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09/08/15 - The Grampians - Tales of the North

Our first trail in the Northern Grampians started right in town. We walked from our cottage into the hills, and were soon walking through Australian forest - gum trees and wattles - with wonderful outcrops of old gray sedimentary rock. We followed Stony Creek and were soon at the Venus Baths, one of the most popular sights in the area, but we were stymied trying to climb over a bare rock face a ways on.

We turned around and attacked Mount Cherub, taking a trail we had seen as a turnoff on our way to the pools. We were soon climbing and had wonderful views of the area. Later, we drove a short way into the park and took another trail along Stony Creek to a small waterfall known as Turret Falls.

Old gray stones

Venus Baths

Wet rock above the baths

The wonders of erosion

More erosion and a vista

All sedimentary rock here

Wattles in bloom - It's spring!

Wattles and eroded rock

Turret Falls

Another vista

Almost an ancient temple

Keywords: australia

09/08/15 - A Domestic Note from the Grampians

We rented a lovely modern cottage with housekeeping facilities in Halls Gap, which is sort of the Port Angeles of the Northern Grampians, but much smaller. Here, surrounded by kangaroos, we settled in, weathered the storm, and made the most of the our limited kitchen facilities and the limited gourmet shopping in town.

The view from our window

The view from outside

During the storm

Our kitchen

Our smoked salmon scramble with peppers (capsicums) and onions

Kangaroos ...

… and more kangaroos

Keywords: australia

09/07/15 - Our Melbourne Mission

We Kalebergs travel on our stomachs, so when we realized that Kookabura Restaurant would be closed on both of our evenings in Halls Gap, we panicked. As best we could tell, we would be leaving the food mecca of Melbourne for a food desert hard by the mist shrouded Grampians. We needed provisions, and Melbourne was just the place to forage for them.

The first thing we did was round up an esky. That's what Australians call their cool packs for storing food. We found a Woolworth's in the heart of town and purchased a collapsable 20 liter unit, complete with its own cooling pack. Now we had to fill it.

Our first stop was the Spring Street Grocery on, of all streets, Spring Street, not far from our hotel. We loaded up on cheeses, some triple cremes, some hard cheeses and so on. We needed to be prepared. Our fromagier sent us off to Phillipa's bakery to buy several loaves of bread: sourdough, rye, a baguette and the like. Those were our iron rations, but Kalebergs can't live on bread and cheese, we needed more.

This meant exploring Smith Street, a colorful street full of little shops, mostly selling food and drink, but also offering vinyl records, computer repair, paint supplies and the other necessities of life. It was a lot like Clement Street in San Francisco before the most recent real estate boom. We quickly homed in on Alimentari where we picked up a supply of salamis and several prepared salads.

All we needed now was coffee. We had some we had brought with us, but we still needed filters and a funnel. The barista at Alimentari understood what we needed and sent us off the main street to Proud Mary's coffee shop. Proud Mary sold coffee, but not coffee making gear. She sent us on to Aunty Peg's. Here they sold coffee making gear. They even had a lab bench with filters, presses, steamers and large coffee bean colliders for experimental purposes.

We bought a Japanese coffee funnel and a pack of filters. We were all set for Halls Gap.

The cheeses of Spring Street

Smith Street, a colorful neighborhood

We bought some wine at Blackhearts and Sparrows

An interesting building


Aunty Peg's Laboratory

Woolworth's hollow above, but active down under

A bit of cheesecake and some anti-lawyer sentiment

Another hollow building

More colors at an artists' paint shop

Street scene

Keywords: australia, food

09/06/15 - Kata Tjuta - Part 3

On our way back to our hotel, we stopped at a viewing area for a last look at Kata Tjuta. We could see Uluru in the distance. Each formation has its attractions, but, for us, The Valley of the Winds was the high point of our visit.

A hollow tree

A butterfly

More domes in the distance

From even farther

A far shot of Uluru

Keywords: australia

09/05/15 - Kata Tjuta - Part 2

We passed through a high canyon, up and down and through a hidden bowl. We descended beyond to the desert floor, surrounded by mysterious rock formations. They were haunted by shadows as the sun moved through the sky.

