For our recent Simpson Desert crossing we decided to invite along friends and family. We normally travel by ourselves or with one other couple so how did we go with five couples and one family?
With no false pretences we had a fantastic time. Yes, there were difficult moments but it was a wonderful experience. Would we do it again? Yes. Would we do it every trip? No. Travelling as a group should not be entered into lightly. It should be entered with flexibility and eyes wide open.
Why did it how recent group trip work?
We were selective with who we invited. It sounds harsh but you have to be realistic.
We had reliable experienced trip leaders who took control of the messy side of planning. (preparation, bookings, group discounts, logistics and timing)
We had a well-planned trip itinerary which everyone had a copy of. It was open to changed and had several options at each destination.
We were all open and flexible.
Within the first few days of travel we were aware of each others strengths and weaknesses and factored these into planning.
As we were a group of 14 we were often privy to group discounts which was a travel perk.
We had plenty of “free-time” which allowed everyone to do what they wanted at their own pace.
At the end of the day everyone was there for the right reasons. We were all happy to be travelling through these amazing parts of Australia together. The key to happy group travels is choosing the right people and that we did.
On our recent trip to the Simpson Desert we were lucky to witness the first wildflowers blooming after the rain. It was spectacular to see the sand-dunes blanketed with vegetation of all shapes and sizes.
These are 5 of our top national parks from our travels so far. There are so many beautiful places to visit in Australia and most of these can be found in our national parks. We have so many favourites however here are 5 of our top spots. We love these places so much we have visited multiple times and will return again for sure.
Flinders Ranges National Park, SA
What’s not to love? Stunning mountain ranges, rich Australian history, four-wheel driving and beautifully rewarding bushwalks with breath-taking visitas. Check out some of our posts on the Flinders HERE & HERE.
Our favs from the Flinders:
Bush camping at Rawnsley Station and dining at their Woolshed Restaurant.
Wilpena Pound; our favourite walks were Hills Homestead, Wangara Lookout and Mount Ohlssen Bagge. The Hills Homestead is quite a leisurely stroll while Wangara Lookout and Mount Ohlssen Bagge are more strenuous the views are well worth the effort.
The historical Nuccaleena Mine. The drive out is spectacular and the ruins are in fantastic condition.
2. Kakadu National Park, NT
Kakadu is amazing. It has a diverse and natural beauty which is hard to beat. The national park is situated in close proximity to Darwin making it easily accessible for every traveler. Check out our post from Kakadu HERE.
Our favs from Kakadu:
cruise Yellow Water wetlands – both at sunrise and sunset
visit Twin Falls by four-wheel drive and boat
swim in the pools on top of Maguk (Barramundi) Gorge
view the rock art at Ubirr Rock and climb to the top for spectacular views from the lookout
camping at Cooinda Lodge is excellent with wonderful facilities and central location
3. Simpson Desert National Park, SA
Oh my! The Simpson is spectacular. The parallel sand-dunes go on forever and we never got sick of the beautiful red sand. Every time the Colorado would crest a sand-dune it took our breath away. It is a natural Australian wonder. Check out our post on the Simmo HERE.
What to experience in the Simmo:
remote travel at it’s finest
wildflowers, glorious wildflowers
slimbing to the top of Big Red
the wonders of Eyre Creek
bush camping at its absolute best
star gazing – the most spectacular skies we have ever seen
take in the view from Knoll’s Lookout
cross wide, stunning claypans
stand where QLD, SA and NT meet at Poeppel Corner
while technically not the Simpson National park make sure you stop in at both Purnie Bore and Dalhousie Springs both oasis’ in the desert, brimming with birdlife.
4. Tjoritja/West MacDonnell National Park
The region surround Alice Springs in one of favourites in the country. It’s smack bang in the Red Centre and capital of the Australia Outback. The West Macs as they are affectionately known lay to the West of Alice Springs (funny that). The stunning mountain range has numerous gorges that have been carved over millions of years. The red of the rock, the blue of the sky and the green of the vegetation is nothing short of beautiful.
Our favs from the West Macs:
our favourite place to camp was at Redbank Gorge
a refreshing dip in Ellery Creek Big Hole
the stunning landscape at Ormiston Gorge
the aboriginal culture of the Orche Pits
Simpsons Gap is closest to Alice with stunning gorge walls and lots of rock wallabies.
for history buffs like us the West Macs also home to the memorial grave of Rev John Flynn of flying doctors fame
5. Uluru Kata-Tjuta National Park, NT
What says Australia better than our red heart? Uluru is iconic and recognised internationally as an Australian icon. It is truly a spiritual experience to visit and explore this region. While the town Yulara has become quite touristy due to the amount of tourists that flock to the rock each year, the National Park itself is relatively untouched. Check out our past posts HERE & HERE.
