GRAYnomad Nature Photography :: The GRAYnomad Chronicles :: #032



As I write this editorial we are within a few days of electing Australia's next government. We're miles from anywhere, don't have a mortgage or owe any money, and as far as we know are quite healthy, so it's difficult to relate to most of the issues.

There is however one burning issue that's not being addressed by the politicians, and it just may be time for me to stand up and be counted.

The issue in question is one of the most fundamental human rights, the right to live one's life without being unduly hassled by petty beaurocracy.

Of course this right comes with a responsibility, and that is, in return for not being hassled, you refrain from hassling.

In short, do what you like as long as it doesn't adversely affect others.

To this end I propose the creation of a new political party, the NNCP. No it's nothing to do with the National Country Party, it's the No No Camping Party.

The NNCP will lobby for the rights of self-contained travellers to be able to camp just about anywhere, as long as they create no mess, and have no adverse affect on anyone else.

Written and authorised by Rob Gray, spokesman for, and
indeed only member of, the No No Camping Party.



Till next time then, and remember,

Don't Dream it, Be it!

Tue 10 Aug 2004

Today we leave Redbank Gorge, it's been a great spot and we could spend longer, but even we have to move occasionally.

 Crossing one of the dry creeks on the way out of Redbank Gorge

We drive the 2.5k to the main road, finding quite a few wildflowers along the way.

 Some wildflowers we find on the way out.

 The fuschias are all dropping their flowers

Then another 3k to a spot where there's a good view of Mount Sonder.

There, that should do. I didn't say we have to move very far.

Just before sunset we walk across the spinifex-covered plain (boy that stuff is sharp) to the top of a rocky hill.

 The "back" side of Mt Sonder at sunset.

 Mt Giles in the post sunset glow

From here we watch the sunset, then return via a different, and largely spinifex-free, route.

Our campsite is right on the side of the road, but in a vehicle like this it doesn't matter. If this is where the view is, then this is where we'll stay.

 Our campsite on the road

Wed 11 Aug 2004

The sunrise is a bit of a fizzer, so we head off towards Glen Helen.

We stop several times to look at the views of Mt Sonder, to get close up to some wildflowers, and to check out some cyclists.

 More wildflowers.

 The great folded rock strata as seen from the road.

 Part of Mt Sonder, it actually looks like a real mountain, unusual for central Australia.

  Two cheerful chaps on their way somewhere.

 Two more cheerful chaps also on their way somewhere, they'll just get there a lot later

They are Japanese, we chat for a few minutes and, despite the language barrier, manage to have a laugh or two, especially when I tell them that they are probably travelling faster than we are.

It's hard to imagine more disparate travellers. The middle-aged Australians with a 14-tonne army truck, and the young Japanese on 14-kilogram bicycles.

One of them asks me where I come from. I point to the truck.

His eyes widen, "Aaaww" he exclaims with that hoarse tone that only the Japanese seem capable of mastering. Then he looks at the camera, "Aaaww, big camera".

A car shoots past and we all hunker down trying to avoid the dust. Obviously not everyone goes slow on these roads.

At around lunch time we pull into the Mt Sonder lookout, it's a very pleasant spot so we decide to stay for the day.

There's no camping allowed here, but you can see people camped on the Finke River just a few hundred metres away.

 Looking down over the Finke River and the camping area.

 A yawning cormorant and the interesting patterns formed by the reed leaves.

That looks nice, we'll be back, but first we're a bit email starved and the nearest place we know to get CDMA reception is in the gravel pit we camped in last week, about 80k away.

 Chris spots some flowers as we drive along, once stopped we discover all sorts of interesting subjects

We head back towards Alice and our gravel pit, however just as we pass a rest area Chris tries the phone. It works.

We pull over, check our email, then return to the rest area.

Thu 12 Aug 2004

One of the emails I received yesterday was a request for some photos from a London-based stock library. As it happens I have some images that match the request, so I formulate a return email and ride back to the nearby crest where the phone works.