Another rock formation

Tufted desert

Mysterious caves

Through a high passage

From the desert floor

A dome in shadow

More domes in the distance

The same domes, different light

A strange dry forest

Lichens and signs of water

In bloom

Keywords: australia

09/04/15 - Kata Tjuta - The Unsung Hero - Part 1

Everyone knows about Uluru. It's an Australian icon, a huge rock formation in the middle of the central desert, but in many ways it is boring. There, we've said it. It's a big round rock. Granted, it has a lot of history, cultural significance, and some interesting nooks and crannies to explore, but the real hero of the central desert is another rock formation, a more complex and interesting one, Kata Tjuta.

They're both made of the same stone, but Kata Tjuta has eroded into not one dome, but into thirty six domes, separated by canyons and flat lands. Uluru fascinates at a distance, but Kata Tjuta draws one close and inside. It invites one to explore.

We did a circuit of The Valley of the Winds, a passage between the rock formations and across the flat lands. It is higher than Uluru and has a bit more moisture, but it still presents the true desert experience. Kata Tjuta is truly the unsung hero of the region.

A dashboard shot of the Kata Tjuta

Rock formations

The forested floor, drier than it looks

A passage

Aggregate rock

Another passage

Twisted trees

Rock walls

An invitation to explore

More domes ...

… and more domes

Keywords: australia

09/03/15 - Uluru - Place of Water

Like many mountain Uluru makes its own weather. Around its base is a place of water. Water collects when it rains, and it stays as open water or in the soil, even during severe droughts. If you know where to look, one can always find water around Uluru.

We, of course, had signs and trails to follow, so we had no trouble finding water. We wandered around the rock, then into a canyon between two folds in the rock. Here we found water, fresh water from the recent rain, but the vegetation was green. This was a place of water.

Walking around Uluru

More of our walk

More amazing rock forms

A place of green?


A place of water

More water

The rock walls

Even more water

Blue sky and red rock

Lichens on the rock as a sign of water

Keywords: australia

09/02/15 - Uluru - Up Close

From the distance Uluru is monolithic, but up close it presents many facets. There are caves and canyons and folds. There are even petrogylphs carved in the stone. The area around Uluru itself is surprisingly moist, a perpetual source of water and a place to gather.

Up close

Fresh water

Mountain forms

From up close

Shapes and forms

Vegetation and collapse

Caves and crevasses


More writing in stone

Green approaches the rock

Water tracks

Keywords: australia

09/01/15 - Welcome to Uluru

Uluru, once known as Ayer's Rock, is a magnificent red stone formation in the heart of Australia's outback desert. We arrived during a light rain, so we saw the iconic rock covered with waterfalls and were welcomed with a bit of a rainbow.

Uluru itself is red sandstone, ancient and folded, shaped and smoothed by time. The land it around is flat and dry and made of the same sandstone, reduced to soil, as the rock. The plants are scrub and hearty and need little water. In many ways, the land appears much as we once imagined Mars, before the landers and explorers, and it is still a land of our imagination.

A view from the distance with the rain clouds passing to the left

A bit of a rainbow

The sunset

Another view in changing light

A flower growing in the Martian regolith

Another view, another sky

Uluru waterfalls

The dark areas are flowing water

Another view with flowing water

More flowing water

Vanishing rain sky

Keywords: australia

08/31/15 - Arkaba Walk - Day Three

We woke up bright and early on the final day of our hike. After breakfast we continued along the Heysen trail, then turned onto one of the creek beds. It was broad and flat, almost like a road. At first, the creek bed passed through meadows, just a low area among the trees, but after a while the passage narrowed, and the canyon walls were of slate and shale.

Again, we stopped for lunch, a dramatic pause. After our meal, we continued a short ways up the creek, then took a sharp turn into a side canyon. We clambered over rocks and stones and climbed. As we climbed, the canyon widened and soon we emerged on the hillside. We continued to climb. Soon we were following a ridge line with views on either side.

We followed this track for some ways, up and down, but mostly following the ridge. We saw kangaroos bounding, distant mountain ranges and wide open spaces. Then our guide paused. Down before us was Arkaba Station, our goal. We still had a kilometer or two to go, but from here on it was anticlimactic. We descended and lost sight of the station. Then we saw the station ahead, just above us. A brief climb and we were home.

