Friday, July 31, 2015
Thursday, July 30, 2015
This morning while we were enjoying our first decent coffee for a while at the Barkley Homestead, a very friendly 'cowboy' approached us and took an interest in where we were from and where we were going and so on. He and his wife, his little girl and brother had just driven all night from Townsville and were on their way to Darwin (a 2,500 km trip). After a while I asked him what he did for a living, and without a trace of irony replied, I am Knackers Brooker and I'm Australia's top rodeo clown. At the age of 45, and after two broken necks and a ruptured testicle, he still rides and wrestles bulls here and overseas at least once per week. It is then we really realised we were in the 'top end'. Tonight I thought I'd Google Knackers, and I did. He's the real McCoy. I wish him luck, he is a nice guy and we enjoyed our chat with him.
Tuesday, July 28, 2015
The town of Alice Springs is located on the Todd River, and before this engenders images of quiet waters and black swans, you should know that the river only has water in it for 5% of the year. This photo is taken standing in the middle of the river.
Our last visit of the day was the local cemetery to visit the grave site of Albert Namatjira who was once of Australia's foremost watercolour painters. Albert, born on the nearby mission of Hermannsburg and a member of the local aboriginal community has his paintings hanging in galleries all over the world, and he really captured beautifully the spirit of the McDonnell ranges landscape.
If you would like to know more about Namatjira there are lots of web sites devoted to his life and art including this one here.
Monday, July 27, 2015
As mentioned in an earlier post, we bypassed Kings Canyon due to poor weather there and travelled straight to Alice Springs. We are really enjoying Alice Springs. It is a beautiful little city with lots of facilities and of course many interesting activities. Alice Springs was initially established as a location for a repeater station on the Telegraph line which ran from Adelaide to Darwin and which was Australia's only communications link with the rest of the world. Yesterday we visited the old Telegraph station which is beautifully preserved as a museum.
We also visited the Alice Springs Cultural Precinct and viewed the Albert Namatjira art collection - Albert was an internationally recognised watercolour artist who produced some of the most stunning images of the local area.
Another feature of this precinct is the Central Australia Aviation Museum which features many of the iconic aircraft responsible for opening up this remote part of the country.
This morning we drove out into the West McDonnell ranges to visit Standley Chasm, which is reached after a spectacular walk.
Then, after some lunch back at the caravan we visited the Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS) which from about the 1930's on provided the only available medical support to the isolated rural properties and communities. The area they cover is truly amazing and I think they attend to something like 80 calls a day.
Today services are provided in modern and fast aircraft which can operate almost anywhere, and the museum provided a fascinating insight into the amazing operations of the RFDS over the past 80 years. Tomorrow we will visit the School of the Air which provides class room tuition by radio to remote communities.
Friday, July 24, 2015
We had a fair bit of rain overnight and there were pools of water everywhere which is probably a rare occurrence around here.
By early afternoon we had completed both our walks and I was ready to head back for a coffee and a bit to eat.
That completes our stay here at Uluru. Tomorrow we head off for a couple of nights in Kings Canyon which by all accounts is also spectacular.
Thursday, July 23, 2015
We drove around to the car park for the Mala walk which takes you right to the surface of the rock. Once you get close there is an infinite variety of details to capture the imagination.
Even in the short walk we undertook we discovered many caves which to the local Aboriginal people all have significance - many of them feature rock art.
One of the strange effects of visiting Uluru is that it seems to command reverence and stillness. While there are hundreds of visitors there at anyone time, everyone seems talk in hushed tones as if they're visiting a cathedral. It is no wonder that the local people treat the whole area as a sacred place.
We've been extremely lucky with the weather. The cool weather which has blanketed Australia has produced mild and very pleasant weather here. I can imagine that during the summer when the temperatures can reach 50ºC our walk would have been rather challenging. On the way back to the campground we visited the Uluru Cultural centre which was very interesting and a great example of architecture which is sympathetic to its surroundings. Unfortunately at the request of the local people we refrained from photography here. Tomorrow we plan to visit the nearby (50km) Olgas.
Wednesday, July 22, 2015
One great feature of this park is that it features an elevated viewing platform for viewing the sensational sunsets which are part of desert life and although it originally didn't look like much we were really grateful that we made the effort to walk up there after dinner and witness the most amazing sunsets we've ever seen.
I took about 40 photos because every 10 seconds or so the sunset changed completely. At one stage as the sun reached the point where is was shining horizontally through the desert atmosphere, a huge orange glow erupted almost like an explosion.
Within a few minutes the sun disappeared and started illuminating the underside of all the clouds in front of us, a completely different effect again.
An incredible end to the day and one we'll never forget.
Tomorrow we turn on to the Lassiter Highway for the 270km trip to Uluru.
Monday, July 20, 2015
Coober Pedy is the opal capital of the world. This little desert community of about 3,500 produces 80% of the world's opals.
After a walk around the town and lunch in the caravan it was time to join our tour led by a local miner Jimmy (real name Demitrious) who has lived here all his life after arriving from Greece as an 18 year old. Our tour included some local sites as well as a visit to the Breakaway (a local geological formation). First visit was a mine and an underground house right under the main street.
Then it was time to drive out into the desert to visit the Breakaways.
The tour was timed to provide the perfect late afternoon lighting for photos of the desert and we reached the Dingo fence while there was still enough light left. This fence which runs through Queensland, New South Wales and South Australia for over 5000 km, literally divides the country into a northern beef cattle area and a southern sheep grazing area by keeping the dingoes (wild native dogs) out of the southern region.
By the time we returned to Coober Pedy it was dark and we had one more place to visit, St Elias an underground Serbian Orthodox church. This was certainly an amazing sight and one of the highlights of the trip.
Tomorrow we continue our trip to Ayer's Rock and beyond.
Friday, July 17, 2015
While it is still overcast here the temperature has increased a fair bit and the bitter cold we experienced over the last few days seems to be disappearing. Port Augusta is right on the edge of the Great Australian Desert and tomorrow we start our foray into the Australian outback. Our target for tomorrow is Coober Pedy the famous opal mining town.