Friday June 26, 2015

Yes, I know. I’m running several days behind with this blog. But I’m not gonna apologise, because you would be running behind, too, if you’d been as busy as I’ve been, exploring and adventuring and enjoying the Great Aussie Outback.

Several days ago our coach-driver, Craig, took us south, and then west, of Kings Canyon in search of the world-famous Uluru (or, as we all used to know it, Ayers Rock). But he wouldn’t let us see The Rock until we’d first seen some other rocks in the nearby Kata Tjuta National Park.

(Footnote: I say ‘nearby’ because it looks nearby on a map – but, in actual fact, nothing out here in the middle of nowhere is really ‘nearby’ – on the contrary, everything is a zillion kilometres apart – well, maybe not a zillion, but an awful long way in a coach  and an even longer long way if you choose to walk – which is what the Aboriginals have been doing for zillions of years – well, okay, not zillions, but you know what I mean …)

Kata Tjuta is the name the Aboriginals gave to a collection of humungous domed rocks that loom up to half a kilometre high above the flat surrounding desert. There are 36 of them in all, and with their rich reds, iridescent oranges and burnt yellows, these rocks are nearly as stunning as The Rock itself (just 30kms away).

The closer we got the more humungous they looked … and the more insignificant we felt. (Honestly, you had to be there …)

We ventured up a gentle rocky slope between two of Kata Tjuta’s towering monoliths, and came away understanding why they rate amongst this country’s most popular natural attractions.

Then, on the coach once again, we drove to what the Outback’s traditional owners regard as the spiritual heart of Australia: that iconic symbol of the Red Centre, source of myth and legend and never-never stories, the timeless World Heritage-listed Uluru.

This giant lump of ancient weathered sandstone

  • rises abruptly from the desert floor (like the previously-mentioned other rocks)
  • has a girth of 9.4 kms (we drove right around it)
  • changes colour constantly throughout the day (we saw it do just that) – from rosy pink to blood red to murky mauve to dark brooding brown
  • is even bigger than it looks, because at least two thirds of it, according to geologists, lies beneath the surface (like some land-trapped glacier)
  • rightfully claims to be the world’s Most Famous Rock.

We ate an outdoor BBQ dinner that night … watched a blazing desert sunset turn Uluru’s looming bulk a glorious orange … and finally, when it all went black, marvelled at a night-sky laden with stars. Then, next morning, we were up before the sparrows (kookaburras?) in the freezing pre-dawn, standing at a lookout on the other side of The Rock as the sun rose on a new day and changed Uluru’s colours all over again.

Later, after downing a boxed breakfast, we got up-close-and-personal with the shadowy monster, as an indigenous guide took us into some of Uluru’s canyons and crevices, shared the secrets of this sacred site at the Mutitjulu Waterhole, and showed us some of his ancestors’ rock drawings.

Finally, before taking the long road back to Alice Springs, we visited the Uluru-Kata Tjuta Cultural Centre and joined an art-class by a local Aboriginal artist (with the chance to create our own artistic mementos).

THE NEXT DAY OR TWO: We visit the Royal Flying Doctors’ base … learn about the School of the Air … practice Morse-code at the Telegraph Station … hike down Simpson’s Gap … and catch The Ghan for the final long leg of our amazing train-trek to Darwin. So stay tuned …

PEOPLE-NEWS: Another couple of quacky yellow ducks have changed hands:

  • Iris received our “You Can Leave Your Hat On” Award – for losing hers over the side of a small boat (up a beautiful gorge that I’ll tell you about later). The boat’s skipper rescued it and returned it to Iris, and they got married and lived happily ever after. (No, they didn’t – just kidding – Iris is already married!)
  • Marilyn received our “Knock Three Times” Award ­– for forgetting the number of her hotel room and trying desperately and for some considerable time to unlock (wait for it …) the hotel’s linen cupboard!

Yours bloggedly – JOHN

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