Tuesday, 11 June 2013

DARWIN to ADELAIDE 3,028 kms (+600kms to Uluru) in 6 days (2 days in Uluru)

Joseph is being nice to me and has decided that we won't take the planned two weeks to drive back to Adelaide - instead we are going to "fly" (@100kms/hr)
 down the Stuart Highway (the last sealed leg was only completed in 1987)
 with only FIVE stops in six days…

FIRST STOP - Daly Waters Pub

So we don't stop for one last chance to see the Rainbow Pitta (woah he is being very nice to me!) and we don't stop in Katherine for a swim in their lovely hot springs  - but we do stop at the Katherine Information centre to make use of their facilities and eat lunch.  There is a note on the door of the toilet asking if you would like to work at the Info centre next year for the dry/busy season.  They say age is no limit!!  The girl on the desk tells me that it's for four months and you don't need to be experienced with local knowledge - it's all easy to learn -just as the other two ladies working there have done. She says that I could do it (she's been talking to me for all of three minutes) - but sadly she's not the boss so she give me a card with the info I need.  I know we were very impressed with the service we received on our way in … so I'm gonna think about this … a lot!

There's always a fire burning up here!
(small burnous - this was one of the larger ones)

Not far along the road we decide that we can miss the swim in the hot springs at Mataranka and drive all way to Daly Waters for our first overnight stop.  I've vaguely heard of Daly Waters (even though Bill Bryson talks about it in his book) so am surprised when we turn off the highway and up to the Pub/Caravan Park and see that it's happy hour and the pub is packed and so is the caravan park.  

They tell us that if want the "Beef & Barra" for dinner  - the earliest serving is 8.00 p.m.  It's 5.00 p.m. and I can't wait that long to eat so we'll order from the menu.  They squeeze our van into a "slot" and we head on over for a drink and to listen to the live music.

The hotel is decorated with bras, hats, licence plates, $ notes from all over the world...

and it  turns out that every night during the "dry season" (June - Sep) for four months, out in the patio area they cook a BBQ of Baramundi and steak with a salad bar and damper (bread) with some extras (i.e. a deal on wine etc.)  - they serve 14,000 of these meals in a season - and every night for four months their is live music. The first serving of the BBQ starts at 6.30p.m. Every half hour they call out your name and up you go for your "prize" and then you load up your plate from the salad bar. We can't order from the menu until 6.30 either - but  our meal comes pretty quickly and my Barramundi fingers are delicious (Joe's schnitzel is OK) and we enjoy the salad bar in between the BBQ lineups - the place is packed.

They are cooking the BBQ in the back ( left side).

There are three different singers - the first sings some of my John Williamson favourites so I like him but we just catch the end of him - he's a local and runs the museum during the day.

 The next guy has taped backup music and a very weird choice of songs (about six by Herman's Hermits!!??) and hardly anybody claps and I think he's mainly a filler in between the BBQ calls.  

... as I said - nobody was listening!
The last entertainer doesn't just sing, he talks and tells jokes in the most Australian way you could imagine (hard to imagine if you aren't Australian I guess!). Some of it is funny, some I cringe at the political-incorrectness of it, but he can sing and while he sings his wife projects images of Australia on a screen behind him and he also sings a John Williamson song called It's Raining on the Rock . While he sings this song there are images of Uluru (Ayres Rock) all wet and shiny with waterfalls in some places and colours you don't usually see because it doesn't usually rain in the centre of Australia - hence the song. 

Raining on the Rock ...(Borrowed photo)
 Everybody else seems to be thoroughly enjoying it but I feel sorry for his wife who has to sit through this every night for four months!! … and finally we've had enough and are off to bed.


STOP TWO - Alice Springs

It's a long day's drive from Daly Waters to Alice Springs - 900+ kms and I try to contribute but I only manage 200kms and Joseph dives the rest!  We stop for lunch at at the Devil's Marbles - an amazing group of round rocks balancing on top of each other - quite the backdrop for a cheese and chutney sandwich. 

Nice backdrop for lunch!

What we noticed shortly into our drive after Katherine is that there are hundreds (seriously) of caravans/vans/four-wheel drives etc. (mostly caravans) driving NORTH. They are people (retirees?) driving north for the "dry season" to escape winter in the south (when it's 5c outside it's about the same inside).  It seems we are the only people driving south! There are so many of them that we stop waving at them all ( they all wave at us) - after a while it's exhausting raising your fingers from the wheel!  They fill the caravan parks and the "free" camping sites along the highway.

We arrive just before the Caravan Park closes - again the park is quite full - they're all on their way north!
This night is the first night in many weeks that we didn't need the a.c. and I dug deep and found Joseph's hoody and my "cardy" (sweater) and we slept with the windows open and were pleasantly warm under the dooner (quilt)... yummy!

We see a bit of Alice Springs in the morning - visit a couple of craft shops and learn a bit more about Aboriginal culture from the German lady on the desk at Tjanpi Desert Weavers
 They buy the baskets from the ladies and we see some of them weaving on a deck outside.  The lady tells us that yes drinking is a problem but she argues that it's tough to have three or four of your family members die each year and while she says it's not an excuse - she sympathizes with them.  That's a nice change from the negative comments we always hear.  Sadly we are a week too early for the Beanie Festival - but we buy one anyway. Apparently because it's so cold in the desert a lot of the Aborignal people knit and wear beanies to keep warm.  

Somebody decided that had the makings of an event and so it's a week of beanies of all shapes and designs being displayed and sold - one day I want to come back for the festival!



