100 days under canvas – part two 

Sitting here in Broome, looking out towards the Indian Ocean it’s hard to conceive of how far we have come in four weeks. Over 5,600 kilometres, through four states and one territory, three time zones and through lush farmland, harsh desert and now stunning beaches. 

 In my last post we were in Alice Springs, collecting supplies and fuel and doing much needed washing. From there, out of mobile range once again to Gem Tree in the East MacDonnell ranges. The purpose there was for fossicking, searching initially for garnets. Never having done this before we had no idea what to expect. 

We were taken to a piece of land that looked as though it had been attacked, piles of dirt and holes of varying sizes everywhere. Our guide selected a hole at random and explained what to do –  dig into the side of the hole, not too deep, pile the earth into a sifter and shake and rub the dirt through it till you are just left with small rocks. Transfer these to the ‘wet’ sifter, plunge it into a bucket of water, wash the rocks, then the best bit – hold it up to the light and look for the deep pink glow of garnets. Neil was digger and I was washer and sifter. The excitement of seeing the glow of the garnets was addictive. We had a good spot and worked hard and when we took our haul back to Gem Tree to be assessed found we had 17 of cuttable size and clarity, a good result!
The next day we felt the exertion of the previous day, so did a walk around the Gem Tree area, with a booklet detailing some of the plants around the place. The above drawings are from objects I found. 

The following day we left, but on our way to the Binns Track, which looped back to Alice, we decided to stop at the Mud Tank, an area where zircons can be found. Zircons, we were told, are the most ancient of gemstones, formed when the earth began, and have been pushed up from 17km below the surface. 

We only had one sifter, a pick, a spade and a small bucket, not the right equipment at all but decided to give it a go. I think we got lucky with the spot we chose as we found a lot. We have no idea if they are any good, but there are some that are beautifully clear. 

The drive along the Binns Track, a winding up and down 4WD track, was beautiful, the scenery constantly changing as we came back through the East MacDonnell Range to Alice. 

We decided to have an extra day in Alice to see the Henley on Todd Regatta – the unusual thing about it is that the Todd River is dry, only running after heavy rainfall, so all the boating events were adapted. The pictures speak for themselves. It was a great day, fun and relaxed with a great sense of community. 

 The Tanami Track was the next challenge, over 1000km of mostly dirt track, but the first section was straightforward, single track bitumen road to Tilmouth Well roadhouse, our first camp spot. 


The next day’s driving was mostly on dirt, not too corrugated and fewer vehicles coming the other way – a couple of roadtrains and three or four 4WDs, not a lot in 370km or so. The sense of being somewhere remote was becoming more palpable, and our bush camp for the night made that clear. Down a narrow track and over a hill we found good flat ground well away from the road. Red dirt, spinifex and termite mounds all around. Clearly there were dingoes about, but we only saw footprints. Lots of small birds but no other animals. We were close to a gold mine and could hear machines working and lights glowing through the night but otherwise we were alone. 



The following day we crossed the border into Western Australia and the track deteriorated, becoming rough, very corrugated with patches of loose sand or rocks. We camped for the night at Wolfe Creek Crater, just delightful after a tough day, so decided to stay a second night and walk the rim of the crater the next day. It’s the second largest meteorite crater in the world, and is an impressive sight. 



Refreshed after a day off – the weather now getting very warm – to Windjana Gorge and Tunnel Creek along a shocking bit of road. The best part was the scenery, the classic Kimberleys region icons of boab trees, kapok (as shown in the image at the top) and the dramatic black rocks of calcified coral reefs that make up the Leopold Ranges. In the pools in Windjana Gorge were large numbers of freshwater crocodiles, sunning themselves on the edge of the water. 

And now we are here in Broome, on the opposite side of the continent. I am sitting beside the camper trailer, as close to the water as it is possible to be, soaking in the view. Glorious!  One more day then on the move again, to Cape Leveque. 

