Hiking part of the Larpinta Trail

20 May 2017:

At the end of September 2016, we decided to go on a camping trip. It was a little late in the day when we decided this, but the weather had been really nice, and we wanted to take advantage of it.

We decided to head west on Larapinta, and chose Glen Helen as our starting off point. They let us park our car there, and then we walked across the street, just a couple of minutes west until we saw the trail. At Glen Helen, there was a sign that said we were 4.3 km from the Larapinta Trailhead at Finke River. Once we reached the trailhead, we had to decide if we wanted to walk Section 10 or 11 of the Larapinta trail.

The path to the trailhead is vehicle accessible, and it meandered next to the Finke River. There had been some recent rains, so the river, while not full, did have some water in it. There were a number of people who had driven out to spend their weekend by the river. We walked along the trail for a while, until we came to a fence. Seemingly it was preventing the cars from going any further, as there was an opening for people. Since we’d left our map at home, we just continued to use the Finke River to orient ourselves.

After walking for about an hour, we came across a part of the riverbed with some water, and we decide to stick our toes in.

About ten minutes up from where we stopped was the trailhead for the Larapinta Trail. It’s about 4:30pm by this time, so we know that we won’t be able to complete either trail. We decide to head West to Redbank Gorge. Now that we’re on the trial, there are blazes that guide us along the correct path. We head west until about 5:15pm, looking for a place to set up camp. When we don’t find one, we decide to head back towards  the Finke River, where we know we can camp. Sun set around 6:15pm, so we didn’t want to still be looking for a place to camp once the sun went down.

We found this awesome spot along the river to set up our tent. Our tent is almost all mesh, so you have a fairly unobstructed view outside of the tent. Once the tent was up, we had peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for dinner, which we enjoyed as the golden glow of the sun descend upon us.

By 7:30pm, the sun was completely gone, and we enjoyed looking at the starry sky, trying to guess which constellations were above us.

That morning, after many hours of sleep, we had some granola bars for breakfast and then packed up our tent. We thought about walking further along the trail, but decided instead to have a lazy morning and head back to the part of the river that had water in it. We stayed there for a couple of hours, and then headed back to Glen Helen. We got some ice cream, and then walked out to see the gorge. Then back in the car for the hour and a half drive home. Weekends in the Outback don’t get any better than this one!


First trip to Adelaide

19 May 2017:

As mentioned in the last post, we drove from Alice Springs to Adelaide in order to meet up with some old friends who were flying into Adelaide. After having driven two days to get to Adelaide, we were quite happy to put our belongings down, and stretch our legs a bit. The first thing we did was head out for some dinner. We were staying in an Airbnb close to the Adelaide’s Chinatown, so we had a wander through the streets to see what was available. In the end, we ate at a Thai restaurant just across the street from the city market.

The next day we walked all around the CBD. We went to the high street, visiting the op-shops. We also explored the university area, saw the ANZAC memorial wall, and just spent hours walking. That night we went to a great restaurant for dinner.

The next morning, we got up and got ready to meet up with our friends. We had breakfast, and then we went to the South Australia museum to check out how kid-friendly it is (very). That afternoon we went to our friend’s hotel to meet up with them. They’d just arrived into the country, and were amazingly perky and alert!

Normally we’re oblivious to how many playgrounds there are, but given the ages of our friends’  kids, we were acutely aware of the playground landscape. Conveniently, right across the street from their hotel is the Hindmarsh Playground. After that we explored the city and enjoyed the 19th century architecture.

The next day we went to Glenelg which is at the beach just southwest of Adelaide. We took the tram, which runs every 10 minutes, and takes about 40 minutes to get there. It was super easy. We bought our metro tickets on board. The beach was not crowded, and we spent about two hours hanging out there while the kids played in and around the water.


We had lunch not too far from the water, and then after food, we went back to the water so the kids could play on this monumental playground. There was something for kids of all ages!

Late in the afternoon, our friends and their kids went back to the hotel to rest for a little bit, and we decided to stay down along the water for just a little longer. We eventually stopped and had a drink and dessert. It was great!

Monday was a little rainy, so we spent most of the day inside the South Australia museum. The kids seemed to love it, and the adults had a great time too!

Then on Tuesday, (after finding our car battery flat and getting a friendly jump from an Adelaide passerby) we said our goodbyes and made our way back up to Alice Springs along the Stuart Highway.

