Explore the Kimberley – Wolfe Creek Crater

Wolfe Creek crater8We took the 23km detour off the Tanami Road to visit Wolfe Creek Crater. We arrived by mid afternoon and it was a nice short walk to stretch our legs.

The crater is located approximately 150km east of Halls Creek. Which is the first town that you hit after reaching the great northern highway.

Wolfe Creek is an amazing sight and very well preserved. You walk about 35 metres up the crater wall and measures about 880m in diameter. It is now 50 metres deep due to sediment and vegetation filling up the basin (unlike other craters we have seen).  We were really surprised by how green it was and its sheer size.

There is a really nice bush camp at the base of the crater set amongst the shrubs. We decided to keep moving to get to Purnululu (Bungle Bungles) National Park. But it would be nice to stay overnight to explore inside the crater and see the sunset.  It is hard to imagine the impact from the suspected 50,000 tonne meteorite and its affect on the surrounding landscape. It is a beautiful spot and was well worth the detour.

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Explore the Kimberley – The Tanami Track

Tanami track12The Tanami desert track is a 1000km “shortcut” between Alice springs and the Kimberley. It starts just north of Alice springs and ends at Halls creek in Western Australia. When we were travelling through there were no fuel stations open except Tillmouth Well Roadhouse right at the start (but check before you set out). We filled up and were told by a man that had just travelled from Halls Creek in the opposite direction, that it was “the worst bloody road in Australia” 🙂

We knew we had enough fuel on board to get through to Halls Creek with a detour to Wolfe Creek Crator. Traveling east to west is definitely more efficient due to favourable head winds. Let your tyres down on the dirt tracks (for us with our load we went to 25psi) to reduce damage to tyres. It’s also much more comfortable travelling over corrugations at this psi.

The Tanami Road is mostly unsealed, and we had heard mixed reviews about the conditions before we left. But with any sort of travelling on outback Australia opinions and conditions vary, you just have to be prepared and try it for yourself. We were lucky, large sections of the road had been graded when we passed through so we didn’t find it that bad (even though the man we spoke too thought it was terrible).

We travelled the track in two days. There are lots of free spots to stop that aren’t listed in the Camps Australia book. My only tip would be too camp a bit further off the road due to dust blooms coming into your camp when other vehicles go past and especially as road trains travel on this road regularly.

It really is a beautiful part of our country, red soils, and flat plains of yellow spinifex and saltbush.

next post: Wolfe Creek meteor crater…. Tanami track1 Tanami track4 Tanami track13Tanami track11

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Explore the Kimberley – Plenty Highway free camp

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After a long days drive from Winton, through Boulia and a few hundred kilometers along the plenty highway we found a stop for the night. To find places to stop we were using the camps Australia book. It is revised every year or so and contains all the free, paid and licensed campgrounds throughout Australia, with really good maps. It includes a list of symbols outlining what facilities are available at each site such as, water, toilet, shower, fees, mobile reception etc. The more expensive larger version of the book contains pictures of the campgrounds (although the photographs aren’t that great and I don’t think that it is worth the extra money for the larger book). There is now an app available but when I’m looking at a map I prefer to keep it old school.

We stopped at the Arthur River free camp. This is a really beautiful spot. There was no water in the river & no toilets but there is a stock watering hole nearby (not drinkable), which was full of galahs, white, and black cockatoos. You can camp anywhere by the river & relax and admire the changing landscape with the setting sun. Just make sure you have your own water, and when we were there the flies were crazy, so bring some fly face nets.

Next post: The Tanami Desert Track…..

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Explore the Kimberley, Plenty highway – part one:

plenty highway 2 Title imageIn winter last year we travelled to the Kimberley. The epic road trip to get there was a pilgrimage in itself. There is so much to see between the NSW east coast and the Kimberley but our goal was to maximise our time in Western Australia so we took two “shortcuts” to get there, the Plenty highway and the Tanami track.

The Plenty highway is an 800km unsealed road that connects western Qld to Alice springs. You are essentially driving straight through the middle of Australia. We started just outside Winton, Qld, early in the morning and drove approximately 350km to the town of Boulia. We fuelled up at Boulia, but just make sure that the servo is going to be open when you are passing through, because this is the only fuel stop, and town of any size, until Alice Springs. The scenery changes so much in this section from spinifex grasses to open plains. The road then turns into the Donahue Highway from Boulia to Tobermery Homestead on the Qld/NT border. We kept driving from the border for a few hundred kms on the Plenty highway till we found a nice free camp.

