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Published: February 24th 2009
And then we went to............
OK, so where were we??? Oh yeah, Alice Springs, The Red Centre. After a quick tour around Alice, a trip to the Old Telegraph Station learning how Alice Springs became Alice Springs, information we will share with you a bit later!
Can't wait a second longer - Alice Springs was originally named Stuart Town but later changed its name after the spring by the Old Telegraph Station was named Alice after Charles Todd's wife, it was later found out that the spring was really a water hole, luckily the name wasn't then changed to Alice's Hole!
Leaving Alice we set off following the West Macdonnell ranges, a colossal ribbon shaped range. There were too many gullies, ridges and gorges to see on the way so we picked out two places to visit as we still had a full days travel ahead of us.
Our first stop was Ormiston Gorge, climbing over 650 million year old rocks up to Gum Tree lookout which gave us stunning views of the high gorge walls with the ice cold water holes below. Even in this heat the water was far too cold for a dip but
looked so inviting.
A quick tuna sandwich and gherkin lunch looking over Gosses Bluff our next stop; a massive 4km wide comet crater caused when it hit the earth a mere 140 million years ago. After seeing the crater from a distant lookout, we decided to enter the chasm, leading us up our first proper 4WD track, boulders and all. Yet again we seemed to be the only people visiting today. Climbing up the outer wall of the chasm giving us fantastic views over the crater.
The Mereenie Loop Track was to lead us to our next destination, we had our permits and were ready for the off, the unsealed road led us along the edge of a mountain range, passing wild horses in the green rocky bush. A few challenges came in the way of flood damage to the road where 4WD was engaged to get us across what remained of the road, albeit of the not as we know it kind in the first place. Towards the end the corrugations were shaking us to the bone. It was then we spotted a vehicle with hazard lights going, Kirstin assumed they were driving slowly to let us
pass but then in the mirror spotted a person waving frantically! We screeched to a halt, a couple with a 4WD hire car had a puncture and no jack; this is total neglect, people die on these roads you know! I guess the fact they had used Budget should have rung alarm bells. We duly assisted, it was a good test for our jack, it worked and they were eternally grateful. Off we set again in the knowledge that we had done our good deed for the day. Approaching King's Canyon before dusk we were ready to bed down for the night.
The Canyon for King's
It was up at the crack of dawn for a sunrise walk around the King's Canyon rim; this walk is a must for anyone in the area, it has stunning panoramic scenery, beautiful domed rock formations, hairy (not as in the stuff that grows on your head but a bit scary) lookouts with sheer drops, especially in high winds, grotto's and waterholes; what more could you ask for? Maybe a sherpa to carry the water supplies.
It's called Uluru you dummy
The time had come to take the final leg to Uluru,
Too busy looking at Uluru
you forget to look around
the reason why we came to the red centre, passing a big brown snake in the road that reared up as we passed, luckily we were in Pris a more than safe distance away. Mount Conner a huge lump of rock that the guidebook assured us people confuse for Uluru but there was no mistaking the shape. Then there it was our first sighting of Uluru, it's always strange to see such a familiar image in the flesh and knowing if it's going to live up to the hype. We had heard lots of different views of the “Rock” from the “just fly, it's not worth the drive” to “it's amazing and beautiful”. We set up camp and were itching to get closer for sunset, driving nearer there was lots of “wow's” and “ooohh's” and “aaahh's” coming from within Pris. First impressions were breathtaking; as the sun set the colours changed through various hues of brown and red - beautiful. After two sunrises and a sunset; Uluru being the only place you view a sunrise and sunset without looking at the sun, we were in no doubt of the magnificent presence of the “Rock”, although the hi-light for us was
the 9km walk around the base. Being up close to Uluru in the early morning light, seeing the different textures, gullies, waterfalls (albeit dry, but where they flow), the blue sky the golden grass setting it off - for us it truly lived up to the hype. The drive to Uluru had been our greatest adventure in Oz and the Rock was the big red cherry on the cake.
The rock garden didn't end there, in the distance and always in the shadow of Uluru were the lesser known Kata Tjuta - The Olga's to the white man! But no less an amazing sight, with all its other worldly domes, once thought to be one single rock 10 times the size of Uluru and to this day 200 metres taller.
Would you drive on the Outback Highway on Friday 13th???
With Uluru and Kata Tjuta behind us we left on the long red sandy track with Rob's words of “are you superstitious?” ringing around our heads. The Great Central Road cuts through the Northern Territory and Western Australia. It wasn't long before our spirits were crushed like a fly at Rainbow Valley, when we say long it was
about 5km's into the journey. The bone shaking road was taking its toll on us and the car. Covering 300km's in 5 hours, this was so disheartening as we still had another 800km's to go!
