Giant Rocks and Gaping Holes

Trip Start Oct 20, 2009
Trip End Apr 01, 2011

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Bertha Brucilla Britz - Our Camper Van

Flag of Australia  , Northern Territory,
Tuesday, September 28, 2010

I had been mulling over going to Uluru (Ayers Rock) for a while and particularly during this one week. Then one day after getting home from work, Henry mentioned that he was thinking about going, so we set plans into motion and made a dream a reality. Once we mentioned our idea, immediately American Sarah and Canadian Michelle jumped on the bandwagon of fun and we created a little Outback travel crew. As it turned out, Irish Marie, a friend from back home, was swinging by Australia bout the same time as our little excursion into the desert, so we managed to time flights perfectly to meet Marie at Melbourne Airport and fly out together with her.

 The five of us flew into Alice Springs and rented a 4 person campervan there, which we named Bertha Brucilla Britz – The Queen of the Desert, then drove the 4 and a half hours down to Uluru. We were hoping to make it to Uluru for the sunset, but the sheer size of Australia becomes apparent when you’re driving for hours on end through the middle of nowhere, with barely another car on the road. So we ended up pulling into a parking ground by the road and setup camp for the night. Being in the middle of nowhere in one of, if not THE most remote place on the planet and being the only source of light for miles in every direction, the lights in our van inevitably attracted the entire insect population within a 5 mile radius, which presented us with an unexpected problem, coating the inside of our van with . The staggering number of insects engulfing our campervan, forming a vortex cone around the light, was dwarfed only by the sheer number of stars that were visible in the night’s sky once we had the sense to turn our lights off. It was a humbling sight, with the Milky Way clearly visible like a milky river right across the sky it was a poetic reminder of just how tiny and insignificant this planet and all of the issues which clutter our daily lives truly are in the greater scheme of things. We were treated to seeing Jupiter, an abnormally bright orangey speck of light standing out from a dark celestial sea of glitter. Definitely worth the journey already.

We woke up, hungover and exhausted, at 5am, to drive down to Uluru and watch the sunrise, the focal point of the entire journey, with me and Marie stashed up in the roof of the campervan to avoid paying an extra $50 entrance fee. We were so full of hope the night before, but our hopes were dashed upon the rocks of disappointment when we pulled up. It was entirely overcast, cold and thick with drizzle. I poked my head down from the roof and could barely see Uluru through the rain, just a dark hulking shadow, so while the others went out in the rain to take a couple of photos, Marie and I decided to miss out and stay asleep. That’s how miserable the weather was. Not really what you expect from a desert and definitely not what you would hope from a worldwide landmark.

I woke up again at 9am having missed nothing, as there was no sun it was just a “Rise”, a gradual brightening of the sky. I had completely forgotten where we were and hopped out of the van to walk to the bathroom nearby. I literally nearly fell over with shock as I looked to my right about halfway there and BAM!!! There was Ayers Rock right there. The rain had cleared so it was visible now, and with a layer of water covering it, it was a deep shimmering purple colour, set against the moody dark grey sky it looked ominously sinister and a lot closer than I remembered. To the left, amongst the rain showers a double rainbow appeared. It was an awesome sight with beauty and evil juxtaposed. So far from the image we imagined but I’m so glad we got to see it like this. It was almost as amazing as when, later on, the sun god finally smiled upon us and we got to glimpse this phenomenal landmark in all its golden blazing glory.

We cut our losses and made our way over to The Olgas, which are an almost equally impressive formation of rocks, in the same national park. There are a few of them and they are bigger, so arguably more interesting and this is definitely how I felt after our slightly disillusioned view of Uluru earlier. One mind-blowing view of them during the long winding approach saw them lined up, like giant dinosaur toes, making them look completely alien to this planet. Such a stark contrast to the otherwise completely flat, barren terrain. As we approached, I had been keeping an eye on the fuel gauge and had seen that we had used up more than half of what we had left just getting to where we were. We still had an unknown distance to go to get there, then all the way back, plus a bit further to the nearest petrol station. Being at least 200km from anything even remotely resembling a manmade structure, I really didn’t want to add getting stranded in the outback to my list of life experiences, so I pulled in and broke the news to the guys, that we may have to forgo the looming Olgas to double back for fuel. The guys decided to soldier on along the vein of “we’ll be alright” and it’s a good thing we did, as we were literally just round the corner, about 200 metres from the car park to the Olgas.

