Red Centre and the Plenty Highway

 
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Grumblebum and the Dragon



Joined: 22 Jul 2007
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 30, 2010 5:28 pm    Post subject: Red Centre and the Plenty Highway Reply with quote

Around the Red Centre – June 2010

For those of you travelling this way here are a few notes. The East and West MacDonnell Ranges cover some stunning country and should not be missed. There are lots of gorges to visit and walk and you run the risk of getting ‘gorged out’

West MacDonnell Range - Namatjira Drive
There are two very good 24hr rest areas on the south side of the road between Alice Springs and the Glen Helen Resort. They are both situated on very high ground and have fantastic views. BBQ fire places and a large tank of water are, if I recall correctly, at both sites.

The Glen Helen Resort is not up to scratch for the $30 per night fee. The ablution block is an old demountable with ‘leakage’ of something wet emerging from underneath and the front decking has rotted and been crudely repaired. The taps and power points are situated up a rough stony bank and there are no drain points for the sullage hose or a dump point.

Just past the turn off to this ‘resort’ is a track to the RHS along the Finke River. This is a recognised free camping area with some pleasant sites adjacent to the river with some water pools. Beware it is sandy in some places.

Redbank Gorge has two camping area at $3.30pp in the honestly box. From memory most have very good gas BBQ’s and fire places but no water. The top (furthest) camping site nearest the gorge has great views but only smaller wood bbq’s. Both sites from memory have long drop loos.

The bird life was impressive around Redbank and came right into our campsite scrounging for termites that had come in with the wood we had collected.


Female red capped robin and a male splendid fairy wren

Closer to Alice Springs is another nice free camping area along the Hugh River (dry) the turn-off is on north side of Namatjira Drive some 55km from Alice at 23.8145S and 133.3854E. A good area is only a few hundred metres from the entrance gate. It is managed by the NT Parks but has no fees or facilities.


Redbank Gorge and a female splendid fairy wren

Heading west from Alice we travelled west on the Ross Highway heading N’Dhala Gorge and the Arltunga Historical Reserve and then on to Ambalindum Station before pushing north to Mud Tank and Gemtree on the plenty Highway.

We had an overnight camp along the banks of Trephina Creek at 23.5635S and 134.4224E – Nice.

N’Dhala Gorge is a very pretty little gorge with lots of petroglyphs – which were interesting but pretty crude. There were several water holes along the gorge and bird life – including painted finches was prolific. Don’t try and take the Bt out there – you won’t make it - too many low trees branches on tight corners and steep jump ups coming out of creeks. We drove past the Ross River Camping Area through the river and then left the van a few k’s down the track. People we spoke to called into the camping area and were told to “Eff Off – we don’t want tourists here” Ignore the big sign adjacent to this camp stating “Very Boggy Crossing” – it’s pretty tame. This is a stunningly pretty drive through the hills and gorges and you cross the river several times. There is a Parks Dept camp just before the gorge with toilets and bbq places etc but no water.

From here the drive on towards the Arltunga Historical Reserve and then Ambalindum Station is a really wonderful drive through the Hartz Range and the road is good. The old gold field at Arltunga goes back to the 1880’s. The Visitors Centre has lots of info and a good video presentation and the Ranger does a demo at 11.00am, running the old two head stamp mill on site and provides a talk on the history of the site. You can then pan out the crushed material for specs of gold – a great activity for the kids -big and little! In the afternoon (1.00pm) he conducts a walk up to the Great Western Mine.


No camping is available at Arltunga but the Ambalindum Station is not far away and is a lovely spot. Nice sites around a grassy area set amongst beautiful scenery, the hosts Bob and Lois Carpenter go out of their way to make sure your stay is really enjoyable. They will provide maps of the station tracks and places of interest.

There are some nice dams and a great lookout and a lovely 200k drive through the guts of the Station in the Hartz Range. At 3000 square kms and running 18,000 head of cattle there is plenty to see and do.


