LONG DUSTY ROADS

All Text and Images © John Lovett 2019

After 660 kms of dusty corrugations down the Gibb River Road, we enjoyed a brief stretch of bitumen across to Halls Creek. An overnight stop and we were off down the Tanami Road to Alice Springs. The Tanami Road is 1100kms of mostly well graded dirt with some patches of bulldust and rough corrugations. The Aboriginal Communities of Billiluna and Yuendumu sell expensive diesel.

After stocking up in Alice Springs, we spent a couple of days in the Eastern MacDonnell’s before heading East along the Plenty Highway – a long strip of corrugated dirt that cuts straight across the Northern Territory into Queensland

Freshwater Crocs are thriving at (an almost dry) Windjana Gorge

The Tanami Road cuts through the Tanami Desert from Halls Creek WA to Alice Springs NT

We spent a night at Wolf Creek Crater – Dianne, having not seen the movie, was pretty relaxed about camping there under a full moon, I had a bad nights sleep with a wheel brace under my pillow.

Believe it or not, this piece of corrugated iron architecture was on wheels.

Tanami Roadtrain

Finches at a rare waterhole along the Tanami.

Billiluna Community

Billiluna Footy Field – all dust and rocks

Can’t drive past a wrecked car without stopping to take a photo. This one was so good we camped the night to get the early morning sun.

Wedgetail enjoying breakfast.

After stocking up in Alice Springs, we headed out to the Eastern MacDonnell’s for some pretty spectacular walks.

Not far down the Plenty Highway we came across this rolled Toyota. It must have been there a couple of days because all the wheels were gone. Judging by the scattered debris, it must have been some Japanese Tourists heading off on an adventure.

The white dot in the middle is our camp . Huge amounts of nothing through the middle of the Northern Territory, but when you stop and look around the scenery can be spectacular.

Budgerigars

Stockmen at Tobermorey Station

Tobermorey Horse Breaker

Tobermorey Sunset

Red dust

Crossing into Queensland, the Plenty turns into the Donohue. This was the smoothest dirt road we encountered

Donkeys watching Humans come to a sudden halt in a big cloud of dust.

ROCKS AND BOABS

Our Outback Workshop moved from Kakadu/Litchfield, over to Kununurra via Katherine. Moving across the boarder into Western Australia brings a change in the landscape from speargrass savannah to rocky outcrops and giant Boab trees. The landscape was unusually dry for this time of year. Normally creeks are full, waterfalls are flowing and the landscape is greener but, unfortunately,  the last wet season was almost non existent.

© John Lovett 2019
© John Lovett 2019
Spectacular, close up view of Katherine Gorge

© John Lovett 2019
Kununurra sunset changes the landscape completely
© John Lovett 2019
© John Lovett 2019
© John Lovett 2019
Couldn’t resist painting this old Studebaker truck at El Questro Station

© John Lovett 2019     © John Lovett 2019
Rock Wallaby keeps watch over Chamberlain Gorge

© John Lovett 2019
Chamberlain Gorge

© John Lovett 2019 © John Lovett 2019
Distorted landscape around Lake Argyle

After the Outback Workshop finished, Dianne and I collected our truck we had stored in Kununurra and headed of down the Gibb River Road via Wyndham and Parry Lagoon
© John Lovett 2019
© John Lovett 2019
© John Lovett 2019
© John Lovett 2019

© John Lovett 2019

Bell Gorge – one of the many waterholes along the Gibb River Road
© John Lovett 2019
Water Monitor – Bell Gorge
© John Lovett 2019
© John Lovett 2019

At the end of the Gibb River Road is the Napier Range. A spectacular band of twisted Limestone running East West across the Southern Kimberley. We spent a few days camped under the range painting, walking, sketching and photographing

© John Lovett 2019
© John Lovett 2019 © John Lovett 2019
Bee hive in a cave in the Napier Range

© John Lovett 2019
Outside Studio

© John Lovett 2019
© John Lovett 2019 © John Lovett 2019 © John Lovett 2019   © John Lovett 2019 An amazing place to paint and explore

CENTRAL AUSTRALIA WORKSHOP

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 flew to Alice Springs via Sydney which took us across the top of the Simpson Desert. It is amazing how big and empty it looks from 11000 meters.© John Lovett 2017

 

We also crossed the Birdsville and Strzelecki tracks that we drove down last year

© John Lovett 2017

 

Flying over the MacDonnall Ranges shows just how ancient and distorted the landscape is in that part of the country.

