Jajjikari cafe, attached to the cultural centre, and it served the best we found during our stay. It was an interesting afternoon and a little intimidating for a couple of city folks. Lots of aboriginal people sitting on the footpath and in front of shop entrances in various states of intoxication. A real tragedy, as this is their life day in and day out. Night time was worse, with yelling, fighting and general drunken behaviour right through to the following mornings. We did not feel threatened in any way as they kept it amongst themselves, but it was a real eye opener. We met Ali as she finished at the school and walked home with her. Later, towards evening, we all drove up to the Lake Mary Ann bike track and walked 5klm. Chris and Ali jogged it. Show offs. Next few days were similarly spent.

The Jajjikari cafe is located in the Nyinkka Nyunyu Art & Culture Centre. Great coffe.

Tuesday 23rd/25th May - Day 6
Had Chris' car today so we went for a drive out to The Pebbles and had a walk around. Some one had painted what they obviously interpreted as aboriginal art onto one of the rocks. This was in reality, graffiti, despite what the would be artist thought.
Back home to cook dinner.
Next day, Beryl and I drove out to have a look around the old Telegraph Station. It has been 'rejuvenated' and looks quite tidy. The Barkley Breeze was blowing as usual, and was quite icy.
From there we went to Battery Hill and the site of the old ten head gold stamp machinery. The museum and mineral display is worth seeing. Hard times back in the old days.

A piece of old machinery at the Battery Hill gold crushing site.

Saturday 26th May - Day 10
We were going to camp at the Old Policemans Waterhole this week end, but Alison had been getting sick the past couple of days and was in a miserable state with a terrible cough and aches. We had taken her to the hospital the previous day, and waited over four hours before someone saw her. Said nothing was wrong with her and sent her home with a script for cough medicine. The hospital was very different to city ones. I have nver seen a hospital where dogs were allowed to run around inside, while their owners waited for treatment. Vomit on the floors was not cleaned up while we were there. I started to feel like I was going to catch some form of ailment, so went and sat in the car.
Anyway, we headed off to an early start around 5am, in order to catch the sunrise over the Devil's Marbles or Karlu Karlu as they are now known. It was very windy and icy cold outside the car and we missed the sunrise as it peeked over the horizon as we still had 30klm to go on the 120klm distance. Managed to get a few good photos though. We drove in to the car park, to find it full of caravans as this is a popular free camp for travellers/grey nomads/cockroaches as they are often termed. A dingo walked out from the grass and sat in the sun, eyeing off the frying bacon and the small, yappy van dogs. Chris and I set up the gas stove and attempted to make pancakes for brekkie, but the wind was so cold, that the pan wouldn't heat up. We decided to pack up and drive the 170klm to Old Policemans Waterhole, along dirt road. This waterhole lies within the Davenport Ranges National Park. It is open to tourists, but also has a significant place in aboriginal dreamtime. It is the resting place of the rainbow serpent and there are a number of non publicised sacred sites in the vicinity. This is a permanent waterhole fed by the Frew River and has the ruins of the old police station and homestead in close proximity. This police station was an outpost of Alice Springs when it was established and was manned by a single copper and an aboriginal offsider. Their job was to intervene in the issues of cattle spearing, rustling and other social issues in the area at the time. A tough job in any terms.
On the way in, we stopped at Epenarra to buy some vegetable oil for the pancakes and I notice an old toyota sedan with no windows, lights, bumpers, rego etc and thought that someone could have towed the wreck away from the shop carpark, but a family mob came and piled in (9 of them) and happily drove off. Had to laugh.
At the waterhole, Chris quickly had a fire going in the bbq which had been installed there for campers. It was actually quite a good campground, with tables, barbeques and pit toilets. Pancakes were made and poor Ali was across the back seat of the car sleeping and unwell. She did manage to eat a couple of them though, before zonking out again. The sun was out, but the wind was cold when we decided to take a walk across the other side of the waterhole and check out the ruins. Chris showed us around, as he and his mob of aboriginal rangers had only recently marked and cleared a path to the site. There are significant sites close by, so we were obliged to stay on the path, in respect to the cultural beliefs. Interesting history and quite appalling how the traditions and people have been treated in the past and present. A case of Hear no evil, see no evil for the majority of Australian citizens, me included.
Back at the car, we were amused at the antics of the baby budgerigars in the nesting hollows of the trees alongside the waterhole. Ali was no better, so we decided to head back to Tennant Creek and try to get her better. Chris wanted a nap so I drove back in his new Prado. Drifting around a nice curve, I was frightened out of my fun, by an alarm going off. Turned out to be traction control and I was told I wasn't allowed to hoon around at my age. Oh well. We arrived back after dark and had a great day out.

Sunrise paints the rocks in brilliance.

Dingo prowling around the campsite at Devils Marbles.

Budgies were nesting in the hollows at Policemans Waterhole.

Sunday 27th May - Day 11
Today we went for a drive to the dam (Lake Mary Ann) and did the 5klm walk along the bicycle track. We have done this a few times in the past week and on the return to the car, had a look around the picnic area. Nice lush grass and amenities, but it does get used by drinkers at times and the smashed bbq's and litter show the evidence of that.Drove up to the Battery at the old gold mine in Tennant and caught up on a bit of history as we checked out the museum and mineral displays.Back home in time to go out for dinner.

This fella was just waiting to pounce on anything that brushed against the web. Big spider.

