Week 6 and 7
12 Hours of driving and 903 Kilometres after leaving Daly Waters we arrived in Alice Springs. The journey had included a few free nights camping and a short stop at a place called Devil's Marbles. We saw a sign for it and followed a side road to a parking area. It is basically enourmous piles of granite boulders some as big as houses stacked on top of each other, some looking very precariously balanced. They are formed because all other rock around them has worn away and that is what is left. We wondered around these for a bit and then decided to get back on the road.
We arrived in Alice Springs on Monday the 9th June, does that date ring any bells for anyone? Well its a bank holiday in Australia for the Queens birthday so everything was closed. We still had a look around the small town and booked tickets for a didgeridoo show we wanted to see. The show was great, it was so different to anything we have seen before. It was a show about Alice springs and what it used to be like using a mixture of didgeridoo, live percussion and vision. It was an amazing experience, unfortunately we couldn't film any of it but the part of the show he went through how to play the didgeridoo, he made it sound so simple.
The next day we went to a place called the 'school of the air'. It is the biggest school in the world, as big as central Europe. We were amazed by this. We watched a video first at how the set up came about. It was set up in 1951 to enable kids on farms etc that lived up to 1500 kilometres away from a school to learn the same as any city child. Up until 2000 it was all done by radio, but now its all over the internet with web cams and msn.
Each child who lives too far away from a school registers for the school of the air, they get given a computer, with satelite and web cam etc and all their work is posted to them every 2 weeks. They have a tutor at home either their mum, or if she is too busy working the family employ a tutor to live in with the family. The kids have a half hour lesson a day on line with a teacher based in Alice Springs via web cam. We got to watch a lesson, it was really strange seeing the teacher sat facing a computer and talking to it. All the kids on the other end (there were 6 when we watched) can see the teacher, but the teacher can't see them. I suppose it means that kids can't mess about in class! After the lesson the kids do about another 4 hours of schooling with their tutor and then its to work on the farms. The children are so mature for their ages, they can drive by the age of 8. It is amazing what the school of the air does as they arrange 3 meetings a year where all the children get to meet up with their class mates they speak to every day in Alice springs and they also try and organise trips as well. Obviously the children are missing out on social interaction, but the school does its best. Once the children reach 13 they have a choice of boarding school or a long distace school in Darwin. Most children choose boarding school, and this is with all their mates from the school of the air. We had never really heard of anything like this, and although there are a few more in Australia now the one in Alice Springs is where it all started.
Once we had spent the morning at the school of the air we had lunch and then went to a didgeridoo workshop to learn the basics on how to play the instrument. I managed to get a sound out of it, so we bought one! I think it was luck getting the sound out of it, it looks easier than it is, but i'm sure we will have plenty of fun practicing!
The next morning we headed to the West Macdonnell ranges and went walking around Serpentine Gorge and Orminston Gorge. The latter was the better of the two, the views were fantastic and we walked through the gorge as it was dry. It was quite rocky, so not an easy walk but it was definately worth the effort. We then headed to Kings Canyon to another walk. This walk was steep to begin with but then flattened out, and this was breathtaking when you got to the canyon. The views were amazing and again the scenery slightly different to what we had seen before, although it still offered the strange orange rock formations we have seen so much. Another great day.
Then the drive to Uluru. The thing about Uluru is that we had seen so many postcards and pictures of the rock that we knew what to expect, we knew what it looked like, but everyone who we had met had said it was amazing, and it was. It certainly didn't dissapoint. We were both instantly transfixed. In the middle of nowhere is this huge monolith standing at 1,150 feet high, 1.5 miles long and 5.5 miles around. It was a lot less red than photographs we had seen, but the sun was hiding! The rock was exactly what we expected it to be and more. Its strange, the feeling we got is indescribable. How a rock can be so amazing, awesome and breathtaking. On closer inspection its even more interesting. All the divots and curves that are not shown on photo's, it has wavelike indentations in the rock, its just an amazing sight. We walked all the way around the base and couldn't take our eyes off it. There was a place to climb the rock, but the aboriginal owners ask that tourists don't climb it out of respect for their culture, and although lots do, we had decided not to before we even got to the rock. Lucky for us, it was really windy so the climb was closed which meant that we got people free photo's. Once we had walked around the base we went to a viewing point for sunset. As it was cloudy Uluru didn't change colour as much as it normally does, it did look purple once the sun was down though. We left feeling happy and felt that the journey had definatley been worth it.
The next morning the sun was shining, although still very cold so we got a few more photo's of Uluru looking a different colour again. We then headed to Kata Tjuta meaning 'many heads' to do the valley of the winds walk. Kata Tjuta is about 40 k's away from Uluru and is another sacred site of the aboriginals. It is a lot more interesting shape than Uluru, but nothing in comparison. I did a 2k walk while Matthew did the 7k walk, i needed a bit of a rest after walking 25 miles in 4 days so went and read for a bit while Matthew carried on walking. It was strange as it is the longest we have been apart in 9 months (sad but true).
When Matthew returned we headed to the sunset point at Uluru again as the sun was out and we wanted to see the colour change. Again it didn't dissapoint, it must have changed colour about 5 times. The same happened the next day at sunrise but in reverse. It is an amazing site seeing something so big just stood their slowly changing colour as the sun shines on it.
After breakfast we headed on a very long 5 day journey to Cairns.
Total miliage so far: 7995, almost the distance from London to Darwin!