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Published: October 22nd 2012
Mataranka Hot Springs
A stop off on the way to The Rock
Howdy Folks - we hope you enjoyed the first part of this update, now get your cocoa ready for the main presentation...
At this time of year Darwin experiences what is called 'the build up'. Here the heat and humidity increases but it doesn't rain. Aircon usage goes through the roof and people just sweat when they cross the street. We decided that it was time to leave Darwin and hit the road again. We wanted to see Uluru (Ayers Rock) before it got too hot but also wanted to go to Queensland for the rainforest and Great Barrier Reef. Unfortunately they are in different directions and several thousand kilometres apart. How would this dilemma be resolved?
Step forward Mr Bradley Drinkwater. Brad is a proud Queenslander who had travelled to Darwin to fish with a friend but couldn't stand the idea of driving a couple of thousand kms back home alone. The drive is tedious and if you're not crazy before the start you probably will be by the end of it. Brad posted an ad on gumtree for some roadmates & after a quick meet up in a supermarket car park we agreed to hit the road
Daly Waters Pub
This pub is in the middle of nowhere. A welcome stop off to get a cool beer
with him. He seemed like a nice guy (as every serial killer victim no doubt says!) and he was willing to take a 1500km(+) detour to visit Uluru as he had never been before. He was the answer to our dilemma and it turned out to be a great decision.
So we quickly packed our bags and jumped in his car for the long, long, long trip to the Red Centre and The Rock. Situated in almost the very heart of Australia it takes some effort to travel there no matter where you start. It took us several days driving to reach Alice Springs, the gateway to The Rock but even then still some 400+kms away. Along the way we got to know Brad better and he us. I think it is safe to say that his taste in music is even more cheesy than mine (seriously, who has vengaboys and the hamster song on their ipods?! Sorry Brad, I cannot forgive you those grave sins - F)! We punctuated our trip with various stops at pubs in the middle of nowhere and roadhouses that offered a place to rest and eat. This was steak country, though some places
Daly Waters Pub
The Aussie humour at work
offer 'fresh fish' in the middle of the fire-ravaged desert (I had some salmon fillet, rather nice it was too - F)! Bushfires are a way of life in Australia and you can travel for an hour and just see fire damaged scenery, made more interesting however by the appearance of a 'dust devil'.
After several days on the road we were all itching to see The Rock. We headed out of Alice Springs early (Brad was certainly an early riser, which made us get up and out). We diverted to Kings Canyon, some 200+kms out of the way, described as Australia's answer to the Grand Canyon. To say this is an exaggeration would be generous. Whilst nice, it isn't worth the trip but it did heighten our anticipation.
As we drove on, we were straining our necks over each horizon, desperate to be the first to glimpse the largest monolith in the world. When it finally came into view after what seemed like an age we were certainly not disappointed. There she was, standing proud, bestriding her desert surrounds. Like many people, we have seen countless images of this Australian icon, but in person it truly is
Daly Waters Pub
A feature of the pubs in the Outback is for the walls and ceilings to be covered with momentos such as bras, caps, t-shirts & money. The money is left so that if a traveller ever returns then they will have the money to buy a pint.
an awe inspiring sight. Some people may fly in, but to drive seems a fitting pilgrimage and gives just a hint of what it must have felt like for Aboriginals and others to have first seen this. There is something magical about the place that truly embodies more than just a giant lump of rock.
Dropping our bags off at the extortionately priced hotel we hurried to get our position to view the sunset. We got there early and went up and down the viewing area to find the best view. In true colonial style we defended our spot against the hordes of Japanese, Germans & Brits, who thought they could get there late and get a view (for some reason the Park authorities let some trees grow that slightly obscured the view, unless you happened to be in our spot!). To see the change of colour and form as the sun set was great.
There isn't much choice of (budget) accommodation at the Ayers Rock Resort, a place which has been specially built nearby to The Rock. Fiona was hoping for an idyllic camping spot, with a fire, whose flames roasted dinner as a banjo played (or
The Devil's Marbles
On the way to The Rock. The Aboriginals believe these are the eggs of the Rainbow Serpent.
didgereedoo would've been fine - F). Unfortunately, our hotel was a hive of activity, the only place to be when it is quite literally 500kms from anywhere. After we wolfed down our burger meals we took a drive to look at the clear evening sky and the glistening stars. We headed back and attempted to get some sleep whilst others partied to the Summer of 69. Part of us felt like we had become old fuddy duddies, complaining about the noise instead of being the ones making it. Perhaps we are getting old, or perhaps we just wanted to get our monies worth in this hotel before checking out at 5am to see the sunrise (we had got a room instead of a dorm to ensure a good night’s sleep)! Before dawn we arose and headed off to get another look at The Rock. The dark monolith was there waiting for us, the moon shining overhead against the blue ocean sky. As the sun rose and cast its rays against The Rock one can only wonder what it must have been like to have viewed this in the days gone by, before the tour buses & the beeping telescopic lenses.
Alleron in The Outback
Every 100kms or so you come across a 'town' in the Outback that is often no more than a roadhouse. The owners try to entice people to stop by building various huge objects by the side of the road.
