Written by: Brandon
After about an hour and a half of driving from Erldunda Roadhouse, we arrived at Stuarts Well Roadhouse at 5pm to check into our rooms before heading out to Rainbow Valley!
Reception told us we still had time to visit Rainbow Valley Conservation Reserve if we headed out now! So we threw our bags into our rooms and quickly made haste to Rainbow Valley which was about 43 kilometers away (plan ahead!)
Getting to Rainbow Valley is fairly simple by just following Stuarts Highway in the direction towards Alice Springs. Eventually a turnoff on the right with a signage ‘Rainbow Valley’ will appear and that’s where you need to turn into.
Do note that after the turnoff, the roads are unsealed so do take note if you are driving in a 2WD or a storm recently happened. Our experience was relatively smooth as the roads were graded recently compared to the Mereenie Loop road.
We came across a herd of cows and some random horses just chillin’ in the middle of the road. Thankfully with a horn, they cleared the way for us and we were on our way!
After a bit of driving, we finally reached Rainbow Valley and were greeted with this majestic sight.
It’s incredible to be just standing there to take in the vastness of this entire area with the wide claypan in the foreground and backed by the huge sandstone formation. We arrived at the right time where the sun was starting to set and we could see the formation slowly start to glow. It was a really beautiful scene.
As the sun was setting quick, we couldn’t spend much time at the reserve sadly.
However in our short time there we learnt that:
There are two walks that can be done at the reserve. One takes you to see some of the unique rock formations such as the Mushroom rock which all have been formed through time via rain and wind erosion. The other walk is the claypan walk which we did partially. The walk takes you around the edges of the claypan and loops back at where you started.
Important note to respect the signage that are posted around the conservatory as this is aboriginal owned land. During our time at the reserve, there was signage indicating that visitors are not allowed to walk onto the claypan due to its fragile nature!
You can camp/picnic at designated campgrounds, BBQ pits and pit toilets are available. But as our tent was out of action, we sadly could not camp at Rainbow Valley as intended. As a photographer, this place is a goldmine for landscape and astrophotography!
Soon it was time to leave this magical place and head back to the roadhouse for the day.
Driving back to the roadhouse made us realise that this was it, our trip was nearly ending. No more wide open spaces, roads 😦
Stuarts Well Roadhouse
Back at Stuarts Well, we parked outside our mini cabin and explored our room for the night. It was a really small cabin but big enough to fit a queen and single sized bed, a small dresser, a TV that looked like it came from the 80s and a toilet that can only fit 1 person at a time. From the window we could see trees full of birds perched for the night. Small arrangements but cosy!
After we settled down, we had our usual budget ramen and bananas meal before heading over to check out the main building for drinks and some bar food. The main building is a bar/restaurant, general store with fuel for purchase all rolled into one!
The roadhouse feels very homely and cosy with various memorabilia placed throughout the interior. Do take time to read all the notes pinned on the walls within the main building. They are really interesting to read, some left by the owners of the place, some by the many tourists that have come and gone just like us. We even found Singapore 2 and 5 dollar notes stuck onto the wall!
We ordered a round of beers and onion rings and sat down to watch some TV. I can’t remember what was on but I remember that the onion rings were so damn good that Dian polished through most of the bowl before I even realised (Dian: oops hehe)! But okay the onion rings were really really delicious. Quite possibly the best I’ve tasted in recent memory. So we decided to order another bowl but shared equally this time!
Just like that, Day 7 was over. It really seemed like these seven days had gone by in a flash 😦
Stay tuned for Day 8 as we prepare to head home!