As we journeyed through the Northern Territory, we were randomly distracted from the vastness of the desert by some very interesting features along the way. Central Mount Stuart is a mountain peak, about 200km north of Alice Springs, named in honour of the Scottish explorer John McDouall Stuart who reached the area in April 1860. He determined a point approximately 4km south of the peak to be the centre of Australia.
Stuart originally named the peak Central Mount Sturt after former expedition leader Charles Sturt but the name was changed soon after Stuart’s return to Adelaide.
I was very excited to find a winery in the desert, although there was little evidence of vines.
‘Shatto Mango’ at Ti-Tree, 180km north of Alice Springs had some surprisingly palatable offerings.
We tasted a crisp Mango Magic, fortified Mango Moonshine liqueur and sparkling Mango Mist. We even bought a couple of bottles.
Not too far down the road, we stopped at Aileron roadhouse
to meet ‘Anmatjere Man’. The statue, based on a traditional man from the local Anmatjere tribe, is 17 metres tall and weighs 8 tonne.
He took twelve months to build and was joined three years later, in 2008, by a wife and child.
30km north of Alice Springs is the Tropic of Capricorn marker, a stylized globe of the world on top of a 6.5 metre slanted pole.
In 1987, the local Alice Springs radio station ran a competition for design sketches from the public. The winner was a part time announcer for ABC radio. A local artist was commissioned to carve the Capricorn Goats in either side of the cement base.
90km west of Alice Springs, we had a brief stop at Stuarts Well roadhouse.
The pub/ campground is also the site of a camel farm, set on 9 acres at the foot of the James Ranges.
Continuing westward, we discovered the Cannonball Run Monument.
The race, run in 1994, was 3200km along the Stuart Highway from Darwin to Alice Springs and return.
On 24th May, a Ferrari F40 crashed into a checkpost killing the two Japanese occupants and two track officials. The cause of the accident was found to be excessive speed.
We lunched on the lawn under some magnificent gum trees at Curtin Springs, a cattle station 100km east of Ayers Rock. The station covers just over a million acres – that’s 100km long x 40km wide!
Back on the road, we soon spied Mt Conner, at the border of Curtin Springs station, often mistaken for Uluru by excitable tourists.
There are so many wonderful surprises in the Australian outback, many we would have missed without our fabulous friends to guide us.