© John Lovett 2017

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.

© John Lovett 2017

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.

© John Lovett 2017

Late afternoon Glen Helen

© John Lovett 2017

Piano with boots

© John Lovett 2017

I took  a helicopter ride over the Glen Helen Gorge/ Ormiston Pound. These ranges sure are impressive from the air.

© John Lovett 2017

© John Lovett 2017

© John Lovett 2017

 

Ringneck Parrot

© John Lovett 2017

 

Ellery Creek Big hole

© John Lovett 2017 © John Lovett 2017

© John Lovett 2017

© John Lovett 2017

© John Lovett 2017

© John Lovett 2017

 

Painting at Ormiston Gorge

© John Lovett 2017

 

Ochre Pits

© John Lovett 2017

 

Standley Chasm

© John Lovett 2017

 

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.

© John Lovett 2017

The races were wild and crazy – Camels seem to have limbs all over the place when they run…  © John Lovett 2017

…handsome animals though!

© John Lovett 2017  © John Lovett 2017 © John Lovett 2017

 

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.

© John Lovett 2017

© John Lovett 2017

© John Lovett 2017

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Sturt’s Desert Pea       © John Lovett 2017

 

Mutitjulu Waterhole

© John Lovett 2017

© John Lovett 2017

 

Walking through Bruce Munro’s Field of Lights installation was disorienting and fantastic

© John Lovett 2017© John Lovett 2017

 

Shallow water in Lake Amadeus.

© John Lovett 2017

 

Herons at Glen Helen  © John Lovett 2017

SOUTH THROUGH LIMMEN

Following the road east from Mataranka out to Roper Bar brings you into the top of Limmen National Park. The Northern region of the park is popular with Barramundi fishermen, but heading south along a badly corrugated road towards Cape Crawford brings you to Butterfly Gorge and a number of areas dotted with strange sandstone formations.   xrNT__2951
Butterfly Gorge (minus waterfall at end of dry season)
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This little Azure Kingfisher spent a lot of time patiently watching the ever diminishing waterhole for fish.
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Pillars of sculpted rock.
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Heading south east, we camped at the Ayrshire Hills. Another spectacularly weathered landscape 70kms out of Winton.
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KAKADU

We entered Kakadu National Park from the south, via Pine Creek with a 3 day permit to enter Koolpin Gorge. After collecting keys from the ranger station, we bounced our way down the road towards Gunlom. Crossing the South Alligator River, we turned South East to Koolpin.  The road was badly corrugated with some nasty twists and turns.Roll Over - © John Lovett 2015
This poor guy found out the hard way that taking it easy gets you there quicker.

Koolpin - © John Lovett 2015
Koolpin Gorge is a string of waterholes linked by waterfalls in the wet season. The three lower pools are the home to salt water crocodiles, but beyond those it is safe to swim.

Koolpin - © John Lovett 2015
Koolpin - © John Lovett 2015
Walking up through the gorge is spectacular. The track cuts up over the ridge in places with great views of the surrounding country.
Koolpin - © John Lovett 2015

From Koolpin we moved on to Red Lily Billabong. There are no facilities there, and the track in is pretty rough at the moment, so not many people head out that way. We had the place to ourselves. A young couple with a tent called in, and seeing the number of crocs there, decided it wasn’t the place for them.
Red Lilly Billabong - © John Lovett 2015

Red Lilly Billabong - © John Lovett 2015
The billabong is a large expanse of water and covered with huge red water lilies. Lots of bird life and numerous large crocodiles.
Red Lilly Billabong -© John Lovett 2015

Crocodile - © John Lovett 2015

Croc - © John Lovett 2015

Sandy Billabong - © John Lovett 2015
Sandy Billabong is a favourite spot. The early morning light, rising mist and lurking crocodiles make the twisted old paperbarks look kind of creepy .
Sandy Billabong - © John Lovett 2015

Yellow Waters Cruise on Jim Jim Billabong at sunset is one of the highlights of Kakadu. This is the fifth time we have done the cruise and it is always spectacular.
Croc, Jim Jim Creek - © John Lovett 2015

Crocodile - © John Lovett 2015

Sunset - © John Lovett 2015
Afternoon fires turned the setting sun into a glowing red ball.

