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Red Centre Way

With two nights at Curtain Springs, I set up my awning tent for the first time to cocoon myself with a little more space and, I was craaaaving a sheltered Yin Practice. I was stoked at how easy the tent was to erect and at how much space this last-minute buy provided. Can highly recommend! My full day at Curtain Springs consisted mostly of study, and with very poor reception I tediously sussed out where to go next and planned out the rest of the week exploring the Red Centre Way – Mereenie Loop Track.

From Curtain Springs I made my way to Kings Creek Station towards the Lasseter Highway end of the loop. What felt like a short two hour drive I arrived at the station by 3pm. Beautiful rock hills and vast landscape surrounded the station, it was beautiful. That evening I watched the sky get painted by the sunset as I packed and sorted the van for bed. I could feel something was watching me from the bushes but couldn’t see or hear anything. I told myself I was only "wigging'.

Mid bed assemble, I saw the bottom and tail of a dingo walk past the van boot door. Noooo thank you! Spooked, I closed the slider door and attempted setting up the bed from inside the van. Impossible. To have watched me jump out of the boot and set the bed up looking as though I was walking on hot lava to help me move faster to get the job done would have been hilarious. No dingos ate me, all was well.

That night, I put my rubbish bag deeper into the van so the dingos wouldn’t be sniffing at my door. Safe and sound in bed, I could hear the rustle of my garbage bag. Whaaaaat? Then all the Wiki and Air camp reviews of sites through the desert popped into my head.

“Heaps of mice.” “Lovely, but lots of mice.” “My neighbours said they had mice.” “Mice running all over the ground”.

I thought I had gotten lucky… but not tonight. I tried to ignore the gate crasher, as trying to fix the situation would require getting out of the van with the dingos and a bag full of food scraps, and taking the bag to the bin across a lot of hot lava… and then return! I decided to be brave after a little mousie decided to be too friendly and ran across my bed… After sorting out dingos and mice I finally managed to have not the best sleep with the odd rustle still going on in my pantry. Happy all my food was in the fridge and jars, and knowing there wasn’t all that much else I could do to fix the situation I prayed I wasn’t going to have a pantry full of mouse poo in the morning.

Waking with a glorious sunrise, and for the first time in weeks, the temperature being above 3 degrees, I was excited to be exploring Kings Canyon today and happy to find last night’s visitors only had a nibble of my paper towel.

By 9:30am I was walking Luritja country. When hearing of the Kings Canyon base walk, I pictured walking around the base of the cliff face. As I began to climb many MANY steep steps, I now realised the base walk outlined the top. The outline of Kings Canyon became more and more breath taking with every turn. The red, green, and blue landscape had officially captured my heart. From incredible panoramic views of the red centre, jaw dropping canyon cliff faces, incredible ant-like dome rock formations, to lushes, rich gorges and water holes where waterfalls run in the wet season. Soaking it all up in weather that was finally reaching high 20’s, whilst receiving contrasting pictures from home with snow on the sand at Fortescue Bay!

I made it back to camp, put a load of washing on and had a wiggle on my mat whilst I waited. I walked the short distance back to the laundry and was shocked as I entered the door. Standing in front of the washing machine, in the middle of practically nowhere was not only another Tasmanian but a local! After a lot of…

“What!!” “What!!?”

Exchanged in disbelief of the timing and place, it was lovely to have a cuddle and chat after many weeks solo.

As I was struggling to find out what the quality of roads to the next stops I had planned where like, I was happy to chat to Ellie and her fam and find out the ins and outs of my planned path that they had just travelled. I made the call to not continue the full loop in my 2WD but go the longer way in distance (yet the same amount of driving hours due to the road quality) to make it into the other end of the Mereenie loop amongst the West Mac Donnell Ranges, via Alice Springs. And that night as stated in my Journal “I had my last juju today”. Unfortunately, my large jar of Good Juju Almond Butter was no longer. And so the Good Juju Butter cleanse began…

Kings Canyon to Alice Springs was my biggest leg of driving so far, I was pleased to have some downloaded podcasts I had been saving and looking forward to for a leg like this. After many hours in my own head buzzing with ideas and inspiration I had to pull over. Full of passion I piled all of my ideas and epiphanies into my journal. I eagerly continued onto Alice Springs excited to have reception to start putting some of this inspiration into action.

