Saturday, September 12, 2009

Day 197- Lake Hart to Port Germein

Called in to Woomera this morning to see the rocket and aeroplane display. The boys thought they were all pretty exciting. We spent a good hour wandering around all the displays. It probably would have been quicker if we were not fighting to stand upright against the wind that was blowing. No idea why anyone would built a rocket launching base some place where the wind would blow any rocket 5mile sideways before it managed to get anywhere near outer space... anyway....

Oh, we called into the tourist information centre and they had a ten pin bowling alley in there. My god! Did Jordy put up a fight. The bowling alley is just like the game on Lala's phone and he wanted in there for a game and was not taking no for an answer. Have to plan a day bowling when we get back to Port!

We had thought we'd stop at Port Augusta but we made good time and, to be honest, there was nothing really in Port Augusta. Amazing how dry it is. It's on the coast but it is totally desert sand dry. We drove over a little bridge and the river was amazingly salty with a huge froth all over the road that looked just like snow.

Down the coast a little further and we picked Port Germein. Quite a cute little village with Australia's longest wooden jetty. The van park was right across the road from the water. It was still crazy-windy but i imagine when it wasn't windy it would be quite lovely.

Made camp and then went to the local pub for lunch. Ordered a schooner and got a middy. Apparently in SA pints are schooners, schooners are middies... no idea what you get if you ordered a middy, a little seven perhaps?

Day 196- Marla to Lake Hart

Another massive day today, about 570km or something. HUGE! The road is as boring as bat$hit. Seriously. We thought the road from the QLD border to Tennant Creek was boring. We were wrong. That was a barrel of laughs compared to this. Miles and miles and miles and miles of nothing but red dirt and saltbush scrub.

So it was with a great deal of excitment that we greeted the big piles of coloured dirt outside of Coober Pedy from the opal mines. For 30 odd km out of town there are all these huge piles of dirt from all the holes they have dug looking for opals (and finding them from all reports! Lots of opal out there!).

We called in for lunch and to have a look around. WINDY! My gosh. The kids were a little freaked by it and Darcy kept whimpering and burying his head into me to avoid the dust that was whipping around in the air. I can't imagine living there. The sky was all grey and the sun obscured from the amount of dust in the air. There are even mines being dug right in the middle of town- this is the street just straight off the main road.
And imagine playing footy on this field-
Had a great lunch at an underground cafe and then had a look around the displays on the history of the town and how they mine the opal. Went to an underground church which was pretty cool (literally- it was heaps cooler in there than it was outside).
Then it was back in the truck to see how far we could push through. We were planning to just grab a camp by the side of the road and there were a few listed in the Camps4 that we were aiming for and as Jordy kept sleeping we kept driving. He had a massive sleep! YAY! And we ended up a good 100km past where we thought we'd get to.

We assumed Lake Hart was an actual lake and it looked quite nice from the lookout that was our stop for the night. Turns out it is a big salt pan. No water at all! Just shimmering white salt.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Day 195- Uluru to Marla

BIG drive. Did about 525km which is just totally freakin amazing for the kids. Jordy still sick so he is not travelling well but we really just wanted to push through as far as we could. Stopped at a roadhouse van park for the night. Nothing at all interesting today except we left the NT and are now in SA.
Strangely enough the north of South Australia looks remarkably like the south of north Australia! LOL! Dry desert country with nothing at all for miles and miles. The road out here is soooooo incredibly boring.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Day 194- Uluru (and Kata Tjuta)

\Lots to do out here! We wanted to see Kata Tjutu (The Olgas) and had heard that the full Valley of the Winds walk was pretty impressive so off earlyish before the worst of the heat kicked in.

We knew it would be a big walk with the kids and were not sure how far we would get but there were a few options so we just stuck them on our backs and headed off. We had done a few walks carrying the boys but this would be the biggest and the most difficult- lots of loose rock and a few steep climbs.
The walk to the first 'lookout' area was not all that special. Bit of a view but not at all earth-shattering. So we slogged on to the next point. It was not too hard really, just tiring! The rock here looks totally different to the surface of the rock at Uluru even though i think it is all part of the same subsurface rock (i might be wrong!) The second lookout gave a great view over the rock formations but was not as impressive as the base walk at Uluru and, according to Tim and Dad, nothing at all compared to the climb (and in my opinion the Rim Walk at Kings Canyon is heaps more interesting too!).
We stopped for lunch at the second lookout and from there we decided that Dad and Tim would take the boys back the way we came and Mum and i would continue on the rest of the circuit. The rest of it was a lot more impressive and really gave a better feel of the rocks and their valleys but it would have been a hard climb down with the kids and a very hot walk for them so i am glad i did not have to carry Darcy for it!

Back to the car around 12:30 so we had time to call into the Cultural Centre on the way back. You should probably do the centre as the intro to the park but the timing did not work for us so it was good to have a look around and see the storyboards.

Dad was booked on a helicopter flight with Jordy so they left to head back to the resort and Tim and i and Darcy went for a drive around the base of Uluru seeing as we ran out of time and energy to cycle around it. I did another walk on the 'back' side of the rock and saw the rock art and the waterhole (two different aspects from what we saw yesterday).