Road Trip to Adelaide

18 May 2017:

About a month after we moved to Australia, a good friend contacted me to say that she was going to be on a work trip to Adelaide, and could we meet them there? She and her husband and their two little girls were going to make the enormous trip from St Louis all the way to Australia – of course the answer was “yes!”.

Adelaide is more than 1500km from Alice Springs. It takes approximately 16 hours to get there, and it is at the southern end of the state of South Australia. Most people, for those reasons, choose to fly. Not us!

In September 2016, we headed for Adelaide in the little Hyundai Getz. We planned to take two days to get down there, with an overnight stay in Coober Pedy. We’d heard a lot about it – it’s a very small mining town, with an apparently legendarily good pizza place. We were in!

We left midday, after working for a few hours, leaving around 1200. The first notable landmark is the Northern Territory/South Australia border. It’s about 300km south of Alice Springs. The first 250km we’d done a week earlier when we went to Uluru and Kings Canyon, but after we continued straight instead of turning right to Uluru, it was all new territory for us.

South Australia Border

At the Northern Territory/South Australia border

Then, after that border, you drive almost another 400km before getting to Coober Pedy. Along the way, there are a number of roadhouses, spaced out for fuel and food, we stopped in at every one during the entirety of our trip, just to say we had seen them all.  The roadhouse in Marla is one that we explored. It is a bit larger than most, with a grocery store and post office along with the normal restaurant/bar, fuel, and motel. This is a remote and foreboding place though, seeming to be on the edge of nowhere. And later we heard the tale of a coworker who spent four boring (and somewhat agonizing) nights here with his family after blowing a transmission nearby.

We arrived in Coober Pedy around 7pm, about half an hour before sunset. As you’re approaching, it looks like it’s inhabited by giant prairie dogs, who have dug holes up all around the place. As far as the eye can see, there are these giant mounds of earth that have been piled high. In reality, the mounds are the tailings of earnest miners – Coober Pedy is an opal mining town, and each of  these piles of dirt represent mine shafts and hard work.

We had planned to camp, but the camping situation wasn’t great. At the Oasis Tourist Park, which is slightly north of town, you can camp but the campgrounds are basically on a parking lot, and it seems mainly set up for camper vans. Same goes for the Big 4 Holidays Parks. In the end, we stayed at Riba’s Underground Camping & Caravan Park. It was slightly south of town. They offered camping underground in former mining shafts – and we took them up on the offer!

For dinner, we ate at the aforementioned pizza place – a restaurant called John’s Pizza Bar and Restaurant. It wasn’t bad, and for a restaurant in the middle of nowhere, it was actually pretty good. The next morning we had breakfast at Waffles and Gems. The owner is a man who has lived in Coober Pedy most of his life, and if you have time, he has some great stories to tell! Coober Pedy seems interesting enough in and of itself for a weekend trip from Alice Springs. There are a lot of museums that tell the history of the town, both its recent mining history, as well as its more dated Aboriginal history. You can also go “noodling”, which basically means looking for opals in piles of tailings. There are a number of tour groups that will take you on those adventures.

We’re back on the road just before 9am. Our first stop was a place called Woomera. It’s about 380km south of Coober Pedy and was the perfect place to stretch our legs and grab some lunch. It’s less than 130km south of the Glendambo Roadhouse, and if you have a little extra time, is worth a stop. It’s about a 15 minute detour off of the Stuart Highway. The town was established in 1947 in order to support the Woomera Rocket Range. Testing continues to this day, although it is much more scaled back and apparently less manpower intensive. This is largest test range on earth, used by the US, UK, and Australia. Even now, when missile tests are occurring, the Stuart Highway is closed from just south of Coober Pedy to Woomera, sometimes for days. And since this is the only road traveling south, it can really mess up travel plans! If you’re interested, you can find more information about Woomera here.

190km later, after being surprised to see large lakes on the way, we came to Port Augusta. Although we have been logging a lot of hours in the car, we had run reading a book about the Stuart Highway, and listening to podcasts.

After Port Augusta, the landscape changed quite a lot. We also experienced rain off and on, which is why there aren’t as many photos during this period. When we did finally make it to the outer city limits of Adelaide, it was dark and raining quite heavily. In fact, it rained so hard and so quickly that many of the streets were flooded, and we had to carefully navigate our way through to the downtown. But, we eventually arrived at our Airbnb with no problems! Now for the next stage of our adventure – exploring Adelaide!

Here’s a little video of our trip: https://goo.gl/photos/w51SSyaMin5fJutS7.

Caveat: All of these pictures were taken on my iPhone, so some are blurry, and since most are taken through the windscreen, they’re a little out of focus.