Gem tree – Arltunga – Ross River (xxx kms)
Mum says “always wear your flynet if you are walking after ‘the wet’ in Central Australia”. You will recall on the Yellow Waters cruise, our Indigenous guide prefaced many of his snippets of info with “Mum said …”, and we have adopted this in our travels. Usually, we start with “yeah”, and then Mum says: “You have to be here”. And, of course, we do remember our own Mums.
From Gem Tree, we drove south along the so-called Arltunga Tourist Drive – yeah, only if you have a 4WD. We traversed beautiful open country, with multi-coloured earth and rocks in the foreground, and various parts of the East MacDonnell Ranges in the distance. We passed through some big cattle stations including “The Garden”.
Sometimes, navigation is slightly problematic, especially if there are lots of intersecting cattle station roads. Usually, we were using just a Hema guidebook, which is inevitably somewhat out of date. Bruce mentioned that it would be useful if we had a compass. And, he also observed that Google Map are useless (here). At this point, I turned on the car’s satnav system, and lo and behold, we have a compass, and a decent map! Just before reaching Artlunga, we crossed the Tropic of Capricorn (north to south), something I last did in WA (south to north).
We visited Arltunga, the first significant European settlement in Central Australia. The town was established to service the gold mine established here early in the 20th century. It was incredible; to get here, miners had to follow the telegraph track from Adelaide, and then track overland for a further 120km, pushing their barrow with all their belongings. The township buildings are being slowly restored, including the Old Police Station (yes, another one), which was set halfway between the town and the pub. The “Glencoe Hotel ” was established in 1910 by a Alexander M(a)cDonald, known as “Sandy Myrtle”. Those familiar with Scottish history will recognize the significance of the pub name to Sandy! There were some characters about, one being the local policeman (Corporal Charles Nalty) who “achieved notoriety when he was seen as the Artlunga Races, standing in the sand with his trousers down over his knees”.
Bruce drove us to the Ross River Resort, and we caught some “big air” in an unexpected dip in the tarmaced road.
We were given a great welcome at the resort by Graham and his crew. The resort is a beautiful oasis on the Ross River, with peacocks in the gardens, and galahs and black cockatoos screeching overhead. The beers slipped down as we swapped stories with Graham.