Our favs from Uluru & Kata-Tjuta:
sunrise and sunset at Uluru and the Olgas – the colours are ever changing
the Valley of the Winds walk through the Olga- OMG! One of the best walks in Australia – Amazing.
walking the base of Ulura – 13 km of ever changing beauty
the shorter guided base walk is also not to be missed. Its free and so informative. We’ve done it twice now.
the Cultural Centre is a great place to start you Uluru Adventure
Our 2015 4×4 Desert Trek is coming up quickly. In fact it is one month today until D-Day! With one month to go and 12 months of planning or more, everyone involved is itching to hit the road. Time will fly in this prep stage and it will be the 19th of June before we know it.
At the moment we are working on a few upgrades to our 4WD.
Here is what we have done so far:
We have installed a nice, new and convenient drop down fridge slide.
Shaun has created a snazzy 12-volt set up which Shaun is absolutely in love with.
We have replaced the shockies with Bilsteins.
We have installed a larger water tank and Shaun’s created a superb plumbing set up.
We still have to finish off the plumbing and electrics which shouldn’t take to long. Although we do have only four weekends until the trip sets off. Time does have a habit of getting away from us.
The camping gear has been updated, restocked and sorted. However, there is plenty of organising to do and a few bits and bobs to add here and there.
So in honour of loving count-downs we have THIRTY days to go…..21 work days…..4 weekends….. Let the pointy end of the stick begin….
The itchiness of our feet is almost unbearable. One location – 12 months. That is normally our limit but we are holding on. We are going to lightly scratch the itch in JUNE!! More details to share with you shortly. It’s in the name of a good cause.
Open roads and dirt roads are calling.
The ebb and flow of having NO FIXED ADDRESS swirls endlessly around us. To settle or not settle? To continue the travels or stop them. We will always be nomadic.
We all want somewhere to belong but what if that place is the largest and most beautiful continent on Earth. We have travelled and worked around this vast land since two thousand and eleven and have merely scratched the surface. There is still so many places left to explore and places we have been that we would love to explore deeper.
Here are the first ten places that come to mind that we want to see (or see more of)
The Simpson Desert
The Flinder’s Ranges
Gibb River Road and the Kimberlys
The Victoria High Country
Arnhem Land – East and West
Cape York and Surrounds
TASSIE – All of it
Canning Stock Route
They list took me a split second to type and ages to deliberate because I ran out places. Our bucket list between the two of us would be miles and miles and miles long.
What are your must see destinations? Locations? Tracks? Where do you want to go? Are you feet itchy? Scratch them!
Last weekend saw us adventure back into civilisation for a weekend away from cattle station life. We had a few things to restock so with a couple of days off now was a good as time as any. We decided to go the extra distance and venture to Alice Springs verse Mount Isa! We had only been at Mt Isa several weeks early and it didn’t light any fire of desire to rush back.
There is something about Alice that Shaun and I keep coming back too.I can’t put my finger on what it is exactly! I love that it is in the red centre. The capital of central Australia really. The mountain ranges that surround it create a scenic landscape and some naturally beautiful tourist stops. These reasons could be why we like it so much. More so our love for Alice probably stems from actually getting there in the first place. To come through Alice in your travels you have to come the long way. Simply because there is no short way. You either have cross the Plenty like we did this time. Or you could have crossed the Simpson Desert, been out admiring the grandeur of Uluru, wandering on the rim of Kings Canyon, digging for opals in Coober Pedy or travelling through somewhere else in remote Australia. This is why I think when we have got to Alice each time we have said: “Bugger it!” Booked a hotel to relax in luxury after days of dust, heat, corrugations and flies.
This trip to Alice was mostly to re-stock on boring necessities. We also planned on acquiring some warmer apparel as the desert we reside so close to is becoming colder by the day. Yay for me – I detest the cold. Although I also detest early mornings and so far I am coping just fine with those. So who knows I may even come to love the cold!!
While in Alice we decided to head to the Start/Finish Line of the 2012 Finke Desert Race. Wow what a rush. Would love to head to another Desert Race and camp along the track for the few days. It was a real buzz. For those who don’t know the Finke Desert Race is one of the biggest sporting events in the Territory which sees hundreds and hundreds of competitors on bikes, cars, buggies and quads complete an off-road course from Alice Springs down to the small community of Finke. The course is one of the remotest in the world and runs 230km one-way. The competitors race down one day and come back the next. That is one hell of a long ride.
