Alice, Alice, Where the flip is Alice!

Trip Start Jul 27, 2003
Trip End Jul 26, 2004

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Tuesday, February 17, 2004

Wednesday 11th February
We got up bright and early and moved our bags downstairs. We hailed a taxi and headed to the airport. We were all flying to Alice Springs with Virgin Blue and had a pretty uneventful 3 hour flight. There is an hour and a half time difference from Sydney so although we had been up and about for ages it was still only 10.30am when we touched down. David collected his hire car and took Simon and I to pick up our new home for the next 3 weeks, Vernon the van! Now Vernon is pretty much Vinnies twin brother but we get a shorter time with Vernon.

We headed straight to a campsite and David and Rachel got a chalet. Simon, Mum and I got acquainted with Vernon. We sorted out our stuff and headed into Alice Springs for a look around. What a place! This was our first encounter with Aborigines and unfortunately wasn't the best. They were all sitting in the street drunk. We headed to a nice little restaurant for lunch and inside it was a different world all white people having lunch no Aborigines allowed inside! I know from the work I was doing with the NSW government that they recieve special discompensation for many things. Like they get special funds which is more than social security and they get state loans at very low rates and also after a traffic offence they can get their licence back on the grounds of being from a Koori community where white Australians don't.

Simon and I got chatting to a chef who told us he had never come into contact with a working Aborigine. I think any romantic ideas of seeing them integrated into society or making boomerangs and playing didgereedoos for the tourists were soon wiped from our minds! I was advised that to buy alcohol I needed to take my room key as some places refuse to serve locals (ie. Aborigines) and every single shop in Alice Springs has a notice on the door stating that anyone of unfit dress or without shoes will not be allowed on the premises. We never had a problem getting in with old flip flops and shorts but apparently if we gave the exact same outfit to an Aborigine they would be advised that it was unfit dress. It was an extremely bizarre and slightly unnerving experience.

David decided to approach an Aborigine to get their views, but after chatting to a woman for five minutes it turned out she was from Samoa and here on holiday so we didn't get to find out anything. We had a leisurely afternoon swimming in the pool or in the air-conditioned cabin as it was 42 degrees in the shade. We all had dinner in the chalet before flaking out early for our two day round trip to Uluru (the indigenous name for Ayers Rock and what is now officially called) starting tomorrow.

Thursday 12th February
We got up early and had brekkie and where on the road by 9.00. We had a 450 km drive through the Outback to get to Uluru. The girls where in the car and the boys where in the camper. We made a couple of stops enroute for some cold drinks from Vernons fridge! We arrived at Yulara a small resort just 15 km from Uluru which is home to some pricey hotels and a campsite where I had booked a 6 bed cabin. We checked out the cabin which was nice with a decent kitchen. We cranked up the air conditioning and then made tracks to see Uluru, not that we hadn't seen it already as you first spot it about 50km away.

We drove down to the park and paid the National Park fees of $16 each for a 3 day pass which isn't bad considering the size of the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park its massive. We stopped off first at the Cultural Centre which has displays, videos and exhibitions. It was good to learn about why Uluru is such a sacred place to the Aborigines and how their beliefs and religions have been affected by European settlers. It was only as late as 1985 when the park was eventually given back to the Aborigine people. It is now jointly managed by the Anangu tribe and the Australian government.

We had a wander round the cultural centre mainly because it was cool compared to the 43 degree heat outside. We left and headed to Uluru and took the road which goes all the way round it and saw many different view points it has. I was stunned by its size and stature and it leaves you filled with an awe that you can't describe. Its just phenomenal and no picture can describe its size and wonder. We headed back to the campsite and got some more films and a bottle of the sparkling Shiraz we had tasted in the Hunter Valley and headed to watch the infamous sunset. We got to the sunset viewing area and had a one hour amazing light show. We sat in the warm evening sun sipping our shiraz and chatting to people around us for probably the best sunset I have ever seen. When the sun eventually sunk below the horizon behind us we made our way back to the chilled chalet and an early night as it is a very early start tomorrow.

