Uluru to Kings Canyon
27 April to 2 May, 2001

27/4/2001 Uluru - Day 1

The ride into the park was great - and after purchasing our 3 day pass we went straight to Uluru - as the climb was open.

The Federal national parks dept is not shy about profiteering. They collect $16.25 from each of the hundreds of thousands of adults entering the park annually. With this they have 1) bitumenised the road, 2) put in 2 sets of 4 toilets (one set is only drop dunnies), 3) put in countless signs to stop us entering 99.9% of the park, 4) installed a security gate to collect the entry fees, 5) removed all accommodation (incl. camping) from the park & granted Lend Lease monopoly rights to provide it outside. I figure their profits would make Westpac blush.

The local aborigines seem to have successfully made the transition to capitalists. They take 1 quarter of the gate receipts. During the Olympic torch relay they demanded, & got $60,000 dollars for the flame to go to Uluru, $100 for each media person to enter the park & $250 for each photograph containing an aborigine.

Mum only made it part way up the chain (her shoes were very slippery - mum's excuse). Jake bolted to the top in a very short time and Steve kept with Zoe who was still recovering from a tummy bug. They all made it to the top and enjoyed their time up there. They returned with their stories of the people they had met on the way and the status of those who were having trouble. We (at the base) had also kept tabs on those with gossip from those who had returned. It's rather an event - and very friendly. While we were there, a ranger came and closed the climb due to threatening rain.

The Uluru Climb: Jake arrives back first, then Steve and Zoe

The Mala Base Walk

We then walked around the base to the north for a km and were very impressed with the outlandish rock forms. Steve surfed the wave cave but Robbie wasn't allowed into the secret women's business cave. We then drove to the other side & visited a permanent water-hole & listened to some aboriginal lore frosome guides. This info appeared 'sus' based on conflicting info we got later.

The Mala Base Walk: Caves


The Mala Base Walk (no fish eye lens used!)

We watched the beautiful sunset beside champagne sipping Japanese tourists and headed of exhausted - you must leave the park by 8 pm.

To avoid paying the ridiculous camping fees charged to camp in the Lend Lease resort (the only option for 90 km) we parked in a residential area at Yalara.

Art Class at Uluru

Uluru Sunset

28/4/2001 Uluru - Day 2

It rained most of the night - in the centre of the driest continent - in the middle of the desert.

Robbie, who never lets a chance go by, insisted we burst into life 1 hour b4 sunset to observe the sunrise at the rock 20km away. The rock was a mysterious grey when we arrived in the rain and changed gradually to a fairly boring grey. However the gradual drizzle suddenly begat waterfalls, all over the rock. What a spectacle! We dragged our jaws around the base of the rock again; gob-smacked. The vivid green vegetation with the gradually reddening rock and the enourmous waterfalls combined to amaze us.

The afternoon we spent drying over high school books in the van. The kids are coping well with their 4 hours school a week - not unduly stressed despite the workload.

During a break we visited the aboriginal awareness centre. It appeared to us to be a propaganda exercise.

Again 'never-say-die' Robbie demanded attendance at the sunset. The cloud made the Japanese tourists next door the main event.

That night we succumbed & delighted the Lend Lease shareholders by donating a large sum to the caravan park.

Waterfalls at the base

Having fun at sunset - rain again that night

29/4/2001 Uluru to Curtin Springs

Again it rained most of the night - in the centre of the driest continent - in the middle of the desert.

Again Robbie insisted we observe the sunrise at the rock. This time the rock changed gradually to its familiar tan colour.

As we left, the Olgas appeared ahead floating purple above the clouds. We dashed towards them to maximise the photo opportunity. We spent the rest of the day being progressively more impressed by this awesome area as we walked the walks.

Olgas in cloud - view from Uluru

Olgas from valley lookout#2

This park is vast, expensive and fantastic.

Towards the end of the day we stopped at the supermarket & servo. Strangely the diesel is the cheapest for 400 kms.

We ambled back to the free camping at Curtin Springs. We renewed contact with a guy we'd met at Cooper He'd picked up en route a 'stolen generation' aboriginal from Tasmania. He has taken time off from an Arts degree. Ex-bikie, western in attitude, aboriginal in appearance he is returning to Uluru 'to recharge'.

We then had a confusing/interesting yarn with a local - born & raised in the area. His history of the area contrasted markedly with the aboriginal version and made some of their stories implausible. He suggested we read a history of the area written before the revisionist period - 1968. Robbie made one of her superb curries to get us to bed.

30/4/2001 Kings Canyon (Watarrka)

After mandatory camel & kangaroo patting we drove uneventfully to Kings Canyon. We completed the easy walk up the floor of the canyon. Very pretty with ghost gums, many flowers and red rocks.

Valley Walk in Kings Canyon

Much discussion about where to camp overnight. Kings Creek was ridiculously expensive (a couple we met arrived there & on seeing their pre-booked huts demanded a refund and left. They tried the resort close to the canyon & got much better for cheaper). We eventually decided to stay right where we were in the car park wondering for half the night if a ranger would tell us to move.

1/5/2001 Kings Canyon - day 2

We decided to test Robbie's body limits by starting the 3 hour canyon rim walk. It starts with an Uluru size climb but we made it - in 5 hours. What a fantastic experience. Coming so soon after the splendour of the rock & Olgas it took some effort to impress. It did better - it blitzed us. We 'gasped' on dome tops in the lost city, 'oohed' prostrate staring down from the top of the canyon walls, 'ahhed' in the cool & greenery of the Garden of Eden but still 'phewed' at the '1 km to carpark' sign. Scenically this has been the highlight so far which is some commendation.

Rim Walk: Lost City

Lost City Top (see Zoe)

Peek Over the Cliff Edge in Kings Canyon (wow!), Lost City in Background

Garden of Eden

Robbie made it and in doing so probably did more exercise than her total for the previous 2 years.

After a significant recuperation period we retraced our steps to a road-side stop where we had observed a coach's passengers scrambling up a sand dune the previous day.

On racing up & over said dune we discovered ... acres of toilet paper fluttering gently in the breeze. It was an anti-climax for us (but not for the coach passengers I presume).

The kids lit a great fire after we collected suitable combustibles.

After dark in this remote, pich-black camp-site Robbie's nightmares were fulfilled. A sedan crept in, had a good look at us then stopped threateningly 10 metres away.

I wandered over to check them out & invite them to share our fire & scared 2 young Parisiennes half to death appearing like a ghost from the dark. We ended up having a long & detailed fireside chat over the Australian failure over aboriginal issues. It sometimes was almost as heated as the fire. It was in all a very interesting discussion. They spoke showing great ignorance whilst we spoke showing little knowledge. We did agree that we could see no solution and parted amicably after a very entertaining night.

2/5/2001 To Alice Springs

We had fluffy pancakes, cream & maple syrup from Robbies magic pan for breakfast.

We then split the 5 hour drive by swimming in the Finke (there is so much water up here) & patting emus & red kangaroos at a roadside zoo. We saw our first snake slither into the scrub after a less-than-elegant u-turn on the road in front of us.

We booked into a van park at the Alice for showers and overdue clothes washing .