Australia's best known landscapes
and natural wonders are disappearing.
Not literally of course, but they
are vanishing behind a fog of tourist busses and red tape.
There was a time for example when
you could experience Uluru (or Ayres Rock it
was then called), you could actually camp in the shadow of
the rock and feel the mysticism of the place.
Or so I'm told, I didn't come to
central Australia until this year, way too late for anything
like that. These days you can't camp within a bull's roar
of the rock. You can't even see it from the campground at
Yulara, which is probably just as well because at $30 per
night most of us can't afford to camp there anyway.
It's not the fault of the rangers,
nor the traditional land owners; not even the bollard-wielding
The problem lies with all of us,
there's just too damn many people, and where there's more
people there's idiots who do the wrong thing, and therefore
more rules to curtail the idiots.
So yes, we've now seen Uluru,
but I will never be able to say I've experienced it, and neither
will you unless you've already done so.
Still, despite my grumbling, Uluru
and Kata Tjuta really should be seen by every Australian
(and non-Australian for that matter) before they die. They
are quite amazing.
Now what have I learned from this
experience, I learned that I should have come here in the
70s when I was last in the Territory. I also learned that
we should now go and experience as many places as possible
before they too vanish into the fog.
There's no time like now, don't
wait until you retire in twenty years, unless you're happy
to just see things, and not experience them.
Till next time then, and remember,
Don't Dream it, Be it!
Sun 13 Jun 2004
After a late start we only make about 30k before pulling over for
The bread is nearly baked, so we stay for lunch.
It's a very pleasant spot amongst the desert
oaks, so we stay for the night.
Fellow campers under the desert oaks
Mon 14 Jun
It's crazy but since yesterday I find myself scanning the horizon
every time we crest a hill, looking for "the rock".
Of course there's been no chance of seeing it
so far, but I can't help it.
We do eventually see something similar, but it's
Mount Connor, a landmark that is often mistaken for Uluru.
Mount Connor, often mistaken for Uluru even though it
really doesn't look much like it at all
Just after passing the AR50 sign (Ayers Rock 50k,
it's called Uluru these days, but I guess the signs were
made some time ago) we finally see it on the horizon. Even from
this distance it's quite obvious the thing is massive, although
I'm pretty sure it couldn't be seen that well from 50k away and
I check the map. The road isn't straight, we're really about 30k
as the wedge-tailed eagle flies.
We have lunch at Curtin Springs and think about
staying the night, however it's still early and we've been told
of a good rest area not far away.
A flower and old airport baggage loader near the disused abattoir
at Curtin Springs.
We pull into the rest area, but it's not very
nice after all. However I spot a track heading over the dunes, we
follow that, and find a very pleasant place to camp for the night.
A beetle and weevils. Note in the second photo the weevil is
being attacked by ants.
Tue 15 Jun
At about 10 we pull into the Yulara resort, just outside the national
park. We check on the price of permits, camping etc.
TIP: The price for a three-day pass into the
national park is $25 per person, which is a bit steep. But, for
$32.50pp you can get an annual pass which gives you access for
more than three days (a whole year if you're really keen) to both
the Uluru and Kakadu parks.
The camping fees are very expensive (about $28
without power, $31 with), we won't be staying here.
We ring M&J to see where they are. They're
in the campground, just a few hundred metres away, so we walk over
for a cuppa.
Michael seems to spend a large part of his time
pulling over to help stranded tourists. Just yesterday apparently
he stopped to help a person of Aboriginal persuasion.
The fellow had his car's bonnet up, the universal
signal for a break down.
He was short of oil, so Michael offered a couple
of litres. When they restart the engine there's none of the usual
noises these old cars give when low on oil, rattling tappets for
Still, no matter, the vehicle is obviously a goer
now and they close the bonnet. Then the fellow asks for a cigarette,
but Michael had none on him.
As Michael pulls away he looks in the rear view
mirror. He sees the "stranded" motorist lighting up a
cigarette, then lifting the bonnet.
Presumably the next kind-hearted motorist will
donate some petrol, and the next some food.
NOTE: Occasional scams notwithstanding,
you should always offer assistance on these remote roads. Just
remember, it could easily be you standing there watching everyone
ANOTHER NOTE: On the same day Michael
offered help to a German couple with a broken fan belt. They did
have a spare belt, but snapped a bolt while adjusting the alternator
to fit it. With no decent tools or spare bolts they were looking
at calling out a mechanic from the nearest town, 200k away. At
$2/k and $105/hour that would be a minimum of $505 for a broken
On our return from the campground we pop into
the supermarket and find that the prices are much better than expected.
In fact they're the cheapest we've seen for some time. Very unusual
for such a remote place.
