Last Big Red to Darwin and beyond



Sleeping in the red car

Breakfast in Emerald with Cassie


Journey through outback QLD and into the Northern Territory

Historic Daly Waters

Darwin we are here!!!

I got to drive!

Heartbreak Hotel and the State of Origin

Best Drive Yet

Anthony Lagoon beyond the Black Stump

Karlu Karlu – Devil’s Marbles

Alice Springs


Kings Canyon

Uluru and Kata Tjuta

Kuniya – python woman

Kuniya – python woman

Come listen to the wind – there are three types of wind. There is one that is high in the tops of trees like a choir of voices building to a crescendo. One that softly whispers in your ears and tells you of the past and finally that drumming wind that whirls around your head assaulting your senses and body. The winds sing to you the story of Kuniya, the python woman, who avenged her nephew wounded by Liru the poisonous snake man and who, as a result of his wounds, dies when his aggressor should have stayed and treated him.  Kuniya who is a strong woman, not thwarted by male supremacy, a wise and intuitive woman who knows and understands cultural lore, a compassionate woman whose actions demonstrate her love and loyalty to those she loves.

Sitting at the end of the Mutitjulu walk in silence, in the shade of Uluru at the water’s edge we pondered the story of Kuniya and Liru – a story of vengeance and love.  It was easy to be taken away in this environ to imagine the story unfolding before our eyes – to be taken to the dreamtime.

When one thinks of Uluru you don’t picture majestic gorges and crystal clear water as part of the visage. These are some of the secrets hidden in the curves and bends as you circumnavigate the rock.

Uluru and Kata Tjuta

The most famous landmark in Australia, Uluru. We have seen Uluru all our lives in pictures and on videos but seeing it in person is just amazing. The immensity and enormity of this inselberg is amazing. Kata Tjuta (Olgas – about 60kms away) looked incredible too – brooding lumps like a group of giants squatting – actually Kata Tjuta means ‘many heads’.  The passing clouds danced shapes on the rock. It’s strange that both of these outcrops being close to each other are quite different.

Uluru is one rock but Kata Tjuta is a mass of conglomerate rock. They are quite different.

Staying at Yulara Resort is not for the faint hearted when it comes to money!!! Mike and I both had things that we wanted to do while we were there – cycle around the rock, see the Field of Light display and take a helicopter ride over Uluru – we did these!

On our fist night there we drove out to watch Uluru change colours as the sun set – we joined hundreds of other tourists to watch the marvel of an enormous rock reflect the colours of the sun as it dipped below the horizon. It is one of those bucket lists things you just have to do – but we were spoilt as on this night just after the sunset the full moon rose over Uluru giving us another vista to ooh and ahh at.

Riding around the rock is another must do if you are visiting the rock. The track around the rock is about 14 kms long so being on a bike is a lot easier and faster than walking. You can stop along the way park your bike and have a closer look at anything you wish to.

As all of the places were booked for the night viewing of  Bruce Munro’s Field of Light art installation we had to see the display in the early morning. Another day we couldn’t sleep in!!! At 6:00am we boarded a bus and travelled the 10mins to the Field of Lights.  Bruce Munro has installed similar light displays across the globe but this field of lights is his largest to date. There are 50,000 lights and 350,000 metres of fibre optic cable used in this display.

Words don’t do justice to the magic of the field – imagine a field of iridescent flowers that alter colours as she move through them and then as the sun crests over the horizon the lights take on an ethereal quality – ghost-like and frosty.  Mike had told me we would also get a coffee and a croissant as part of the tour – in reality we got instant coffee in a Styrofoam mug and an Arnott’s biscuit – not happy Jan.

Climbing into a helicopter was a little scary but also exciting.  Being our first time we were trepidatious as we didn’t know what to expect. The experience was awesome! The view was incredible and well worth the expense to see the whole area.

Kings Canyon

We drove from Papunya to Kings Canyon via Haasts Bluff. Google Maps said nearly 11 hours! But being only 267km we did the trip in just over three hours. Yes, dirt most of the way but good dirt roads. We had been warned that things were very expensive at Kings Canyon so we went prepared – good ol two-minute noodles, tuna, museli bars, yogurt and fruit – we ate like Kings. The reviews of the King Canyon Rim walk also had us spooked – difficult walk, heart-attack climb, will take you five hours, take 3 litres of water per person.  So we got ourselves ready – walking early in the day meant we would miss the heat, water – didn’t have 3 litres each but we did have a litre each (went out and bought something to carry our water in so that our hands were free to climb the rocks – beautiful Kings Canyon water carriers), had pockets filled with snacks – dried fruit and nuts. Seven O’clock in the morning sun not yet up, 7 degrees, cool breeze we were ready to climb.  As to be expected the first part of the climb was exhausting – a vertical climb up 500 stairs. But no where as bad as Mount Warning, or climbing the Dome in Koln.