Ambalindum camping area and some station country
After leaving the station we headed north-west following the tourist route that heads back to the Stuart Highway. After approx 31 km from Ambalindum we turned off on a small track (good) leading down to the old Winneckie gold mines. The ruins are interesting and we found a lovely little dam just right for another overnight – it was a big drive from Ambalindum – Just 49 km for the day!

Dam at the Winneckie Mines and great stone masonary of the old ruins
Later we head north on the Pinnacles Road leading up to the Plenty Highway – the track here is not as good as the one we left – but not bad. Mud Tank is a free camping area and public fossicking site with the main reward being Zircon. There is another nearby fossiking area for garnets. There were about a dozen van spread out here and it is interesting to watch the fossickers sieving and washing the gravel to recover some zircon. There seems to be a lot of digging for a small return.

Beware of the fuel price at Gemtree $1.95L compared to $1.40 in Alice Springs 140 km away! They also have a very poor selection of goods in the so called store and the prices are high. Their gem room is interesting and they have a nice display of cut zircon and garnet. They will assess and cut your stones, but talking to old timers I spoke to they are very slow and expensive. Most people send their stones to Lambert’s in Thailand who are very professional and cheap. Approx $2.50 a carat compared to $25 -30 carat at Gemtree. (Lamberts advertise in Gold, Gem and Trasure Magazine

Track to N’Dhala Gorge


Dingo at Ormiston Gorge in the West MacDonnell Range


The road conditions across the Plenty vary continuously from good, to very good and then crap and back to reasonable. Between Alice and Boulia there were three road crews working but the roads soon deteriorate again. The shop at the Aboriginal settlement near the Hartz Range Police Station is reasonably stocked with the basic and fuel there is cheaper than Gemtree by 10c/L ($1.85) for diesel and 20c/L for petrol. If I recall the diesel price at Jervois Station was $1.82. Here is Boulia it is $1.44 for diesel .... not bad for the back blocks I thought.

It is not one of the most scenic routes I have done, a bit like the Barclay Tablelands but with no tar road.
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Grumblebum and the Dragon



Joined: 22 Jul 2007
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 01, 2010 12:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Here are some of the images:



















There some great country around here - take your time and enjoy

Cheers John
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surfy53



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PostPosted: Thu Jul 01, 2010 7:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for the report Grumbles, we will head out of Alice tomorrow morning and pay Redbank Gorge a visit.
It has been raining for the last two days here in Alice, 15mm today alone and that is above the July average.
Chris.
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Gemtree



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PostPosted: Sat Sep 28, 2013 10:56 pm    Post subject: Re: Red Centre and the Plenty Highway Reply with quote

Grumblebum and the Dragon wrote:
Around the Red Centre – June 2010


Beware of the fuel price at Gemtree $1.95L compared to $1.40 in Alice Springs 140 km away! They also have a very poor selection of goods in the so called store and the prices are high. Their gem room is interesting and they have a nice display of cut zircon and garnet. They will assess and cut your stones, but talking to old timers I spoke to they are very slow and expensive. Most people send their stones to Lambert’s in Thailand who are very professional and cheap. Approx $2.50 a carat compared to $25 -30 carat at Gemtree. (Lamberts advertise in Gold, Gem and Trasure Magazine



Hi everyone - I would just like to respond to this by saying Gemtree is now under new management and Aaron and I are working very hard with our team to help make your Red Centre adventures the very best they can be. We pay our gem cutter to cut our stones on site, in front of all the visitors, responding to questions and demonstrating his skill. He has been cutting local stone for 11 years, hence our fee, we pay him well as he deserves it. When you send stones to Thailand of course it is much cheaper - they pay their workers pittance. You also cannot be guaranteed receiving your own stones back. We also tell our guests the stones they find on our tours are theirs, they can choose to do with them what they will. Doing a fossicking tour at Gemtree does not mean you HAVE to have your jewellery cut and set with us. What we are wanting is for you to have a memento of your journey - a 700 million year old piece of Central Australia that once lay beneath an inland sea!