I would recommend doing the drive over a few days to see everything along the way. Due to limited time we did it in two days. It is very rough in some parts, single lane with lots of red bull dust. Check the road conditions before you start, we were there during June in a very dry year so there were no flooded creek crossings to worry about. It is an amazing drive of changing landscapes and vegetation, forgotten towns and a different way of life. I thoroughly enjoyed the drive but its not for everyone.

Next post: Our free camp on the Plenty Highway.

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The route from Winton to Alice Springs

The route we took from Winton to Alice Springs

Bees – Field guide Friday

bee sketches by shantele iannaAustralia has over 1500 species of native bees. The honeybee is not native, it was introduced from Europe 193 years ago. Native bees have pretty cool names too, the teddy bear bee, the blue banded bee. Most of our native bees are solitary bees just doing their own thing and laying eggs on their own not in traditional hives.

The honeybee, which has been commercialised suffers stress just like humans do. From the food they eat, including chemicals, pesticides, extreme weather events and working too hard and getting burnt out. The current epidemic resulting in whole hives disappearing is called colony collapse disorder. Most scientists can’t agree on the cause but it seems to be a combination of factors. bee sketches 4 by shantele ianna

Bees are amazing creatures. They communicate in many different ways, one of which is a booty shake. Yep, they wiggle their butt’s, to let other bees know how far away pollen is from the hive. A more elaborate dance symbolises pollen that is further away. Pretty cool.
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Did you know that bees are put in trucks now and moved to different areas sometimes over thousands of kilometres away to pollinate crops and make honey. And the workers bees, that collect all the pollen, are females. So many things I didn’t even think about when I open a jar of honey. In Australia, we are lucky that we are largely unaffected by colony collapse disorder. But our bees are still stressed.

And bee pollen, the latest superfood, I always picture the big yellow clumps of pollen on the bees hind legs and wonder if the pollen collectors put tiny little brushes and tiny little jars under the brushes to sweep it off their legs as they enter the hive?! No, probably not….bee sketches 2 by shantele ianna

So next time you got to swat or kill a bee, you could be hitting a poor, overworked, unappreciated, woman who has been unsuspectingly poisoned and forced to move to a new town, whereas, she just wants to be out in nature, live her life’s purpose and dance……..

Sketchbook currently

Hi blog its been a while…sketches shantele ianna 2

I also realised that its been awhile since I have been drawing regularly. I started this sketchbook in April 2014, that’s 18 months, 18 months of not drawing or sketching regularly. It time to show up at the page again and start making sketching a regular practice. 18 months is a long break from doing something I love… so here are my latest scribbles.sketches shantele ianna 4 sketches shantele ianna

Some food, some blind contours, some gardening and some nature journaling…sketches shantele ianna 3

I’m on a mission to finish this guy by the end of the year, there are about 25 pages left in it, not overly ambitious but better than an average of a drawing a month… and stay tuned for some more field guide Friday posts…

I hope you are spending your days, or stealing minutes, to practice something that brings you joy…….

Borneo honeymoon – Gunung Gading National Park

Gunung gading 5We ended up in Gunung Gading National Park on a whim at the last minute and I am so glad we did. Gunung Gading National Park is home to the world’s largest flower, the Rafflesia. The flower can grow up to one metre in diameter and is characterised by its large red petels. The ones we saw at the park were probably about 50cm in diameter. The next photo shows the inside of a flower. Gunung gading 2Gunung gading 1

The flower emits a rotting flesh smell to attract flies and insects to pollinate other flowers. The few open flowers that we saw didn’t have a strong offensive smell. The flower grows on a very indistinct vine. It takes nine months to reach maturity then it only blooms for a few days. Below is a flower before it has bloomed. Gunung gading 9 Gunung gading 8

We did a guided tour while we were there, and it was the best money we have ever spent. Our guide Michelle, was hands down the best guide I have ever had, she pointed out insects, plants and animals that we would never have seen. Gunung gading 7 Gunung gading 3

She grew up in the jungle and has so much knowledge and stories on the park to share. She pointed out the plant that the locals would use in their darts to kill animals. Ask her about the cicada races 🙂Gunung gading 4 Gunung gading 10

Gunung Gading is located a couple of hours from Kuching. We took a private tour to get there, in a mini van, where he dropped us at the door and then waited to take us back to our hotel. There are directions on how to get there with public transport in the lonely planet if you would rather same some money.

