66 shades of grey

66 shades of grey
66 shades of grey ... this pic of me was shot by Kim, of Kim Thomsen's Photography at Daly Waters in the Northern Territory. Kim just wandered over and asked whether it was OK to get some character shots.


The cross is in front of the church in Karumba and it seems TV antennas have a greater reach for the sky.


I went fishing out of Nhulunbuy on the Gulf of Carpentaria. We anchored in a bay about 10 hours from Nhulunbuy and went ashore. This poor fella had been snared in the locals' overnight net and then had a run-in with the resident 14-foot saltwater croc - named Nike by the local indigenous fellas - and came off second best.

the rock

the rock

oodnadatta track

oodnadatta track
What a tough place to live ... this is out on the Oodnadatta Track


My photo
G’day, I’m Michael and I have two fantastic grown-up kids. I’m a jeans and singlet/T-shirt, cowboy boot, tattoos sort of fella, who knows a bit about this and sometimes a lot about that. I'll have a crack at most things, although having a relationship? ... well that ship has sailed. I'm past my use-by date anyway, so I'm gonna make it all about me and surviving life as I know it ... or make it.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Trailer trashed ... and then there was Alice

Liam, just to let his mum know where we were.
I just like the picture
The drive from Kulgera to Alice Springs (it's just 20-odd kilometres from the SA/NT border) is normally something to be enjoyed, just like driving almost anywhere in this country, but this time there was a sense of urgency. The excesses of the previous Jack Daniel's-fuelled night notwithstanding.
I had to find, test and buy another camper trailer sooner rather than later because the idea of sleeping in a swag for any great length of time held less than the usual appeal (really, I love the swag) ... the fact that temperatures in and around Alice Springs were known to venture into negative figures at this time of the year had most to do with that, a very good doona notwithstanding. Negative figures indeed.
Not that figures are the be all and end all or, for that matter, negative ... I mean, I have 550-odd followers on Twitter while apparently Jesus had just 12 followers and he's better known than I'll ever be, but I digress.
As I'm typing this, a bird just took a shit on my keyboard. I'm wondering whether this is meant to be good luck. Beats me. And while on the subject of keyboards, recently someone told me about a friend who, after using her laptop, put it on the floor to go to the kitchen to make a cuppa. Her grandmother walked by, saw the laptop on the floor and thought it was a set of scales: the result is that grandma weighed in at $950. Again I digress.
During the drive, popping in and out of phone service range wasn't helping my demeanour. I was rather hoping to get a call from the assessor regarding my claim on the missing-in-action (read written-off)camper trailer, which would help ease the burden of spending money that I hadn't planned to spend ... well not on another trailer anyway. And a less-than-pleasant bout of gastric (is there any other kind?) wasn't helping the cause either.
Soon, Alice became a reality. It's not one of my favourite towns in Australia. Each time I've been there I find a sense of aggro prevalent almost every where you go. Finding a public toilet though was the highest priority. Liam was leading our two-car convoy and he was busily scouting for a servo or such to ease my discomfort, which was becoming so severe it wasn't funny. I said to him on radio: "Mate, if you don't find something soon, I'm gonna have to shit in the street." Before Liam could respond, a truckie came on air and said: "Christ, that wouldn't be a first for Alice Springs." OK, that made me laugh.
Finally, a service station. I parked and bolted in. I asked the attendant to direct me to the toilet. Made it. Just. As I was doing up my jeans to return to the world outside I realised that I still had my hunting knife on my belt, perhaps an unwise thing to be wearing when you rush into a service station. Or perhaps it was an indication of just how fine I'd cut it.
Anyway, I removed the knife to the safety of a pocket (and under my shirt), bought some tobacco and papers and rejoined the world as I knew it.
The next thing on the agenda was to find a base; a place to call home while I tried to find a new home. We checked various places and opted for a campground just near the cutting that is effectively the door to Alice. There are several campgrounds in the immediate vicinity but this one had a bonus or two: it was cheap for an unpowered site for Liam (and it had apartments on which I could splurge my hundred bucks a night from my insurance coverage) and it had a pub and supermarket attached. It was a no-brainer really.
It was nice for the first time in quite a while to have a bathroom that was less than a 40-metre walk away or that didn't involve a shovel and fresh air. Yeah, my digs (that's not a shovel joke) were palatial in a down-home sort of way ... it was kind of a trip down memory lane. Liam's site was a short walk away. About the only difficulty he had to contend with was the grounds manager (a polite description for someone whose demeanour was more akin to someone running a borstal or prison camp). This bloke lived in a tent nearby and by and large was the anti-Aretha Franklin ... respect just wasn't in his repertoire. He treated people with disdain until he saw the windscreen sticker permit to camp there ... and then he offered a force-fed collection of various stories about his exploits etc. We decided to be really nice to him, seek his counsel whether we needed it or not, encourage his stories and even offered him a beer (he had been known to stop a drop going stale) and it worked over time. Captain Grumpy became a pretty decent bloke, with whom we even had a beer at the pub. Yeah, we did give the pub a workout while we were at the campground.
We also gave the internet a workout in the hope of buying a camper trailer. There were not too many options in or around town. I needed something that would be right at home off-road i.e. something that COULD ride roughshod over washouts etc and come out laughing on the other side.
As it turned out, there were just two candidates that may fit the bill. One at Centre Trailer Sales and the other at Johnno's. We talked to Craig at CTS and organised a time to go and see it. We left a message on Johnno's answering machine and then got a call to say that the bloke we needed to talked to was out of town but that he would ring that night. He didn't.
Ya gotta love the ashtrays in Alice.

