days 53 - 54 mataranka to alice springs
headed toward alice from mataranka. stopped at the daly waters pub which was pretty cool. all manner of stuff hung up all over the place. the bar is covered in business cards and there's bras hanging everywhere and a thong tree (foot type thongs that is) and hats and coins and 'paper' money and licence plates and drop bears and flags. there is literally stuff hanging everywhere. outside is just as chockas with stuff as inside. a little pub, 5 kms off the main road and so worth the visit.
we continued south to the devil's marbles where we stopped for the night. they are really amazing, balancing on each other and looking like they could fall at any minute. the sunset over the marbles was very nice to see and that night the moon was nearly full and there was a great opportunity to take some night time photos of the rock formations.
next day saw us up early and off to alice springs. between the marbles and the alice we passed wycliffe well which is the unofficial 'ufo sighting' capital of australia; aileron which has a giant statue of an aboriginal man on the hill behind the roadhouse; and the tropic of capricorn. in w.a. the line of the tropic scores a very staid and proper sign. in the nt the tropic line gets a whole sculpture and rest area in its honour.
we arrived in alice in time for lunch and then got ourselves setup at the caravan park.
days 55 - 57 alice springs
by the time we got to alice springs we were all a bit natured out so it was good to spend a few days doing other stuff. we looked at art galleries and souvenier shops. we visited the alice springs cultural precinct which is made up of galleries and museums and craft works. we also visted the rfds centre and the school of the air headquarters. the kids got to go on a camel ride and we drank good coffee in cafes. it was a really nice, relaxing couple of days.
our one attempt at nature tourism was a bust. we went out to see standley chasm but it is on private property and they wanted almost $40.00 for our family to go on a 15 minute walk into the chasm. i wont rant here but needless to say it was a classic example of the exploitation of australia's natural wonders for the good of a select few. interestingly, there was nowhere that we could find that actually listed the price of entrance to the chasm. the best we could find was a listing that mentioned "a small entrance fee". methinks 40 bucks isn't small. so not only is it gonna cost money to get in, but you've also gotta drive a 100km round trip to find out just how expensive it really is....
on the other end of the scale, the cultural centre cost us $20.00 to get in for two days and had 6 different possible venues to visit, all in the one place. awesome. also, it costs to get in to both the rfds display and the school of the air display but both places state clearly that the entrance fees you pay are considered donations to the organisation. both of these places were very interesting and very well laid out. the school of the air was particularly inspiring.
we stayed at the mcdonnell range caravan park for the duration of our stay in the alice. it was very pleasant with free pancakes on sunday morning and a range of other 'entertainments' on other nights of the week. one night was a didjeridu player who was very good and liam won a cd for being the best didj player in a kids competition. we had talked about buying a didj and the show was the catalyst that finally sent us over the edge. the day after the show we went out and bought a didj which has sat in the camper, wrapped in its bubble wrap, waiting til we get back to albany to be dragged out and played.... (we hope!!!)
all in all alice springs has been one of the more enjoyable stops we've had. everyone had a good time there, we made some new friends and we saw some great stuff.
day 58 alice to yulara
in planning our trip we somehow managed to mess up the distance between alice and yulara. we thought 300kms but it is in fact closer to 500kms. so we had a longish day in front of us, particularly as dad wanted to take a detour to the henbury meteor crater site. its only 20ish kms off the main road on the road to kings canyon. it couldn't be all that bad could it??? hmmm perhaps the most corrugated and roughest road we've travelled on especially with the camper in tow. oh well, never mind. we got to the craters eventually, counted our teeth, checked all the bits that might have fallen off the car and the trailer to find everything is ok. good o. the craters are in the middle of a vast open, flat plain and are quite amazing. not as spectacular as the wolfe creek crater, but for a certified space nut like me they were still very cool. well worth the pain involved in getting there.
we arrived at yulara in time to set up the camper and then go out and do some looking around. then we drove the 20kms out to uluru to see the sunset over the rock. wow. very very special indeed.
day 59 yulara
today was driving out to kata-tjuta (karta-choota) and looking around out there. we stayed around the campsite for the early part of the day and then went out to kata-tjuta for the afternoon so we could do a few walks and then watch the sunset over the rocks here. another stunning day, seeing some of australia's most iconic landmarks up close and personal.
the work that has been done installing interpretive signs and trails around these places is great. there are lots of places to visit and heaps of information about the things you see, both from the anangu point of view as well from a western european point of view.
kata-tjuta is less well known and yet just as spectacular as uluru. i really enjoyed going out there and seeing it. from ground level it looks like a long stretch of rock formations that are strung out in one long line but in fact, it is a clump of rocky outcrops and weathered boulders that form a cluster arrangement. aerial photographs show something completely different to what you expect. btw kata-tjuta is translated to mean 'many heads'.
day 60 yulara
today i went out early to see the sunrise over uluru. i headed out in time to get to the viewing space about 20 minutes before sunrise. i should have left 30 minutes earlier because by the time i got to the viewing space there was already 100s of people and cars and buses out doing the sunrise thing. fortunately i found a quiet little spot just off to the side of the main viewing space where i could sit and take some photos and then just enjoy the view and the atmosphere without the noise and commotion of the other people.
after sunrise i headed back to the campsite, grabbed ruth and the boys and we headed out to do some shopping for provisions before having some lunch and then heading back out to uluru. we drove right round the rock, stopping to do a couple of walks and looking at the place where you can climb the rock if you want to and if the conditions allow for the climb to be open.
everywhere you go there are reminders that the traditional owners would rather that you didn't climb uluru, but they still allow you do the climb if none of about 15 different conditions occur. too hot too cold too wet too windy too dangerous too sorry etc.
we visited the cultural centre which is very interesting and has some amazing local traditional art plus a very comprehensive collection of information about the traditional owners and the role uluru plays in their spiritual and practical lives.
after the cultural centre we went back to camp and made some curry which we stuck in some boxes and took out to the sunset viewing space where we sat and ate dinner and just enjoyed the sun going down and the changes it makes to the colours of the rock. ahh yes a lovely way to finish the day.