Oodnadatta Track

Second Year On The Road

Australia Day in Darwin 
Australia Day Cane Toads! Australia Day
Wildlife in our backyard!Possum fell in the pool - nawwww!

 

Cocosaurus Cove
Crocodile snack - Crocosaurus Cove Meet the reptiles - Crocosaurus Cove

 

Litchfield National ParkTermite Mounds - Litchfield National Park

 

Kakadu National Park

Kakadu National Park

Kakadu National Park

 

Cutta Cutta CavesCutta Cutta Caves Edith FallsEdith Falls
Lorella Springs Wilderness Park

Lorella Springs Lorella Springs Lorella Springs Northern Spiny-Tailed Gecko
Caranbirini Conservation Reserve Limmen National Park

 

Devil’s Marbles
The Pebbles Devils Marbles

 

Wycliff WellWycliffe WellAileronAileron
Arltunga Historical ReserveBinns TrackTrephina Gorge Nature Park
Binns Track
Alice Springs Beanie FestivalAlice Springs Beanie Festival
Lasseter’s Camel CupLasseters Camel Cup Lasseters Camel Cup
Henley On Todd RegattaHenley On Todd
Alice Springs Reptile CentreAlice Springs Reptile Centre
Our Time In Alice SpringsHelpex Alice Springs Finke Desert RaceFinke Desert Race
Mount Sonder, West MacDonnell RangesWest MacDonnell Ranges
Palm Valley
Palm Valley
Heating up in HermannsburgHeating up in Hermannsburg
UluruUluru-Kata Tjuta
Kata-TjutaUluru-Kata Tjuta
Rainbow Valley

Rainbow Valley Oodnadatta Track
Coober PedyCoober Pedy
Lake EyreOodnadatta Track

Birdsville

BirdsvilleBirdsville 2014-09-05 031 Birdsville 2014-09-06 007water Birdsville 2014-09-06 047water WintonWinton 2014-09-07 003water
NormantonThe Big Croc, Normanton Cobbold GorgeCobbold Gorge
Undara Volanic National ParkUndaraCrystal Caves
The Crystal Caves
Mt Uncle DistilleryMt Uncle Distillery

 

Cape York
Bamaga TavernCape YorkThe Old Telegraph Track
Cape York

Chilli BeachCape YorkCape York
Zazen

ZazenZazen
CooktownCooktown

Our Time In CairnsCairnsAustralia Day 2015 Cairns


 

 

Bye NT

Top 5 Things about the Northern Territory

Adelaide River Croc Cruise

 

We spent over a year in the Northern Territory; not out of choice but out of obligation.  We had to work in Darwin for nearly a year to replenish the bank account and we got stuck in Alice Springs for three months with Troopy troubles.  In that time, we have learnt a lot about the culture of the Territory and have even grown fond of it.  Despite the unbearable humidity of the Top End during the summer months, the relaxed and almost negligent attitude towards hospitality and business, and the worst television advertisements we have seen since we left Melbourne, the NT has its perks.

 

It was great to be surrounded by so much wildlife and aboriginal culture, and the locals are always up for a drink… or seven!  In Darwin, the lightning shows during the Wet Season are incredible, and it was wonderful to feel cold during the winter months in Alice Springs.  On top of all that, we made a bunch of great friends who we’ll miss until we get to see again.

 

Oodnadatta Track

 

There is a big contrast between the Top End and Centralia.  The weather in Darwin and the Top End is hot and moist most of the time, while it is dry and dusty in Alice Springs.  While Alice is a quiet town, placid and laid back, Darwin is a little more promiscuous and is a backpacker haven.  Alice was also considerably cheaper than Darwin in terms of beer and meals when out on the town.

 

Trying to put together a list of only five things that are great about the Northern Territory was tough, but we did it and we think this list is pretty good.

 

Indigenous Presence

As Melbournians, it was unfamiliar to us to have so much aboriginal culture around us.  Whether it’s the colourful bags and wallets in the souvenir shops, the aboriginal art galleries that are probably more common than McDonald’s restaurants, or the groups that wander around the city almost aimlessly, waiting for the bottle shop to open, you can’t ignore the indigenous presence.

 

Our most enriching experiences were down near Alice Springs.  We learnt a little about the local language and their creation stories, but what really stood out was having to ask an elder for permission to stay on the side of the road overnight when our radiator split.

 

Learning about the Anangu culture when we were at Uluru was also eye-opening, and it makes us sad that European settlers interfered with that magical lifestyle with their trampling cattle and introduction of foreign plants, animals and diseases, amongst other things.

 

Uluru-Kata Tjuta

 

Paradise

The Top End has pockets of paradise everywhere.  Hot springs, waterfalls, pools lined with lush vegetation – places that are easy to get lost in.  We found a few of these pockets all over the Top End

 

Lorella Springs Wilderness Park near Borroloola is definitely one of our favourites.  With beautiful waterfalls, cool pools and balmy springs, it was very difficult to pull ourselves away.  The Douglas Hot Springs was another location with a hot spring that fed into a creek, and with a campground nearby, it’s the perfect place for a week-long getaway.