Two new quilts

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I have had a plan to make a quilt for my niece and goddaughter for a while now. Recently I found some beautiful vintage fabric to finally make a start. I decided to make two quilts at once to save on the cutting time which is my least favourite part. I have already made a quilt using isosceles triangles and wanted to do something different but still simple with a repeating shape. I decided on 3.5 inch squares.

It felt a bit daunting once I saw all the squares piled up. But then I realised that I just have to break it down into small steps and take it one step at a time. I thought that I would make two quilts the same but by the time I had pieced together the first square pattern quilt I was ready for something a bit different. I decided to make the second one by cutting the squares into half square triangles.

I used an animal print sheet for the backing and am happy with how they both turned out. And the girls love them. I also made small embroidered tags for both with a simple small personal message.

I have now completed three quilts and every time I learn something new. But over and over again I have learnt that it feels so good to actually finish a project rathe than worrying about making it perfect.

Best of Kuching, bike tour

Kuching bike tour 11A bike tour is always a good idea. You would think that Kuching would be a bit crazy to ride a bike around, because it is non stop traffic in the streets. But I reckon that cycling is the best way to see a city. We joined the “Best of Kuching” tour with Para Desa again which covers the heritage trials of Kuching and the Kampong malay villages. Along the way we sampled local street food, markets and village life.Kuching bike tour 7 Kuching bike tour 5

The tour starts with a visit to the city’s local Chinese food market to sample some local kolo mee and drinks. Then we had some free time to explore little india and all the colour and smells of this street. Kuching bike tour 8 Kuching bike tour 6

We rode along the heritage trail to see local sights such as the old courthouse and the beautiful Kuching mosque. Kuching bike tour 10

After visiting the mosque we all crammed into a Sampan Boat and headed over to Malay Kampong (traditional malay villages) on the banks of the Sarawak River. The kids come out and run after the bikes as you ride past and there is a quick tour of one of the houses. It is always fascinating to see how other people live!Kuching bike tour 2 Kuching bike tour 12

A visit to a local open air market and lunch is included on the tour. Having the guide with us made me more confident to ask questions and take photos of the vendors.Kuching bike tour 13 Kuching bike tour 15 Kuching bike tour 18

It was bustling and vibrant, with a flower market and lots of fruits, veggies, and sea creatures along the way. It was great to sample food that I wouldn’t normally try. Having a guide helped us to eat local food at stalls where we wouldn’t get sick.Kuching bike tour 14 Kuching bike tour 16 Kuching bike tour 17

It was the best way to see the city, and I would recommended doing it when you first arrive so you get a taste of the highlights of this beautiful city.

Borneo honeymoon – Kuching & Bako National Park

bako NP borneo 11We loved Kuching. Most people we talked to wondered why we were going to Kuching. I now am wondering why not. It is such a vibrant, clean city and there is so much to do there. We stayed for 5 nights and visited Bako National Park, Guning Gading National Park, did a wetlands tour, visited a tribal village, the orang-utan sanctuary and a did bike tour of the city. We crammed in lots of activities. bako NP borneo 5 bako NP borneo 4 bako NP borneo 2

Bako National Park was a real highlight. It is located only 20 km from the city on the coast between two rivers. You get there via a short boat ride from a mainland fishing village and land on the beach near the parks headquarters.  bako NP borneo 8 bako NP borneo 6

There are lots of different bushwalks at the park and you would need days to do them all. We only had one day there and did Telok Pandan Kecil trail. It takes you along the coastline, were we saw a bearded pig and proboscis monkeys and then up over the plateau and through varied vegetation types. It was a surprise to see hundreds of pitcher plants along the trail. This trial ends at beautiful sea stacks and a gorgeous cove and beach. Normally there is a boat to save walking back but after we waited for ages we realised that the boat was not running that day. Make sure you book ahead if you want this option :)…. bako NP borneo 9 bako NP borneo 13 bako NP borneo 14

We did our tour through Para Desa Borneo & they were fantastic. They have a great little tour office down town with amazing friendly service and good rates. I cant recommend them highly enough.