We stopped for a very co-operative eagle on the way to Australia’s iconic rock, Uluru (or Ayers Rock). Once there we gazed in amazement as people well outside their comfort zone struggled to climb and descend the steep rock. We had no desire to join them as we had previously climbed it 30-40 years ago when nobody was discouraged from doing so. The view of the rock is much better than the view from it. Instead we joined the people circling the rock, but only one end. Up close it is full of curves and scattered fallen boulders lie alongside. We visited a couple of gullies and overhangs that provided many different angles.
We headed around to join the throng at sunset alley and the rock put on a good show until the clouds intervened. I’ve put together a very rough video showing some of the colour changes.
We didn’t feel like joining the dawn brigade leaving the resort at 5.30am for sunrise at the rock so I got up and got creative with distant views.
Kata Tjuta (The Olgas) is the poor cousin of Uluru but much more interesting. We headed out there for the day and loved the Valley of the Winds walk which took you right in amongst those huge domes. They provide water for the walkers and the local finches know and hang around until a walker drops some onto the concrete or into a well placed hollowed rock.
We were staying at the caravan park on a special deal that gave us three nights for the price of two so our third day bacame our free day. We began with a free ranger walk at the rock giving insights into the aboriginal culture and a bit of geology. Back at the resort we had a didgeridoo demonstration and then a dance performance.
Kings Canyon completed our tour of big red rocks and was a fitting finale. It is an amazing canyon with sheer red cliffs and surrounded by pagoda dominated ridges. A walk has been put together taking you up one side and down the other with a visit to the peaceful stream pool at the head of the canyon. You also are taken to the edge of the sheer cliffs with no hand rails in sight (though there are concerns due to the number of deaths of careless tourists!) We finished with a sunset light show over the dramatic red landscape.
We had a night in the desert at a rest area on our way up the boring Stuart Highway before reaching Coober Pedy which is a very outback town surrounded by hills of dirt that have been dug up in the never ending search for opal. All those who can live underground to escape the summer heat and even the churches are too. We took a tour down on old mine at our caravan park and have a bit more of an understanding of what goes on. To find out where to dig their holes they use divining rods which pick up the slopes where the silica that becomes opal might gather. The little pyramids of dirt everywhere are amazing and stretch for miles. We were told it is not safe to just fill them in again.
Night sky at Bon Bon
Divining for slips where opal can gather
We headed out to the Breakaways in the afternoon to catch the golden light on the hills that have eroded in colourful ways.
We hadn’t had enough of colourful hills so headed to The Painted Desert on a reasonable dirt road and camped on a patch of dirt at the nearby homestead.
It always amazes me how many birds of prey you see in the desert country. I don’t know if there are more of them or they’re just more visible here but I try and photograph them when I can.
Wedge tailed eagle
We are on our way to Central Australia and decided to deviate from the usual route along the Murray River for a change of scenery. Instead we headed south and across to Whroo, an old gold mining area with a big old mine, but unfortunately no access to the the tunnel that was previously walked through. We stayed the night and enjoyed a warming fire in the chilly temperatures.
We then headed west and past Dimboola with a very pink lake, pinker than we have seen at the Pink Lakes in Murray-Sunset NP. After a night at a local recreation reserve we headed via the Barossa Valley to the southern Flinders Ranges and a delightful camping area on Mambray Creek in the Mt Remarkable NP. The river red gums were huge and often burnt and hollowed in the middle but still growing proudly on the outer legs. There was a very friendly emu too!
We took a walk through Hidden Gorge with red walls glowing brightly in the damp weather and we found it very impressive. The walk finished along a ridge with views to Spencer Gulf.
We thought Hidden Gorge was amazing until we visited Alligator Gorge the next day and found it even more beautiful with trees growing between the sheer walls and pools of water to create interest. We took a long circular walk but the gorge was the highlight and we should have just walked up and back. Hindsight is a great thing!
We then finally left the damp weather behind as we headed north on the Stuart Highway but kept a cold wind. It is a very boring road with miles of salt bush and not even any water courses to break it up. The occasional salt lake is a highlight along with the semi carrying a huge dump truck which took up the whole road! We spent the night at a rest stop before Coober Pedy with quite a few other caravans and not much else.
Four of us took a short walk to Old Currango Hut in the northern part of Kosciusko National Park. It was a very easy walk with just a stream to ford and could have been easier still if we had gone the short way. We stayed overnight which gave us the opportunity to take sunrise and sunset photos as well as at night. The hut has been restored and provides sweeping views over the plains and to Mt Bimberi, the highest peak in the ACT.
Across to Mt Bimberi
Across to Mts Bimberi and Murray
… is the cry at all the folk festivals in Australia in the early part of the year. The National Folk Festival is held in Canberra every Easter and after attending the local Yackandandah festival we were off to the Nash. Some of the acts made the same transition but mostly the performers were new to us and so we enjoyed listening and finding out which ones we would go and hear more of.
Mikeangelo and the Black Sea Gentlemen
The festival provides other diversions as well with varied dancing styles being performed, taught and for participation. The buskers were another source of entertainment and the children loved the man with the large bubbles (so did the photographer!)
Swallowed by the bubble
A campsite near ours was lucky enough to win entertainment at their tent so we were serenaded by Mikelangelo. There were the usual Morris dancers everywhere banging their sticks and being lampooned by the Shiny Bum Singers as they banged their keyboards together.
Mikelangelo at the campsite
Mikelangelo at the campsite
Pseudo Morris dancers