Around the middle, part 2
Trip Start Jan 16, 2007
32Trip End Aug 20, 2007
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The main purpose of driving for miles through the desert was to go to the selection of large rocks in the middle, namely Ayers Rock and The Olgas (now being called Uluru and Kata-Tjuju, as the land has been given back to the Aboriginals). As it is far easier to get someone else to do long distance driving, that is what we did. Whilst travelling up the East Coast we'd booked ourselves onto an 11 day tour from Alice Springs to Darwin, going via Ayer's Rock, The Olgas and King's Canyon down south, and the crocodile infested Kakadu in Top End
Though the hot weather in the centre is often touted as one of the main features, whoever controlled it was obviously on strike whilst we were there - quite overcast for most of it, plus lots of rain. There was so much rain that the river in Alice actually started to flow (as in proper, river style flow), cutting off roads and making headline news all over the place. The lack of too much heat was probably a good thing though, as it meant you could actually walk around the place without getting totally heat scorched/knackered. This was especially true when we visited The Olgas, as the part we walked through is often about 10 degrees warmer than the temperature 'outside' due to the sheer rock walls reflecting the heat. The Olgas are the, relatively, little known relatives of Ayer's Rock, having been pushed up at the same time, but lacking the same dramatic effect of a single chunk of rock. Instead, they are a series of domes (36 in total) of red rock, though I thought that they were just as impressive as Ayer's Rock.
As the weather was a bit cloudy, the sunset over Ayer's Rock was nothing more than the rock getting progressively darker. Whilst this is what may be expected at a regular sunset in England, the generally cloudless sky of central Australia usually gives the rock loads of different colours, ranging from deep red to purple, as the light changes and bounces off it
Back to the trip, and though the weather was not as good as it could have been, this did mean that the local wildlife was a lot more active than it may have otherwise been. Over the days we saw two Parenti Goannas (biggest in the world after the Kimono, getting up to 2.5 metres long), numerous Kangaroos, Euro's (a type of kangaroo), rock wallabies, and loads of lizards. The biggest Parenti we saw was on the way to King's Canyon, just meandering along the road, and it was around 6 feet long. Not only pretty rare, but pretty cool. The rock wallabies rocked up on our last day, down a dirt track, across a river and round the corner into an absolutely stunning gorge system. They are pretty small, but hop over the rocks with an ease that is quite astounding.
After Ayer's Rock and The Olgas, the other main attraction of the area is King's Canyon. Another early start was needed for this, but the weather was pretty good on this day. However, the previous night was a different story. We were going to be sleeping in swags in the bush, but torential downpours throughout the night put pay to that
Back in King's Canyon, and the tops of the canyon have been eroded over time into bee-hive mounds, stretching as far as the eye can see, whilst down in the valley floor rocks the size of houses have fallen - quite spectacular.
Though our initial attempt at 'swagging it' came to nothing, the weather on the last night was fantastic for it, and I had one of the best nights sleep I've had for ages - just you, the stars (above the cloud), some snakes, and someone else to cook breakfast.
I'm heading off from Alice at another stupid hour in the morning tomorrow (think it is 5.45am), heading north to Darwin before going to the Kakadu area. Loads more I could have said here, but my time is about to run out. Plus I think too much more may send some people to sleep...