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.

WINT7665

 

WINT7668

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.

WINT7813

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.

WINT7693

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.

ACROSS THE NT BORDER

gsr map

IMGP1946

Approaching the NT border towards Docker River, the country changes into a series of spectacular ranges.  Reading Herbert Basedows 1903 journal of exploration through this area made it all the more fascinating. There were no tracks and the journey took him 8 months with a team of 18 camels.

IMGP1952

IMGP1948

IMGP1965

All along the Great Central Road are herds of wild camels. This old fellow was standing under a shady tree just outside Docker River.

IMGP1956

Approaching the NT WA border through a cracked and bug splattered windscreen.

IMGP2014

We camped the first night back in the Northern Territory between sandhills with a great view of Kata Tjuta (The Olgas).

IMGP2054

Ayers Rock (Uluru) is an awesome sight. Photos are useless, it is so massive – the only way to appreciate it is to visit it.

IMGP2045

These strange characters, walking up to a viewing platform near Kata Tjuta, wore bags over their heads to annoy the flies!

IMGP2061

Around 50 kilometers east of Uluru is Mt Connor. It is like the poor cousin to Uluru, given just a passing glance thanks to it’s famous neighbour.

IMGP2067

I climbed to the top of a high sandridge to get a photograph of Mt Connor. In the distance to the north I could see a large salt lake half filled with water. An unusual sight in Central Australia.

We traveled East to the Stuart Highway then turned South through gathering storm clouds to South Australia.

IMGP2091

GREAT CENTRAL RD WRECKS

gsr map

The Great Central Road runs from Laverton to Yulara, passing through the aboriginal communities of Cosmo-Newberry, Warburton, Warakurna and Docker River. The road takes in part of the old Gunbarrel highway to cover the 1500 kilometre distance.

Most of the road is good, graded dirt with a few stretches of corrugations and some sand drifts around Docker River. Apart from the great scenery, camels, birds and kangaroos, there are hundreds of wrecked cars scattered along the road. Here are a few victims of speed, fatigue, alcohol or neglect that caught our attention…

IMGP1934

IMGP1929

IMGP1813

IMGP1913

IMGP1756

IMGP1876

IMGP1880

IMGP1832

IMGP1905

IMGP1830

IMGP1817

IMGP1814

IMGP1809

IMGP1805

IMGP1928

IMGP1815

KEEP RIVER

www.johnlovett.com

keepmap

After the workshop finished we flew back to Darwin, picked up our car and caravan, had a cracked fuel tank repaired, replaced the caravan springs and stocked up on food and water.

IMGP8493

Our first stop, after crossing the mighty Victoria River, was Keep River National Park. It is listed as one of the 10 best rock art sites in the country.

IMGP8530

The landscape around Keep River is open bush and grassland interspersed with spectacular sandstone escarpments and ranges.

IMGP8525

IMGP8544

IMGP8577

The temperature hovered around 40 degrees most of the time so we did most of our walking early in the morning or late in the afternoon.

IMGP8721

The Jarrnarm walk is an 8km loop that takes you up onto the escarpment and back through a  series of beehive domes very similar to the Bungle Bungles. At the start of this walk is one of the regions most impressive rock art galleries. Unfortunately the traditional owners had closed it to the public. According to one of the rangers they want to repair some damage and will reopen it in the future.

IMGP8620

A shorter walk following the Keep River had a number of interesting art sites

IMGP8635

We could find no explanation for these strange figures. Von Daniken would have seen them as visiting astronauts. Maybe they were pearl divers encountered on the coast?

IMGP8626

IMGP8630

IMGP8744

IMGP8762

300 million year old sandstone domes, ancient rock art, Livistona Palms and pockets of permanent water make Keep River an impressive National Park

IMGP8661

Spinifex Pigeons wander over the rocks.

