Outback Rains

The end of 2016, and the beginning of 2017 were wet here in the Outback. We went to Tasmania at the beginning of the month, and when we came back, the grass in our backyard was out of control. I’m talking knee length grass that took forEVER to cut.

So, by the end of the month, things were looking pretty green, and it would seem that a lot of the water tables were pretty high. On 28 December 2016, We made a mandatory trip out to Simpsons Gap to see what it looked like. Always beautiful, it was really neat to see it full of water.

We had gone right after work, and as the clouds started to roll in, we could tell we were due for some more rain. As we made our way back to Alice Springs (about 15km away), we saw the storm behind us. It was still pretty far away, and it was creating the most beautiful colors. We even got to see it lightening.

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On 30 December 2016, we decided to check out the Todd River, which we knew had been flowing. By now it had been a couple of days after the rain, and while the water wasn’t deep enough to swim in any more, there were places where the water went up to your knees.

On 1 January 2017, we climbed up Mt Johns to watch the sunset. This was also a good eagle eye view of how green Alice Springs was!

Not a bad way to start the new year!

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The Kangaroo Sanctuary

One of the classic Australian activities to do is to visit a kangaroo sanctuary. The one here in Alice Springs is world famous, and that’s likely for two reasons. One is Roger, the infamously strong kangaroo, and the other is the BBC documentary about the sanctuary.

The Kangaroo Sanctuary offers sunset tours of the sanctuary, usually led by Brolga, the founder. You have to book in advance, and then you take a bus out to the sanctuary. On the bus there’s a video about the sanctuary, and it also goes over dos and don’ts.

Then when you arrive, Brolga greets you, and leads you on a tour of the sanctuary.

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This is Brolga. He rescues baby kangaroos who have been orphaned (usually because a car kills their mom). He created an kangaroo sanctuary to house the orphaned kangaroos to prevent them from being sent to a zoo.

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This little gal is about 3 months old. She still needs to be carried most of the time. The pillowcase creates a “pouch” for her, where she spends most of her days.

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The males are kept in a separate enclosure. Most of the females are aunts and sisters to the males, and he wants to prevent inbreeding.

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This guy is about two. Usually there is one alpha male who has multiple female kangaroos who he mates with. The alpha male stays with the females for about a year, constantly having to defend his “claim” to the females. After a year, he’s usually pretty beaten up, and another alpha takes over. The males (usually the young), eventually get chased off by the alpha, and they band together for protection. Dingoes are their primary adversary.

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This is Roger. He was alpha for about 10 years. His son, Monte, recently battled with Roger, and won.

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This is Monte.

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Brolga has been “mom” to these kangaroos, and when they are still young, he’s able to pick them up and carry them around.

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Outside of the male enclosure, the females can wander around. There will usually be a male who is allowed outside to mate.  In this case, she seems uninterested.

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The females don’t fight and live peacefully together.

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These two are apparently best buds. The one who is lying down is apparently slightly disabled (has trouble hopping), so the other kangaroo is often with her, just hanging out. Right now she’s up, alert and on duty b/c of all of the people (potential threats).

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John Hayes Rockhole

Last November 2016, we decided to visit a new place – John Hayes Rockhole. We hadn’t been before because it requires a 4×4, and we didn’t have one.  BUT, we had friends who did – so we planned a trip out there!

It’s just a little more than an hour away from Alice Springs, so it’s a great day trip. There’s also a camp ground out there, so if you want to make a weekend of it, you can, and it’d probably be a lot of fun.

You head south out of Alice Springs, make the first left onto the Ross River Highway, and then you continue on until the turnoff for Trephina Gorge, another favorite of mine.

Then you proceed for about 4km down a bumpy road. The sign says it’s for high clearance vehicles only (although, if you go slow, most vehicles will be able to make it. It’s bumpy and a little rocky, but the rocks aren’t too high).

Once you park up, you have a couple of options. There’s a nice 90 minute walk that takes you up and over and then through the chain of ponds (the hike’s namesake). If you’re not up for the walk, you can do the short walk into the rockhole. As long as it hasn’t been too dry, there’s usually water in there. For the trekkers and campers, you can hike the Ridge Walk to Trephina Gorge, which the sign says takes 6.5 hours. Make sure you bring water – I don’t think there’s much shade!

We decided that we’d go to the rockhole first. There was indeed water in the rockhole, and after climbing around for a bit, we decided to climb the rocks up to the trail. This is not an endorsement of our climb, since there’s a marked trail that actually takes you up to the top, but it seemed like a fun option at the time.

Since we went backwards, we walked though the chain of ponds first.

And then you steadily climb to the top of the ridge. The views were great!

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The view from the top, looking down into the valley from where we started

And, at the end of the walk we almost ran into a perentie!

What a fun day!

You can find more information about the park here, on the NT gov website: https://nt.gov.au/leisure/parks-reserves/find-a-park-to-visit/trephina-gorge-nature-park.

Rainbow Valley

6 September 2017

At the beginning of November 2016, we went to Rainbow Valley. Rainbow Valley is just over 100km outside of Alice Springs. Most cars will be able to make the journey, but it’ll be a bumpy ride, taking about an hour and a half to get there. If it’s been raining, then you’ll want to check on road conditions before heading out there.

 

Rainbow Valley, which is inside the Rainbow Valley Conservation Reserve, is known for its sandstone cliffs. It’s an absolutely beautiful spot, and well worth the drive. We camped, which I highly recommend. Although the drive back isn’t that long, it’s worth it to stay and see the sun set against the cliffs, to watch the sandstone turn different shades of orange and red. If you’re really into photography, you’ll get some amazing photos of the stars (and/or the moon) against the formation as well.

The drive out there is pretty interesting, because as soon as you turn off of the Stuart Highway, the dirt is bright red. And then, when you get those first glimpses of the sandstone, you’re instantly in awe of the place.

We arrived at the site just after 4pm. After setting up the tents, we started on dinner prep. The campsite itself is pretty basic. There are pit toilets, a picnic area with gas barbecues and even fire pits. Before you get to the reserve, you’ll want to gather your firewood. There’s plenty of dead trees, so we didn’t have any problems collecting wood for the night.

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You can do a little walk around the claypan, which is the area around the sandstone. After it’s rained, the claypan fills with water, and the photos people have taken of the place are beautiful. The walk is short, about a kilometer long.

There’s also a sign posted that informs you of the fact that it is a weed free area (so check your shoes and tents for any errant seeds before you go out there). Because there are no weeds, there is different flora in the area than anywhere else in the Northern Territory.

For dinner, we brought vegetarian Indian food that is sealed in foil packages. You submerge them in water to heat up the food, and in a couple of minutes, you have a piping hot Indian meal. It’s pretty awesome.

I played with my camera settings that night, and tried to get some night sky shots. A friend who really knows his stuff was there, and he was helping me a bit.

The next morning we did the walk out to Mushroom Rock. It’s hot in November, but the walk is about a kilometer, so it won’t take you that long. And, the other rock formations are stunning. 

The wind carved out these rocks, giving them these unique shapes.

It was a fun weekend camping in a new spots with good friends!

If you want to know more about the reserve, this is a pretty good, informative website: Travel Outback Australia.