 

Lorella Springs

 

Other great pockets of paradise include Robin Falls, Edith Falls and Gubara in Kakadu National Park.

 

Rock Formations

If you’re keen on rock formations, you can’t go past the NT Trifecta – Uluru, Kata Tjuta and Kings Canyon.  It will take approximately three days to explore all three, and if you can catch a sunrise or sunset, then you’re in for a treat.

 

Other rock formations to check out in the Northern Territory are Rainbow Valley Conservation Reserve just south of Alice Springs, Chambers Pillar along the Old Ghan Railway Heritage Trail, and the various Lost Cities dotted around the state.

 

 

Crocodile Craze

As we headed north along the western coast, the first warnings we received about crocodiles was in Derby.  We didn’t believe it at first, but after seeing heaps of freshwater crocodiles in the Kimberley and even witnessed a suspicious splash at the Fitzroy River crossing, by the time we got to Darwin, we were well aware of the presence of these prehistoric predators.

 

Darwin uses the croc craze to promote tourism, with great attractions like Crocosaurus Cove and the Adelaide River Jumping Croc Cruises, where you can see dangerous saltwater crocodiles snap for a piece of meat within metres of the boat.

 

Don’t take crocodiles for granted.  While some businesses use crocodiles to give tourists a unique experience, it’s certainly not all just for show.  Crocodiles are frequently spotted surfing waves at the beach and crocodile attacks happen frequently, to pets and lifestock, as well as to tourists and even locals (who have no excuse to not know better).

 

Adelaide River Croc Cruise

 

Markets

The NT is market central, and we took advantage of ever market we could find!

 

In Darwin, there are so many dry season markets you’re spoilt for choice.  Our favourites were Mindil Beach Night Market, Palmerston Market, and the Nightcliff and Rapid Creek Markets, both of which run through the wet season as well.  These markets are the go to places for a great atmosphere, energetic performances, cool shopping and delicious food at fantastic prices.

 

Mindil Markets

 

Goodbye NT!  It’s been fun; it’s been swell, but after more than 15 months, the swelling has gone down and it’s time to move forward.

 

Bye NT

 

Old Ghan Trail

Outback Tracks : Old Ghan Railway Heritage Trail

Old Ghan Trail

 

Our plan was to follow the Old Ghan Railway Heritage Trail from Alice Springs to Oodnadatta, but it didn’t really turn out that way.  As the track followed the old Ghan Railway, we saw ruins of sidings, each being identical to the last.  The track was also really corrugated and we were concerned about our shocker rubbers, which didn’t last long.

 

Chambers Pillar

One location we had wanted to visit months ago was the Chambers Pillar Historical Reserve.  Unfortunately, the road leading in was pretty shitty so we had to ask ourselves whether the excursion was worth it.

 

Old Ghan Trail

 

Chambers Pillar was named by John MacDouall Stuart after one of his sponsors, James Chambers.  It is a 50m tall sandstone pillar that was used as a landmark during the exploration days.  The base of the pillar is riddled with names carved into the soft sandstone, including initials by Alfred Giles from 1870 and scribbles by recent tourists.  From the base, you can see the nearby Castle Rock.

 

Camping at Chambers Pillar is available at a small fee, and toilets and BBQs are provided.

 

Old Ghan Trail

 

Once we left Chambers Pillar, the road did not improve.  We found that the track follows alongside the Finke Desert Race track so we switched lanes to see if the conditions were better.  While the race track was smoother, it was also consistently undulating, and after 20 minutes, we had to get off because we made ourselves seasick!

 

We camped at Engoordina Ruins, a crumbled siding for the old railway.

 

Old Ghan Trail

 

Finke

We got into Finke 8am, just as some local men started work to the sounds of sappy love songs.  Is this a common thing in the Centralian desert – to listen to 90s love ballads about lost love and broken hearts?

 

While Dave fitted some makeshift shocker rubbers fashioned from scrap tyre, Juz wandered around and noticed she was being followed by stray dogs.  We considered continuing along the Old Ghan Heritage Trail but figured that this would be a better time than any to head back to the highway.  We were tired of seeing the same ruins over and over, and the corrugations were going to shake the doors off the Troopy, so we turned towards Kulgera.

 

Lambert Centre

On the way back to the highway, we stopped in to check out the geographical and gravitational centre of Australia.  Established in 1988, the Royal Geographical Society of Australasia determined the Lambert Centre to be the geographical centre of Australia.  Lambert was a former director of the Division of National Mapping.

 

Old Ghan Trail

 

There is a monument that resembles the flagpole atop the Parliament House in Canberra and a visitor’s book, as well as a large camping area, smelly toilets and millions of flies.