About half way through the email the phone's battery dies. It's been a bit dicky lately, but now we're only getting a few minutes use out of it.

Now what?

I ride back to the rest area, spotting a dragon on the road as I go. On getting back to the truck I grab my camera and return to the spot where the lizard was. It's nowhere to be see, so I search the grass.

After about five minutes I give up, but while walking back to the bike I spot a piece of lizard tail poking out from a tussock.

He lets me get very close.

 A dragon hiding in the grass at the side of the road.

Having photographed the lizard we drive our mobile phone support system back to the crest. With the truck in place our 50-gram phone works well with its 14-tonne auxiliary battery.

Fri 13 Aug 2004

We head off to Glen Helen today, well to the Finke River at least.

As we pass the Neil Hargrave lookout Chris suggests that we check it out. It's a tight corner and a steep road into it, but the spot is very nice. I'm hungry and ask Chris to knock up a snack, while I'm eating Chris tries the phone for a signal. It works here as well.

As we're at least 120k from Alice I can only assume that the signal is coming from Hermansburg to the south, across the ranges.

As we'd like to see if there's any response from London, and this looks like a good spot, we stay.

 Camped at the Neil Hargrave lookout.

 Early morning view from the lookout.

 Late afternoon view from the lookout

Mon 16 Aug 2004

Still here in the Neil Hargrave lookout.

We're not to take any photos today, absolutely none, the camera is to stay in it's bag tucked away in the deepest bowels of the truck. Never to be seen until we get back to a nice gorge.

After all, we're parked in a lookout, what can there be to photograph?

Still, it can't do any harm to go for a wander.

 A small praying mantis looking for dinner.

 Zebra finches drink from a leak in the water tank.

 Bees like to drink here as well, check this one heading for the finch.

 People often leave containers for the birds in rest areas.

 An enormous grasshopper.

 Wildflower and seed pod.

 Is it any wonder there's so many grasshoppers around?

 A cute little stick insect.

 A cute little stick insect.

 Yet another grasshopper.

 Mortal combat between a large and a small ant.

 Hairy ant with missing leg

At some time during the afternoon we decide to "defrag" the laptop's hard disk.

We've always been fascinated by the moving display defrag creates as it move files around and cleans up the disk. Unfortunately the new version is not as good and the old one, but it's still hours of fun for the whole family.

We sit watching the screen for ages, it's nice to be so easily amused.

Tue 17 Aug 2004

After breakfast we leave the rest area and head towards Glen Helen. They have camping there, it costs $23 per night for power and a patch of dust bowl, so we won't be staying here.

Instead we'll camp along the Finke River. Just across the road from the Glen Helen resort is a National Park campsite, it runs for three kilometres along the river, and you can camp anywhere you can get to.

I say "you can get to" because if you want to camp right down on the river you'll have to drive through sand. There is however a good track running just 200 metres or so back from the river, and plenty of great places to camp with water views.

We elect to drive along the sandy river bed to a spot right on the water. The drive goes well as the truck is quite comfortable in sand.

As we approach the spot I realise that it's 1- to 2-metres below the track level, and there's a sandy bank that must be negotiated.

We drive down it with no problems, but it's a bit soft for camping so I turn around with a view to returning to higher ground.

 Oops, it's softer than we thought

Now going down a sand hill is one thing, coming back up can be quite a different kettle of fish.

About half way up the rear axles start pig rooting. I make a couple of runs at it but only get a foot or so further on each attempt.

I get out to survey the scene. We're down fairly deep, but not enough to classify as "bogged", not yet anyway. But if I keep spinning wheels we will be.

I'm casting a few sideways glances at the trees, assessing their suitability as winch anchors, but we're nowhere near needing the winch yet. We lower the pressure in all tyres to about 65psi, take another run at the bank and get most of the way to the top. One more go and we're free.

Well that was fun, now let's find a camp site.

