Out of Office - Gemma's Adventures to Central Australia

When she is not working in the SBL office, Principal Lawyer Gemma Bunner loves to travel. She recently traveled to Central Australia for two weeks and shares the adventures of her trip below:

These past school holidays my husband and I packed up our two kids, an off road camper trailer and embarked upon an adventure to Central Australia. It has always been a dream of mine to visit Uluru. With our eldest starting school this year, we thought what better way to spend the school holidays then to take the kids on a road trip! We traveled 6,296 kms through four states and had the trip of a lifetime.

We snuck away the day before school finished resulting in a very excited kindergartener getting to slip out of school early. Our first stop was the Collie Hotel – between Gilgandra and Warren - where we booked in to a cabin in order to get an early start the following morning. Hitting the road at 4 am, we made it to Cobar for an early morning pie and reached Wilcannia for morning tea. We had hit Broken Hill by lunch time where we spent a few hours exploring.

By mid afternoon, we had rolled into South Australia. We pulled up before sun down and settled on to a free camp in a dried up river back a few kms outside the town of Yunta. Our first night in the camper was a success. The kids scrubbed up clean in our outdoor shower and fell asleep in their swags with ease.  

The following morning we visited the township of Orroroo, grabbed a coffee then took some family snaps with the Giant Gum Tree. We then drove on through the desert near Woomera. We pulled up to visit our first salt lake, Lake Hart. It was here that we took the opportunity to pull our bikes off the trailer and rode down to explore the salt lake.

We had intended to camp the night at Lake Hart however our trusted Wikicamps app informed us of a great spot further of the road. And great it was! Secluded, we drove in off the road and it opened up to a giant salt lake. This was one of our favorite camping spots.

The following morning we reached Coober Pedy and caught up with our travelling buddies, another eager family in a camper trailer with three kids. We donned our hardhats and did a tour of the Old Timers Mine and got an insight into opal mining. The Mine also included an underground home – something that is not uncommon at Coober Pedy. We learned that at least 90% of the population live underground. We also visited the underground Serbian Orthodox Church – it is open 24 hours a day and a must see if you visit the town. Amazing to see how others live.

We headed on from town out through a mountain range called “The Breakaways”. It was here we had lunch, accompanied by a million flies. The outback and flies are synonymous. By this part of the trip, we were all sporting the fly nets to keep them from our eyes and mouth.

As we headed through the Breakaways, we drove along a large stretch of the Dingo Fence. The fence was built in the 1880’s in order to keep dingo’s out of south-eastern Australia. It stretches 5,614 kms. Quite remarkable to see.

We continued on and pulled up at a free camp (thanks again to Wikicamps) approximately 20 kms south of Marla. Up early the following morning as we said farewell to South Australia and rolled into the Northern Territory. We drove on and reached Uluru that afternoon.

My first glimpse of Uluru did not disappoint. I recall how agonizing the drive in was as I was so eager for our first sighting of the rock. It is truly majestic. It is hard to describe but over the next few days, it was magical to drive around the park and see Uluru in all its glory.

We spent three nights in the overflow section of the Yuluta Campground. We were fortunate to see Uluru at sunrise and sunset. I had an opportunity to climb the rock which and whilst it was a challenging climb, it was an experience I will never forget. We also got our bikes off and rode the 15 kms around the base of the rock. It was marvelous to see the different angles and sides of the rock.

During our time at Uluru, we ventured out to Kata Tjuta, commonly referred to as the Olgas. The trip is around 57 kms and well worth it. We completed two walks at Kata Tjuta – the Valley of the Winds Walk and the Walpa Gorge Walk. I would recommend both and there are different routes at the Valley of the Winds if you want to explore further.

Our next stop after leaving Uluru was Kings Canyon  which is just over four hours drive away. We booked two nights at the Kings Creek Station and were lucky to score a great camp site near to a camp kitchen, the bathroom block and the pool! The Station was great fun and offered a café which we utilized one night for dinner. They also housed resident camels and the kids loved feeding them at every opportunity.  

Our travelling menagerie expanded as we met up with my good friend and her husband who live in Darwin. They traveled down to spend the next 5 nights with us.

From our campsite, we traveled around 30 minutes to reach the Canyon. The Canyon Loop Walk is around 6 kms long and starts with a challenging incline of 500 odd stone steps. It is a difficult walk for children. I was fortunate that my husband did the walk the afternoon prior which freed me up to the do the walk sans-kids. The Canyon itself is mind blowing. The rock formations. The colors. The sheer size of it.

