UP TO THE HIGH COUNTRY

After the Flinders Ranges Workshop we returned to Adelaide, picked up our truck from storage and headed south to Robe, a small fishing village. After two weeks of perfect weather for the workshop, we drove south into howling wind and rain.

The coastline around Robe is rugged and isolated. We had a couple of days in Robe then turned east to follow the Great Ocean Road along the Victorian coast. By now the rain had eased but the wind was still howling in from Antarctica – Chilly, but spectacular.

We caught up with our kids in Melbourne for a few days then headed up to the Snowy Mountains

Always a great place to camp along the Swampy Plains River at Geehi. We were surprised at the number of rabbits (and foxes) – the calicivirus seems to have no effect here.

From Geehi we drove up over the mountains, Past Thredbo and on to the Murrumbidgee River on the Long Plain Road. We often camp here when we are in the High Country, but were amazed to find the area coated thickly in white next morning. Spectacular, but freezing cold!

A fisherman dropped in around 9am on his way to Tantangra Dam. He said the temperature readout in his Landcruiser was saying -5, so I dont know what it got down to overnight. Our water pipes were frozen, the hot water heater had frozen and burst and, in spite of filling with what we thought was winter diesel, couldn’t start the truck till after 10am.

Leaving the snowy, we drove up to the Warrumbungle Mountains to spend a couple of days. This time of year encountering snakes is unusual but this big Red Bellied Black snake decided to cross the path right in front of us. We left him to crawl off into the bush.

FLINDERS RANGES WORKSHOP

We left Arkaroola and headed down to Adelaide, exploring Wilpena, the southern Flinders and Burra, on the way. Our truck was parked in secure parking for the two weeks of the workshop. We spent a night in Adelaide, then we joined the painting group and travelled back up to Wilpena Pound Resort by coach for our first 5 days of the workshop.

The Flinders Ranges are a great place to paint – interesting buildings, spectacular gorges and a backdrop of magnificent purple mountains.

Here we painted the old Wilpena Station store where all the stations provisions were secured back in the 1800’s

This old door has been patched and repaired over the years, keeping the blacksmiths cottage secure for over a hundred years.

We painted the stony outcrops surrounding the Aroona Valley before going down into the Brachina Gorge to explore the rocks and pools

 

Brachina Gorge

We had two great indigenous guides to show us around the Brachina Gorge area. They took us to see these ancient rock engravings with all sorts of interesting details.

Leaving The Flinders, we moved on down to Burra, a beautiful little town with magnificent stone buildings built in the boom days of the towns copper mine in the 1800’s. We spent a few days in Burra exploring the area and painting.

Burra Main Street.

South Australia has a lot of old abandoned railway stations, some with old rolling stock, some with wheat silos and most of them built beautifully from local stone

One of our group has explored all the old abandoned stations in the lower Finders. He got permission from the owners of this beautiful old station for us to visit.

We spent a morning painting the old Farrell Flat Station.

 

Skillogalee Vineyard made a good painting destination. We sampled their wines, had a fabulous meal and painted in the vineyard garden – What a great day.

Lunch on the Skillogalee verandah.

Our last couple of days were spent in Hahndorf in the Adelaide hills. We visited The Cedars – the home and studio of Hans Heysen.

A beautiful studio with huge, frosted, south facing windows and a large open fireplace

 

We were lucky to have “The Two Marks” on board as we travelled around South Australia. Mark One , the driver, had a terrific knowledge of the area and kept us entertained and informed with some great stories. Mark Two,  a local watercolourist and long time traveller through the region led us to some great painting locations we would have otherwise missed.

The passing vista of old abandoned buildings, big skies and bare rolling hills is unique to South Australia and is something that keeps drawing us back to this part of the country.

 

OLD STRZELECKI TRACK

After 12 months of Covid restrictions it sure is a good feeling to load up our truck and head out west again. Our plan is to head west through Queensland and cross the, now open, border into South Australia around Innamincka. From there we will follow Strzelecki Creek along the Old Strzelecki Track, stopping at some of the waterholes mentioned by John Conrick in his 1870 journey to find a route to drive cattle from Western Queensland to Adelaide.

We will leave our truck in Adelaide then travel by coach back up to the Flinders Ranges to conduct a painting workshop for two weeks

Crop dusting vast fields of Cotton near St. George, Qld.

Old Dynevor Downs shearing shed. Every time we drive past I stop and take a photo. Over the last 30 odd years we have seen it slowly deteriorate. Wild dogs have virtually shut down the wool industry in Western Queensland.

An unusual site – The Wilson river at Noccundra brim full of water.

As we head out through Western Queensland it is great to see all the creeks and waterholes full from recent rain.

The normally dry desert country is green and full of wild flowers at the moment.

The Old Strzelecki Track could better be described as the Old Strzelecki River. Kilometres of the track were under water so we had to use side tracks most of the way. The abundance of water meant that birdlife was scattered far and wide, unlike in dry times when the odd small waterhole attracted hundreds of birds. We managed to find a couple of Conrick’s waterholes but the condition of the track made it difficult.

