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One of the world’s greatest natural attractions, the rock (Uluru) and Kata Tjuta (the Olgas).  The entire area is of cultural significance to the traditional owners, the Pitjantjatjara and Yankuntjatjara aboriginal peoples (who refer to themselves as Anangu).  The Anangu officially own the national park and lease it to Parks Australia and where it is jointly administered (Lonely Planet).

First we went to visit the Kata Tjuta (means many heads), a striking group of domed rocks clustered together to form valleys and gorges.  The tallest rock, Mt Olga, is 546m high and 1066m above sea level and about 200m taller than Uluru. 

After a bite to eat it was on to Uluru for a champaign reception while watching the sunset.  Nothing could prepare us for the great hulk on the horizon, so solitary and prodigious.  It’s 3.3km long and 348m high and if that’s not impressive enough, two-thirds of the rock lies beneath the sand.  As the sun set it illuminated from ochre-brown to a burnished orange, then a series of deeper and darker reds before it faded to charcoal – simply amazing!

The following morning it was a 4am start in time for breakfast and sunrise.  We respected the wishes of the Anangu and completed the base walk (10k) rather than climb to the top.  The caves, paintings, sandstone folds and abrasions made for an interesting and leisurely 2.5hr walk.  It was 40 degrees for the last hour and the flies were unbearable (hence the self-made fly net at the Olgas), but it was so worth it.

UNESCO World Heritage Site #16

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Darwin to Alice Springs Day 3

January 17th, 2009 | Posted by Davey in 11-Australia - (2 Comments)

Day 3: Tennant Creek to Alice Springs. On day three the activity level increased and we got to see the sacred site of Devil’s Marbles, the historic Telegraph Station in Barrow Creek and a few shops that sell overpriced indigenous works of art and handicraft.

About 100km south of Tennant Creek on the Stuart Highway we pulled in to see the giant granite boulders.  Karlwe Karlwe is their Warumungu (local indigenous tribe) name, for whom the site is associated with many stories and traditions.  Scientists believe the marbles are the remains of molten lava eroded over aeons.  We spent a leisurely hour walking around, smoking fags, climbing and taking photos.

A little further south we pulled in at Wycliffe Well, a town where UFOs apparently fly over with astonishing regularity.  One roadside cafe has taken the whole thing a little too seriously and created a shrine with alien figures and newspaper clippings (‘That UFO was Chasing Us’!).  Interestingly, there are few photos of actual UFOs.  Funny but not quite what you’d expect in the outback.

Even further south we reached Barrow Creek, a (so called) town with a filling station, a pub and a controversial telegraph station. In 1874 a station master and his linesman were killed by natives in retaliation for being driven off ‘their land’.  A bigwig was sent up from the city to investigate and deal with the culprit.  Obviously nobody owned up so he had his men kill all local native males, around 300.  The government has only just apologised for the mass slaughter. This is one of many stories we’ve heard as we travelled through the northern territory and you can’t but feel for the natives with the injustice that has ensued since captain cook and his fleet landed in Sidney.

12hrs after leaving Tennant Creek we arrived in Alice Springs, checked into a nice hostel and went out with the group for a meal and too many beers.  Most mornings we’ve been up at 4am having had only 4hrs sleep – a lively bunch and mad for the drinking games!  A great social gathering and educational in many ways as there were guys from The Netherlands, Norway, Denmark, Germany, Vietnam, Greece, Canada and the UK – a great mix.

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Darwin to Alice Springs Day 2

January 12th, 2009 | Posted by Davey in 11-Australia - (1 Comments)

Day 2: Katherine George to Tennant Creek.  Same old story, we were unable to visit the thermal pools because they were flooded.  But we did manage to visit Daly Walters outback hotel, the Territory’s oldest pub (1930).  A kind of cute and quaint pub and a stop off for most tours.  Akin to Foxe’s (Ireland’s highest pub) it has collected a weird array of signed memorabilia from drunken tourists like bras, knickers, flip flops, hats, shorts etc.  We had a BBQ for lunch and then cooled off in pool for an hour.

It was then onto Australia’s first international airport, but you wouldn’t know it as it had completly overgrown and has blended in with the rugged landscape.  A total of 12 hours on the bus by the time we made it to Tennant Creek where we camped for the night.  We had yet another late night chatting while drinking plenty of tinnies.

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Darwin to Alice Springs Day 1

January 11th, 2009 | Posted by Davey in 11-Australia - (3 Comments)

We didn’t hang around Darwin too long as there wasn’t a lot to see or do. We booked a tour from Darwin to Alice Springs and Uluru with the renowned Adventure Tours Australia.  The hefty $2,000 AUS  included a flight from Alice to Cairns where we hope to really start our own little adventure in a camper.

Day 1: Darwin to Katherine Gorge.  The tour itinerary said “Leaving Darwin, we stop for a break at Adelaide River on the way to Katherine.  We spend the whole afternoon at the majestic Katherine Gorge (Nitmiluk), which is part of the Nitmiluk National Park.  Experience the striking beauty while canoeing or cruising through the gorge itself.  Tonight we stay at our permanent camp near Katherine Gorge”.

What it should have said was “Get on the bus Gus and stay there for 8 hours, we can’t show you the real Katherine Gorge or take you on a cruise because it’s wet season and everywhere is flooded.  Tonight you will stay at our leaky campsite and taste the delights of our rancid food, oh, and you have to prepare yourself”.

Some tour this is turning out to be.  Thankfully the folks on the bus are a delight and the craic is good.  Almost everybody is on a downer having been stuck on a bus for so long and not being able to see what we paid for.  This is not a $70 tour, it’s bloody expensive and at the moment we don’t feel we are getting value for money, not even close.

Let’s see what tomorrow brings.

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Oz arrival

January 8th, 2009 | Posted by Davey in 11-Australia - (4 Comments)

We arrived in Australia at 4am this morning all safe and well and very excited. We nearly had a heart attack having had to pay $75 a night in our hostel, a far cry from SE Asia. We woke late and had to pay a further 75 for today.  This has reassured us of our decision to buy a campervan and hopefully save on accommodation costs.

We went to a travel agents early and have booked a 6 day tour to and around Ayres Rock and Alice Springs which includes a flight up to Cairns.  From there we hope to pick up a bargain camper.  There will be no updates for at least the next week while we camp our way across the outback. 

We have purchased a new sim so hopefully we can be contacted on that for emergencies and otherwise: +61 48875 8162.

G’day.