We decided not to rush things so we spent a few days checking out this and that around town (ya know, the touristy things) and we saw some cracker-jack things, the best being the old telegraph station (beautifully restored) just near the original site of the Alice spring ... i.e. the spring that gave the town its name. There was also a day at a well-known bush park (no names here ... I didn't like the fact that the animals, like this poor dingo, were in pens or that in the area called the drought/dry area, there were sprinklers to keep the flora going). We left there at about the time the office and other buildings were evacuated because of a fire scare.
The urge to get out of town though became too much to ignore, so we headed downtown, did a big shop (although we'd forgotten about liquor outlets not opening until two in the afternoon, hence we went camping without beer) and pointed the trucks at the East MacDonnell Ranges.
We decided not to drive too far and anyway there were some great camp sites out at Trephina Gorge, which was just eighty or so clicks from the big smoke.
And what a beautiful drive it is. The only stop along the way was to cut and pick up some fallen timber for the fire given that we couldn't (and wouldn't) collect any in the national park. The scenery on the way is magnificent and once you get off the main road and into the gorge, resplendent with its amazingly coloured quartzite cliffs, magnificent becomes an understatement. The place is magical.
Yeah, Liam loves to do the "monkey" thing. When he was a little tacker, we used to call him Monkey.
We found a great site, not too long a walk from the gorge proper, and set about creating home for the next week or so i.e. Liam's rooftop tent and me  with my swag. Just as we finished, a ranger happened by. I knew it was a long shot (but it was hot and I wanted a beer), but I asked him whether there was anywhere within a decent drive that I may be able to but some beers. The ranger said: "You could try the Ross River Resort. I'm not sure that they do takeaways, but I reckon they would probably be happy with a sale. And anyway, it's just 20 or so kilometres once you hit the main road again."
I thanked the ranger and gunned the truck back onto the main road and pointed it at the resort. Again the drive was truly beautiful. I next to no time I was parked at the resort and made a beeline to see the woman inside.
"I know you don't usually do takeaway beers, but if you could see your way clear," I said, to which the woman responded: "I'll just check to see if its OK." Pretty soon she came back with the affirmative. "What type of beer do you have?" I asked. I was disappointed that the best of a bad lot would be VB, something I wouldn't normally buy (let alone drink) even with someone else's money. "How much is a case?" I asked and it worried me that she reached for a calculator. "$192," she said with a straight face. Shit, I thought, she's not joking. I resisted making a smart-arse comment like "no, just one, not four cases" and said, after some quick maths: "I'll take two six packs thanks." It would have been cheaper (as in fuel and beer costs) to drive into Alice and buy two cases of beer.
By the time I hit camp again, Liam had a great fire going. After making him laugh about just how much they wanted for beers, I took his laughter to a new level. Yeah, I knocked over the first stubby and lost about a third of it. "That's a few bucks' worth," he said between laughing like a madman.
Exploring the gorge for the next few days was amazing, yeah, even climbing to the top and walking the perimeter.

Yeah, a bloke has to do the washing sometimes.

We were up there.

We actually climbed down this wall ... well, after Liam did, I was left with no choice.

When walking became an item from the backburner ... that's down to me because I really don't like too many activity-based activities ... Liam decided that he was bored. "I'm a carpenter ... I gonna make a pipe," he said. And he did. Smoked it, too.

Other than our surroundings, the best thing about the camp was a leg of lamb, roasted in the camp oven with all the trimmings; potatoes, onions, pumpkin, parsnip, carrots ... some broccoli rounded it out. Food doesn't get a lot better and there was still even a beer or two left to complement things.
We decided to explore the John Hayes waterhole on the way back to Alice after we had packed.
Again, it was amazing and, of course, Liam did his usual climb well beyond anything I'd contemplate, although it was the only climb he made where he didn't do his monkey impersonation.
The trip back to Alice included stops at Emily's Gap to see the Three Caterpillars rock painting and a stop at Jesse's Gap. All too soon we were back to tow, firmly ensconced in the same campground and starting the chase in earnest to find me a new trailer.
A change in the weather was perhaps trying to tell us that the search would be successful.

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