Saturday, August 2, 2008

to the big red rock

Travelling north from SA towards the Northern Territory en route to Uluru from Coober Pedy you start to wonder whether the journey to the renowned travel icon is really worth the effort. In fact you start to lose the will to live as km after km of unwinding desert road is negotiated.

The trip, over 2 days, was 733 km. The only distractions on the journey were waving at the oncoming drivers, and watching the spectacular enormous wedge-tailed eagles feeding on road kill.

Ness took some time out and got up close; I was concerned they might think the little white thing was an easy meal but they must have decided she did not have enough meat on her to warrant the effort.

The road is interrupted every 20 km or so by cattle grids to divide the different cattle stations. James dog is petrified of the noise so spent 2 days in a state of high anxiety, to the point that on a pit stop she made a bolt for the desert and Ness had to run pretty swiftly to head her off. The solution was to wedge her in her bed in the bathroom well away from the cab noises.

The first rock you encounter, 100 km before reaching Uluru, is Mount Conner, the third of the great monoliths of Central Australia. It is three times the size of Uluru and often mistaken for it by weary travellers, probably through desperation of wanting the trip to be over. It did serve to whet the appetite for the rest of the trip.

On finally reaching Yulara, a purpose-built 800-room town managed by the Voyages Hotel and Resort Group and serviced by Ayer's Rock airport 6 km away, you realise that the vast numbers of visitors are like shooting fish in a barrel for the tourist industry. Diesel is over 50% higher than anywhere else in the country, and hotel rooms and even basic camping cost a small fortune. Yulara is an aboriginal word meaning 'howling', and the local joke is that you'll be howling when you see your bill. We did have the advantage of being pretty self-sufficient with food and wine on arrival.

So, we were up at 5 am this morning in order to drive to the National Park and see Uluru at sunrise. With our illegal canine passenger stowed away in the bathroom we paid our entrance fee and went to the sunrise view point. With the usual double-standards of tourists we grumbled and complained about all the tour buses and selfish people there getting in the way and generally spoiling the photos, but the spectacular appearance of the glowing red mass was worth it.

Within 15 minutes the colour had changed to a dark yellow.

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