The view from camp

Along the way

Through the woods

Along the creek

Through a fantastic forest

The first canyon walls

Continuing along the creek

As we climbed out

Following the ridge

More views

Arkaba Station now in reach

Keywords: australia

08/30/15 - Arkaba Walk - Day Two - Part 3

Our guide has a sense of the dramatic. We stopped for lunch in a stream bed canyon. Ahead the canyon narrowed. There was no apparent trail, just flat rocks and water. We ate our lunch, wondering where we would head next, up the sides or back out of the cul de sac.

It turned out neither. We headed through the narrows, following a track from rock to rock, avoiding the water. The canyon turned.

The canyon just past our lunch spot

Canyon walls

The canyon widens.

More of our wandering

More fantastic old trees

Water! Something not easy to find in these parts

Do you remember those mountain ranges we mentioned?

An old Ford truck

The view from the high point near our campground

More of that view

A wonderful trip, and soon, a deep night's sleep

Keywords: australia

08/28/15 - Arkaba Walk - Day Two - Part 2

Our guide knew the route, so we would often take shortcuts and leave the creek trail only to return some ways downriver. We were between two mountain ranges and had wonderful views of the folded rock outcrops and the green meadows that tantalized the early settlers. The country looks so lush, but the soil is thin and moisture scarse.

The outcrops of the Elder Range

It looks like perfect grazing country.

More outcrops

Dock, a nasty, evil invasive species

The Red Range

Yet another old gum tree

The Red Range again

More scenery - We walked 14-16 kilometers, so there was a lot of scenery.

A river bed and eroded rock

More of the creek

More pretty

Keywords: australia

08/27/15 - Arkaba Walk - Day Two - Part 1

Our first morning on the trail we were awake before dawn. The mountains were silhouettes, and as we watched the sun rose and turned them into mountains. We had our breakfast, toast and scrambled eggs served on fine china, then we set off on the Heysen trail south between the Red and Elder ranges.

There was a lot of creek bed walking, and there was actually water in the creeks here and there. At points the footing was a bit rough, but overall the track was easy to follow, at least with Paul, our trusty guide, in the lead.

Early morning - the Elder Range

A bit later

Well after sunrise

The view from the breakfast table

Along the trail

A bit of water

From along a creek bed

The rocks are old and in layers with a lot of shale and slate.

Another gum trees

One of the natives

More scenery

Keywords: australia

08/26/15 - Arkaba - The First Day

If you know us, you know that we are fond of such luxuries as well padded beds, air conditioning and gourmet room service, so it probably seems a bit of a stretch to imagine us camping, but a-camping we did go. We started at the luxurious Arkaba Homestead not far from WIlpena Pound which is a geological formation in the Flinders Range north of Adelaide.

We started in the national park and headed west, crossing from one set of mountains to another. The "pound" itself, short for compound, is flat, but surrounded by mountains. The vegetation, wattles, gum trees and sycamores, was exotic, and the wildlife exotic. We followed the well blazed trails and soon ran into a flock of yearling emus who eyed us curiously, but warily.

Then we climbed the west wall of the pound, old mountains in layers of red, gray and brown rock. We passed through the gap and left the national park heading down to the Hysen Trail, named for a painter who painted the area much as Georgia O'Keefe painted around Santa Fe. It was a steep descent and not all of it followed a well blazed trail, but we soon reached the main track in the valley, but we didn't stay on it long. We took an unmarked side track, not blazed at all, to our campground.

One of the walls of Wilpena Pound

Flat country

Our trail

Some emus

Another wall of the pound

A view from the gap

The Red Range before us as we began our descent

Another view of the Red Range

Red rocks

The spectacular layered mountains


Keywords: australia, georgia

08/26/15 - Arkaba - Campsite

Here are a few photos of our campsite, just to show you how we were roughing it. You kids nowadays have it soft. We had to hike fourteen kilometers and sleep in a rude shelter, drink fine Australian wines out of crystal wine glasses and make do with delicious steaks with polenta cooked on a wood stove. It was amazingly well organized with hot water heated by the wood stove for our four minute showers, a gourmet meal, an outdoor fire and a comfortable bed. Mind you, after a fourteen kilometer hike, just about any bed is comfortable.



Our first glimpse of our campsite

Our rude accomodations

The shower with a view

Some of the view

The view at sunset

More views

There is nothing like camping out.

Keywords: australia

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