Going Loopy in a Merinee Way

Trip Start Mar 30, 2008
Trip End Mar 31, 2009

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Flag of Australia  , Western Australia,
Thursday, November 13, 2008

Going Loopy in a Merinee Way
Wednesday 12th November - Kings Canyon to West Macdonells (via Merinnee Loop)
As is often the way sleep was a little affray again last night. However today was a big day as we were about to attempt the Merinee Loop. The Merinee cuts out about 500km between Kings Canyon and the West Macdonnells Range, but is a dirt track suitable only for 4wd's. As always we thought it best to check the condition so after re-fuelling at the Mobil we asked about the conditions and buying a permit. Permits are at nominal cost but as some tracks pass through aboriginal lands they provide essential insurance against the unforeseen. For example aboriginals in their land have special dispensations: can carry and use guns for hunting, and can drive unregistered vehicles are two such examples.

To our surprise we were strongly advised by the lady there not to use the Merinee due to it's poor condition. 'it'll wreck your car' she said. This was a devastating blow, it meant a massive drive around on the sealed network to Alice Springs and already it was 10am. Alex and Jens wanted to try the loop, but the girls wanted to heed these warnings. We couldn't understand why it should be so bad, there hadn't been a lot of rain here. The four of us spent the next 45 mins in counsel, shall we or shan't we? A compromise was reached to recce the first section and then return if it was too bad. Worst case this may mean that Jens and Torril run out of time to see the Macdonnel Ranges.

So eventually with our $5 permits we are ready to leave, but just before we pull away the Dutchies turned up. 'Where are you going, we are off on the Merinee Loop now' they say. Oh really so we ask what they have been told about the road. It turns out they bought their pass at the resort reception and were told, 'the roads a little corrugated, but you'll be good mate, got 4wd?' This seemed more usual with users of the Ozzie unsealed network.

Our three car convey left and within an hour were making excellent progress. Alex had the GPS setup and we had been making an average speed of 74km/h. At one point Alex was driving and noticed something moving on the road. He pulled over abruptly and was just in time to photograph an innocuous looking light brown snake around 5 feet long. Alex had no idea what type of snake it was, but was really chuffed to have seen a snake. We will have to work out what it is later.

We stopped at Gosse Bluff for lunch and were all exceptionally happy that we had taken this route and not the long slog back on the sealed network. The corrugations were bad, but so far all three cars were bearing up well. The Dutchies were driving a Mitsubishi Pajero so this the lightest construction was suffering a little with the severe corrugations, but the guys were happy so now we had only about 3 hours more driving. A short way from the end unfortunately we lost sight of the Dutchies behind us and had to back track. We found them 5km back changing a wheel, such a shame so close to the end of the track. We lent them our tyre pressure gauge to reduce their tyre pressures and chances of a further puncture and pushed on.

6 hours later we were through the loop delighted with our decision and we decided to reward ourselves with a stop at Glen Helen Gorge. This was a great place for a swim and later on the two we had helped on their breakdown pulled in aswell. So we all had a few beers together and then Jens and Torril returned the favour of the previous night by cooking some absolutely delicious steaks. Clare added to this with some sauteed potatoes and they cooked vegetables too, it was sooo good.

We should have been in bed then, but Ogu and Alisia wanted to thank us Belarussian style so Alex copped a vodka drinking session with Ogu and Jens.

Thursday 13th November - Glen Helen to Alice Springs
We didn't have too long to hang around today as the guys had to return their car to Britz by 12 pm so we left the Dutchies to take their time and headed straight for another creek for a swim. Ellery Creek was a welcome relief, but nothing like Glen Helen. The water was very murky and full of tiny waterborne animals. A quick dip and we were off again to Standley Chasm. We recognised this as soon as we got there from a tour we did 7 years ago. It's a really nice spot and Alex found some welcome shade for a iie down to help nurse his Belarussian Vodka head! On the way back Jens and Alex found a lizard that liked to run on his back legs and took some photos.

It was then time to deal with Britz in Alice Spring who for some reason weren't happy about the mud on their 4wd Toyota Landcruiser. 'We don't expect them to be driven in mud! Go wash it' said the lady. Reluctantly the guys went to the car wash, so we gave Betsy a good bath too. 40 minutes of scrubbing and jet washing later she looked a lot better, but really we are going to need a day at least before viewing to tart her up, she didn't scrub up as well as we hoped, dirty girl!

We dropped the car off and headed to the Heavitree Gap Campground which Torril had read about in the Lonely Planet. It was really nice and best of all had a pool The temperature was well into the forties so guess where we all headed first. Two or three hours later, the boys exhausted from playing with the local Aboriginal children in the pool we jumped out to see the wallabies. Every night the rock wallabies come down to feast on offerings from the tourists and hand feeding them was a great thrill.

We showered up and got ready for the town, remembering a place we went to when last here we suggested that would be a nice place to go. We got a taxi to 'Bojangles' and were just in time to order a meat feast! Clare opted for the safety of a steak and the rest of us dived into a meat lovers platter of: Croc patties, Buffalo steaks, Roo steaks, Camel kebabs and Emu sausages. It was all delicious and washed down with some good old Northern Territory Bitter.

As we left we realised why Alice had a bad reputation for alcohol abuse as a car came tearing round the corner and collided with a parked car. The occupant clearly struggling with their eyesight and reactions tried to reverse away and repeatedly mounted the pavement before finally managing to get away. Further on we followed a car load of locals trying desperately to keep their battered car between two kerbs opting to ride along the nearside one in order to find the way home. All they were missing was kebab compass to help them navigate! Tiny Tim, our 50 stone taxi driver made sure we were safe and we were glad Betsy was tucked up safely in the campsite.
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