After some good times in Darwin with old friends we packed up and headed South down the Stuart Hwy. We had decided that we would stick to the bitumen until we reached Alice Springs. It was now the 24th August and we had an easy drive to Pine Creek then headed into Umbrawarra Gorge. Chris and I had been to this small but delightful gorge on a previous trip to the top end and were keen to show it to Harold and Di.
So on arrival we had lunch then headed up the gorge. Umbrawarra is an unusual gorge in that when you cross the creek at the start of the gorge it is dry (in the dry season). However the further you walk along the gorge you become aware of natural springs releasing water into the creek. The further you venture into the gorge the greater the flow. So dotted along the gorge are fabulous swimming holes of clear water. the further you venture the better the pools.
Chris and I had obviously forgotten just how far we had ventured into the gorge on our previous visit. The rock hopping required was much greater than we had remembered. We do remember however that on a couple of occasions we had to carry our belongings on our head and walk through some quite deep water holes. On this occasion it was getting late in the day and we still needed to make camp so we had a great swim and then headed back to our vehicles and set up camp in the camp ground adjacent to the gorge.
The following day we continued our journey south. Harold needed to get some internet/phone cover to fix a couple of issues with his camper so Chris and I headed to Edith Falls while Harold and Di continued onto Katherine. We arrived at Edith with plenty time for some lunch and then a walk around the upper falls including a swim. The main pool was closed as a male tourist had been missing for over a week. Divers and search teams had been busy for the past week with no luck. Just in case he was at the bottom of the large pool they were waiting for the body to float to the surface. We believe that the man has still not been found to this day.
The following morning we set off for Katherine to meet up with Harold and Di. After some shopping we set off for Mataranka. After a couple of circuits of the warm spring waters of Bitter Springs and some lunch we pushed on to Daly Waters. A fellow traveller at Bitter SPrings highly recommended a stay at the Daly Waters Pub and a meal. It is obviously a very popular spot as when we booked in we were relegated to the “over flow” area of the camp ground. The meal however was excellent combined with live entertainment.
The next day we were headed towards Devils Marbles, a distance of some 500 km, a long day for us. When we arrived the camp ground was extremely full. So we decided that the Devils Marbles would have to wait for another day and opted to camp at Wauchope only a short distance down the road from the Marbles. This pub was an excellent find so next time in the area we would use it as a base to explore the Devils Marbles properly.
We had a few things to do in Alice, among them Harold had booked his Camper in for it’s first service. So after 3 nights camped at Wanngardi camp ground, we set off for Santa Teresa and beyond, along the Binns Track. The Binns track takes you from Alice Springs to Mount Dare via the western Simpson Desert. It is a drive through some magnificent country unique to any other country in Australia in my opinion. The track used to be always referred to as “The Old Andado Track” by travellers but has now officially been named “The Binns Track”. Old Andado is supposed to be under the care of “The National Trust” however things are not going so good as there is some family politics apparently coming to the fore. For more info about Molly Clark (deceased) and Old Andado go here (https://www.oldandado.com.au/).
Once past Santa Teresa and after venturing off the road looking for a camp site I wound up with two punctured tyre walls, Dam!!!!! NOT REPAIRABLE. Our first nights camp was a bush camp a few hundred metres off the road. Brilliant – clear starry night and total silence.
The following night we reached Old Andado. There were 3 other campers at the homestead along with the caretaker Cobby. We were fortunate that Cobby was still on site, For some obscure reasons it appears Cobby had been sacked be the desendants of Molly Clark. Despite being sacked Cobby remained on duty to keep the water, showers and toilets operating for travellers along the Binns Track. Cobby had been a close friend of Molly Clark’s and had difficulty in seeing the Homestead being left to the elements. He used the camping fees to provide diesel for the generator but by all accounts The National Trust should be stepping in to preserve the Homestead and surrounds as per the request in Molly’s will, if her family failed or were unable to maintain this very historic asset.
Cobby likes to tell a few yarns about the history of the area. He is the iconic “bushy” and a fabulous character who is always up for a chat. He loves to describe how Molly would drag a section of railway line up the track to Santa Teresa then head into Alice to shop and drag the railway line down the track back to the homestead, all to improve the road. Apparently she did this on 6 occasions. A distance of 235 Km each way.
The following morning we hung around and chatted with Cobby and others before heading for Mt Dare, only about 160 km but over a somewhat difficult track with some very deep bull dust and a number of unmarked tracks to confuse the traveller.
After lunching on the side of the road we arrived mid afternoon at Mt Dare, booked ourselves in for a pub meal that evening and set up camp.
The following day we headed for Dalhousie Spring. The natural hot spring that is commonly called Dalhousie is in fact Mound Spring and not Dalhousie. The Dalhousie Spring Proper is situated near Dalhousie Station ruins about 12 Km to the south. However when one speaks of Dalhousie Spring it is assumed that it is a reference to the large hot spring that has fantastic swimming access. We camped at Dalhousie Spring camp ground and the following morning we packed up, had a swim and then headed for Oodnadatta via Dalhousie ruins. (Now the 4th of September)
That’s it for now, next post features Oodnadatta to Home.