I know I have written this a million times but this is the third time in 18 months we have visited Birdsville. I remember the first time it was such an accomplishment. It was wet, wet, wet and it was a record breaker! Our first visit was in 2010 at race time and for the first time in forever the races were cancelled due to the once in a lifetime amount of rain.
Our first two visits were completely tourist. The second visit we conquered some of the Simpson Desert. Our third visit, this visit was about relaxing and enjoying Birdsville for what it is and the only Big & Little Red’s we conquered were the house burgers at the Birdsville Pub. A remote country town on the verge of the tourist season but still quiet enough to not be driven insane by the hustle and bustle of a million other travellers. Don’t get me wrong I enjoy tourist season and socialising but it is so nice to just enjoy a town as it is without the masses. Our time is Birdsville was shared equally between the pub and the camp ground as I said in my previous post. However, I did bring the camera out and here is some of the images I thought I would share. To keep up to date with Birdsville happenings I strongly encourage you to check out the following three blogs.
One of my favourite things while living on the road is the fact that normal, mundane chores don’t feel like mundane chores, in fact most of the time it’s a novelty or even a tonne of fun. For example, hanging out clothes in the middle of the Simpson Desert on a rope strung between two trees or in a caravan park with a back drop of King’s Canyon.
Hanging out with a view is so not a chore.
Cooking dinner under 5 million stars is so much better than cooking dinner a kitchen. We find we eat so much heartier and healthier while on the road. I think it is because you have to plan meals and groceries in advance. When you are in the middle of nowhere you can’t just pop out and get an ingredient you have forgotten.
We have to eat more filling meals while on the road as our days are full of hiking and exploring. We need the stamina to make it through each exciting, new day.
My secret weapon for cooking while travelling is our traditional camp oven. Whenever we can have a camp fire we use the camp oven for tea. Everything tastes so much better in the camp oven. There is something about cooking on hot coals. Yum
Our favourite camp dinners include:
Beef & Vege Stew
Chilli Con Carne
Camp Oven Pizza
The other important piece of cooking equipment we have is the griddle that sits over the burners of our gas stove. We use this as a BBQ which makes for simple dinners after long days on the road. We normally have steak with salad or vegetables. We will be including photographs of our meals and recipes to share on the blog going forward.
So yes we have been a bit slack with the blog. First excuse, no service and second excuse too busy having way too much fun.
After our nice relaxing time in the Channel Country including Windorah, Quilpie and Welford National Park. We headed out west into the desert. We took the Birdsville Developmental Road after stopping at J.C Ruins.
We reached Haddon’s Corner, where South Australia and Queensland meet. Mum and Dad had to unhitch the caravan at the turn off as there were a few sand dune crossings.
From Haddon’s Corner we free camped on the outskirts of Cordillo Downs, home of the largest stone shearing shed in the Southern Hemisphere. Shaun crossed into South Australia for the very first time.
After camping in the middle of nowhere we woke up refreshed and headed to Cordillo Downs, the sheep shearing shed.
From Cordillo Downs we continued crossing the Sturt Stoney Desert and headed into Birsdville.
We spent 2 nights in Birdsville did all the touristy things – had a beer at the Birdsville Hotel and Shaun even ate a camel pie at the Famous Birdsville Bakery.
After all the fun at Birdsville it was finally time to hit the Simpson Desert or “The Simmo” as it is affectionately known by 4WD enthusiasts. We were up at the crack of dawn and watched the sun rise over the Diamantina River . Beautiful. We headed out on the highway towards the Desert. Our first stop was at the infamous Big Red due to a major detour from all the flooding we missed Little Red completely. Shaun attempted the dune 3 times to no success but his 4th try he was up and over. Good on him. It was an AMAZING feeling to reach the top – so proud of him.
From Big Red we headed out into the middle of the Simpson. Dune after dune we crossed, corrugations, soft sand, hard sand, water crossings all the things the Simpson has to offer in one crossing. It truly was one of the most amazing experiences I have ever had. The desert is alive at the moment with so much greenery and wildflowers. You have to see it to believe it.
The next day we did it all again and headed back into Birdsville. On arrival at the Caravan Park there was a notice to call Shaun’s mum. She had some bad news to report, our poor kitty, Muffin had passed away. It was devastating. Shaun and I were extremely upset. Muffin will always be remembered for her strong personality and adventurous character just like her owners. We had dinner and drinks at the Birdsville Pub to celebrate Muffin’s life. She will be missed by all.
Well at the moment I am sitting in Alice Springs and there are things to do and people to see. So I will leave it here for tonight and hopefully get this blog up to date in the coming days.
Bye for now.
PS. On the way back into Birdsville I had a go getting up Big Red – and I succeeded. TWO OUT OF TWO Wooohoooo!