Pilgrimage to Uluru, a.k.a. "The Rock"

July 21 - August 3, 2006

 

 

Further on down the road: 4000 Km return journey down "the track" through the wide open spaces punctuated by the occasional roadhouse...

 

 

 

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......Fran

Liza Musings: Our transect of the Northern Territory started in the hot, humid north, with Pandanus, Palm and Eucalypts in golden soil, crossed by huge rivers -- the Alligators (east, west and south), the Adelaide, Mary and Daly, dottted with billabongs -- Jim Jim, Anbangbang, Yellow Waters, Mardugal, Muirella, and Anneburroo, and filled with wildlife -- Jabiru, dingo and crocodiles. Then down the unbending, straight 2-lane Stuart Highway, past Pine Creek, Katherine, Mataranka, Larrimah, Daly Waters, Dunmarra, Wauchope, and Ti Tree -- signs along the highway say simply "TT120, TT100"-- a stop for hot scones, jam and cream at Fran's, on to "the Alice" 1498 kms from Darwin, then another 200 kms to Erldunda, our first turn, west on the Lasseter Highway, through Mount Ebenezer -- a gas stop -- to Curtin Springs, and finally to Yulara, another 228 kms down the road where we set up camp at Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. Here in the Simpson Desert, the red soils are filled with Cassarina -- Desert Oaks, as they are called here -- eagles soar overhead, and feral camels graze in the distance.The days are hot, dry, windy and bright, the nights are cold -- it reaches freezing each night -- and the sky is filled with stars. In the shadow of Uluru, only 2 kms from Yulara -- an international tourist mecca with shops, elegant dining options, and $500/night hotels (!!) -- is the impoverished community of Mutitjulu. Its people, the Anangu people, are the traditional owners of the rock and surrounding lands, which they co-manage with the Park Service. They are struggling with all too common problems associated with poverty: poor living conditions, a life expectancy 30 years less than the average white Australian, and drug use -- petrol sniffing is rampant. The gas we buy in Yulara is "Opal," it doesn't have the aromatics that give sniffers a high, and is the only gas available in these remote communities and road houses, after aboriginal leaders lobbied the federal government to provide it. I pick up a copy of "National Indigenous Times" at the Roma Cafe (our hangout) in Darwin, and read about the recent outcry after the Health Minister called for a "policy of paternalism," more government control of aboriginal communities, and his advice that they should "spend less time grieving" to get ahead in life. We only have a glimpse of these issues, but will think often of this harsh but beautiful place and its people.

 

 

Sunrise at 7:20: By the time the park gates open at 6:30 am, there is a huge queue of cars, caravans, and coaches patiently waiting in the dark. Then, like a long funeral procession, we all drive over to the official sunrise viewing area and line up with our chairs, coffee and brekky waiting for the early morning glow show...
   

 

 
     
 
 

 

 

 

   
 

 

Camping at Trephina Gorge, a redgum filled sandstone canyon east of Alice Springs. Sound recording: birds at Trephina (1:32).

 

 
the stars, the stars
   
   
 
 
 
Katherine (car) ► Alice Springs (car) ► Trephina Gorge (car) ► Uluru (car) ► Alice Springs (car) ► Daly Waters (car) ► Kakadu National Park (car) ► Darwin