Sunday, September 18, 2011

From Pebbles to Marbles and Beyond

 Stuart Highway historic marker stone
On Tuesday morning we packed up again – we have our routine down pat now and can be up, packed and on our way quite quickly if that suits us.  Other times, we just take our time and leisurely move on.   There had only been four groups of campers overnight and as there are three areas we continues to have an area to ourselves.  We had six kms of dirt road (red dust with surprisingly a lot of corrugations) to take us back to Stuart Highway from The Pebbles (an Aboriginal women’s dreaming site).  Soon after turning on to the Stuart Highway we made our first detour for the day to see the Tennant Creek Old Telegraph Station.  This station is one of only four still standing of the original thirteen from Adelaide to Darwin.  The original station, wagon station, butchery and blacksmiths area are still in very good repair.  There is also a small cemetery with the graves of two of the original pioneers.  Besides looking at the Telegraph Station we spent a good amount of time searching the car – Peter could not find his wallet and he was most concerned and was already planning on cancelling cards, deciding what was actually in it and when he last remembered having it.  Fortunately after worrying for about half an hour, and turning both the caravan and car upside down we found it in the pocket of his seat! 
Just a further twenty kms down the road we arrived at Tennant Creek – this is a small, mainly aboriginal town.  We needed fuel and to refill the gas bottles.   As we wandered down through the shopping centre we were shocked to see that the shops and offices all had grills over the windows and doors even though the shops were open.  The town was not busy but there were numbers of locals sitting on the pavement or leaning on doorways chatting.  The pubs in the area do not open until 2 pm so these were still closed.

We visited the information centre – there was the opportunity to go on a mine tour but this was not until 3 pm so we looked at the exhibitions and continued on our way south heading to The Devils Marbles – a further 100 kms – just a short travelling day for us today.  The turnoff to The Devils Marbles is well sign posted and takes a 2.5 km detour off the main road and as soon as you take the detour the granite rocks can be seen.  They cover an area of about two kms and the boulders vary in size from about 2m to 7m square.   Some appear to have been stacked in precarious piles and others stand alone balancing at unlikely angles – even though we tried to shove them they didn’t tumble!  This is another Aboriginal Conservation and like The Pebbles is a Women’s Dreaming area.  There is a camping area positioned with great views of the boulders and we soon set up camp, along with many other travellers.  Like The Pebbles, the Devils Marbles are best seen at sunset and sunrise.  We followed the tracks throughout the boulders and climbed nearly to the top of the highest group overlooking the camping ground.  By evening there were at least fifty groups of campers varying from a very large fifth wheeler, to caravans, camper trailers, campervans, tents and sleeping in cars and vans but there was no noise overnight.
There was a dingo wandering around the camp area – he was harmless but during the ranger’s visit he was quick to remove any water or food left out for the dingo as they do not want to encourage them.  It was the most close up that we have seen a dingo.

We moved on Friday morning continuing with towards Alice Springs – a further 400 kms.  We like to stop at any points of interest on our travels – today it was alien time!  Wycliffe Well is a wayside inn renowned for its UFO sightings.  We have to admit that we didn’t see any aliens, but we looked hard!  During the war years this area became a large vegetable garden growing vegetables for the military.  The goods were carted north to Darwin forty kms a day and as it is nearly 1000 kms to Darwin it would have been a long trip.

Next stop was the Barrow Creek Telegraph Station – one of the four still open to the public.  This station was actually lived in until the mid 1980’s and is still in very good condition.  There was also a roadhouse here and a camping ground – it looked very run down and not where we would have wanted to stay.
Another 100 kms down the highway we reached the memorial to Mount Stuart who the highway is named after.  This is considered the centre of Australia – the most central point from north, south, east and west.  The landscape we passed through varied from Spinifex grasses to rocky outcrops and Peter found the roads really boring to drive.  At Ti Tree we topped up with fuel and as it is an Aboriginal settlement we had access to mobile coverage and the internet.  We sat beside the roadhouse clearing email etc.  The roadhouse at Ti Tree has a sign saying that they are the central hotel in Australia – many of their clientele were hanging around with what appeared little to do.  There was also a pack of stray dogs, about eight of them, so I stayed comfortably in the car!  The dogs were wandering around and crossing backwards and forwards over the road – we were fortunate not to see a nasty accident as they went in front of cars on the highway.

Soon after we saw a sign post advertising mango ice cream.  This caught our attention as nowhere else on the highway was there any sign of cultivation.  We pulled off the highway and up the drive lined with grape vines and mango trees.  The shop was really a general store servicing the local Aboriginal people but did sell their own mango ice cream and mango wine.  We gave the wine a miss but enjoyed the ice cream.
Soon on the horizon we could see two large statues.  The first is a 13m statue of an Aboriginal warrior and the second is an Aboriginal woman and child.  These quirky statues have been built by the owner of the roadhouse.

Our stop for the night was at the Tropic of Capricorn marker just 30 kms north of Alice Springs.
Tennant Creek Telegraph Station sign
Detail of the Telegraph Station
 Telegraph Station place of refuge
Storage of food houses

 Telegraph homestead detail
 Food storage house
 Second food storage area
Historial information Tennants Creek Telegraph Station
Morse code from Telegraph Office

Tennants Creek Telegraph Station well kept
 Main building at Tennants Creek Telegraph Station
Detail of maintaining the telegraph line

 Butchers shop detail
 Inside the butchers shop Tennants Creek Telegraph Station
Blacksmith shop detail
 Inside blacksmiths shop Tennants Creek Telegraph Station
 Details of those buried in cemetery
Grave of Archibald Cameron at Tennants Creek
Grave of Tom Nugent at Tennants Creek
 Telegraph Station Grounds
Shopping in Tennants Creek - notice bars on windows yet shop open
 Bars on all shop fronts

 Street view of Tennants Creek
 Welcome to Devils Marbles
How the marbles were formed
 Aboriginal significance of the Devils Marbles
 Just a bit bigger than Peter
 Tour group at the top

Peter at the Marbles

Walking up the Marbles
 National Park Camping area at 3 pm Devils Marbles
  View from top of the Marbles
A house on wheels
Dingo at Devils Marbles outside caravan door
 How do the marbles break in two
One of the marbles broken in two

 Holding them apart - yeah sure!!
 Push it over - again yeah sure!!!
Wycliffe Wells where aliens visit
 Earthlings are welcome at Wycliffe Wells
 The servo at Wycliffe Wells

The area was used for vegetable growing in WW II
 Alien family

 UFO landing pod
 Aliens welcome
  Landscape north of Alice Springs
 Long boring roads north of Alice Springs
 Rock formations on hill tops north of Alice Springs

 In Europe there would be a castle built on this hill top
Barrow Creek Telegraph Station

Info Barrow Creek Telegraph Station
 Map of Telegraph Line
Well at Barrow Creek Telegraph Station
 Rear view of Barrow Creek Telegraph Station
 Wagon Station at Barrow Creek
Blacksmiths area
 Living quarters in wagon station
 Info Centre of Australia
Monument to John McDouall Stuart who the
Stuart Highway is named after

Apparently the most central roadhouse and hotel in Australia
  Mango wine sales
Red Centre farm store
 Big Man Walk
Statue of Aboriginal Man
Aboriginal woman and child statue
Free camping site at Tropic of Capricorn
 Tropic of Capricorn
New facilities at Tropic of Capricorn
 Sunset  in the outback Tropic of Capricorn

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