From the Falkland Islands we made our way to Argentina, stopping first in Montevideo then ending our cruise in Buenos Aries. After the workshop finished, Dianne and I stayed on in Buenos Aires for a few days to explore the city.
After a second smooth crossing of Drake Passage, we stopped for a day at Stanley in the Falkland Islands. The islands are low, treeless and windswept. The older architecture in Stanley is interesting. Apart from a few buildings made of brick or stone, most construction is of timber and corrugated iron. The design of the buildings are still traditionally British – even down to the picket fences, but the unusual materials take some getting used to. An attempt to make the place feel like home I guess, but they miss out on that balmy British weather!
There are many of these old Nissin Huts, left over from various wars. All the buildings have a flaking, rusty patina caused by the constant freezing and thawing and the continuous howling wind.
An interesting graveyard for wooden boats at the end of Stanley Harbour.
Young penguin hiding in a burrow above the beach
Mum and Dad socialising on the beach
No one climbs through the fences
Male Upland Goose – common on the islands
Brand new Landrovers waiting delivery
Anchorage for fair weather sailers.
The Falklands had a very British feel – friendly British accents, Landrovers everywhere, Pubs serving Ale and money bearing pictures of the Queen.
Heading South from the tip of South America, we crossed, an oddly calm, Drake Passage and continued down into the Antarctic Peninsular. We had a number of sea days with no land in sight, but much bird and marine life to observe between painting sessions.
Once into the Antarctic Peninsular Icebergs drifted by as we passed through unimaginably spectacular scenery
After leaving Bisbee, our plan was to head east across the bottom of Arizona to the Chiricahua Mountains. This road took us through the small settlement of Apache near where Geronimo surrendered to the Us Army in 1886, ending the Indian wars.
Crossing into New Mexico, we stopped at a roadhouse in the little town of Rodeo. It was an interesting place with great food and an entertaining passage of local ranchers stopping in for coffee and gossip.
Further down the road a Museum had a great collection of local desert snakes – all safely behind glass. We hadn’t managed to see a rattle snake in all our wandering around, so this was a good opportunity to get a photograph.
Crossing back into Arizona, we headed up to Portal in the Chiricahua Mountains. The mountains were spectacular with birds and wildlife everywhere.
From Portal we climbed the mountains up to around 10,000 feet, passing the huge Morenci copper mine.
Old Indian cliff dwellings outside Camp Verde
Just outside Tucson, Arizona, is the Sonoran Desert. Tanque Verde Ranch is situated in the desert and joins the Sonoran Desert National Monument. The ranch was our venue for an enjoyable 5 day painting workshop organised by MISA.
Tanque Verde Ranch was a large cattle property in the early days, but now runs around 200 horses for visitors to explore the many desert riding trails.
A couple of weeks before Winter is the perfect time to be in Central Australia. The days are warm and sunny, the nights are still mild and the chance of rain is close to zero.
We also crossed the Birdsville and Strzelecki tracks that we drove down last year
Flying over the MacDonnall Ranges shows just how ancient and distorted the landscape is in that part of the country.
When we arrived in Alice Springs we met our Bus driver Natalie and her awesome big Mercedes Bush Bus. She was passionate and enthusiastic, showing us all there was to see around Alice Springs, the Western MacDonnalls and Uluru Katajuta.
Our first stop was Glen Helen Lodge. We based ourselves there and visited the gorges of the West MacDonnall Ranges. A great spot with fantastic food and a view from our cabin door to die for.
Late afternoon Glen Helen
Piano with boots
I took a helicopter ride over the Glen Helen Gorge/ Ormiston Pound. These ranges sure are impressive from the air.
Ellery Creek Big hole
Painting at Ormiston Gorge
We were lucky enough to be at Uluru for the annual camel races. The traditional Calcutta is held at the pub the night before race day. Lots of excitement and some hefty prices paid for these racing dromedaries.
…handsome animals though!
The day following the races we spent the morning painting at the camel farm. Some of these animals looked to be suffering severe, post race, hangovers.
Walking through Bruce Munro’s Field of Lights installation was disorienting and fantastic
Shallow water in Lake Amadeus.
Sometimes things just fall into place. Soon after agreeing to a workshop with the ASOC in Canberra, I received an email inviting me to a Canberra High School reunion – 5 days before the workshop.
Catching up with school friends from 45 years ago was amazing. Appearances had changed but personalities were just as they were way back then.
After the workshop and reunion we headed over the mountains west of Canberra and down to the high country and Kosciuszko National Park
Driving down the New England Highway there are some very prosperous towns and others in slow decline. Back when these towns were established, being a days ride from the next town guaranteed their future. Today they are quickly passed through and forgotten. Here are the remnants of a few of them.
Coolah Tops is a great National Park with sweeping views across the Liverpool Plains. I have never seen the country so green and cant believe the government would consider allowing a coal mine in, what must be some of the worlds best agricultural land.
We left Canberra and headed out through Brindabella to join the top end of the Long Plain Road. We were told the road was closed in winter due to snow, then re opened each October.
We drove in to find a locked gate leading to the National Park. As we were about to drive back a farmer, whose property the road runs through, turned up. After chatting for a while we were about to head off and drive the long way around when he kindly offered to unlock the gate and let us through.
Twenty kilometres down the track we were stopped by a fallen tree. Not being able to go back through the locked gate and unable to move the tree, our only option was to somehow get over it.
We built long ramps of logs and rocks to give us plenty of clearance. Unfortunately, as we descended the ramp the right hand front wheel sunk into the soft ground, hanging us up on the log. After four hours of jacking, packing and digging, all we managed to do was sink deeper into the soft ground.
It was getting dark when we gave up digging so we spent an uncomfortable night camped at thirty degrees.
The ground was too soft for us to lift the heavy truck so, in the morning, we contacted the National Park Office by satellite phone and explained our situation. They were fantastic and had a ranger up there with a chainsaw within a couple of hours.
As it turned out, National Parks were sending a tractor up to clear any fallen trees later that day. If only we had known. We could have saved 4 hours of hard work and camped on level ground! Coolamine Homestead was built in the late 1800’s when they used to run horses and cattle in the high country.
Today the cattle have all but disappeared but wild brumbies are breeding up.
I spotted this mare laying on the ground way off in the bush above the plains. When I walked up I discovered she had died giving birth. Her head was resting on a log and her eyes were still open, looking out across the plains.
The Kosciuszko High country is stark and beautiful, and the weather always unpredictable. Overnight temperatures were below freezing and, in spite of the sun, seven or eight degrees was as warm as the days would get – and this was late spring!