IMGP8735

Red Winged Parrot

IMGP8766

Small rock lizard

OUTBACK WORKSHOP 3

OUTBACK WORKSHOP 3
It was interesting to see the landscape change as we headed west from Katherine.
The sparse savannah of the Northern Territory gave way to dramatic escarpments and weird vegetation as the West Australian boarder approached.
Boab Trees and Kapoks take over and spear grass is replaced by Cane grass.
Roadhouses are few and far between and the cost of diesel climbs as the distance from major centers increases. It appears there have been big changes at Victoria River roadhouse.
Temperatures were creeping up into the 40’s so we found a big sandstone overhang, just out of Kununurra and settled down in the shade for a morning painting.
We flew to the Bungle Bungles the previous day and walked into Cathedral gorge. Because of weight restrictions, we couldn’t take painting gear. This spot, close to Kununurra, offered similar rockforms and was only 10 minutes from town.
I love the contrast between transparent watercolour and flat, opaque gouache. I also used Burnt Sienna Ink and a sepia pastel pencil on this demonstration.
We left Kununurra by coach and headed down the Gibb River Road to El Questro. Being the end of the Dry, all roads were open. During the wet they can all be closed.
The landscape here is magnificent. The time to see it is just after sunrise and just before sunset. The middle of the day is hot and the light is flat and overhead.
On El Questro Station are Zebedee springs. They are a series of thermal pools, tucked under an escarpment and jammed full of beautiful Livingstonia Palms. We spent a while swimming there, but had to be out by midday. Guests from the Homestead (paying $3,000 a day) are then ushered in to relax without the distraction of folks paying less.
El Questro’s airstrip is a busy place. When we arrived there were a dozen small planes lined up.
Another impressive feature of El Questro is Chamberlain Gorge. We did a boat cruise up the gorge and were amazed at it size.
The Gorge is full of archer fish, Catfish,and Barramundi.
These two Barra were around a metre long.
Archer fish archering. I have never seen it before, except on telly. Thanks to a 12 shots per second frame rate, managed to get a photo of one. They can squirt water a couple of metres with pinpoint accuracy.
Our coach made a couple of unsuccessful attempts to climb the steep dusty track out of Chamberlain Gorge. Finally, with a long run up and no passengers it made it out.
…we were left to walk.
Our accommodation at El Questro were interesting, triple skinned tents with timber floors. Designed for the tropics, but struggling to cope with 40 plus temperatures.
The air-conditioned option is “The Homestead” but at $3000/night, a bit expensive!
Emma Gorge, where we stayed on El Questro, is a great walk and early morning swim.
Our last painting day with the workshop was at, or in, the Pentacost river behind El Questro township.
We started out packed into the shade of a large paperbark, but soon spread out into the river.
An endless supply of clean, cool water
The cattle couldn’t quiet figure out what was going on.
Farewell dinner at the Emma Gorge restaurant with the roof open.

KUNANURRA, EL QUESTRO

map

It was interesting to see the landscape change as we headed west from Katherine.

IMGP8213

The sparse savannah of the Northern Territory gave way to dramatic escarpments and weird vegetation as the West Australian boarder approached.

IMGP8320

Boab Trees and Kapoks take over and spear grass is replaced by cane grass

.

IMGP7251.

Roadhouses are few and far between and the cost of diesel climbs as the distance from major centers increases. It appears there have been big changes at Victoria River roadhouse.

.

IMGP7870

Temperatures were creeping up into the 40’s so we found a big sandstone overhang, just out of Kununurra and settled down in the shade for a morning painting.

IMGP7878

We flew to the Bungle Bungles the previous day and walked into Cathedral gorge. Because of weight restrictions, we couldn’t take painting gear. This spot, close to Kununurra, offered similar rockforms and was only 10 minutes from town.

IMGP8308

I love the contrast between transparent watercolour and flat, opaque gouache. I also used Burnt Sienna Ink and a sepia pastel pencil on this demonstration.

.

IMGP7899

We left Kununurra by coach and headed down the Gibb River Road to El Questro. Being the end of the Dry, all roads were open. During the wet they can all be closed.

.

IMGP8211

The landscape here is magnificent. The time to see it is just after sunrise and just before sunset. The middle of the day is hot and the light is flat and overhead.

.

IMGP7920

On El Questro Station are the Zebedee springs. They are a series of thermal pools, tucked under an escarpment and jammed full of beautiful Livistona Palms. We spent a while swimming there, but had to be out by midday. Guests from the Homestead (paying $3,000 a day) are then ushered in to relax without the distraction of folks paying less.

.

IMGP7909

El Questro’s airstrip is a busy place. When we arrived there were a dozen small planes lined up.

.

IMGP7954

Another impressive feature of El Questro is Chamberlain Gorge. We did a boat cruise up the gorge and were amazed at it size.

IMGP7963

IMGP7935

The Gorge is full of archer fish, Catfish,and Barramundi.

IMGP8155

These two Barra were around a metre long.

IMGP8123

Archer fish archering.

I have never seen it before, except on telly. Thanks to a 12 shots per second frame rate, I managed to get a photo of one. They can squirt water a couple of metres with pinpoint accuracy.

.

IMGP8170

Our coach made a couple of unsuccessful attempts to climb the steep dusty track out of Chamberlain Gorge. Finally, with a long run up and no passengers, it made it out.

IMGP8171

…we were left to walk.

.

IMGP8315

Our accommodation at El Questro were interesting, triple skinned tents with timber floors. Designed for the tropics, but struggling to cope with 40 plus temperatures.

IMGP8176

The air-conditioned option is “The Homestead” but at $3000/night, a bit expensive!

.

Emma Gorge is where we stayed on El Questro. It is a great walk and early morning swim.

IMGP8414

IMGP8416

IMGP8420

IMGP8430

IMGP8433

.

Our last painting day with the workshop was at, or in, the Pentacost river behind El Questro township.

IMGP8336

We started out packed into the shadow of a large paperbark, but soon spread out into the river.

IMGP8348

IMGP8354

An endless supply of clean, cool water

IMGP8347

The cattle couldn’t quiet figure out what was going on.

.

IMGP8394

Farewell dinner at the Emma Gorge restaurant with the roof open.