 

Old Ghan Trail

 

Subway travel job

Travel Jobs : Fast Food (Made Fresh)

Hi guys – Juz here…

 

When we realised we were stuck in Alice Springs for at least another two weeks because of Troopy issues, I knew that I’d have to get a job – for two reasons.  Firstly, because if I sat around doing nothing, my mind would melt and secondly, we’d need extra money for the mechanic’s bill.

 

I scored an interview at the big name burger joint in town and after a really odd interview, I was told I’d gotten the job. However, as the rosters had been done for the next two weeks, I’d have to wait at least that long for my first shift. I walked out with a bittersweet feeling – it was awesome that I got the job but shitty that I wouldn’t start for another two weeks.

 

As I drove home, I cracked the shits and realised that I didn’t want to work at a big name burger joint anyway. Determined to go home with a job I actually wanted, I pulled into the Subway store around the corner from where we were staying and marched in. After filling out the application form and having an informal interview with the manager, I was given a uniform and my first shift was the next day.

 

Subway travel job

 

The Role

Working as a sandwich artist was great. If I wasn’t making awesome subs for customers, I’d be washing dishes, preparing salads and meats for the day, putting together platter orders and general cleaning duties. It was great to learn about all aspects of the store, from baking the bread and cookies to processing lunch orders for a local school.

 

I also was enrolled in Subway University, and am now a certified Sandwich Artist.  This is great because it gets my foot in the door at other Subway stores if we need to stop for work again.

 

The End

Unfortunately, after only one week of work, we got the Troopy back from the mechanics, which meant that we’d be leaving town soon. I tried to be as honest and upfront with the manager at all times so as soon as I knew when we were leaving, I let her know.  It was sad because I was just starting to get used to all the processes. I worked for another week and a half before we left Alice Springs for the second time.

 

If I had to work at Subway again, I would.  The other staff members were friendly, the work was great, and the pay was actually quite good.  Plus, I didn’t have to take lunch to work because I have no problem with munching on a Subway sandwich, compared to a greasy burger.

 

Rainbow Valley

Natural Wonders : Rainbow Valley Conservation Reserve

Rainbow Valley

 

We were having some issues with the Troopy heating up on long drives, so after Dave had made some repairs and adjustments, we took it for a test drive.  Just 100kms south of Alice Springs, Rainbow Valley was the perfect distance to see if the cooling system problem had been resolved.  A great place to visit or camp for the night, this colourful bluff is part of the James Range and is layered with hard red sandstone and softer white sandstone.

 

While the walking tracks around the valley are great to do during the day, it is best to visit about an hour before sunset.  This will give you enough time to take the track through the valley to see Mushroom Rock and return to the lookout to watch the sandstone bluff transform in the light of the setting sun.

 


There are two camping areas with communal fire pits, picnic tables and pit toilets. Camping fees are payable on site.

 

 

Lasseters Camel Cup

Wildlife : The Camel

Lasseters Camel Cup

 

Name: Dromedary

Scientific Name: Camelus dromedarius

Alternative Names: Arabian Camel, Indian Camel, One-hump Camel

 

Fast Facts

  • Dromedaries are found in Arabian deserts, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Africa and now Australia.  They are the next largest member of the camel family, second to the two humped Bactrian camel, which is found mainly in China, Mongolia and Kazakhstan.
  • Males can be up to 2m tall and weigh up to 600kg.
  • Camels wee on their legs and the evaporation cools them off.
  • Their specialised kidneys allow them to tolerate water loss of more than 30% – more than 15% water loss would kill most other animals.
  • Their hump is filled with fat, not water.
  • Their bushy eyebrows and long lashes protect their eyes, and they are able to completely close their nostrils during sandstorms.
  • Alpacas and llamas are related to camels
  • Camels first arrived in Australia in 1840 and up until 1907, about 12,000 camels were imported.  They were registered like we register cars today, and when cars finally came on the scene, all the camels were released into the wild.  Australia is now the only place in the world where you’ll find feral camels.

 

There are so many amazing camel facts – check them out for yourself!

 

Cable Beach

 

Our Encounter

Everybody knows about Juz’s close encounter with a camel named Coco in Western Australia.  Since then, we have crossed paths with many other camels, particularly in Broome and Alice Springs.

 

Juz probably didn't deserve it... probably...

 

We had a fantastic day at the Lasseters Camel Cup in Alice Springs watching the camels racing around the track and getting up close to them between races.

 

Lasseters Camel Cup

 

Troopy bits

Cooling Down in Alice Springs

Heating Up in Hermannsburg – Part 2

 

We arrived back in Alice Springs after our amazing visit to Uluru and Kata Tjuta, and I got to work as soon as possible.  The first few days were spent fiddling with the Troopy to try and figure out why the engine was overheating.

 

I flushed the cooling system and changed the bottom radiator hose before getting some advice from a local mechanic, who suggested lubing up the fan clutch.  After doing that, I took the Troopy for a short test drive and it seemed successful, but the best way to check was to go on a long distance drive.