Once again, this has all been done on my phone, so I hope the pictures are clear and the words intelligible! Soon we will be out of range again, but the gaps will get shorter as we head south into more populated areas. 

Author: anna warren portfolio

I draw, I paint, I am a printmaker. Always searching for the interesting detail in the world around me.

31 thoughts

  1. I’m not sure how much I would be able to enjoy if it was me as I’d be nervous – especially when the ‘road’ deteriorated. You must have to be very confident in your abilities to handle whatever comes up. Your phone takes wonderful photos – no worries there.
    I didn’t know we had the world’s second largest meteorite crater in Western Australia (never mind Australia itself).
    The zircons look like currents spread out before you add them to the cake mix.
    Your drawings show unusual and beautiful plants.
    I was a bit worried as you were out of social media for so long. I hoped you were okay. I wonder when you will get to Perth?


    1. I don’t do the driving on the dirt and Neil has a lot of experience with it, so generally speaking I don’t feel nervous- it’s other drivers who can be the problem, or animals that appear on the track, especially cattle. Hitting one would finish us! The zircons are prettier than they look, it’s hard to capture their sparkle, the garnets looked liked currants even more! The lack of mobile coverage is frustrating- we only get it in the large towns such as Alice and here. Makes you realise how much you take access for granted. Not sure when we will get to Perth, but I’ll let you know.


  2. What an exciting trip so far. Your photos and drawings look great, the iPhone is handling the photography and blogging really well. I enjoy your sketches of the small finds and your photo of the surroundings. Enjoy WA. Karen


  3. A great read Anna! The Kimberley part brings back good memories but the rest we are yet to experience. What a treasure trove your artist books are!!


  4. Bringing back lots of memories from when I was on the Tanami track 20 years ago , yikes! Love that spinifex. Yet to make it to Broome so eny there. Don’t be in too much of a hurry to get back to civilization! Loving your drawings.


    1. We had done the Tanami about 11 years ago but wanted to do it again, and it refreshed old memories and gave us new ones. Hard work at times, but so rewarding! We are off to Cape Levique tomorrow, another revisit that I am really looking forward to.


  5. Anna this is incredible. Thank you for sharing your trip, sketches, photos and writing, they are so fulfilling and mesmerizing, beautifully done. I can’t believe it has already been a month. You have covered so much but with a lot ahead of you to experience. Such a wonderful treat to be able to see your trip as it unfolds! Your field sketches and notes are visually so rich, thank you for sharing these gems!


    1. Oh thank you Cathe! It has been a mix of so many things so far, amazing scenery and roads that never seem to end, surprises and great beauty. Today the next bit begins as we go (out of range once again!) to Cape Levique, the tip of a small peninsula north of here.


  6. I wouldn’t have known that these photographs were taken on an iPhone—they look really good, the details can be easily seen. What an exciting trip! Thank you for your beautiful artistic take on it all. Your nature drawings, writing, and photography as a whole or individually really move me.


    1. I have been really impressed with my iPhone Nancy, it is a recent acquisition and has proved very good, but typing on it is still painful! I’m so glad you are enjoying the story – there is so much more I could include but no time or space!


  7. So much in one post.
    The Chippendale’s wattle certainly is different from the ‘normal’ wattles we have in Victoria…looks most interesting. A question, how long did it take you to walk around the Wolfe Creek crater rim, as it’s so huge? Your photos make it look quite small! Your drawings are wonderful, Anna. Looking forward to more…cheers!


  8. I so admire how you take to the road to beyond Anna .. I read that Neil is experienced so that must be reassuring 🙂 A real sense of discovery in your account and of course your drawings and little paintings are wonderful a beautiful record of your travels .


    1. We have gone so far now – over 10,000km – that the journal has become vital to remembering where we have been! There have been one or two scary moments on the road but generally we do feel pretty safe. The sense of discovery is the fun part, you are very right Poppy!


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