This ever changing sculpture made from camel bones and accumulated junk marks the end of the Strzelecki Track and the Northern approach to the Flinders Ranges.

The track improves and far off in the distance The Flinders Ranges become visible

North Mulga Station sits on a lonely stretch of land at the Southern end of the Strzelecki.

The southern end of the track crosses a dingo fence that stretches as far as the eye can see in both directions

Dogs are trapped and poisoned in an attempt to give the farmers a chance to raise stock on these huge properties.

A pair of Brolgas heading to a water hole at sunset

Corellas make a home in a giant River Red Gum

Approaching the Arkaroola turn off in the Northern Flinders.

Back into harsh, dry country around Arkaroola

The dark nights and clear air around Arkaroola are perfect for astronomy. There are a couple of large telescopes on the property.

A big Wedge tail surveys the countryside.

The small, endangered Yellow Footed Rock Wallaby lives in the hills around the Flinders Ranges.

Feral Goats also compete for grass and water in the area.

Nankeen Kestrel on an Arkaroola stump

A happy parrot perched in the morning sun

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

KAKADU

After a long drive and another great workshop in Blackall, we arrived in Kununurra where we left our truck and flew to Darwin to start the Outback workshop with International Artist. Following a couple of days painting in Litchfield National Park we headed out to Kakadu for some painting and exploring. One of the highlights of Kakadu is the Yellow Waters Cruise. We have done it many times and it is always spectacular and always different.

Whistling Ducks  © John Lovett 2019

Whistling Ducks

Jacana Chick  © John Lovett 2019

These Jakana chicks hatch out of the egg with small fluffy bodies and ridiculously over sized feet

Jacana Chick  © John Lovett 2019
Male Jacana  © John Lovett 2019

As they grow the body gets bigger and less fluffy and the legs grow even further out of proportion.

Azure Kingfisher  © John Lovett 2019

Azure Kingfisher

Nankeen Night Heron  © John Lovett 2019

Nankeen Night Heron

Crocodile Smiling  © John Lovett 2019

Deceptively happy looking Crocodile.

Crocodile swimming  © John Lovett 2019

Floating and watching

Crocodile  © John Lovett 2019
Egret  © John Lovett 2019

Large Egret

Egret  © John Lovett 2019
Water Buffalo  © John Lovett 2019

Water Buffalos are starting to breed up again in Kakadu

Yellow Waters © John Lovett 2019

Yellow Waters Sunset

Painting at Anbangbang Billabong
© John Lovett 2019

Painting at Anbangbang Billabong.

MT MOFFAT & BLACKALL 2017

The Blackall workshops are always a lot of fun. We get to meet people from surrounding sheep and cattle stations and local Blackall residents in the first workshop then folks fly in or drive from all over the place for the second workshop.

This year we left a couple of weeks early so we could visit Mt Moffat on the way west. Mt Moffat is part of the Carnarvon National Park. It connects to the head of Carnarvon Creek at the western end of Carnarvon Gorge and extends south.

Similar eroded, pale sandstone to Carnarvon Gorge is found throughout the Mt Moffat section. Access is by 4WD – there are some deeply rutted tracks, sandy sections and steep climbs up onto the plateau.

 

There are interesting sandstone formations and many escarpments and rock faces with aboriginal art work.

 

 

Confusing sign if you don’t read English!

 

We camped at Dargonelly Rock Hole. It was the only water source in the area, so animal and birdlife was pretty spectacular particularly early morning and late afternoon.

 

On top of the plateau the view stretched out in all directions. The plateau is over 1200 meters above sea level – the highest plateau in Queensland. We drove up to the head of Carnarvon Creek, where the track winds through a forest of giant Mahogany trees.

 

Small slab hut on the road into Mt. Moffat

 

We were lucky enough to arrive in Blackall the night six musicians, all from different countries, were performing at the Living Arts Center where we were staying. It was amazing how well such a diverse group of musicians could all blend perfectly into music from any of the six countries. It was great to meet these musicians and hear their stories.

 

 

Old River Gum late afternoon – Tambo

 

We had a couple of days between the two Blackall workshops, so drove out to Yaraka – the last town on the railway line before it closed down in the 1990’s. Below is the small settlement of Emmet along the same defunct railway line.

 

Lost Chev – Yaraka

 

Sunset on Mt Slowcombe near Yaraka

 

I love visiting the Blackall wool scour. It closed down years ago but has been kept in running condition as a tourist attraction. It looks like something from a horror movie. Everything is belt driven, powered by a steam engine. Over a kilometre of leather belts keep everything moving. With all this mechanical movement there is barely a sound – it is all so well built and maintained.

 

Heading home we passed the Roma sale yards where one of the weekly cattle sales were in progress. It’s an amazing event. Road trains arrive from near and far, cattle are unloaded, auctions take place then cattle are re loaded and delivered to the successful bidders. The auctioneers speak their own language at a speed only understandable by those in colored shirts and big hats. It really is a spectacle.