Once you get to the top the walk opens up and it becomes an amble – sometimes over rocks but really a just a pleasant walk with incredible views and flora. A highlight of our walk was coming upon a flash mob of Korean Students performing a song and dance routine to Sonny!! Only in the outback!

After our walk we took off back to Alice Springs – we stopped on the way at Redbank Gorge and Ormiston Gorge. The walk into Redbank Gorge was worth it – but strenuous and hot. Ormiston Gorge was pleasant and impressive. Getting back to Alice we were booked into the Hilton – a night of comfort. I had a long luxurious bath – heaven.


In 1972 my father was posted to Papunya, an aboriginal community 240kms west of Alice Springs. This community was established by the government of the time to house the increasing number of displaced peoples who were no longer able to live their nomadic life of hunting and gathering due to the increasing push of cattlemen into their traditional lands. When our little family arrived there were over 1000 aboriginal people living in Papunya.  Dad and another police officer, Kennedy, were the only officers in an area that went as west as Kintore and East past Derwent station.

Being only 5 at the time of our arrival in Papunya my memories are little more than glimpses of events than full-blown recollections. Visiting Papunya for me was about pushing open those windows to see if I could remember things more clearly and I thought that just being there, standing on the red dirt would somehow tap into my hippocampus and let things out.

You can’t just go and visit Papunya as it is a restricted community so that was our first challenge – how could we get permission to go out and take a look? I emailed the principal of the Papunya school, Theo, and told him a little of our story and our reason for coming out to visit and if there would be a way he could assist us to achieve this goal. I still have never met Theo but within five minutes of me sending the email I received a phone call from Beth Turner who graciously invited us to stay with her family and offered to be our tour guide.

Driving out past the ever changing colours of the West Mc Donnell Ranges is something we recommend. We left Red behind as the road out is mainly dirt and hired a ubiquitous white Toyota Prada. Arriving just after lunch we realised that we didn’t know where Brian and Beth, our hosts for the week-end, lived!!! We headed to the centre of the community and the petrol station – got out of our car and asked the gentlemen serving at the bowser if he knew Brian Turner and he replied he did as that was him.

So began a blessed week-end of making connections with people from the present and past.

Coincidently, when we arrived many others were arriving from all over the area as the different aboriginal groups were coming together for a massive AFL tournament – which would last for nearly a week. The field was dirt and the markings on the field were made with lime. We took the opportunity to watch a number of games  –  the play was fast and frenetic.  We had been warned that play may turn nasty and that fights were likely to break out between teams and spectators – these concerns were backed by the number of police officers we saw in attendance. Normally in Papunya have three serving officers but today there were at least 10 on site.  But while we were there all remained calm. The game was interesting we – the off loads between players were so fast we didn’t see one player being tackled as you would normally in an AFL game.

We were given the opportunity to meet Sergeant Dan, the police officer in charge, and he gave us a tour of the police station. The house that we lived in is still there and one of the constables now calls the house home. We only got a brief glimpse of the house through a chain link fence as the police homes are now encased in 6ft fences. When we lived in Papunya we had no fences and if there were any problems in the camp people would come and knock on our front door looking for the on-duty police officer.

On Saturday night we were invited to a Christian sing-along – even though we were tired we decided to go along and listen to the singing. I am so glad we decided to go as we met Linda and Amos Anderson there who, once we got chatting, it was revealed that we would have been classmates at the school. The doors in my mind sprang open and memories came bouncing back. Together we reminisced about our school teacher Audrey Attwood and her pure white thongs that she miraculously kept clean in the red dirt, the floods and how food was dropped out of planes onto the oval, sitting on the verandah writing our letters on slate and swimming in the local dam.

The next morning I rose early to catch the sunrise and was not disappointed –

hues of purple and pink light up the West McDonnell Ranges. Later we said good-bye to our hosts and family.  It was a journey well off the beaten track but one we are glad we took.

Alice Springs

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Rolling into Alice Springs after driving the only unlimited speed road section in Australia we were desperate for a good cup of coffee. Alice Springs is a lovely bustling outback town with interesting things to see and a good launch point for many of the sights in this area of NT.

We visited the School of the Air – as Donna had gone to that school for a few years as a child when she lived in Papunya and Anthony Lagoon. We found this awesome cafe and had a very late breakfast (noon) of eggs Benedict and the coffee was great! The cafe was called Page 27 and we highly recommend it if you are in The Alice.

Eggs Benny

We stayed in the awesome Desert Palms Resort. They were so good – they allowed us to park our car there for four days as we hired a 4WD to go out to Papunya and Kings Canyon.

School of the air radios
School of the air stuff

Karlu Karlu – Devil’s Marbles

What a delight to come over the rise to see these golden globes of granite.

The stones are all circular in shape and can be large or small. Many of them sit precariously on top of each other.  The european term for these giants is Devil’s Marbles – and they are strewn across the ground as if mum has called in all the giant children for dinner and the kids have left the game as if to return once they have gobbled up their supper.

