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

NORTH TO KATHERINE

 

After the Blackall workshops we headed out through Western Queensland and up into the Northern Territory.


xNT__0521Interesting architecture – Kynuna, Western Queensland

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Ancient council caravan, seen better days.


xNT__0438Willie Mar’s Chinese Market Garden – Winton

 

We found ourselves in Katherine for the annual rodeo. The town was busy, but we were able to stay at the show ground where the rodeo was held, so we got to see all the practice and preparation before the events.

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xNT__1566Abandon swings outside the rodeo grounds


xNT__0916On the morning before the rodeo we were treated to an impressive hour of hard core polo practice.
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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.

ACROSS THE PLENTY

From Mt Isa we drove south west to Urandangi, a pub, a couple of houses and a small aboriginal community near the Georgina River. The last time I visited Urandangi was 1988 and before that 1982. Not much has changed. The store has closed down and the pub now sells essential supplies. Trees have grown taller, the pub has changed hands and the fuel pumps are newer.

Urandangi 2012

Urandangi 1988

We called into the pub for a beer and to catch up on all the local news, then drove down to a waterhole on the Georgina. As I sat and watched it get dark on the waterhole I could hear a faint hiss. It turned out to be the inside dual wheel on the truck.

Next morning I got to try out this handy device I purchased from the Mining Expo in Mt Isa. A Torque Multiplier – guaranteed to remove the most impossible truck wheel nuts. It worked a treat.

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After fitting the spare we headed back into Urandangi to use their compressor and mend the puncture.

A donkey and a small horse were entertained for ages watching me break the bead on this rusted rim.

Once the puncture was mended we headed down to Tobermorey station and across the Plenty Highway. The road was surprisingly good compared to the last time we used it. A few big patches of bull dust and corrugations, but mostly fairly smooth. Parts of the road appeared to have been recently graded. Our last trip across this road was after a dozen road trains had beaten it to a strip of rock and pulverized bull dust that could swallow a car.

Along the road the landscape varies from big plains of Mitchell Grass to tortured looking rocky outcrops and gibber plains

Approaching Harts Range, the size of the mountains increase and they take on the typical Central Australian pinks and purples.

Plains Turkeys are fairly common along the road. They walk slowly with their heads in the air and stand about 750mm tall.

Cool Mornings – even with the sun shining.

SILENT ECHOES

Over the past couple of weeks I have been busy working on this large (1500×900) acrylic, charcoal and ink painting. It is based on a large sandstone wall, towering over a rock pool in the Umbrawarra Gorge, south of Litchfield National Park in the Northern Territory. Apart from the spectacular appearance of the place, the thing that impressed me was the strange silence, broken by occasional disjointed echoes. The sounds of distant birds, insects and breezes all seemed to emanate from the rocks, always punctuated by long periods of silence. Hidden through the rocks was evidence of faded aboriginal rock paintings.

I used colored acrylic glazes over white areas of gesso to get a transparent glow into some of the rock shapes. These are contrasted with solid opaque patches of similar colored acrylic. When the paint was dry I drew over it with charcoal pencil (black and white) and Burnt Sienna pigment ink. The most difficult part of this painting was getting the abstract marks right. It took a lot of looking and adjusting until everything seemed to fall into place. What I like about this process are the intricate, underlying textures that build up. Painting like this really makes me appreciate the work of  Franz Kline. He seems to effortlessly create the most beautiful abstract marks – perfectly balanced and proportioned, right from scratch.