Catch up on Part I and Part II, where we had just finished exploring Uluru, Kata Tjuta and Kings Canyon.
We left Kings Canyon, bound for Alice Springs, via a road known as The Mereenie Loop. We had to get a permit for this road, as it travels through Aboriginal land. It's known as one of Australia's greatest drives, for 4WDs only, taking you via various gorges with wild camels, horses and kangaroos racing around the area.
The Mereenie Loop
Along this track we took a side trip into Palm Valley. Ancient palm trees fill this area, amidst the red gorges. It is such an unexpected sight that it felt as though James Cameron had come along and set up an enormous Hollywood film set in the middle of the desert.
Abbey was a little upset and over it all by this stage. Long drives, being transferred from the car to the hiking carrier on Steve's back, and then back to the car - it was taking its toll. Having been crawling for a few months by then, she was onto practicing her standing skills and she longed to do this all day. Whenever we could, we stopped to give her time to crawl around (even if it was just on rocks and red dirt!) and helped her with her standing. When that wasn't possible, we stopped for a little dance...
A dancing stop with my little girl
A close-up of Abbey enjoying a dance stop
Then we arrived in Alice Springs. After so much fast travelling, with just one night in each spot with full day drives every day, we were ready to stay in the one spot for a little longer. That was the plan anyway. But, having the itchy feet that we have, we only lasted two nights before packing up and heading off again.
Alice Springs was more beautiful than we imagined, or than I remembered from being there years before. There is so much to see around the area (being so close to the MacDonnell Ranges), and we drove out to Simpsons Gap and Standley Chasm.
Steve and Abbey at a lookout overlooking Alice Springs
Being in a tent with our little girl was fine in most ways: she slept in her portacot (although she was teething and ended up in our bed most nights) and it gave her a good place to crawl around and play with her toys. We have a two-room tent with an annex out the front, but it takes a little while to set up. So when we stayed somewhere for just one night, we used our tiny dome tent (made for two people, only high enough to crawl around in) with Abbey in her bouncinet.
The biggest challenge we found was not the tents, but the places we stayed. We are not caravan park campers; we're used to camping in the bush, so staying in caravan parks was a bit tricky. Other travellers were noisy late into the night, keeping us awake and making Abbey a little restless and then we worried about waking others when she cried during the night.
In the next instalment - the Oodnadatta Track, Lake Eyre and an unexpected winery stop.