October 2 – Alice Springs, day 2

It’s hard to keep up with everything we’ve done this past week.  I can’t believe we left Adelaide only a week ago.  Here it is October and they went to daylight savings time last night in Bendigo.  Here in the Northern Territory, they don’t bother with that.

We arrived in Alice Springs yesterday around lunch time.  We are staying at the Big 4 campground in the McDonnell Ranges.  The view is magnificent if we look behind us.  We didn’t have much energy to tour yesterday, so it was a good day to do our laundry, have a good hot shower and hang around here, catching up on school work (I am sitting outside the camper on my camper chair, soon the watch the sunset as I write this).  It was a quiet evening with another good dinner, lamb, couscous and a tomato-onion stir fry; we were in bed just after 8pm.  I can’t believe it, but we didn’t wake up till around 8am today.  We must have been awfully tired!  Maybe it’s all the fresh air we get.  Coming to the Outback means you are outside a lot.  It’s not surprising with everything there is to look at around us.  The stars are incredible at night with little light pollution, the ground is red with a lot more vegetation than you would imagine in a desert and there are always critters to watch for.  On the drive here yesterday, we were hoping to see some emu, but that never happened.  We did, however, see a few wedgetail eagles having some fresh road kill (kangaroo) along the side of the road.  If you remember from my post and pictures in Healesville, wedgetails are the largest eagles.  I am sure they could carry away a small child with little effort.

We left Erldunda, population 30, located at the intersection of the Stuart Hwy (north) and the Lasseter Hwy (road to Uluru) in the morning having had a great overnight stay.  We were parked right beside the camp kitchen and had a chat with many nice folks, especially John and Ingrid.  We ended up talking over a cuppa under a very starry night.  The sunset had been red from the smoke after the bush fires. There have been quite a few bush fires in the area of late.  The first ones we heard about closed the road to King’s Canyon.  As a matter of fact, we saw quite a bit of smoke along to road there on Friday, including some flames in the distance.  Not to worry, we were safe at all times, but it makes for interesting travel planning, especially when they have no radio stations to tune into to check the road conditions.

Anyway, on the way to Alice Springs from Erldunda, we stopped at Stuart Wells to see Dinky, the singing dingo.  Sure enough, he got on the piano keys with all fours and started to howl a few bars as a little girl tried to play a tune between his paws.  A cute act!  Old Jim, his owner, was very interesting to listen to.  Poor Dinky does have a bad case of arthritis, so he has some trouble getting up on the piano.

Today, we had a free pancake breakfast at the campground and headed off to the Sunday market.  It is held in the walking mall and there are quite a few exhibitors of handicrafts and many ethnic foods to try.  We bought a stuffed toy for one of Leon’s grandchildren and moved on to the Desert Park for the rest of the afternoon.  That was an interesting outdoor exhibit with birds, lizards, red kangaroos and lots of plants and trees, all surrounded by the Ranges around here.  Good way to spend a Sunday.

Tonight we plan to work on our schoolwork some more as we are headed south again in the morning and have no idea when the connection will be good enough to upload schoolwork.  We hope to be just north of Coober Pedy tomorrow evening, depending on the weather and the length of the drive.  I think it’s about 600 km or so.  You can only sit in a camper for so long.

I did want to mention what we saw at Uluru.  On Thur morning, we got up to a nice sunny day and drove to Yulara, the town set up to service the National Park, to check in for the night before the crowds came.  From there we drove to Ayers’ Rock for the first part of our tour.  We wandered through the cultural centre first to learn all about the mythology of the local people.  Then we drove over to the Rock and walked to different parts of it.  We didn’t climb it as the Aboriginals believe the place to be sacred and ask that you respect that.  It’s a pretty steep climb, very hot and it wouldn’t have added another dimension to our visit.  We were quite happy to follow the walking paths and see the caves, the petro glyphs and just take in the colour of the sky which is so incredibly blue when you stand close to the Rock.

From there, we travelled another 50 km to the Olgas to see another rock formation.  We walked part of the path to the Valley of the Winds and just enjoyed the quiet and spiritual feel of the day.  We spent quite a bit of time just driving to different vantage points to get pictures until it was time to park for the sunset view of Uluru.  At sunset, people of all manner park, sit on chairs, have a cuppa or a drink and just take in the colours as the Rock changes from orange to red to purple over 15 minutes or so.  Leon and I were no exception as we made ourselves at home, took out the camp chairs, made some tea and crackers with cheese and had our cameras ready.  Of course, Leon’s camera ran out of power at that exact time.  Not to worry, he had the recharger with him so he tried to plug in the camera as soon as we got back to the campground.  Unfortunately, it seemed Leon had brought along the phone recharger, not the camera recharger.  Darned new fangled gadgets!!  Anyway, that’s why some of the pictures from that day on are not as good a quality as I am using my small camera which does best underwater – you know, the one I forgot when we went to the Great Barrier Reef…

The day after visiting Uluru, we drove 250 km to King’s Canyon, fully prepared to spend the night.  We enjoyed our visit to King’s Creek Station but found the Canyon was just so-so.  Maybe that’s because we didn’t take the high walking trail and decided to walk on the river bed trail instead, but after the spectacular sights of the previous day, we just weren’t that excited.  So we drove another 250 km back towards Alice Springs and stayed in Erldunda for the night.

Before we left Yulara, on Friday morning, we stopped to see the camels they keep nearby for desert safaris.  We were surprised at how many there were, all saddled up for a ride.  We were even more surprised to find out they are actually feral camels that are caught and used for these rides.  Camels were introduced to Australia when the Europeans wanted to explore the centre for gold.  Of course they knew that water was scarce here so camels were the perfect mode of transportation.  Over the years, many of the camels went wild, so there are now about 600,000 feral camels in Australia.  About 25% of those are in Northern Territory.  We never did see any on the road, except for possibly a dead one near King’s Canyon.  But what we did see was an adorable baby camel at the camel stable.  He was found as an orphan by the stable owner while on a ride with his friend.  He now lives in an enclosure with old Tom, a retired camel.  So cute…

As usual, check back for pictures.  There are lots of them but it’s hard to upload efficiently at times.