Mike and I wandered about the hectares of rocks. It was a lovely way to begin our day.

Anthony Lagoon beyond the Black Stump

I have no idea what  my mother with three little children under 8 thought when my dad was posted to Anthony Lagoon a one man police station smack bang in the middle of the Barklay Tablelands. But into the outback, unknown isolation we went in 1974 to 1975. My memories of this place are rich and vivid – through childish eyes this was a wondrous place where so many amazing things happened – dealing with snakes at midnight, defending against a plague of rats, rowing through flood waters, being rained on by fish, travelling 100km to go to the movies, doing my schooling by radio, flying the flying doctor’s plane when I was being evaced to Alice Springs (was I really unwell? the passengers were after I finished flying), walking what I thought was miles to see my friend Frank the cook at the station (1km – in reality), hanging out with Daisy and the other kids at the trackers house all of this and more. So to return 41 years later was truly a moving moment in our journey. I had been warned by my father and Alan Hogan the police officer who took over after us that the place was now a ruin as the police station was closed in 1979 38 years ago. All that is left standing are a few remnants of what was the police precint – the gaol, trackers quarters, windmill, chicken pen and goat pen. Standing there where once stood a house and police station is now only spinefex, bushes – there is very little evidence  buidlings once inhabitied this place – but for coloured concrete, broken glass and what appears to be fragmented linoleum. Even so just being there brought back recollections – of a time that will never be seen or expereinced in our now modern, technical world. A world where the little things mattered – getting a letter from your school teacher, eating hot Anzac Cookies with your brest freind Frank the cook, singing siblantly around the campfire with ringers, going on adventures with your siblings where you roamed the empty  countryside barefoot and free.
To be able to visit again was magic – so even though our pictures are of delapadated buildings and nothingness – I hope you get a little sense of what life was like.

Getting to Anthony Lagoon – was an adventure in itself – we knew the property was only able to be accessed by a dirt road and it had been raining!! So with in trepidation we took Red out onto the dirt. All went well and even though red got a little!! muddy she is okay.
We wouldn’t have been able to visit without the hospitality of Cassie and Anthony Cox, Managers of the Anthony Lagoon – thanks for letting us come out and wander about.

Best Drive Yet

So far this trip we have driven about 4000 km but todays drive of 152km from Cape Crawford and Anthony Lagoon was amazing.

In two hours we drove through vastly different geography and flora. When we left Cape Crawford we drove through hill country with red sandstone rock formations erupting out of the escarpments, to roads lined with yellow flowering trees whose trunks were blackened by what we thought was a recent fire. Within a what seemed like no time at all our yellow flowers were replaced by tall eucalyptus trees lining river beds – a lush and tropical environment.

We left this tropical environment to travel through a forest of tall straight ghost gums grounded in red earth, the contrast of the colours was beautiful and impressive. These majestic white towers made way to scrub and silver leafed trees and red anthills.

When we began our journey on this morning I was expecting a flat prairie like landscape as this was what I could remember of my time living one the tablelands. I was beginning to question my memories as we had not yet seen anything that would resemble anything like this – until we came over a rise and there it was golden flat fields a far as the eye could see. 152kms and so many different landscapes in  just over one and half hours.

Heartbreak Hotel and the State of Origin

Heartbreak Hotel, dedicated to Elvis, is located at the crossroads of the Tableland Highway and Carpentaria Highway. We stopped here for the night after leaving Darwin (867km). This was our most budget accomodation so far – we stayed in the what can best be described as a tin shed – with two beds. We shared the bathroom with the other residents who were also staying in similar accomodation to us. Of course I didn’t take the time to read the signs on the bathroom doors and walked into the men’s bathroom by mistake – thankfully the guy in the bathroom was dressed!!

Like Daly Waters Historic Pub and The Barkly Homestead, Heartbreak Hotel is a little oasis in the middle of nowhere. As usual the food was great and the serves were huge – we ordered Barra and Chips. Our plates came out with two good sized pieces of barra with salad and veggies and chips.
Once dinner was over we sat with a number of others in the dining area to cheer on our state. We sat next to a couple from NSW – who when the score was 6-4 in NSW favour left as they just knew that QLD was going to win. They were replaced by another family supporting NSW – who also left when the score was 12 – 4 in NSW favour. The only people who were left at the end of the game were QLDers!!. Yes I know we lost but what is it about the NSW supporters and not being able to stay for the whole game? I’m not going to say anything about the refs on the night, or that the penalties were 12 – 2 in NSW favour or that for some reason in this game the rule that you must be behind the kicker was relaxed but for some reason not everyone was aware that this rule was to be relaxed. But next week when the Broncos or the Cowboys play a club game …. will it still be relaxed….

Heartbreak Hotel
Our Quarters

The road out of Cape Crawford