 

The next day, we drove the Troopy down to Rainbow Valley, about 100km south of Alice Springs.  Unfortunately, once we were over 80kmph, the temp gauge moved towards the red.  Back to the drawing board…

 

Rainbow Valley

 

The next day, I called the mechanic and booked the Troopy in so that they could have a look.  I dropped the Troopy off the following week, and got a phone call later that day from the mechanic, asking if I had time to come by the workshop.  The Troopy was up on the hoist and the mechanic said that they hadn’t even taken it for a test drive because they didn’t want to risk driving it anywhere – the front wheel bearings were gone.

 

He went through a list of things that needed to be repaired urgently, before we had another long chat about the why cooling system might be playing up.  He explained that the air in Alice Springs is really dry and therefore isn’t as effective at cooling the radiator, and he also recommended getting rid of the fly-screen mesh from the grill, as it can severely restrict air flow at 80-110kp/h.

 

Looking at the list of required repairs, there was no way I could do all that myself so I booked the Troopy in for a proper session.  Unfortunately, they were so busy, the next available time was the week after, so I took the Troopy home, went through the list, and did what I could myself.  I replaced the leaky brake proportioning valve, ripped off the fly-screen from the grill and picked up a few less urgent bits and pieces to swap later.  A week later, I took the Troopy back to the mechanic so they could do the rest. For the next week, we were lucky enough to borrow a shitty Ford Falcon with a cracked windscreen, no windows and ripped up interior to get around town.

 

The main repairs the mechanics did for us were:

  • Swivel hubs and bearings
  • Three brake discs
  • Handbrake shoes
  • Uni joints
  • Rear pinion seal
  • Steering – drag link ends and tie rod ends

 

Troopy bits

 

A week later, and over $4000 out of pocket, we were reunited with a new and improved Troopy, minus all the squeaks, grinds and clunks.  The Troopy was feeling strong and we were filled with excitement when we finally left Alice Springs to continue our journey south.  These days, the Troopy still heats up a little sometimes, but it’s only when it’s worked hard for a while.

 

Birdsville

 

 

 

Alice Springs

Town Profile : Alice Springs

Alice Springs

 

After receiving the shocking wakeup call that we we’re suddenly south of the Tropic of Capricorn, we rolled into Alice Springs cold and hungry.  Our first stop was pizza, then a hot shower at the town centre before a beer at the pub.  We then made contact with our first Helpx host.

 

We did two Helpx jobs while we were in Alice.  The first one was a landscaping gig for a family of four.  We stayed in their granny flat for four nights and gave their garden a lovely makeover.  For the remainder of our time in Alice, we stayed with Derren, his housemate and their two dogs.  Dave worked at his steel yard while Juz cooked and cleaned at home.

 

Alice Springs is sits in the heart of Australia’s Red Centre and is flanked by the MacDonnell Ranges on either side.  With a red sandy desert stretching for kilometers in all directions, Alice is an iconic Australian town and is the gateway to Uluru, Kata Tjuta and Kings Canyon.

 

Alice Springs

 

Fast Facts

  • Alice Springs is the third largest town in the Northern Territory
  • The population sits at around 28,000, which is about 12% of the Territory’s population
  • Alice Springs supposedly has 270 mm of rain a year but 70% of years are below average.  It’s a land of droughts and flooding rains

 

Alice Springs

 

History

Arrernte are the original inhabitants, who refer to Alice as Mparntwe, and believe that the MacDonnell Ranges were carved by giant caterpillar spirits during the creation time.  They took care of the land until European settlement.

 

The town first started off as a telegraph station for the Overland Telegraph Line.  This line follows the expedition route of John McDouall Stuart, who crossed Australia from south to north in 1862.  Just over 20 years later, a boom in population would be caused by the discovery of alluvial gold at Arltunga, about 100km east of Alice Springs.

 

Camels were integral for the survival of people living in Central Australia and were used to transport wool and provisions to Alice and the surrounding sheep and cattle stations, missions and aboriginal communities, as well as to pull ploughs to build dams.  Camel trains would travel over 600km from Oodnadatta to Alice Springs to bring supplies to Alice Springs, but once the railway line between Alice and Adelaide was completed in 1929, the camels were released, and with more motor and air transport flowing through the region, the isolation of Alice dissipated.

 

If it wasn’t for the cameleers and the camels, Alice Springs wouldn’t not have survived, and to celebrate, The Camel Cup is raced every year.

 

Alice Springs 2014-06-24 001

 

Until the early 1930s, the location of the town was actually called Stuart, while a nearby waterhole was called Alice Springs after Lady Alice Todd, the wife of Sir Charles Todd.  The telegraph station was built next to the spring and this caused a bunch of confusion for administrators down in Adelaide, so in 1933, Stuart was officially gazetted as Alice Springs.

 

These days, the town is full of nice hotels, restaurants, Aboriginal art galleries and well over 25,000 inhabitants.

