The red red centre
Helllooo tourists! After the Oodnadatta track it was a shock to get to Uluru. We had been in the dust and dirt for weeks usually camping with just a few others and now we were thrust into a campground catering for 200 powered campsites and 200 more unpowered! We took up our spot in the overflow paddock along with all the other campers who didn't book in advance and set up. Apart from being about 500 m from the nearest toilet and not having any heating (yep still freezing) the overflow was fine.
Uluru is spectacular. It is true that you get a real sense of the spiritual significance of the site. The interpretive signs and the cultural information centre are really well done. We walked around the base of the rock which took a lot longer than we thought but was absolutely stunning. The traditional owners of the area ask you to respect their culture and not climb the rock. Even with all the signs and information, I was shocked and saddened to see so so many tourists climbing.
That evening we sat with all the other tourists to watch the sunset and the changing colours of the rock.
The next day we went out to Kata Juta (Olgas). We planned to do the Valley of the Winds walk but once we got to the first lookout surprisingly, it was too windy! So we pulled the pin and went back to the cultural centre so Annie could explore and play away from the freezing wind.
Off to Kings Canyon. We arrived at Kings Canyon and set up camp right next to the amenities, which normally isn't ideal...except when you are 2.5 and need a good scooter track close by. On went the fairy dress and helmet and out came the scooter. The next hour we sat around watching Annie scoot around the toilets at speed, and praying she wouldn't try the tricks her 7 year old friends were trying. It's been lovely watching her make friends everywhere we go she has become extremely confident and happy to chat to boys and girls of all ages.
There was a lovely couple camping next to us who have 3 young boys and who are doing a similar trip to us. They were trying to give away camp chairs as like us, they also had bought way too much stuff with them. The next morning they packed up and found 6 dead mice under it... squashed! MORE MICE. Arghhhhh.
Kings Canyon is spectacular. Although it was raining we rugged up and walked the rim of the canyon. The walk takes about 3 hours or so and traverses the rim of the main gorge. It rained on and off for the whole walk but we still loved it.
That evening we went to the very clichéd Aussie BBQ at the resort where a very out of tune duo sang Aussie songs and got the crowd interacting. Annie was very excited to join the other kids on stage with her clappers even though she was half the size of the youngest up there. They all performed a couple of songs and then she was given the microphone to say "Ladies and Gentlemen please stand". It was too cute and made Mick and I nearly cry! Yep pathetic I know!
That night when we turned the light off and Annie was almost asleep... Yep, that's right... Another mouse in the tent. So their was much hilarity as we chased the mouse around and around the tent trying to heard it out! Eventually we got it out. Annie was absolutely beside herself with excitement so you can imagine what it was like trying to get her to bed after that. After an hour or so, a massive meltdown and some rescue remedy for mum, dad and Annie she drifted off to sleep. The next day a little man camping in a caravan next to us said how much he enjoyed listening to our "Family Noises" last night! Hmmm I think that was his polite way of saying we were loud and annoying!
The next day we packed up in the cold and rain. Today we were travelling through Aboriginal Owned land to get to the MacDonnell Ranges (Mereenie loop road). The road was only open to 4wd due to the rain so we knew we had a long slow drive ahead of us. It took us about an hour to drive 30 km! It was very slippery and muddy and we were all hanging on pretty tight as the trailers and cars seemed to be going in different directions! About two hours into the trip we passed a Rav 4 parked on the side of the road going in the opposite direction with no-one in it. Then 500 m down the track a family standing around a BMW motorbike that had become completely immobilised by excess mud. The Charlie Boorman/Ewan McGregor wannabe driving it was coping some serious abuse from his very stressed well dressed wife, while his 3 teenage daughters tried to pick mud from his spokes with sticks. They asked if we had phone reception (we didn't) and whether the road gets any better (it doesn't) and whether it is much further to Kings Canyon (it was). We then left because it was all a bit tense and I suspect they were minutes away from divorce. They were talking about leaving the bike and calling BMW roadside assistance to collect it - which would have been then only way he was getting any further that day anyway.
The next crazy person on the road was in a late model low profile commodore driven by a man who was none too happy to hear that his choice of car might not make it on the road (which is a polite way of saying he had a snowball chance in hell of making it). We also saw two Rav 4s driven by Asian girls wearing white dusting gloves (???).
I think the road is normally really good its just that the rain had made it super boggy and super slippery. We got into Glen Helen campsite the topic of conversation with all the campers that night was the very boggy road, the commodore drive, the motorcyclist and where to wash the car and trailer.
That night we met a lovely family from NSW (the Woods family) who became instant friends. I hope we will see a bit of them on our journey. Annie and their 4 yo boy Charlie became besties very quickly.
The Macdonnell Ranges are west of Alice Springs and are a series of spectacular mountains carved up by many gorges. The gorges are beautiful although very smelly at this time of year. When the temperature drops (and yes it is still freezing) the fish go into shock and a protozoa starts to colonise on their gills which suffocates them and they die. So unfortunately there were dead fish along the beaches of all the gorges. We had planned to do a walk at Ormiston Gorge but when we read that due to the high water levels at the moment we would be required to swim near the end of the walk (or do an 8 hour return walk) we changed our mind. We still managed to do all the shorter hour or so walks in the area, at times with Hankies over our noses!
The next day we packed up and drove to Alice. It was so cold that we gave up trying to see the sites on the way - the top temp that day was 11 degs.
Alice was a good break. We stayed at the huge Big 4 which was a kids paradise - pools, jumping pillows, pedal powered go-karts... Annie was in heaven. It was here that our friendship with the Woods family was cemented over a few glasses of red and a couple of cans of gin. I know what you're thinking... Cans! Really! We don't have much space and it's easy to transport!
Alice was all about good cafes, re-stocking the fridge and short easy sightseeing trips. It was a nice break but we were pretty keen to get north. We were lucky enough that John (dad in law) was in town for work so we had a lovely catch up and were spoilt with some lovely meals. It was really nice to see him and Annie was particularly excited.
So we headed up the Stuart highway. About 300 km north of Alice Mum got on the radio and said she thought they had just passed the Woods on the side of the road changing a tyre so keep an eye out. Sure enough Georgina came on the radio asking if we were near as they had just lost a wheel of their van! We pulled in behind them and they were surprisingly calm as it would have given them a bit of a shock.Mum and dad also turned back to come and help. We were well out of phone range so the only thing we could do was unhitch their van and drive to the next town to use their landline. We loaded the wheel onto our trailer and drove in convoy to Barrow Creek - which again consists of a pub run by a friendly but slightly odd toothless man. After a lot of discussions and negotiations with NRMA the woods had to get their van towed to Alice, so after driving 300+ km they had to turn around to drive back to Alice (with two kids 2.5 and 4). It was a long long day for all of them.
We kept going to Wycliffe Well, the UFO capital of Australia. It was so bad that we got up the next day and didn't even shower so we could get out of there as fast as possible.
There isn't anything between Alice and Mataranka so the next few days were about clocking the Kms.