From Alice to Katharine

We headed on north up the Stuart Highway aiming for the Devil’s Marbles which neither of us had seen before – only photos to whet our appetite. Every 2nd caravan on the highway mast have had the same idea as at 3.00pm we found we had to squeeze into a space between two others and late comers ended up at the day area. It was worth it all as we strolled among the vast array of boulders as the sun caused them to glow. Sunset wasn’t enough as I headed out again for starlight and sunrise.

We stopped at Daly Waters which is a classic outback pub but a crowded dusty caravan park and I wouldn’t bother again. On the advice of the lady at Standley Chasm we headed for Bitter Springs instead of Mataranka and she was right. We walked from the park to the springs where we could float down through the clear water with our mask and snorkel studying the underwater world and spotting fish and turtles. We had a look at Mataranka but the concreted pool wasn’t as nice and was much more crowded. Morning was even nicer without the crowds as mist rose from the water.

We stayed at the gorge at Nitmiluk (Katharine Gorge) and after walking to the lookout in the evening, we were up early for the sunrise cruise the next day. The flying foxes were returning from their nightly forage and made sure we didn’t sleep in. The sun gradually lit up the cliffs as we headed up the first gorge. We had to get off the boat and walk to the second gorge to continue our trip. We then returned back to the beginning.

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The Red Centre

We headed back to Uluru after having been there only two years previously because we’d seen and heard good reports of the Field of Light. It certainly draws in the crowds with Canapes or dinner on the dunes and busloads of viewings each night. I went for the canapes so I could be there at sunset and up on the dune with a view of the rock behind. The food was good with bubbly to drink and the light show was spectacular. We watched Uluru change colour and then the lights slowly start to glow.

I went to Uluru for sunrise but they have put the viewing area so hardly any of the rock receives sun and I had to drive around to better viewpoints. We then headed for Kata Tjuta which we find much more interesting. We repeated our favourite part of the Valley of the Winds walk.

Rainbow Valley was another place that deserved a second visit though we didn’t get our burst of sunlight at sunset this time, only an hour before which was nearly as good.

We had broken our back window on the Oodnadatta Track so had to visit Alice Springs to get a new one inserted. Unfortunately our arrival coincided with the weekend but it was no hardship to go out to Trephina Gorge and redo our favourite walks again. Chain of Ponds was still a highlight and there was a little water in Trephina Gorge this time for reflections.

Back in Alice we got our window fixed and stocked up to do section three of the Larapinta Trail, another interesting section after completing the best bits – four and five – two years ago. We left our car at Standley Chasm and climbed up with packs this time to enjoy the views that so impressed us and had drawn us back. The ups and downs are beautifully stepped in this section, harder to walk but less chance of slipping on loose rocks. Leaving the chasm area we climbed to a saddle to give us a view of the terrain ahead. The trail led us quickly to a creek bed where we had to negotiate a ten metre waterfall. Luckily it wasn’t as hard as it looked. On down the creek bed we continued, a  feature of this section of the walk. We stopped for lunch and decided to bypass the harder alternative route along a ridge as we were already weary. A kilometre of walking down a bouldered creek bed didn’t help but the track did improve after that. We wearily reached Fish Hole, a lovely waterhole, and then plodded up the sandy creek bed to the welcome sight of camp, a luxurious shelter complete with table, sleeping platform and frisky mice that emerged after dark to try and get our food.

The next day we returned along the same route and it didn’t seem as bad, I think because we knew what to expect.