 We finally settle in a spot higher on the sand

For the rest of the day we just rest (that's probably why it's called the "rest" of the day) and watch the birds.

The river has all sorts of water birds, from ducks to darters, and one distinctly non-water bird, a whistling kite.

The kite patrols the river regularly, presumably looking for something like the little chicks we've seen hiding in the reeds.

On one occasion he dives down to water level, there's a brief kerfuffle between the kite and some ducks, then he returns to the air empty-handed.

On another occasion, as the kite is flying past, a small bird explodes from the rushes. It shoots 30 metres straight up towards the kite, like a SAM missile closing on a jumbo jet, then dive bombs the larger bird a couple of times before returning to base.

This demonstration of sheer power and energy is truly something to see.

 A lacewing wants out of the truck

Later in the afternoon I spend some time trying to photograph the water birds. I have no luck though, they're too wary and I'm too impatient to sit and wait.

I'm content with a few shots of the reeds and the new moon instead.

 Reed reflections in the Finke river.

 The new moon in the old moon's arms, or was that the other way around?

Wed 18 Aug 2004

Up early to have another go at the water birds with the same outcome as yesterday, some nice reed photos.

 More reed reflections in the Finke river.

 Mt Sonder at dawn from our camp

After breakfast Chris and I go for a walk along the river.

We see plenty of animal tracks, but no actual animals, unless you count the small herd of bulls (yes they were all bulls, I checked).

 A lot of bull with Mt Sonder in the background

At first we're a bit worried about them, but I'm not afraid of a bit of bull, in fact I'm quite good at it.

We also find some nice flowers, some ladybirds, and a cormorant or two.

 Wildflower on the banks of the river.

 Duck down, no not you, this is some duck down caught in a bush.

 Ladybird on the hunt.

  A cormorant takes of from a log

After lunch and a short snooze break we head back up the river. I see a crested pigeon and some parrots...

 This crested pigeon walked around me for ages, showing me its good side.

 This Pt Lincoln parrot is checking out a potential nest hole on a hollow tree stump.

...then spot the bulls again. I approach one of them. We stand face to face, two alpha males with nothing to prove, identical in every way (well if you don't count physique and intelligence that is).

 One of the two loads of bull in the face off

Our eyes lock and the tension is tense, then I realise that I've almost stepped on a stick insect.

 Nice legs, shame about the face

The bull takes advantage of my distraction and escapes into the nearby reeds.

 Bull in the reeds, so I guess they aren't reeds at all, they're bulrushes.

 Blue damsel flies cling to the reeds.

 The whistling kite looks dejected in a tree. It has a "nobody loves me" look on its face, not surprising I suppose, as it spends it's whole life trying to kill and eat little birds.

 Various insects in the bushes along the river bank.

 Bubbles just below the surface make interesting patterns. In the right-hand photo can be seen an insect walking on the surface.

 A ridgebacked grasshopper and spider.

 A coot with nice reflections, and a cormorant takes off.

 Praying mantis on the hunt.

 A hopper climbs a branch, and a cockroach climbs a leaf.

 A new shoot emerges from the shallows

Fri 20 Aug 2004

 Mount Sonder at dawn. This can be your view in the morning, and it's free.

 The Finke River perfectly reflects the trees on the far side, and provides an abstract reflection of the reeds.

 As a nearby camper drives past the resultant dust looks nice in the morning light

We leave the Finke River this morning but there's no rush as we only plan to drive about 10k to a spot along the dirt road.

We identified the spot last week as being a suitable base from which I could sortie up to a nearby hill for some evening shots.

One thing we're absolutely not doing today is taking any more photos, in fact until we're ready to pack up I'm not leaving this truck.

 This lacewing (left) was on our skylight. The fly was on the kitchen wall. Now you know what the proverbial "fly on the wall" looks like.

Oh well, I tried.

There is a well-formed track back to the road but we leave our campsite via the way we came in, ie. along the sandy river bed.

 Wothahellizat negotiates a dry creek crossing on the way back to the road.


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