Trip 9 – A gem of a place

Gemtree, approximately 150kms north east of Alice Springs, on the Plenty Highway.  This is our third visit and each time we love it a little bit more.  It’s hard to say exactly what makes this a favourite of ours, it’s probably the combination of bush remoteness, peace and quiet, friendly staff, great homemade food and the variety of things to do and see around the place.  It’s also essentially in the middle of Australia, on the Plenty Hwy east to Queensland and just off the Sturt Hwy running North South, so there’s always plenty of people passing through.

As you do, we got talking to plenty of people, however, one interesting and inspirational person we met was our neighbour for a couple of nights, Pam.  Pam is an ex-nurse who we think would have been in her sixties, and she has been travelling by herself, in her decked out Hilux ute for ages.  She’d recently crossed the Tanami Road where she’d free camped, sleeping in the back of her ute, at Wolf Creek meteorite site and other remote locations.  Lovely lady and we were lucky enough to share a Gemtree “Kate’s Campoven Kitchen” dinner with her over a couple of bottles of wine.

While we’re talking “Campoven Kitchen,” every Wednesday and Saturday in the on season, they run “Kate’s Campoven Kitchen” dinners.  At $20/head, you get a FULL plate of roast meat and vegies cooked in a bunch of campovens sitting in the coals.  This is a full camp affair with the whole family and all hands assisting.  They have a liquor license for these dinners and there’s plenty of good priced wine, beer and spirits available to help loosen the tongues.  Following dinner, Kate does a little talk about the history of how her kids, Mac and Tom are 5th generation Gemtree’ers, which is then followed by a short film, shot in the early 1960’s by the Presbyterian Church in Alice Springs.  In the film the then 8year old Charlie, Kate’s uncle, was student #1 at a new boarding college run by the church in Alice Springs and the film talks about Charlies experience growing up in the bush on a cattle farm and how he’ll learn lots of good stuff at the new school.  The best part of the film though is that it has captured most of Kate’s relatives, including the then 94year old Charles Oberlin Chalmers who founded the farm and now caravan park in the 1920’s.  Their story is a piece of Australia’s history that needs to be shared.

All in all, we had six days at Gemtree, plenty of time to rest and explore.



Kate’s Campoven Kitchen in flight – meals being prepared

Jules, talking to Pam (our Gemtree neighbour) and Roger at the campoven dinner


The dried out mud and un-staged bone at the bottom of what was the dam in from of the Gemtree reception.  It’s not rained properly there for years and the aquifer (underground water table) is really low.  

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