The canyon walk there was breathtaking and we were pleased to see the sun coming out, drying the rocks out and turning into a really nice day, although we did have to hide out in the van for about 20 minutes before, over a cup of Coffee, whilst waiting for the torrential rain to pass. The journey back was tense, with one eye on the road and one on the fuel gauge, with everyone thinking “light thoughts” and the world’s most economical driving. The “empty” light came on just after we departed, then after a while the needle dropped below zero, to that point where it’s just resting on the minimal position. Thankfully we did make it and all breathed a sigh of relief, as this would have made the journey take a completely different route.

After feeding Brucilla, our trusty and hardy steed, we galloped off into the sunset to Uluru. We had about two hours of sunlight left and the truly epic sight of the massive, dry, bright orange, sunlit, smooth rockface as we drove right up to Uluru is one of the most awe inspiring sights I have ever seen. We only had enough time to do a short walk along one of the rock faces, but it was an adventure through an alien landscape and was easily enough to really see how amazing a place it is. Unfortunately we couldn’t climb it, due to the earlier rain, but just being blessed with the chance to see Ayers Rock in all its glory in the blazing sun was more than I could have ever asked for. We then encapsulated this otherworldly, perfect day, by driving up to the sunset spot and watching Uluru being lit up by the sun, like a blazing orange fire. A truly magical experience, extremely humbling and one I will never forget. There’s a definite energy at this place and I can easily see why the Aboriginals hold it with such reverence.

The next day we drove up to Kings Canyon, stopping off at a meteorite crater along the way. It was pretty weird to see the physical impact made on this planet by a lump of rock that has travelled from the ends of the galaxy, from alien worlds, to collide with this tiny speck of rock we call earth. The highlight of this Crater though, was the comment left in the comments book by someone of obviously foreign origin, which read: “Big holes, never seen such big!” Nicely done, I couldn’t have put it better myself. Kings Canyon was amazing. Simply put. It was huge, with phenomenal sights around every corner and between us I think we took about a million photos along the 3 and a half hour walk, which I stupidly did in flip flops... sorry... “Thongs”. Nice one.

We had nicely adjusted to life on the road and had figured out a system with the beds and the cooking and everything.  Everyone got to drive and there was a constant rotation of who was at the front and who was in the back the whole time. It was wicked hanging out in the back, bombing through the desert, especially when we had the genius idea to leave the double bed laid out so we were in bed whilst cruising. Genius. I definitely felt like I was in a road movie and could see certain moments along the way, as clips in a road movie montage.

We swung by Alice Springs the next day and picked up some Goon, which we nearly didn’t get, due to the crazy restrictions applied in Alice Springs, to stop the Aboriginals getting completely off their faces on Goon all day. As I was pulling into the car park, being careful not to run over an Abbo who was stood in our space staring at us, we suddenly heard a crunch! We all exchanged worried glances in silence as we realised the presence of an awning over the car park, with the words of warning “remember the height of the vehicle when visiting supermarkets” running through our heads . Imaging pure destruction we stepped outside to view the damage and were pleasantly surprised to see that it wasn’t that bad. A little bit of fairy liquid and a scrubbing pad to get the blue paint off and we actually got away with this, keeping our $200 deposit which we were convinced we would lose. Despite getting lost and driving in the wrong direction for over an hour, this was probably the best night, finding the best camping spot right out in the bush, we had collected firewood for a campfire and played Outback Jap-Snap. Good Times, Good Times.

The final day was spent exploring the Dandenongs? Or are they the Grampians? Oh apparently they’re the MacDonnell Ranges. Ah well, let’s just call them the McGrandenongs. This was a day of Massive Holes and Gaping Crevices, taking us through Stanley’s Crevice, and Ellory Creek Big Hole which was an awesome gaping hole in the rocks with an ice cold pool running through the middle which you could swim. It was proper murky, with miscellaneous bubbles rising from the floor, slimy plant life and literally a couple of degrees above freezing. We did go for a swim, but halfway to the gaping hole, my mind started to toy with the idea of crocodiles, and although I wasn’t sure if there were any in this state, being that far out, in that deep cold water, I didn’t really feel like hanging around to find out so I bottled out and swam back to admire it from a safe distance in the warm sun.

All in all, this Outback adventure was easily the best thing I’ve done so far. It was literally perfect from start to finish, with no exception. Perfect company, perfect scenery and so good to get a little taster of life on the road.

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