Determined to get our fill we also took a 10km walk around the base of this icon that has been a shelter, a school and a ceremonial place for centuries. A hot topic is whether or not people should climb up The Rock, as Aboriginals find it deeply offensive to do so. To some this is merely a rock or mound like any other, to be traversed as man has done all over the planet. To be honest before I came here I probably felt the same (though admittedly I hadn't given it a huge amount of thought). Yet here it became clear to all of us that this is more than just solid rock. There is an energy, a mysticism about the place. The Olgas (a collection of rocks nearby) should in many ways be more impressive than Uluru, yet they haven't got that thing, that X factor (copyright S Cowell, lol). So we did not climb up The Rock, though to be honest it looked bloody steep and is closed off a lot due to high temperatures.
Another controversy (how can a rock be so troublesome I hear you ask) is what to call the place
A town called Alice --- oh yeah
Alice Springs, Northern Territory. Has a bit of the Wild West about it.
... Ayers Rock or Uluru. One a name synonymous with white settlement, the other Aborignal heritage. You can quickly gauge an Australian’s viewpoint on life and politics by simply getting them to name that thing in the centre of Australia. The Ulurus will be lefties, the Ayers Rockies will be righties. To me both names seem appropriate (a cop out I know). Ayers Rock gives it that sense of magnitude and adventure that is befitting the place, whilst Uluru provides that mystical element that the area seems to embody (I prefer Uluru and have amended the blog to show this! - F).
It was sad to leave this great Aussie icon, but we had another place to be and another road to travel on (plus we got plenty of pictures as you can see!). Staying one night again in Alice Springs we got to feed rock wallabies by hand and sing 'Two Little Boys' with a rather drunk country singer come Rolf impersonator.
Brad was enjoying our company so much (of course!) that he offered to take us to see some of the sights on the way to his beloved East Coast. Now it was our Fi's birthday
Is that The Rock?
Is this the mighty Rock that we have travelled so far to see? No, it is Mt Conner, described as the most photographed red herring as everyone thinks it is Uluru.
on 8th Oct. With us being in the middle of nowhere coupled with me feeling a bit icky it perhaps wasn't the best or most exciting birthday she has ever had (violins out people! - F). However, she has assured me that I will get to treat her some time on the East Coast. We were covering some 500-700kms a day but still stayed in many small towns/homesteads.
So along the way east we stopped off to see some 95 million year-old dinosaur footprints. An almost perfectly preserved scene that paleontologists believe was where a carnivore came upon a group that were drinking from a river. The following stampede and associated network of footprints running in all directions were fossilised and apparently also the inspiration for a scene in Jurassic Park. It is hard to get your head around the idea that this took place so long ago, yet here we were looking at the footprints of animals that roamed the Earth before humans came close to existing (assuming you believe the scientists of course). An amazing thing to see, yet in true Aussie fashion, not over done (even the road was part dirt to get there). In America
And here we are - The Rock
After some 2000kms we have made it to Ayers Rock/Uluru from Darwin.
they would surely have built a theme park there.
Another stop off was Undara Lava Tubes. Here we got to camp under the stars and have an old fashioned bush breakfast over an open fire before exploring these tubes which had been created by molten lava some 190,000 years ago. Whilst impressive, we weren't allowed to explore the tubes alone so we had to go on tours to see them. This was expensive and we didn't get to spend enough time inside them for our adventurous side to be satisfied, though we did see some bats come out of an entrance at dusk which was pretty cool.
From Undara, we carried on heading east away from the dust and dirt and finally into the beautiful green rolling hillsides and tropical rainforest of the Atherton Tablelands, close to the Cairns coast. There is lots of new wildlife to see here, from platypuses to cassowaries, which F is desperate to see (so desperate that we all headed off in our shorts in the rain to search by a river bank one night, with no luck). From the dry heat of the desert we are now once again in the moist
The Rock 1
OK here we go. Be prepared to see a lot of photos of this giant monolith as it changes colour during sunset.
warmth of the tropics. Our driver Brad decided that this was the end of the road for him and dropped us of in Cairns before heading home to Townsville (we'll be seeing you again mate don't worry!).
Cairns is a vibrant backpacker place with plenty of nightlife and night creatures. It has more of a city feel about it than Darwin and the cheapest beer & food we have yet come across (yay!). We spent a weekend there and enjoyed the numerous backpacker deals (steak & beer for $7! Just like a Wetherspoons) before hitting the dancefloor to show the locals how to boogie. Though there are a lot of young people in town we certainly weren't the oldest on the dancefloor (much to F's relief).
We are now currently wwoofing in Kuranda, a village in the rainforest in the hills above Cairns. Next stop - exploring the rainforest and the reef (and settling the score re an outstanding Bday pressie! - F)!
A big thank you must go out to our driver, guide & friend Brad for showing us the sights. Whilst admittedly his taste in music is worse than mine (lol) he showed us the
hospitality we have come to expect from Aussies and true Queenslanders, they love us whingeing poms really!
Australia is still exciting us, enthralling us and infuriating us (at times) but now we have reached the Pacific once again (having seen it from California) we are beginning to get a fuller picture of this vast continent.
Enjoy the pictures of The Rock, trust me there are plenty, but they can never truly bestow the sheer majesty of the place. It is one of the things on our bucket list and a pilgrimage that all Aussies should perform at some time in their life.
Catch ya later! xx
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