Alice Springs was not how I imagined it. I pictured it very flat and not as large of a town as it was. I also never thought of it being amongst the Mac Donnell ranges. I arrived at ‘The Gap’ where I was booked for two nights to smash some more study and catch up with friends and fam whilst in reception again. I had heard there was a fair bit of crime in Alice, and the camp site certainly confirmed those vibes with a barb wire fence surrounding and security code lock into the bathroom and shower. Feeling not all that at peace parked beside a jail fence behind a pub, I accepted it was the cheapest option and enjoyed the colours of the sunset hitting the rock range that framed the entrance to Alice Springs as I settled in for my stay.

My time in Alice consisted of a walk into the mall for a dirty chai (still to find it nowhere near as good as my local ‘Park Café” dirty brewed chai- the cravings were real!), study and ayurvedic digestive re-set cleanse planning. Showered, freshly washed clothes and a re-stocked fridge (with store bought almond butter… it was a good juju almond butter cleanse, not an almond butter cleanse altogether…) I was so keen to get out of what felt like a city buzz and return off-grid as I entered the West Mac Donnell Ranges.

I happily fought the sunset in my eyes as the majestic ranges surrounded me on route to Ellery Big Hole Camp site and Gorge. With only a short distance along a corrugated dirt road into the site, I was pleased I decided on coming here the long way as I could feel Daisy’s contents not loving it.

I felt exhausted and not all that adventurous the next morning. I laid in bed and read my book for a little before seeing in daylight where I had landed. Big Hole was a huuuuge body of water. After being told not many people swim and that it was home to many yabbies, combined with my unadventurous mood, I decided I’d just do a short little loop walk. I was so happy I did. It was a sweet little walk along a bush track with many viewpoints of the vast ranges and ancient rock formations with no other soul in sight.

From Ellery, I headed to Orminston Gorge and made a lunch time stop and another short walk into Serpentine Gorge. Not as much water was found here but still just as fanatical. Returning to the car I took my time making my go to lunch of a banana smoothie and rice crackers with avo, lemon, salt and cucumber. After about an hour spent here, I walked around the nose of the car ready to leave and… Oh no no no…. Bridie!!! I had been waiting for this…

As the roads are so straight and long through the centre, headlights are turned on for safety. It is also an unwritten rule I discovered that you have to give a two finger wave to every other driver… but return to snobbing all cars once you enter some kind of civilisation. My old car used to beep at me you see, when my headlights were on… and the car was off… Dasiy wasn’t as high tech.

Please start, please start…

I remembered my brother saying that if you are on a hill in a manual, you can get it going with a flat battery. Wishing I could recall the exact technique to do so, and in denial that the tiny slope I was on in a carpark was not going to be much help… I put Daisy in reverse and rolled about 2m to be stopped by a tiny rock and come to a halt blocking the growingly busy gorge carpark completely.

I approached two lovely men who confirmed I had made a rooky mistake very loudly as we laughed about my lights on issue to see if they could jump start me. Within minutes Daisy was going once more. Thankful to the men who helped me out with no dramas, I continued to Ormiston Gorge.

Excited to finally reach a gorge you can swim in I was taken aback with the beauty, yet concerned of the stank as I approached the sandy shore of the water hole. That stank was from the floating and shore lined dead fish… a common occurrence when it has not rained for a while… with my un-adventurous mood continuing I wondered slightly deeper into the gorge astounded at the rainbow coloured rock then ended up slumping myself in the disappearing arvo sun.

Dragging myself back to camp I heard a voice...

“Are you taking yoga in the morning?” Asked an older fellow sitting by a picnic table.

“If you would like me to, sure”.