 

Places of Interest

Telegraph Station Historical Reserve

The reserve is where the actual Alice Spring is, a little waterhole named after Lady Alice Todd.  The old buildings of the telegraph station are still there, and you can pay to explore the station, or you can just look at the building from the other side of the fence.  There are a number of walking trails from the station that lead into the bush but beware, they aren’t very clearly marked and you may find yourself walking for hours in the wrong direction.

 

Alice Springs

 

Mount Gillen

If you’re fit and keen for a decent climb, then head west along Larapinta Drive until you come across Flynn’s Grave.  This is the starting point for the trail that challenges Mount Gillen and depending on your fitness, this activity will take 2-3 hours.

 

The peak of Gillen can be seen from town and leans over the landscape like a wave about to break.  The return trip is just under 5km and takes you up nearly 300 metres.  It’s a tough hike but once you hit the peak, you’re on top of the world.

 

Alice Springs

 

Anzac Hill Lookout

If you’re not game to challenge the mountain, then maybe a hill is more to your liking.  Anzac Hill Lookout is right in the centre of town and gives great views of the surrounding area.  It’s really popular at sunset.

 

Alice Springs

 

Alice Springs Reptile Centre

This is a must see attraction in Alice Springs.  You get to meet a variety of reptiles, including snakes, goannas and blue tongue lizards.  We absolutely loved our time at the Reptile Centre – check out our post here.

 

Alice Springs Reptile Centre

 

Todd Mall Markets

Every second Sunday, Todd Mall is lined with market stalls selling clothes, crafts and yummy foods.  It’s a great opportunity to loiter around for breakfast, purchase some Italian biscuits or to grab a coffee and a bargain.  If you’re a market fiend, every alternate Sunday is the Heavitree Gap Market, next door to the tavern.

 

Alice Springs

 

Events

Finke Desert Race

This is Australia’s great desert race. For four days over the Queen’s Birthday long weekend, cars, quads, bikes and buggies flood the town and kick up the dirt and attempt the two day, off road, multi terrain race from Alice Springs to the Aputula community.

 

We went along to the Prologue day on Saturday and the Finishing day on Monday to support our mate, Tony from Loveday 4×4 Adventure Park.  While he was coming first in his class on the first day, he busted a shocker on the second day and rolled in last, 3 minutes before the finishing deadline.

 

Finke Desert Race

 

Alice Springs Beanie Festival

One of the worlds’ most unique festivals, the Alice Springs Beanie Festival runs for four days and features thousands of the most creative and colourful beanies you’ll ever see.  We were lucky enough to be in town for the event and thought it was really special.  Check out our post here.

 

Alice Springs Beanie Festival

 

Lasseters Camel Cup

This annual fundraising event has a reputation that precedes it.  If you’re lucky enough to be in town for this kooky occasion, attend!  You won’t regret it – check out our post here.

 

Lasseters Camel Cup

 

Henley On Todd Regatta

One of the kookiest events we’ve ever been to, the Henley On Todd Regatta occurs annually in Alice Springs and takes place on the dry bed of the Todd River.  Check out our post here.

 

Henley On Todd

 

 

Food & Drink

There is not a lot of choice in Alice Springs, but there are a few places where you can get a good feed.  Uncle’s Tavern in the centre of town is an easy location for a beer and a relatively cheap feed, Outback Kebabs is good when they’re actually open and ice cream lovers can head to Uncle Edy’s Ice Cream for an awesome selection of flavours to suit anybody.  For great fish and chips, you can’t beat Eastside Fish and Chips, and if you’re craving for pie, Wicked Kneads near Coles will satisfy.  Here are a few of our favourites…

 

Rocky’s Pizza

This was our first stop in town and we happened to hit the jackpot. It dishes out the best pizza we’ve had in a very long time.

 

The Gillen Club

For the truly hungry, you can’t go past the Gillen Club.  Expect to pay around $20 for lamb shanks, chicken parmigiana, or salt and pepper squid, which is a pretty good deal, and with every meal, you get all you can eat at the salad bar.  Check out our post here.

 

Epilogue

Yummy café by day, awesome cocktail bar at night, Epilogue covers all the bases. Check out our post here.

 

Epilogue Cafe & Lounge

 

Monte’s Lounge

The colourful carnival surroundings of Monte’s make it a great place to have a few drinks on a Friday night.  They also do great food.  Check out our post here.

 

Monte's

 

Information & Accommodation

The Visitor Information Centre is located on Todd Mall opposite Alice Plaza.

 

For some conveniently located and great value accommodation, check out Alice Springs YHA on the corner of Leichhardt Terrace and Parsons Street. Check out our post here.
Book your accommodation through TripAdvisor

 

Alice Springs YHA

 

Helpex Alice Springs

Helpx : Housekeeping and the steelyard

Helpex Alice Springs

 

After four days of landscaping for a family, our second Helpex assignment was hanging out with Derren, his housemate Brad and their two dogs, Buddy and Buster.  Derren is probably the most active couchsurfing host in Alice Springs and told us stories about having up to 15 guests at one time!