Monday 28th/29th May - Day 12
Today we went back to Battery Hill and had a private look at the Australian Inland Mission display. It had not been set up at that stage, but we were allowed to go into the hall and have a look through all the old photographs, journals and memorabilia. It pays to be friendly and smile. We also told the lady that we would put in a word for her with the rangers, for a small project she wanted. Hmmm, give and take?
Next day we drove up to Banka Banka station and pulled in to the site of the WW2 staging area ruins, just before reaching there. Spent an hour or so walking around and trying to imagine how it was back then. Lots of bits and pieces, concrete pads, bottles and items laying around on the ground. Interesting place. On the way back we stopped at a few places for a look around. Attack Creek, where there is a memorial to the explorer John McDouall Stuart. The creek is the point from which Stuart turned back from his 1860 expedition to cross the continent, after an encounter with hostile Warumunga Aboriginal people.
Next marker was dedicated to a mounted Police Constable, John Charles Shirley, who was killed on duty in 1883. In October 1883, Harry Redford was reported missing from Brunette Downs Station in the Northern Territory. A search party was mounted under the direction of Mounted Constable John Charles Shirley. The party was comprised of eight men and eighteen horses. Tragedy overtook the search party and all perished from lack of water with the exception of two members - Alan Giles (an experienced bushman), and an Aboriginal Tracker. Ironically, Redford was later found but was to suffer a different fate - drowning in Corella Creek during heavy rains a few years later. Shirley was the first Police Officer to die in the performance of duty, in the N.T.
Next stop was the John Flynn memorial and the Three Ways roadhouse. Stopped at the roadhouse for probably the worst coffee I have ever tasted and a burger. Fuel was 10c per litre more expensive than in Tennant Creek, 20klms down the road. On my list of missable places.

Some of the ruins at Banka Banka WW2 staging area.

A historical marker erected to John Stuart, an early explorer.

Wednesday 30th May - Day 14
Today we went for a drive to the dam (Lake Mary Ann) and did the 5klm walk again, but from the Lake end this time. A fire had burnt a section of bush, but luckily had not spread too far.
From there we drove to the Anzac Hill lookout to get a view over Tennant Creek. It is very poorly maintained with graffitti, rubbish and broken bottles littering the place. Not impressive at all. We did drive up to the water tanks and got a better view of the airport and Chris' work sheds.

Tennant Creek Airport with a view of the Rangers workshed in the foreground.

Friday 1st June - Day 16
Today was our last day in Tennant Creek, so a bbq was organised out at Kunjarra for the evening. Of course Chris had also arranged a meeting with his friends (who were coming anyway) to discuss their plans for entering the Katherine Ultra Challenge. This is a one day multisport event encompassing six different legs covering 100km around the Katherine region.
3.2km swim down the first Katherine gorge - 10km cross country run through the bush from Katherine Gorge to Maud Creek - 25km mountain bike from Maud Creek to Katherine Hospital 8km road run from Katherine Hospital to Low Level - 17km kayak from Low Level to Galloping Jacks - 37km road bike from Galloping Jacks to Low Level. Better them than me.
Beryl and I got there early in order to catch the sunset and Chris and Ali arriving a little later. Chris was in the Ranger work vehicle and we went to get some firewood for the bbq. Of course he had to then supply wood to all the other overnight caravanners. We got the fire going and the other mob arrived. We got on really well with them all over the week or so we had first met them and had a bit of fun with them. I had Tom perplexed with my sense of humour but Hayley had me worked out within minutes. Good fun and great friends for Chris and Ali.
Had a nice meal and brilliant stars in a clear sky. Even saw a meteor fly across the atmosphere. We took Ali home as it got colder and left Chris and the others discussing strategies for the event. She still wasn't better from whatever virus had attacked her system.

Sunset over the Pebbles or Kunjarra as it is now known.

Saturday 2nd June - Day 17
Left for Alice this morning doing the short 500klm each way trip (for the kids at least)with a lunch stop at Ti Tree. Also stopped at the Mango Farm and had a nice tub of mango ice cream (Chris and I did). The Ti Tree roadhouse was very ordinary but it was food I guess. Hit Alice later that afternoon and booked in to our rooms at Lasseters Casino. Bit of renovating going on and as our luck would have it, a couple were having a screaming domestic upstairs with lots of crying and door slamming at 3am in the morning.
Checked out this mornng and had brekkie at the Bean Tree cafe in the botanic gardens. Did a bit of shopping in Alice and I immediately noticed the difference in the attitudes of the aboriginals here. They were in your face to try and con money or other things off you, if you as much as looked in their direction or asked a question. Saw a backpacker ask a question for directions and two guys jumped up and grabbed an arm each to steer him away. A third jumped up but was back-handed and put back in his place by one of the others. Felt sorry for the backpacker as it appeared he was getting conned to buy grog or something for them. Lots of Police, drunks and general bad behaviour by a group.
Checked in at the airport and bid goodbyes to our kids. Sad for us that they are so far away, but they have their lives to live and dreams to achieve. The plane was packed, due to a Jetstar flight (jetstar don't use Alice Springs airport) having had an international flight to Bali make an emergency landing there the previous afternoon. The passengers were being taken back to Sydney and Brisbane to catch another flight the following day. Two days of vacation time lost to them.
We had good weather with little cloud, so it was amazing to see the vastness and barreness of the continent. Red deserts and mountainous regions as far as you could see. Don't know how the early explorers made it out there. Coming in to Sydney, it became overcast and was raining. Back to reality until our next journey.

Lasseters Casino.

Alice Springs Airport.


© 2011 KnBtouring.com.au - Klaus Weiss - all rights reserved