At this stage in the trip, our only commitment was that we needed to be at William Creek for a charter flight in three days time. One thing about travelling is that you meet the nicest people and people are eager to share their tips. We met a family who had come to Kings Canyon via the MacDonnell Ranges and made the decision to head that way. It was one that none of us regretted and for me personally, the MacDonnell Ranges were one of the highlights of the trip.

We left the tar road and traveled around 200 kms of dirt road and took a left turn before heading onto Hermannsburg. The scenery changed every 10 kms. It was a beautiful stretch of road. There are around 6 gorges spread out through the MacDonnell Ranges. As our time was limited, we picked two to visit – both of which we knew offered swimming. Our first gorge was Orminston Gorge, a short walk in from the car park. The water was freezing but refreshing at the same time. The kids loved it. We then made our way to Ellery Creek Big Hole Gorge. This was my pick of the two. Walking into the gorge took my breath away. It was stunning and you could swim up through the rocks to reach another secluded beach on the other side.

That night we drove on to camp in the dried up river bank of the Hugh River, around thirty minutes outside of Alice Springs. We had a fire that night accompanied by some fireworks. We woke on Easter Sunday and the Easter Bunny had tracked us down with little chocolate eggs spread through camp much to the kids delight.

We packed up and headed in to Alice Springs to have a look around. We stocked up on supplies. We hung around town until midday awaiting the opening of the local bottle shop in order to restock the drinks fridge for the next leg of our trip. A quick photo op at the City sign and then we headed off  south on the Sturt Highway.

We made some miles that afternoon and turned left onto the Oodnadatta Track at the township of Marla. We pulled up at a free camp around 20 kms into the start of the Track. The next morning our goal was to reach the Transcontinental Hotel at Oodnadatta for a counter lunch and a cold beer at the pub by lunchtime. And we did just that. We spent some time exploring Oodnadatta and a visit to the famous Pink Roadhouse. The roadhouse came in handy as we needed a new fuel filter having picked up some dirty fuel somewhere along the way.

The Oodnadatta Track is pretty amazing. It is a lot of dirt road but follows parts of the old Ghan Railway. I fell in love with the old stone ruins of the settlers and railway cottages. There is a lot of history along the Track and you can’t help but think of how people have survived the harsh conditions over the years.

As the sun was setting, we rolled into William Creek. William Creek normally as a population of 12 people except for times when there is water in Lake Eyre. People make the trip out to fly over the Lake when water reaches it, as had led us there. The town consists of a pub, a caravan park (run by the pub) and an airfield. We set up camp across the road from the pub and enjoyed a hot shower after a few days without one!

The following morning we were booked in for flights with Wrights Air. These guys were amazing. I jumped on a two hour flight and the pilot was so informative and knowledgeable. We flew over Anna Creek Station on the way to the Lake which was an amazing experience in itself. And then to see this Lake in the middle of nowhere and water flowing into it was simply astounding. I loved seeing the river system in the Channel Country and the waters flowing down like snakes slithering through the dirt. We live in such an incredible country.

We then enjoyed a post-flight counter lunch and a cold drink at the pub before heading off down the Track. The pub is filled with paraphernalia, business cards, hats and bits and bobs handing on the roof and walls. I stuck a SBL business card in the mix and will hopefully find it in years to come when we venture back that way. The Track allowed us some further exploration of old railway ruins before camping the night at Maree.

The morning drive saw a bit more dirt road before hitting the tar and driving through the Flinders Ranges. We pulled up for a stop at the Prairie Hotel at Parachilna, made famous by John Williamson’s song. In the afternoon we rolled through some beautiful, small and well cared for towns in South Australia before pulling up stumps at Burra. We camped at the back of the Bon Accord Hotel – a grand historic pub. The owners offer you a free camp site in exchange for spending some money at the pub. We couldn’t resist a nice pub meal by the open fire as the weather had gotten chilly as we headed back south.  

The next day we headed from South Australia and into Victoria to see the Murray River. We had never seen the Murray. We pulled up on the side of the river and had a picnic lunch. We pushed on in the afternoon leaving Victoria and back into New South Wales pulling up stumps at Hay. After two weeks in the camper, we treated ourselves to a cabin at the local Hay caravan park in order to get a warm nights sleep and make an early start to travel the remaining 800 kms home.

Australia is such an incredible country with so many diverse and amazing things to see. The trip certainly has us planning for our next adventure. For some pictures of our travels, check out our Instagram account @maisy_the_millard.