We were nearing Docker River, an area that locals had warned us about, we saw two Aboriginal guys waving us down for assistance, we pulled over, Rob keener to stop than Kirstin. The guys needed a jack and had been waiting all morning but not feeling that comfortable with the situation as we had passed quite a few cars that had obviously not stopped and knowing we were close to Docker River we offered to let the towns garage know of their predicament so someone could come out to assist. This news was not music to their ears and understandably we were abused with some choice swear words, as we pulled away feeling ashamed but no further than five minutes down the road we passed a police vehicle which we flashed over and explained the situation which they went to investigate.
Before coming to Oz we had a romantic image of Aboriginal life and culture however the reality appears very different. We have
The rock & rainbow
standing on Wave Rock. Hyden
spoken to many people and some who work within the closed Aboriginal communities, each tells their own opinions of the people who seem to be losing their way between past and present, it seems like a whole race of people are stuck in limbo. Please understand we are not generalising, that would be like saying all Australian's are loud!
It's so hard not to form your own conclusions as we drove pass the burnt out car wrecks that litter the Central Road and barbed wire around campsites which are near Aboriginal communities. Although we only ever saw people passing us in the car that waved and smiled.
You could be here for years and you would never understand Aboriginal culture, it's so large in fact it's the size of Australia, so it's impossible to try and find out about Aboriginal culture as a whole it would be like coming to England to understand the whole of European culture.
As we approached Warburton we were determined to push on through to the next roadhouse, we stopped to refuel and were about to head off when Kirstin realised that we had a flat tyre and Rob found
The morning sun rays
the red glow of Uluru
the indicator/lights arm hanging limply off the console, as well as both feeling as deflated as the tyre. It was time to STOP. Rob's words of if there is such thing as Karma we may be in trouble, referring to our earlier incident of leaving two guys stranded or was it the fact that it was Friday the 13th? We will never know the jury is still out on the Karma versus superstition.
We checked on to the campsite and then set to with repairs or rather Rob did, Kirstin was more the glamorous assistant covered from head to foot in rouge dust. We watched the sun go down from behind a barbed wire fence, not sure if it's to keep us safe from the outside world or the outside world from us! Let's explain something about red dust and the mysteries of how it gets into everywhere and we mean everywhere. You open a door and it's gathered on the sills, it leaves a layer across our bedding via the back door; it's in the food box and the pots/pans box, both stored under the bed, both with fitted lids, this is a mystery but not as much
on Uluru's inner walls
as the one surrounding the suitcase which has a sturdy zip and straps and is also full of red sand!! It's a great feeling to have a shower and a freshen up but then you touch anything in Pris and you are filthy red again, I guess this prepares you for having to sleep in it. When we said Pris was the Queen of the red desert we never meant for her to be taking it all with her!
Colours of the red sandy track against the green of the grass and the deep blue skies didn't change much for the 1100 odd km's but we never got tired of the landscape, large lizards lined the track side and the odd camel crossed our path, we never knew what was going to be around the next bend except a bright red track, green of the bush and the brilliant blue of the sky. We were certainly not expecting the best burgers in the world to be found at a roadhouse in the middle of nowhere on the Great Central Road, the Tjukayirla did the biggest, tastiest Scooby snack you will ever have, definitely something to restore the spirits and
set us up for the day. If you're ever in the area you must drop in! This roadhouse was the last 320km's before we were back on the black stuff, tarmac and after not seeing one single road kill on the desert track, on tarmac we were surrounded by the smell of rotting roo.
Passing through the many mining towns of WA like Kargoorlie, a whole town built around the gold rush, this is a MAN'S town where men are men and so are the women! This town lays on Men's entertainment, wink, wink, nudge, nudge, say no more, say no more! It's also the home of the SUPERPIT, not the superhero who keeps law and order or Brad but a massive huge great hole in the ground where gold is still being dug from the ground 28 hours a minute 340 days a week! If this hole and it is a hole gets any bigger Australia will have to be careful not to fall in to it!
A slight detour took us to Wave Rock, funnily enough a rock shaped like a banana! This was the closest we had got to taking the surfboard off Pris. As
if Wave Rock wasn't unusual enough, the sky that we got to view from the summit was; sunset in one direction and hammering rain in the other (in the distance) with a pink tinge and just to top it off a half rainbow bursting out of the clouds - truly breathtaking! It didn't end there, back at camp whilst preparing supper the sky decided to provide its own special light show by way of amazing lightning forking across the horizon; we thought how cool it would be to view the storm from the top of Wave Rock, then a huge thunder clap vibrated through us, at which point we nearly pooped ourselves and decided it was cooler to watch it under cover. Up early and the last couple of hundred of km's to Perth where we have things to do, places to see and most importantly people to meet but more about that next time.
Life on the bumpy open road you see so many amazing things and you get to meet some great people and characters, people from all walks of life with different tales to tell and some of the most interesting folks are the Outbackers, the
The Lost City
people who sold up and bought caravans, these guys have a genuine interest in where you've been, where you're going and where you should go, fascinating people who moved out of the rat race to the open space slow pace marathon!
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