2023 Big Trip – Blog 7 Sunday 25 June – Newhaven Wildlife Sanctuary 1

Monday, Jun 26, 2023 at 12:33

Member - Matwil

Before I start on the blog of the last few days, I have an addendum to our trip across the Great Central Road. On the Sunday we also called into Lasseter’s Cave, which is a point of interest. Really it is just a small cave off the Great Central Road. Nothing special, but we can say we visited it. My other comment relates to what is the best maps when doing outback trips such as ours. We carry paper Hema Maps but have a couple of digital helpers as well. The most used app by us was the ExplorOz map set. They are indispensable when doing trips like this. They have every track marked, including lookouts and camping spots that you don’t find on any other app. Plus they are accurate. We also use Wikicamps but found on the great central Road that ExplorOz was better. The main drawback for Wikicamps is the map set they rely on. It is just not detailed enough. Another reason for using ExplorOz is it tracking function which allows others, mainly family to see where we are at any point of time. One word of warning to anyone wanting to undertake remote travel, do not rely on one map source. Have several including paper back-ups. And always download the offline map sets to the highest resolution you can.

Well as I hinted in my last blog we left Alice Springs on Tuesday morning to head off to Newhaven Wilderness Santury. We had to drive up the Tanamai Track to Tilmouth Well before turning into their front drive which is about 130klms long. The drive to Tilmouth is now relatively easy being bitumen all the way. We have driven this road twice before. Tilmouth Well Roadhouse gave a chance to refill to ensure we had full tanks before heading off road to Newhaven. Fuel is 1.929 a litre in Alice and $2.60 a litre at Tilmouth. We then headed down the front driveway which is a red sand road, fairly easy driving but a few deep sand pockets on the way. We arrived at Newhaven at about 3.30 in the afternoon and headed straight to the campground. Our 4 day stay had been booked on line so we did a self-sign-in and then found a camp site. They have about 8 to 10 sites scattered over a decent sized area so you can choose a site for yourself that is reasonably private but has running water…. Yes, running water in the desert – and a fire pit. There were two other groups already there, so we found a private spot not far from the amenities and set up camp. Facilities include two composting toilets and two gas fired showers. If you look at the map I have attached we are virtually in the middle of nowhere. No internet, not phone and just like the old days when you went into the wilderness. i.e. pre 1990’s.

To come here you must be totally self-sufficient. Have a Sat phone or personal locator beacon, two way radio, full first aid kit etc etc. plus enough fuel to do what you want to do. You basically are on your own and need to plan as such.

The Sanctuary is 262,500 hectares ( 650,000 acres) in the Southern Tanamai Desert. It is an ex cattle property that was taken over by Bird Australia in 2000 which then teamed up with Australian Wildlife Conservatory to take over the day to day running. They rely largely on volunteers to keep the place running but there are a few full time and part time rangers, including locals.

Part of the property has an exclusion zone, which is the second largest in Australia for the reintroduction of threatened species. They are gradually returning the land to what it was prior to being opened up by Europeans. There is a diversity of habitats on the property as you will see from some of the photos I have posted. (NB All photos are copyrighted and cannot be reproduced without permission. – This is a requirement of the Australian Wildlife Conservatory). There is one designated walk you can do then 4 or 5 self guided drives around the property. Extensive field notes and information is provided in both hard copy and digital form to enable visitors take in everything the property offers.

Having set up camp we had a restful afternoon planning what we would do the next day. We decided that in the morning we would do the camp walk which involve a 50metre climb up a hill at the back of the camp. When I got up next morning I noticed on my phone that a lot of stray messages had come to it during the night. Yet we had no connection to any service.

We did the climb next morning. While an easy climb for most, I found it quite a challenge as my arthritis is getting progressively worse. I took two hiking sticks which eased the effort required a bit. Climbing is not the problem, it is the coming down that is. We made it to the top. This country is so flat that on top of a 50-metre hill you can see for ever. The West MacDonalds in the south, numerous mountains to the North and West, plus a view over the Sanctuary itself. At the top our phones started to go crazy, we had one bar of 3G and emails and messages were coming in. Wow. I was even able to download my paper – not so isolated at all, but it did take forever to download anything. The signal must be coming from Tilmouth Well, 130 kilometre away.

I made a very slow climb to the bottom. Glad we had not organised anything for the afternoon as I was done in and needed pain killers for the arthritis…. I won’t be doing that climb again. But hey Louise has a course for her fitness regime and can climb it each morning….. bonus and she can get the paper for me. Everyone wins. SO that is what has happened each morning.

The next day we undertook two of the drives available around the property, The Lakes Tour and the Dune Tour. There is a system of lakes on the property, but they are dry at the moment and salt incrusted on the surface. It was interesting driving through the different landforms and seeing the vegetation in its natural state. They have a big weed eradication program and after 20 years you can see the benefit this has on the countryside. Today we did the Hillside Drive Tour. I have posted a series of photos that shows a cross section of the property.

The Sanctuary also provides firewood for campers, so last night we had a campfire. It was a beautiful evening, no wind and mild temperatures. I lit the fire early so that we could get a good base of hot coals. Louise made camp oven bread which was delicious as did the spuds cooked on the coals.

During the day one group here left, but they were replaced by two other groups. But the place still feels private.

We pack up tomorrow morning and head back to Alice, where we will be for at least a couple of days. We got an updated weather forecast this morning and things do not look good for next week with 4 days of heavy rain… up to 35mm to 55mm a day forecast. This does not bide well for our plans. We have already put off the trip to Chambers Pillar because of the state of the road and were hoping to explore the East MacDonalds. But with that amount of rain it will not be possible. Also in doubt is our other bucket list items on the way back to Adelaide. William Creek, The Painted Desert, Farina, Hawker are all in doubt if the forecast is right. We tried to undertake this trip last year but closed roads because of rain stopped us, and it looks like to be repeated again. Oh well will just have to wait till we get to Alice and then decide what to do. I have already booked our stay in Adelaide from the 5th July and that date can’t be changed so will have to find other places to go, which could be difficult if rain closes the dirt roads. For those that don’t know us, Adelaide in an annual excursion to Haig’s Chocolates, Snowy’s, Adelaide Markets for an Italian Feed at Lucia’s, and coffee beans, a visit to our special Camera Shop and generally shopping for all the items we can’t get in Scone. If the forecast is bad I will be poring over the maps to find alternative places to spend some time. Maybe just hole up in the Barossa and drink wine for a week!

We have arrived back in Alice and the weather forecast is worse than we expected. We are going to stay in Alice for 4 days to get through the worst of it. The only drawback is that the dry creek we have to cross to get out of the campground may become impassable. But we will cross that bridge (so to speak) when we get to it. Then we will head straight down the highway to Adelaide where the caravan park has agreed to let us stay two days earlier than what we booked.
Wanting to explore our vast wide land
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