With regard to fuel prices at remote outstations such as ours, you should try LIVING here! At least you are just passing through! Wink We pay $2 a litre for our fuel to be delivered here. We pay AUSFUEL 3c a litre on top of that because they gave us pretty AUSFUEL bowsers and a computerised system. We then pay for diesel to run the generator to run the bowsers, and we pay for accommodation etc for our staff. We are also distraught at the prices of fuel, but it should not stop you from visiting this amazing corner of the world. If you free camp as often as possible this will assist your budgeting and should counteract the disadvantage of fuel prices. Then, do your homework (like visiting www.gemtree.com.au !) to choose the parks/sites you REALLY want to visit. What ytravellers want is memories (good ones) and to connect to the reality of the outback. Everything here at Gemtree is genuine, right down to our sons, Mac and Tom in the school room doing School of the Air.

We hope you do choose to venture across the Plenty, and we shall be here waiting with smiles, relaxing gardens and beautiful camp oven dinners!

Cheers,
Kate and Aaron McMaster
[www.gemtree.com.au][/url]
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Kate and Aaron McMaster
Gemtree Caravan Park
Plenty Highway
140km NE of Alice Springs
www.gemtree.com.au
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cadent



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PostPosted: Sun Sep 29, 2013 7:14 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Great response..thankyou Aaron and Kate.

There often is a different side to remote living and business operations that are not taken into account.
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Louie100



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PostPosted: Sun Sep 29, 2013 10:55 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Best of luck with your new venture Kate and Aaron, as a visitor to Gemtree back in 2010, I found it to be a pleasant spot to camp following an eventfull trip over the Donahue and Plenty Highways after heavy rain, roadworks and a lot of traffic which got chased out of the washed out Birdsville races.
Certainly a remote spot to live but has its own beauty.
I hope we catch up on our next trip up there.
Cheers
Andrew.
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Grumblebum and the Dragon



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PostPosted: Fri Oct 04, 2013 8:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi there - best wishes with your new venture and we look forward to catching up the next time we roll that way.

I always call it as I see it and know full well the cost of remote living - its where we spent most of our lives and almost all our travelling for the last eight years.

Just a comment on 'Lamberts' I was just reporting what I had been told and had no prior experience of them at that time - my passion is chasing gold not gemstones.


I have since sent some phenakite to them - not of any real value and was disappointed with the end result - but as it cost next to nothing it was not an issue.

I hope you are successful in your new venture

John and Jean
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notes1952



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PostPosted: Fri Oct 04, 2013 9:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi Kate,

Very well expressed. I know that Maz and I thoroughly enjoyed our overnight there on our way to the Alice Springs muster. We really appreciated the movies you especially ran for us and particularly the one made by your children. Next time we are over that way we will drop in again.

Dave
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Gemtree



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PostPosted: Wed Jan 01, 2014 10:19 pm    Post subject: Thanks for the responses! Reply with quote

Cheers everyone, thanks for responding to my post, and now I have a question for you - perhaps you can tell me where to post it in this forum.

Aaron and I are wanting to introduce a caf/meeting room at Gemtree in 2014 and we think we will do this in the main building (which is currently our house!). We had contemplated getting a home loan to build a new house but think we will buy a decent caravan instead. It means we can back up and bolt quite easily if we get the chance for a break - there is less for us to clean in our busy lives, and the boys will have play space and learning space here in their school room. The van will just be for sleeping in and holidays.

I have looked at the 22'family Bushtracker with bunks and a desk at the rear and wonder if anyone has one, what is their experience? What are they worth new and what are they worth second hand? We need something tough out here in case we have to take it over the Plenty if we want to head East.

Would love some suggestions, or if you know of anyone selling can you point them to this post please?

Cheers,

Kate and Aaron at Gemtree.
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Kate and Aaron McMaster
Gemtree Caravan Park
Plenty Highway
140km NE of Alice Springs
www.gemtree.com.au
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The Hob



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PostPosted: Thu Jan 02, 2014 6:40 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

http://www.bushtrackerforum.com/viewforum.php?f=43

This would be a great starting place

Alan
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Muddy1



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PostPosted: Thu Jan 23, 2014 10:18 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm looking forward to visiting Gemtrees sometime.

On the issue of fuel prices, I took this photo at a remote coastal top-end community , a few days ago. Fuel presently arrives there by barge.



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