Recent Entries


January 25, 2005

The Centre

On the morning of my birthday I was woken up at four in the morning with a kick in the shins from Pete, our tour guide. The group sang Happy Birthday to me, then I finished off the cheap (is there any other?) Lambrusco we'd been drinking the night before and we set off for Kings Canyon. We got there at 5.30 while it was still dark and it was already 30 degrees. We walked up Heart Attack Hill and watched the sun rise over the canyon rim - a pretty good start to a birthday! Kings Canyon is a magnificent place with stunning views, and we followed the path along the edge, into the canyon and up the other side. The 'Garden of Eden' is by all accounts a lush pool perfect for a swim for most of the year, but at this point in the summer, it was stagnant and brown. There were lots of strange rock formations and I read about how they were formed, but as usual I forgot five minutes later.

We drove onto Uluru, a few hours away. Everything is so spread out in Australia, and especially in the middle of the country. It had taken us a full day to drive to Kings Canyon from Alice Springs, though we stopped off at Rainbow Valley, Simpson's Gap and a roadhouse where we were privileged enough to witness the world famous singing dingo, Dinky. There was a wall full of press cuttings about him - which is testament to the marketing prowess of the Trivial Pursuit manufacturers (who featured him in a question and subsequent ad campaign) rather than Dinky's charisma and singing ability. In fact, Dinky himself seemed pretty bored with it all as he climbed wearily on to the piano to howl whenever his owner played a note. Interestingly, DNA tests have shown that all dingoes in Australia are descended from a single pair.

We passed Mount Connor which looks so similar to Uluru that it's nicknamed 'Fuluru.' It's made up of two rocks rather than one, and is almost completely unknown and un-visited. We stopped at the cultural centre of the Anangu people, the owners of Uluru. The rock is of great spiritual significance to them and they have stories dating back thousands of years describing how the various caves and cracks were formed. The government returned Uluru to its rightful owners on the condition that they allow visitors to climb it. The Anangu strongly discourage people from doing it - it's disrespectful and a number of people die every year - but a surprising number of tourists decide to climb anyway.

We walked around the base, a 9.4 km walk that takes you all around the contours so that you can see the pitted surface and different colours. It really is an amazing natural edifice rising out of the desert, and about two thirds of it is underground. It was hot walking and the flies were so persistent that many of us ended up wearing stupid looking fly nets. I thought the flies were looking for moisture and that was why they were so tenacious when you flicked them away, but apparently they're looking for somewhere warm and moist - i.e. your eyeball - to lay their eggs. I kept my fly net firmly on after hearing that.

We watched the sunset and then headed to our campsite where we slept outside again in swags: canvas mattresses with a cover that zips over your sleeping bag. It was fantastic sleeping out in the heat under the stars, which were so bright and abundant and different to the Northern hemisphere (you could see the Southern Cross and Orion was upside down).

We spent another day at Yulara (the resort with all the hotels and campsites) and Uluru, seeing the visitors centre, a sunrise (and moon set) and another sunset. We walked around Kata Tjuta as a storm was brewing and it started to rain and there was thunder and lightning. It's quite rare to see rain out there, and I was hoping there would be waterfalls on the rock, but there wasn't enough water. The weather cleared up really quickly and we went swimming and drank the boxes of wine we'd bought. The tour group was great and I had a real laugh with Cathy, a vet from Ireland, Christine, an American and Devrah, from the UK.

As we were driving to Erldunda, we were flagged down by a group of Aboriginal people who'd blown a tyre. They had a spare and tools but didn't know how to change it, so they'd been waiting all night by the side of the road. Pete was a trained mechanic and sorted it out while we filled up their water bottles. There was a family group of about fifteen people and a tiny dog and they'd set up a camp with blankets. Pete said that Aboriginal people often have a holistic perspective of time which means that they wouldn't think anything of waiting patiently for hours for help to arrive. It also means that they sometimes have problems holding down jobs as the concept of fixed hours and appointments is unimportant to them. The more I find out about Australian indigenous people, the more I realise how different they are to other peoples, and how they are stuck in a tragic and difficult situation.

Posted by Rowena on January 25, 2005 12:38 PM
Category: Australia
Email this page
Email this entry to:

Your email address:

Message (optional):

Designed & Hosted by the BootsnAll Travel Network