Then back to camp while we waited for Dad and Jordy to get back. When we saw him we asked "Where have you been!?" and he was all excited to tell us he was in a helicopter. We asked what he saw and he said "Nothing, we just went up and flew around and around in circles and landed in the same place." LOL! Apparently "we couldn't see any animals there." not sure why he was looking for animals, and the pilot did not have a proper steering wheel like in an aeroplane, he just had a stick!

Dad said he was really funny on the flight. Dad would try to show him the view out the window and Jordy was more interested in listening to the pilots chat in his earmuffs. But he loved it so that's all that matters.

Felt like a really big day and we were all buggered. The kids freaked out about having to have a shower and it was another super cold night (5'C!!). Jordy and i are coming down with a cold!

Uluru was a great experience. There is so much to see around the area that i really think you need two complete full days at least (more would be better). We had a day and a half so we crammed in what we could and i think we did really well. I would have liked more time to leisurely stroll around the full base walk or at least cycle it. And i think the canyon floor walk might have been nice at Kata Tjuta. And there are LOTS of guided tours of Uluru that i think would have offered a nice perspective on the cultural and history of the rock and its people.... one day. Next time i think i'll fly there! It's a friggin long way to drive.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Day 193- Watarrka (Kings Canyon) to Uluru

Up super early this morning for me. I wanted to do the Rim Walk but we also had a long drive ahead of us to get to Uluru. The walk was listed as taking 3hours so it was going to be a sunrise walk! I was speaking to the people camped next to us and they said they did the walk from 8 til 11 and there were still some parts of the canyon wall that were dark so they wondered if it would be any good for sunrise... but the Kings Tour bus did a tour from 5:30 so i thought there had to be something to see.

It was COLD and dark when i left at just after 6am, and i actually dawdled a bit getting out there cos i thought i would be far too early. But Kings had it right! It was absolutely glorious first thing. The climb up the hill to start was a hard slog but the rest of the walk (7.5km in total) was a nice climb with only some steep parts. And as the sun rose you could watch as the light slowly lit up the side of the canyon wall. I took a gazillion photos but they really don't do it justice. The colour was incredible and the shape of the rocks was totally unique. There were areas of sandstone domes that had weathered away to form lots of ball shapes all in a grid together, and ripple marks all over the floor at the top where it used to be a massive inland sea, and sections that looked like a huge ampitheatre with steps all in a semi-circle that looked just like seating. And then down in a gully there was a waterhole all surrounded by ancient cycad palms.
I was really disappointed that Tim and Mum and Dad missed it because i think that without doing the Rim Walk there is not all that much to Kings Canyon. The Riverbed walk is not really worth the massive drive out there to get to it but seeing the canyon from the top, and seeing it at sunrise, was absolutely magic.

I made good time (and certainly did not feel like i was rushing) and i finished the walk in 2+half hours so i was back at camp nice and early to get things packed up and get us on the way.

We called into Kings Creek Station on the way out cos Tim was keen to try a camel burger after a bloke we met on the road raved about them.... but they were sold out!! Bastards! So we looked at the camels (which Darcy kept insisting were 'dogs') and wandered for a bit and then back in the car for the rest of the three+half hour drive to Uluru.
Kids travelled like champions and we arrived about 1:30. Set up our camp and off to The Rock. We could see it for quite some distance out so we were keen to get a good look to see if it was "just a rock" or if it did look like something special. We were not disappointed. It really is incredble to see. The surface looks like all one big smooth piece of rock, but not SMOOTH smooth! It's all patina'ed but it's all one piece of sandstone and it looks almost like a shell. Then there are lots of pock marks and holes and caved in bits and actual caves and overhangs and gullies. So not the least bit disappointing to see!

I had decided not to climb it (all the tourist info asks that we not climb it to respect the wishes of the Traditional Owners because it is a sacred place) but Tim, Dad, and Mum all wanted to cos it really is a once in a lifetime sort of thing. So we loaded the kids in the bike caboose so i could ride around the base while they climbed. Tim is in the yellow shirt, Dad is in the white shirt standing sideways having a chat (when is he not having a chat!?!?).
But it was fun to watch the head up the rail so we waited for a bit. And then two minutes into the climb Mum stopped! She'd had enough! It felt like it was straight up and she was not sure she would make it, and coming down looked scary so she did not even make it to the chain railing.

So, instead, Mum and i and the boys watched Tim and Dad disappear over the top of the rock and then we went for a bit of a walk around part of the base. Lots to see and walking around even a small section made you realise how huge Uluru is.
We did not go all the way around as we wanted to be back to watch them climb down again. While we waited Darcy decided to have a play in the dirt (as Darcy does!)

Took them just shy of 2hours and it was apparently terrific. This is our first peak of them coming back over the crest.
Tim said it was a totally alien experience. The top of the rock was all undulatating and pocked and was like a martian-red landscape with the occasional scragely tree growing out of a crevice. The view was awesome. He could see Mt Connor which is something like 100km away. Uluru felt HUGE but everything else around him seemed to stretch on forever.

