Tucking into witchetty grubs, buying indigenous art, stopping off at outback roadhouses and sleeping in safari-style tents while camels roam nearby…it all adds up to one of the best days I had on the Outback Way.
Leaving Alice Springs at 8am, we travel south-east on the Stuart Highway, expecting our day’s drive to be around seven hours or more (with stops).
Our Outback Way touring group splits for a while, with the others heading off to Kings Canyon along the Red Centre Way via Hermannsburg. I’ve chosen the Kings Creek Station option simply because it’s something I’ve never done before, and I have been to Kings Canyon and Hermannsburg on previous trips. We’ll meet again at Uluru.
Roadhouses are the feature of our day, providing some wonderful insights into outback life. Our first stop is Stuarts Well Roadhouse, where the main interest is in the emus in the yard and the camel farm next door.
At Erldunda, after about 200km on the road, we turn west onto the Lasseter Highway and make the Mount Ebenezer Roadhouse our lunch stop another 56km further on. I was delighted to find the roadhouse’s art gallery offers some terrific affordable art, showcasing work from Imanpa Arts, made by local women, and snap up a small piece by Phyllis Bulla that depicts women around a waterhole.
Mount Ebenezer Roadhouse is owned by the Imanpa community, located 13km from the roadhouse at the base of the Basedow mountain range; the land surrounding the roadhouse is the traditional land of members of this community, predominantly Yakunytjatjara and Pitjantjatjara people.
The artists paint in the Western Desert ‘dot’ painting style, and there is a wide range of pieces to choose from, as well as wooden carvings and jewellery made from seeds and painted in traditional motifs.
For lunch, it’s hard to go past the roadhouse’s Ted’s Steak Sanga (sandwich) – with or without “the lot” – and we eat at one of the cafe tables, also painted in the local style.
Another 52km west, we detour off the Lassester Highway to head north 109km along the sealed Luritja Road to Kings Creek Station, our base for the night. But before we get too settled, we head out again to take an indigenous tour with Karrke Experience. Karrke – named for the Western Bowerbird – is owned and operated by Christine Breaden and Peter Abbott who live in a small aboriginal community called Wanmarra (population 10) inside the Kings Canyon/Watarrka National Park.
On a one-hour tour, Christine and Peter take turns teaching us about bush foods, hunting and weapons, dot painting and carving with fire, and other aspects of indigenous life. This is one of the best indigenous tours I’ve ever done, and I highly recommend it if you find yourself in this part of Australia.
We grind seeds, use clap sticks, and taste witchetty grubs – a first for me! These large white wriggly worms are the larvae of moths, found only in Central Australia. Christine shows us how to extract the wood-eating grubs from the inside of a branch, and then quickly roasts them in the hot ashes of the fire. I’m not convinced I want to taste them – but curiosity gets the better of me, and I bite and then chew! They’re certainly not as unpalatable as they look, a bit nutty and eggy.
Back at Kings Creek Station, we inspect the canvas safari-style “cabins” (or tents, if you prefer) that will be our accommodation for the night. Inside, there’s just enough room for twin beds and our small travelling bags. The shower block is near the camp kitchen and roadhouse; the toilet thankfully a little bit closer to our tents.
And as sunset approaches, we set up a small table and chairs under a large desert oak tree for a glass of cold white wine…life is definitely good!
A Glass Half Full travelled courtesy of the Outback Way Development Board.