 

Staying with Derren and Co. was easy.  In exchange for accommodation, food and facilities, Dave worked at their steel yard for about three hours a day during the week, which involved deliveries, putting away stock, fabricating metal and even brushing up on his forklift skills.  He also trimmed the grass at home.  On the other hand, Juz busied herself by cooking and cleaning at home and entertaining the dogs, but also did some filing in the office at the steel yard.

 

Helpex Alice Springs

 

We were definitely spoilt.  We had our own room with a comfortable bed, full use of the kitchen and whatever was stocked on the shelves and in the fridge, including the Nespresso coffee machine, as well as all the video clips, documentaries and movies we wanted, thanks to Foxtel.  Our stay in Alice Springs was perfectly timed with the World Cup so Dave was pretty happy about having a big screen TV to watch the games on, and we even let off fireworks in the garden for Territory Day.

 

Helpex Alice Springs

 

Derren and Brad were great company, and we had many stimulating conversations.  They also accompanied us on nights out in town and entertained us on nights in – dancing to music videos, singing and carrying on well into the early morning.  We know that we have friends in Alice Springs.

 

After some car troubles while we were in the West Macs, we came back to Alice and stayed with Derren and Brad again until we had everything fixed.  Thanks again guys!

 

Helpex Alice Springs

 

 

Alice Springs Reptile Centre

Experience : Alice Springs Reptile Centre

Alice Springs Reptile Centre

 

We love reptiles.  They vary from smooth and slinky to spiky and strange, they’re one of the oldest living species on earth and they’re solar powered!  Therefore, our time in Alice Springs would not have been completely satisfactory unless we visited the Reptile Centre.

 

The Reptile Centre

The Alice Springs Reptile Centre was transformed from a rundown lot behind Billy Goat Hill into a fascinating and educational attraction that opened to the public in January 2000.

 

The centre has the facilities to display a variety of reptiles from the Northern Territory, such as a cave room for the geckoes and a large crocodile pond with an underwater viewing booth for Terry the Saltwater Crocodile.   The humidity, temperature and lighting are carefully controlled to suit the animals based on their natural habitat, and the geckoes are the hardest animals to please because they are very fussy.  The centre is also an Eco Certified attraction and was granted an advanced solar system in 2010 that generates power to the entire centre.

 

There are about 60 different species of animals on display, and each one is loved and cared for by the passionate and friendly staff.  The centre is busiest during the winter months of July to October.

 

The Reptiles

We got to meet four reptiles very personally during the afternoon demonstration.  The first was Ruby the Spencer’s Goanna, who is the resident reptile at the centre.  Ruby was very happy to just laze around and get patted by the visitors.  In the wild, she’d use her blue forked tongue to seek out food like eggs, mice or snakes.  Spencer’s goannas don’t usually climb trees; they’d rather live in burrows that they’ve dug themselves or stolen from other creatures.

 

Alice Springs Reptile Centre

 

Next up was Jessie the bearded dragon.  It was interesting to learn that bearded dragons change colour depending on their mood or temperature.  They are dark when they’re cold so they can absorb more sunlight and more lightly coloured during the hottest part of the day to reflect the sun away.  Their spiky beard also changes colour from happy orange to grumpy black.  They like to eat fruit, vegetables, insects, plants and particularly spiders – all sorts, even the poisonous ones.

 

Alice Springs Reptile Centre

 

Nora the blue tongue lizard was a southern species with darker colours on its scales compared to the lighter coloured lizards of the north. They eat fruit, vegetables, meat, anything they can – even pet food, which is their favourite.  Nora was smooth, cold, stocky and quite heavy.

 

Alice Springs Reptile Centre

 

Our final friend was a beautiful olive python.   These gorgeous creatures prefer a tropical environment and their diet ranges from mice to crocodiles.  Their jaws can expand to fit larger prey and they have heat sensing pits on the sides of the heads to detect prey.

 

Alice Springs Reptile Centre

 

After the demonstration, we checked out the other critters within the centre.  The inside enclosures housed a variety of snakes, including adders, pythons and even an Inland Taipan, which is considered to be the most venomous snake in the world!  The dimly lit gecko cave displayed a fantastic variety of geckoes, from Dave’s favourite marbled velvet gecko to the quirky knob tailed gecko, which kinda looks like Gollum from Lord of the Rings.  Outside were more blue tongue lizards, as well as a thorny devil and a huge perentie monitor.  It was here that we got to personally meet Terry the Saltwater Crocodile, who was captured in Darwin Harbour in 2002.

 

Alice Springs Reptile Centre

 

The Essentials

The Alice Springs Reptile Centre is open daily from 9:30am to 5pm, except for Christmas and New Years day.  Demonstrations are run daily at 11am, 1pm and 3:30pm.  The entry fee is $16 for adults and $8 for children, or $40 for families (prices current as of March 2014).