He chuckled, I chuckled and I continued to pack up for bed.

The next morning, I finished my practice and turned to see this old man back at the picnic table.

“You were late!” I said. As he chuckled again I noticed he was painting.

He had a pad full of the most beautiful watercolour sketches as he casually slid a piece of paper across the table and continued talking of his Tassie adventures. He spoke of his time spent at the Garlic Festival workshopping Art with families.

He pointed to the paper laying on the table.

“I painted your van, you can have it if you want.”

And James, the artist from Brisbane who gave me wise old sailer vibes, sent to The Red Centre as a gift from his family to channel his art for 3 weeks… made my day.

I think this will be my favourite keep sake.

I hiked “The Pound” track and it will be a walk that stays with me forever. From rolling hills that had me waiting for ‘John Snow’ to appear at anytime, to feeling like I was walking on crystals, to white sand, and the most beautiful towering rock overhead and underfoot as I began to trek deep into the back end of Ormiston Gorge. At the beginning of the walk the sign said “Be prepared to swim due to recent rainfall”… In denial that I would have to swim with my back pack of non-water proof items through approximately 4 degree water, I started getting nervous walking through the gorge as to how adventurous this walk was about to become.

I was happy to catch up to a group of middle-aged women on a hiking tour. Chatting to the guide trailing behind, I asked her of the ‘swim’ mentioned on the sign. “Yes we do have to swim, it’s about belly button deep, not sure how wide yet but the guide ahead is going to go in first and find the safest trail so no one falls on the rocks. You can over take us if you like, we’re pretty slow”.

“All good, I’ll let your guide go first!”. Happy to have run into a guided tour at perfect timing, the walk across the icy waters was about 30m. Luckily I had my bathers on under my clothes in case I found a non-fishy hole to swim in. I stripped off and became a part of the tour as I walked across the Gorge. Feeling like a true Tasmanian not stressed about the water temperature, I was a little shocked when at the half way point as I realised it was a struggle to move the legs - freeeezing cold! Making it to the other side with a dry camera, and with the sun starting to hit into the Gorge, the water was just too refreshingly beautiful to not dive under completely. With the tour of women cheering me on I had a thrilling cold immersion.

Feeling so alive I completed the last leg to the gorge lookout and was blown away at the views once again.

Sad to leave this special place but excited to be heading further north I cruised back into Alice Springs for another night.

Buzzing from my incredible day hiking and sweet James from Brisbane, I was starting to feel ready to socialise. The universe must have sensed my call as that night I met another solo traveller, back in civilisation after an epic journey through the Simpson desert. After asking if I wanted a hot cacoa, I knew we’d be friends. We cooked up a pasta feast and shared stories and interests of mumma nature, and the sacred spaces we had and have experienced. With slightly different destinations planned along the road but both on route to Darwin we hoped to cross paths again along the way!

My last night’s sleep in Alice was broken at 12am. Getting out of the van for the loo, two other campers were out side my door chatting. Apologising to me as I exited the van thinking they had worken me, I asked what was up. The ladie’s car had been broken into all whilst she was asleep above in her rooftop tent! We observed a few other camper doors swung open un-occupied as it was a Saturday night and many people had gone out to party.

Another hot lava inspired walk to the toilet and a triple check of my locks as I went back to bed and placed a mental protective shield around Daisy!

One last morning walk into town to be lost in indigenous art and re-visit a bookstore that had the most incredible selection, I purchased two after a good hour of trying to choose without breaking the bank.

I had three nights to make it to Katherine as I had a Yoga studio organised for my cousin’s hen’s morning surprise yoga class live stream! Concerned I may miss landmarks as I had to make distance fast, I googled: “What is there to see between Alice Springs and Katherine.” To Find:

“Most people fly from Alice Springs to Katherine because there is nothing but desert in between. Travellers do check out the sacred site of the Devils Marbles. But apart from that, nothing”. Well this may be quite a long drive… but I was pleased I would not be missing out on much...

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