He can't describe why it felt so amazing but even apart from the fact that it was a tough climb and so really rewarding to get to the top, it was also amazing because Uluru is such an icon of Australia and seems almost like a rite of passage.

I can totally see the dilemna with people that want to climb Uluru (cos i actually really did want to climb too!) because i know that we really respect the site and respect that it holds such power for the Anangu people and we don't want to compromise that or disrespect their wishes or seem to take for granted the fact that we are allowed access.... but by the same token it is part of our land and our country too. And we heard the stories of their ancestors and hear their law and we know there is soooo much more to Uluru than the climb and did not come JUST to climb but i think that choosing whether or not to climb is such a personal thing. I am glad that i saw the base and saw the sacred women's site along the walk and saw the rock art and the waterhole etc i am also glad that Tim and Dad got to see the top. ???

They were both pretty buggered after their efforts but it was really close to sunset. So we headed back to the viewing area and joined the hundreds of others lined along the fence to watch the rock change colour as the sunlight faded. Another great experience!

Not surprisingly the kids both fell asleep on the way back to the campground so we had a bit of a messy bedtime trying to sponge them down (they were FILTHY!) and get them back to sleep before a lazy dinner and we both crashed ourselves.

Plans for a sunrise viewing were cancelled due to lack of energy!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Day 192- Finke River to Watarrka (Kings Canyon)

We had a few miles to cover today. I think we did about 350km in four and a half hours. We were initially going to stay at Kings Creek Station which is 40km from the actual canyon. We had heard that it had a nice atmosphere and was cheaper than the resort and that is also did a mean camel burger! But as we were approaching the turn Tim commented that it was still a distance to the actual canyon and if I intended to do a sunrise walk in the morning it would add a lot of km and time to the morning… so a last minute decision had us continuing past and heading to Kings Canyon Resort. Glad we did cos it turns out the two places are both the exact same price and the resort, while not all that resort-like, has lots of grass and nice amenities and a good playground for the kids.

Made camp, went for a play in the playground, checked out the local store and servo (diesel $1.62 @ L which is actually 3c less than we paid at Erldunda) before heading off to the canyon for a look.

The rock is a vibrant red colour and is quite impressive to see, but the riverbed walk was not as great as Tim had hoped. I did not mind so much as I know I will get a different view of it in the morning when I do the Rim Walk but from below you don’t get to see all that much. You can see the amazing straight cuts of the rock but you don’t walk through the canyon so much. Well, I guess you do cos you follow the river, but you don’t feel like you are surrounded by rock. (You can see in between the two rocks the little bridge that is part of the Rim Walk).
We had left Mum and Dad on Saturday in Alice Springs and we knew we would catch up tomorrow at Uluru but we ran in to them today on the walk. Jordy spotted their car in the car park initially and then half way along the path he tracked them down. They had to come back and do the walk again as Darcy would not come back to be carried by me when Grandpa (his favourite) was around to carry him instead.
This is the walk straight up the hill that starts the Canyon Rim walk for me for in the morning...
An easy dinner and an early night. Bit cold here!! So all the blankets are out. And we were told not to leave shoes outside cos the dingos take them. The bloke across the street must have thought the people were joking when they told him not to leave his shoes outside and he had a pair of Nikes taken- apparently he was not happy!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Day 191- Glen Helen to Finke River

Left Glen Helen Resort and headed back through the West McDonald Ranges with our first stop Ormiston Gorge. We’d seen a few waterholes yesterday and the kids were fresh and full of beans so we headed up the hill and did the Ghost Gum walk to the lookout over the gorge and waterhole instead. Really nice little climb that gave a great perspective of the range and that the kids enjoyed.
We took some snacks and sat up on the lookout for a quick morning tea before climbing back down and then heading back towards Alice. The rivers and floods are different here to up north. The water table here is really close to the surface and the rivers flow strongly underground. So the rivers flow after rain because the water is close to the surface more so than because the river itself fills up.
Our last stop was at the Ochre Pits . Apparently there are lots of areas throughout the ranges where ochre was traditionally gathered, and the ochre here is not considered high quality, but it was really interesting to see how it is in vertical layers all just standing up along the riverbed. And the yellows are so bright! The kids were both asleep though and so did not get to see it. I think they both would have liked rubbing their fingers in the dusty ochre.
Then back to Alice for a quick lunch. Jordy had seen the playground at Macadonalds (which is how he says it) so we had to stop there so he could have a play. Which, of course, meant he was too busy to eat anything!

Then in the car again for our trip south. We has no chance of making it the whole way to Kings Canyon so we chose a nice sounding free camp on the Finke River (riverbed!). A nice easy set up and plenty of time to wander around the dry riverbed and check the place out. Jordy ran around the little sand dunes and then posed for a photo that he told me was for Nanny and Poppa. :)

We were the first campers there and it looked like it might be a lonely camp but then one, and another, and another campervan arrived until the area was nice and full with about eight or so of us there for the night.

We had a great fire and chattered to a few other travellers and enjoyed the peace and quiet and an early evening.