 

9 Stuart Terrace, Alice Springs

Phone: 08 8952 8900

www.reptilecentre.com.au

 

Alice Springs Reptile Centre

 

The Gillen Club

Eating Out : The Gillen Club, Alice Springs NT

 

The Gillen Club

 

We had a friend visit us in Alice Springs so we decided to show her around town and finish the night off with a nice dinner.  After climbing Mount Gillen, visiting the Reptile Centre and watching the sunset on Anzac Hill, we’d built up quite an appetite so we made our way to the Gillen Club for a feed.

 

It was surprisingly busy for a Thursday night and we were lucky enough to order our meals before the line grew to 10 metres long!  While we waited, we helped ourselves to the all you can eat salad bar, which was complete with garden salad, coleslaw, balsamic mushrooms and a weird combination salad of spinach, jalapeños and bread.  We watched a bunch of kids goof around on the jungle gym while their parents mingled at nearby tables.

 

Our buzzer went off earlier than expected and we went to collect our meals.  Juz and Jenny ordered a chicken schnitzel each. Jenny’s Hawaiian schnitzel had pineapple rings under the cheese while Juz’s Mexican schnitzel had Tobasco in the sauce and was topped with a ludicrous amount of jalapeños.  The schnitzels were huge but not too thick, and they tasted great.   Both meals were super filling and served with a small amount of chips, which was perfectly fine considering we could eat as much salad as we liked.  However, by the time we finished our meals, we didn’t have any room left…

 

 

 

Dave went with the $14.90 porterhouse special cooked medium rare and unbelievably, that’s how the steak arrived!  The mushroom sauce was just gravy with mushrooms in it.  For the price, it was a very reasonable and well sized meal that could have been supplemented with more salad but there was no need – Dave was full.

 

We weren’t expecting much from the Gillen Club and we were pleasantly surprised with the value and flavour of the food.  It’s a great kid-friendly restaurant that serves a decent meal in a social atmosphere.  Feeling utterly satisfied, we left the Gillen Club for a nightcap at Epilogue before taking Jenny back to her hostel.

 

Henley On Todd

NT Events : Henley On Todd Regatta, Alice Springs

Henley On Todd

 

In most cases, clouds do have a silver lining.  After returning to Alice Springs with car issues, we were able to stick around for the 53rd Annual Henley On Todd Regatta.  This unique event is NT’s longest running event and it’s all about having fun and raising money for the three local Rotary Clubs, which in turn support various charities like the Salvation Army, Royal Flying Doctors Service and the RSPCA.

 

The History

The Henley On Todd Regatta was started in 1962 by a bloke called Reg.  Originally from Oakleigh in Victoria, Reg first came to Alice Springs in 1946 to work as a meteorologist.  He went on to work on a brief assignment in Antarctica, before returning to Alice Springs to become a weather observer. He stuck around after meeting and marrying his wife Pat in 1950.

 

After joining the Rotary Club of Alice Springs in 1962, and during a member picnic that year, discussions on how to raise money for charity lead to Reg’s great idea to hold a waterless regatta on the dry bed of the Todd River.  Since then, the regatta has been an integral part of the community, supporting businesses and services, and bringing the locals together for a day of fun.

 

The Henley On Todd Regatta has only been cancelled once since it began – due to rainy weather back in 1993. It turns out that the only thing that can ruin this kooky boat race is water!

 

Henley On Todd

 

The Event

The regatta is held on the second last Saturday of August and begins with a parade through Todd Mall.  Lots of people line the street to check out the participants and their boats, which range from elaborate battleships to crude crap stacks.  After the parade, everyone heads to the banks of the Todd River where food stalls, merchandise stands and live music are ready to go.

 

 

 

Activities were held throughout the day, and most were about speed.  Barely seaworthy boats raced along the river and ended with shipwrecks at the finish line, sand was shovelled into 44 gallon drums as fast as possible, foursomes strapped to skis shuffled down the track, and Tour D’Todd hamster wheels rolled along too.  With speed comes stumbles and injuries, but there was no hard feelings and the show would always go on.  There were also tug-of-war battles, lolly scrambles for the kids, and to keep the entertainment flowing, the Battleboat Spectacular teams would have water fights in the middle of the arena with fire extinguishers filled with water.

 

The main event was the Head of the River and it was between the Yanks and the Aussies.  We are extremely happy to say that the Aussie team won and the crowd went wild!

 

 

Henley On Todd

 

The Hilarity

Nearly everyone at the regatta was sporting a pair of hot pink sunglasses.  We asked what the deal was and we were promptly directed to the TIO Party Safe stand, which was probably the most popular stand at the event.  They were giving away pink sunnies for free and it wasn’t long before we were sporting our own.

 

One of the day’s highlights was the Budgie Smuggler Race.  Brave blokes dropped their strides and bolted across the sand for the crowd’s entertainment.  They were given Tony Abbott masks to hide their identity but some contestants had no hesitations about exposing their cheeks.