Sunset Lillies - © John Lovett 2015

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Kakadu Birds                                                 Slide Show Not Working?


Water Buffalo - Kakadu - © John Lovett 2015We saw a number of small herds of water buffalo scattered through Kakadu. They had almost been eliminated but over the past few years are breeding up again.

Bull Catcher - © John Lovett 2015This old landcruiser was used to chase down buffalo back when they were in large numbers.


Kapok Flowers - © John Lovett 2015Kapok Flowers

CARNARVON GORGE / BLACKALL

A workshop in Blackall provided a great excuse to head off a couple of weeks early and spend some time in the Carnarvon Gorge / Salvator Rosa area of central Queensland before settling in for the workshop.

gorgeCarnarvon Gorge is a spectacular collection of sheer sandstone cliffs, narrow side gorges and pockets of rainforest.

 

BLAC2978Light spills briefly into one of the damp, narrow side gorges.

BLAC2997Palms and ferns grow in the protected pockets of the main gorge.

BLAC3004x_1Strangler figs engulf anything in their path.

BLAC3011The surrounding country side is in the grip of drought, but permanent springs keep the creeks and waterholes in the gorge full of water.

BLAC3045Strange textured fungus.

BLAC3083After a few days exploring Carnarvon Gorge we looped around to the North and came back into the western end of the Carnarvon Ranges at Salvator Rosa. The access roads quickly become impassable as soon as rain falls. With no prediction of rain we were confused heading into this looming black sky. It turned out to be a mixture of suspended dust and smoke from nearby fires. It made for an amazing orange light as the sun set.

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BLAC3126Exploring some of the tracks around Salvator Rosa was hard peddling in the sand and bulldust, but a lot of fun.

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BLAC3127The fine bulldust mixed with coarse sand make this kangaroo’s footprint so detailed you can even see the texture of the pads on his foot.

arts centerWe left Salvator Rosa and headed via Tambo to Blackall where we stayed in the Living Arts Centre for the workshop.

The Living Arts Centre was formerly a hostel for school students from the outlying stations. Students now attend boarding schools in the city, so the premises has been converted to accommodation and studios.

DSC07191The studios are spacious and filled with light. Our painting was punctuated by excursions to numerous places of interest around Blackall. We visited “Alice Downs” where Jacky Howe broke the record for blade shearing – 321 sheep in 7 hours and 20 minutes back in 1892. The record still stands today. We enjoyed great meals supplied by the “Marmaladies” from Blackall and also dined at a number of restaurants around the town, including a memorable feast, slow cooked in a wood stove at the wool scour.

BLAC3201Another local hero was Roy Dunne, who jumped his goat, Nugget, over a 3’6″ bar in 1905 – another world record feat.

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BLAC3194Mustering cattle for the Thursday cattle sale in Blackall.

 

BLAC3185Long neglected fuel pump.

BLAC3296xStu Benson first drove cattle at the age of 12 and has been a proud Blackall resident all his life. His stories of the town and knowledge of the area are captivating.

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BLAC3407xHypnotic local goats.

BLAC3453Blackall wool scour – amazing steam driven chaos brought back to life.
Many thanks to Sally Campbell and her enthusiastic helpers for a fantastic workshop in Blackall.

 

EASTERN MACDONNELLS

Our plan was to buy fuel at Gemtree at the end of the Plenty Highway then head directly down into the Eastern Macdonnell Ranges via the cattle water pass. Unfortunately, Gemtree was out of diesel so we had to continue on to Alice Springs then head out to the Eastern Macdonnells.

Our first stop was Emily Gap – a small gorge and waterhole cutting through the range. The Aboriginal rock art here is unusual and very spectacular.

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Down the end of a rough track are the John Hayes Rock Holes. We were lucky to be the only ones camped here, so enjoyed a quiet walk over the ridge and down through the chain of rock pools. The rough track means this area is much quieter than nearby Trephina Gorge

Traveling to the eastern extremity of the Macdonnells you come to Ruby Gap. The track for the last 40 km is pretty slow going at around 3 hours, but Ruby Gap and the walk up to Glen Annie Gorge make the trek worth while.

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Ruby Gap

We managed to find a 4km detour on our way up to Glen Annie Gorge

Glen Annie Gorge

After a 12km walk,  mostly in soft river sand, we were happy to be heading back to our camp.