Friday 13th February
We got up at 5.45am and made our way to Ulurus sunrise viewing area. We parked up and made breakfast in the campervan while the sun started to rise. Uluru changes colour so many times and we were lucky in that it had rained in the night so we could see the black stripes of water that hadn't yet dried without the sun. It is like someone has poured tar down it. The sunrise was spectacular but not as varied as the sunset. At 8am we watched some of the people that chose to make the 1 mile climb to the top along the sacred path taken by the Aboriginal Mala men for important ceremonies. The Anangu people ask that visitors respect their wishes and don't climb but at least 100 people decided to. We took a Mala walk which a ranger and various tour guides take you round which leads you round part of the base (its 9km to go all the way round.) This way is more educational as you learn more about the Anangu beliefs and ceremonies (and its flat!).

It was red hot even at this time of day. We got back to the campervan for a cup of tea before making our way to The Olgas or as they are now known also by their indigenous name Kata Tjuta which means many heads as it is a collection of rounded rock domes. It was a 42km drive through the National Park. We arrived and decided to take a walk through the big valleys, it was about 2km round trip which was enough in this heat. It took you down a gorge inbetween two of the big domes. David, Simon and I were walking back when a mini twister swept passed us lifting a little pile of stones with it. It was a very bizarre moment until we realised what it was. They have a lot of twisters and sand storms here due to the intense heat.

We had soon done enough walking in the morning heat and the day was starting to heat up so we started off in the airconditioned car and camper and made our way slowly back passed Uluru for another look. We then made our back up the 450 km on the Stuart Highway to Alice Springs stopping off at Mount Connor for petrol and lunch. It was hear we experienced another bizarre twister! Simon and Rachel had gone into the shop and my Mum had gone to look at some birds while David and I were filling up the cars when all of a sudden we were both engulfed in a very windy and sandy environment. I saw Davids hat whip up into the air before the sand storm engulfed me and I couldn't see anything! I instinctively decided to run (god knows why!) and ran straight into the campervan! It passed as quickly as it arrived and I turned to see David looking as equally bamboozled as me (minus a hat!) and everyone else standing nearby but totally untouched by it laughing at us! How weird. It took days to get the gravel and dust out of my hair!

We made our way back to the same campsite in ALice Springs and headed straight to the pool with David where we cooled off for half an hour before dinner. It was our last night with David and Rachel as they fly to Tasmania in the morning and we head off with my Mum on a 2000km drive to Cairns!

Saturday 14th February
We got up and after brekkie made our way to Alice Springs airport to wave off David and Rachel. We headed to Coles and stocked up on food, drinks and petrol and strated our drive North. We made a stop off at the Devils Marbles Conservation reserve which is a cool collection of huge boulders which looks like they have been scattered an area of about 1/2 a square mile and there are none anywhere else. They're about 1.5 million years old and we had them all to ourselves along with a few hundred flies.

It started to rain while we were there which felt great but once it stopped the flies come out in their thousands. We took a few pics and had a little walk round and then made tracks to Tennant Creek. We stopped off at Tennant Creek but it is just a service station town so we carried on to Threeways where the Stuart Highway meets the Barkly Highway. There was a campsite and a roadhouse there so we set up for the night after a long swim in the pool.

Sunday 15th February
Today we did a monster drive throogh the Outback stopping at every petrol station along the way. It is a pretty bleak road. We left the Northern Territory and crossed the border into Queensland where we were advised by a sign to put our clocks forward by 5 years and 30 minutes!! The road in many places had been washed away as we were now leaving behind the desert and entering the Tropics and they had had a lot of rain recently. Tomorrow we will reach the East Coast and the thought of sea breezes and swimming holes in fresh water creeks is almost too much to bear in this dry heat. We got to a little town called Richmond where we camped for the night.

I will finish there as we have a flight to catch and funnily as I leave this with us leaving the Outback our flight is taking us right back into it! Will get the East Coast up soon. xxxxx
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