 

Henley On Todd

 

Watching the Tour D’Todd hamster wheel races was cringe worthy.  Overzealous racers in their giant metal wheels were prone to tripping and many were overcome and rolled into painful contortions while some got their fingers stuck in the grate and needed to be pried free.

 

The closest re-enactment of a locust plague we have ever witnessed was the lolly scramble.  The air was filled with dust as manic children raced to collect as many lollies as they could from the sand.  One little boy had run out of arms so Dave offered his hat as a basket and took care of the boy’s loot as he went scrambling for more.

 

The last event of the day was the Battleboat Spectacular.  There were three teams – the Vikings, the Pirates and the Navy – each with their own customised battle boat that was fitted with cannons, water bombs, flour bombs and hoses!  Our media access allowed us to stay within the arena, so we were right in the middle of it all.  The cannons were shockingly loud and sprinkled us with layers of sawdust, that got into our hair and underpants, and there were a few times we got sprayed with the hose.  After an epic battle, the crowd voted with their cheering and the Navy boat was awarded with their first victory.

 

Henley On Todd

 

 

Lasseters Camel Cup

NT Events : Lasseters Camel Cup, Alice Springs

Lasseters Camel Cup

 

We were stoked to find out that the Camel Cup was on during our final weekend in Alice Springs.  At the last minute, we contacted the organisers of the event and scored media passes so that we could have special access to the various features and attractions at the event.

 

The Camel Cup

The Lasseters Camel Cup is an annual fundraising event that brings together the local community and visitors from all over the world to enjoy a truly unique Central Australian experience.

 

It started in 1970 when two mates, Noel Fullerton and Keith Mooney-Smith, settled a bet with a camel race at the Alice Springs Centenary Year Celebrations.  The event was so popular that it became an annual event run by the local Lions Club.

 

After 40 years of organising a fantastic day of camel races each year and raising funds to assist the community, the Lions Club have handed over the reins to the APEX Club of Central Australia with the intention of breathing new life into the iconic event.  Noel Fullerton is still involved in the Camel Cup by supplying most of the racing camels and is seen as the grandfather of the camel industry in Australia.

 

Other attractions on the day include jumping castles and a petting zoo with a piglet that falls asleep when you rub its belly, live music and an after party at Lasseters Casino.  All proceeds from the Camel Cup are put back into the community via the community grant scheme or used by the Lions Club and APEX Club to provide community support.

 

 

 

The Camels

The camels are the stars of the show, and because of their unpredictability, it results in some serious entertainment.  The nature of the camels can range from docile and friendly to downright cranky and disobedient.

 

Because of this irregularity, any attempts for Juz to make peace with her demons were thwarted by an overwhelming fear, which grew after peering down the chops of a gargling camel.

 

Lasseters Camel Cup

 

The Events

The main event of the day is Race 5, the XXXX Gold Lasseters Camel Cup, and this year’s winner was reigning champion Hannah Purss, who rode Roman Ruma Ruma the camel to their second consecutive Camel Cup victory.

 

 

Lasseters Camel Cup

 

The Honeymoon Handicap race was one of our favourite events.  The camel race starts as normal, but halfway around the track, the “grooms” must stop their camels and collect their “brides” before racing to the finish line.  This was one of the most chaotic, frantic and hilarious things we’ve ever seen!  As officials and riders attempted to stop the charging camels, the camels were bucking, growling and spitting.  Some camels decided they didn’t want to stop for a bride and just continued on.  Those who managed to stop their camels attempted to control the beast while a bewildered bride clambered on.  Once the brides and grooms were ready (or not), the camel would clumsily stand up and gallop off towards the finish line.

 

Lasseters Camel Cup

 

The Rickshaw Races and Battleship Water Cannon Hose Off are two events that don’t involve camels.  The Rickshaw Races involve two people sitting in the rickshaw, which is pulled around the track by two other people.  Halfway around the track, the pairs swap so the passengers become the pullers.  It looked like a lot of fun… and hard work!

 

Lasseters Camel Cup

 

The Henley on Todd Water Cannon Hose Off was great.  Two vehicles were dressed as ships – one was a pirate ship and the other was a naval vessel – and these two battleships hooned around the centre of the arena, blasting each other with water cannons.  If it wasn’t wintertime, we would have loved to be on one of those ships – it would have been the ultimate summertime water fight!

 

Lasseters Camel Cup

 

The Essentials

The Lasseters Camel Cup is held annually on the second Saturday of July at the Noel Fullarton Camel Racing Arena in Blatherskite Park, the only purpose built camel racing venue in the southern hemisphere.

 

Entry to the 2014 Camel Cup was $17 for adults or $38 for a family pass.  Kids under 12 are free!  There is also a free shuttle bus available to take you to and from the event, just in case you want to have a few drinks while watching the races.

 

For more information about the Camel Cup, visit http://www.camelcup.com.au/

 

Lasseters Camel Cup