It's a 600km westwards interruption to our southerly journey but I can't wait to show Joseph Uluru. I was there with Cassia and Eileen almost 10 years ago and we loved it and especially loved the Sounds of Silence dinner - a lovely meal on a spectacular night, right out there in the desert watching the sunset on Uluru.  I couldn't wait to do that with Joseph.

As we turn left/west from the highway there is a Aboriginal man on the corner with a jerry-can of petrol (gas) hoping for a ride.  So we ask him if he wants to hop in and says yes "he's been waiting all day" for a lift!  Joseph moves to the skinny seat behind me and Geoffrey sits up front with me driving. He tell us that there are friends waiting for him on the side of the road - "been waiting all day" he says!  He tells us that he is from the Imanpa Community down the road. 

He's also a wealth of knowledge - he tells us that this weekend is the Finke bike and car races (so that explains all of the motor bikes and racing cars we see).

 When we see the "bloody water" pooled on the side of the road he tell us that its a system that is coming from Broome and all the way down to Coober Pedy. He tells us it was "running" and although he agrees that the water is good I guess if you drive down a dirt road to get to your house it can be a bit of a problem if there is too much. I ask him if he sees any camels on the road and he says " … no but down at Ayres Rock there is a big mob of 'em".  I look at him and query why he called it Ayres Rock and not Uluru?  "Oh yeah - Uluru" he laughs.  So we drop off the petrol (and their credit card!) to his friends and Geoffrey decides that he will stay with us and we can drop him at the road into his community… further down the road.  

As he points out his road and we slow down, he gives us directions, telling us that there is just this one road to Curtain Springs and then … and he sits for a minute thinking and then he looks at me and laughs and says "Uluru"!!   Such a precious moment -  we are so insistent that we call it Uluru and to him it's Ayres Rock - always will be I guess! 

The road to Geoffrey's Imanpa Community

 Joseph asks if we can have his photo and he politely agrees and then he waves thanks and he's off on his 17km walk down the dirt road to home. 
(I apologize that we can't take the van down the dirt road.)

Here's the camels!

So when we arrive at Uluru it is cloudy and it's been raining … It's Raining on the Rock!  

In my wildest dreams I never thought of rain as a possibility!!  

During the day it's just a light drizzle that means there are no photos of the bright blue sky, red dirt and red rock - there are no sunset photos and no sunrise photos and it's not quite enough rain to make the rock glisten - but it's still overwhelmingly amazing none-the-less. 

The climb -  but they (The Anangu) ask you not to do the climb anymore.

The meal in the middle of the desert is off - it rains both nights we are here!  It stops drizzling long enough for us to do a small hike at the Olgas (44kms away)
At the Olgas (Kata-Tjuta)

the hike went on longer - but I was happy with my view!

 and we manage a small walk at the base of Uluru itself but that's OK - we enjoy the Culture Centre … and just looking at that crazy rock.

It's a(nother) long day tomorrow so we must be up early - shame about the ignorant yobbos behind us that drink and talk until 2.00 a.m. I call security and I guess the yobbos hear my voice (Joseph says I was shouting) and they packup before security arrives but that cuts into my sleep.  Oh well - I'll just have to catchup in the car!


STOP FIVE - Coober Pedy

We make it to Coober Pedy (it's the first real town after Alice/Uluru) with just the odd cow, wild dogs and wild cats on the side of the road but no incidents.  As we come upon Coober Pedy - famous for opals - the landscape changes - it now looks like something from the moon. 

All of the mounds are opal "mines"!

Then we are stopped by the police for a breathalizer!! (we are in the middle of nowhere - 30kms from CP).  Apparently some people like to drink while they drive this long, straight, narrow, boring-at-times road!  The police can also do on-the-spot drug test and searches the young policeman tells us -they have a special permit - but he tell us we are obviously not who they are looking for!  Phew - we have some contraband fruit and veges in the back and I was nervous! (you aren't supposed to take fruit/veges/meat into S.A.).

The town of Cooper Pedy isn't a really pretty town … it's an "interesting town" we decide, and can't quite figure out what photo will do it justice …  Perhaps it's the one of the police emptying the intoxicated man into the street as he walks across to hotel on the other side of the road?  No we think it's not quite right to take that photo - so alas! there is none of the town.

The first caravan park is full!! Huh?   (We think it's those bike riders and retirees going NORTH!!) but we squeeze in (again) to the second one and then happen upon a lovely opal shop and find (hopefully) just the right earrings for Marie and those people suggest the local pizza shop for dinner.  We were thinking of something a bit nicer than pizza but we've had some pretty good pizzas on this trip so decide to give it a try and on the way we pop into the underground Catholic Church.  

Joseph's mum would be so happy to know that we were here!
(they were here in 1978)

There are a lot of underground buildings in Coober Pedy - it's a way to try and beat the fierce heat of the summer where temps are consistently in the high 40c's and 50+c is nothing - the average daily temp is 30-32c.  You can even stay in an underground hotel! 
At the Pizza place we are blown away by how busy it is -  the sit-in section is full and some sit in the overflow outside and the phone for take away (take-out) never stops ringing and it's not even 6.30 yet.  The pizza isn't quite as good as what we had in Fitzroy Crossing despite all of the awards this one has won - but the locals don't know about Fitzroy Crossing!

We were up early and arrived "home" in Adelaide around 4.30 p.m. - very good timing.  The trip was incident-free and we are "de-briefing".  Also looking for a place to live for the next 12 months.

So thanks for reading along and following us on our trip - it was nice of you to accompany us - in cyberspace at least.  Jill (& joe)

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