Saturday, June 5, 2010

Port Augusta to Alice Springs

Port Augusta to Alice Springs

It was Tuesday Morning 1/6/2010 and we packed ready to leave Port Augusta for the run north. The rain had stopped and the sun was out although there were still clouds that looked threatening. I talked Coba into allowing me to go into the Arid Lands Botanical Gardens again for one last attempt to get a close up shot of the White Winged Fairy Wren but sadly they were all too shy and I was not able to improve on what I had taken. My only trophy for that morning was a couple of more shots of Redthroats. (Small bird that lives in the grass and small bushes.)

Our first stop was a six kilometre detour off the highway into Woomera, The home of the Australian and UK rocket testing as well as nuclear bomb testing. This town is owned and operated by the Australian Government. Tourists are welcome and there are displays of rockets, military aircraft and artillery displays.

One of the display parks in the town - Woomera
Misile in Woomera

Down the road the threatening clouds soon turned into rain and the day was spent driving through continual showers. At Glendambo there was water everywhere from the heavy rain that had hit the settlement before we arrived. We continued on up the road and spent that night camped at Bon Bon rest area along with a dozen other vans. This rest area had a toilet, which made it a suitable stop for the night. That evening the weather cleared and we were to learn that we had seen the last of the rain for a while.

At lunch time the next day we drove into Coober Pedy and booked into one of the caravan Parks. It had 160 sites and that night the park was full. There were three other caravan parks in Coober Pedy so this tells how many vans were on the road. After lunch we did our own town tour. Coober Pedy is a typical small operators mining town. The Opal mines start 45 kilometres south of the town and extend to 30 kilometres north of the town. The town is one large junk pile. The view from the lookout tells it all. Typical of the junk in the yards at Coober Pedy

From town we went out to the Breakaway Range which is a spectacular line of eroded hills with many colours making the landscape unbelievable when it comes to the colour of the area. This area is also part of the local Aboriginal heritage and there is a permit fee required to enter the area.

The Castle in the Breakaways
The Breakaway Range
From the Lookout - Section of the Breakaway Range

Next morning we continued north with the intention of going into the Painted Desert. Sadly for us the road was closed and we were not able to enter the area. This is the second time that I have missed out on seeing the Painted Desert but we were told that it is similar to the Breakaway Range. We continued north stopping to check out bird sites and that night (Thursday 3/6/2010) we bush camped down a dirt track off the Stuart Highway. This turned out to be a great spot for birds so I left Coba in the van while I went chasing birds to photograph. I managed to get Chats, Wood swallows, Zebra Finch and the rare Bourke’s Parrot. I ended up seeing eight of these parrots in total while I was there. For anyone wanting to go there the GPS co-ordinates are 26 Degrees 11’ 52” South and 113 Degrees 11’ 17” East.

Bourkes Parrot

Next morning I again saw the Bourke’s Parrots but only managed a distant photo. The finches were there but the chats and wood swallows had gone. Breaking camp and moving on we made it to Rainbow Valley at around 2.00 PM. This was our campsite for the night. I managed to get a good shot of a mature Brown Falcon here. Zebra finches were in plague proportions.

Brown Falcon - Rainbow Valley
I had been here before but had hoped for water in front of the coloured hill but again we were out of luck. We watch the hill change colour as the sun set. The red reflection on the hill and cliff of the valley changed to red in this light. Rainbow Valley - Sunset Photo
Rainbow Valley - Daytime Photo

Darkness came in fast as there was no moon until late into the night. As a result the stars were spectacular. It has been many years since I have seen a night sky like this. The Milky Way stretched right across the night sky and the Southern Cross was lost in the millions of stars that shone like diamonds on black velvet. Saturday morning and I was up before the sun and out photographing the hill of Rainbow Valley. The chill in the air froze my fingers and it was back to the caravan for a hot cup of coffee.

From Rainbow valley it was in to Alice Springs where we managed the last caravan site in the caravan Park. We will now spend three days here before heading out into the gorges.


  1. Wonderful account and fantastic landscapes alongside your usual great bird images.

  2. Hey Folks....thought you had done a runner. Great, great pics and story. Level of envy is on the rise.

  3. I served at woomera in the early 60,s with a JSTU carriying out live firing trials of the
    English Electric Thunderbird missile. Have been unable to find any details of the unit since.
    I still have some memobillia of the site as it was then.