We drive a few kilometres back along the highway
and find a spot to camp that's not only very pleasant, but free.
Our campsite just a few kilometres from Yulara
Later we explore the area, we can't see Uluru
directly from our campsite, but can from just a few metres up the
The view's not great for a camera though, so I
look for less grandiose subjects.
New growth in the desert sand.
A track leads to (or from) an ant lion hole
Wed 16 Jun
I spend the day exploring the dunes.
Beetle and ant in the sand dunes.
A weevil puts his head down as a defence posture.
This golden desert cockroach also has a defence posture, but
he turns around and puts his bum down
Thu 17 Jun
Today we walk around the rock, on the "Base Walk" as it's
known, a distance of 9km.
The blurb states that three hours is required,
but that's for people who don't stop to look at every bull ant and
NOTE: Photos taken in the Uluru-Kata
Tjuta National Park have to be approved by the park's media
centre if they are to be used commercially, and that includes
sticking them on your personal web site. Click
here for more info.
Eroded shapes in a rock overhang. The staining is partly caused
by bird droppings.
Bloodwood trees at Kantju Gorge.
Water-stained rock at Kantju Gorge.
Trees around the base walk.
Amazing shapes in the rock.
Cliffs on the southern side of Uluru
After about five hours we are pretty much over
it, and bolt for the last kilometre or so.
In the afternoon we drive down to Kata Tjuta.
If anything they are more spectacular than Uluru.
Kata Tjuta from the viewing platform, and the classic
view from the western side at sunset.
It's getting late, so we hang around to watch
the sunset, then leave the park.
Fri 18 Jun
I need a lay day to process all the photos from the last couple
of days. The new camera is great, but I'm sure taking a lot of photos,
and they all need to be titivated, catalogued and saved onto DVD.
Michael, Jackie and I do however go to photograph
Uluru at dawn. Having fought with the crowds and the official
sunrise viewing area the other day, we decide to go against the
flow and pull into the sunset viewing area.
Uluru at sunrise, but from the sunset viewing area.
Sat 19 Jun
Sit around talking with M&J, they planned to go into Alice today
but our slackness seems to be catching. They'll go tomorrow.
The two motorhomes camped under the desert oaks.
Sandy track near our campsite leads to an Uluru view.
A mulga ant nest, they decorate the mound with foliage.
Sun 20 Jun
M&J head off today, we don't. We do however move camp to a gravel
pit a few kilometres up the road.
Oops, it's a bit soft in there.
Ant nest with protective tube over the entrance, presumably
to keep the water out
Tue 22 Jun
We can't go into the park today, for reasons that I won't go into,
instead we think a nice relaxing day in the gravel pit is in order.
Unfortunately this is a gravel pit for a reason,
the gravel is due to be used for the road widening that's in progress
just down the road. And today's the day.
At around 10 a truck pulls in, then another, and
another. Before long we're surrounded by trucks and contraptions
of a road-building nature.
The road workers move in.
"OK Bill let's find somewhere to dump this load of stinking
"I know, over here next to this motorhome should do"
Wed 23 Jun
The roadworkers return bright and early this morning, and we use
that as a cue to head into Uluru.
The truck with Kata Tjuta in the distance (40k away)
We wander around the Mala walk, a short walk that
incorporates much of what to me is the best part of the area.
Some abstract photos at Kantju Gorge.
While avoiding the tour groups I meet Peter Marlow,
an English photographer on assignment for Magnum.
We discuss the restrictions placed on artists
of all kinds who want to record Uluru and Kata Tjuta.
We separate, but meet up back at the truck shortly after.
After a quick cuppa he has to fly, literally,
he'll be photographing the Blue Mountains later today.
Peter leaves us a bottle of mineral water and
some orange juice, presumably because he doesn't need it on the
plane, and he heads off.
Not long after we spot girls walking towards our
end of the carpark. As we're the only vehicle here we figure they
must be coming over to see us.
As they get closer we see a puzzled look come
over their faces. They look unsure about something, but continue
When they are close enough to talk we find out
what the story is. They thought we were a refreshment van, and came
over to buy a drink.
As it happens we are in possession of an unopened
bottle of mineral water, which I give them. I should charged them
I suppose, but knowing the rules around here that would probably
be considered a "commercial activity" and attract a $5500
Uluru at sunset from the walk carpark
Thu 24 Jun
Today we'll do the "valley of the winds" walk at Kata
Tjuta, but first we drop into the viewing platform to witness
The Kata Tjuta viewing platform.
Uluru at sunrise from the viewing platform.
It gets cold here in the morning, a good time to have a friend and a doona.
Kata Tjuta at dawn.
Uluru and grass on plain.
Grass next to the footpath that leads to the viewing platform.
After sunrise we eat breakfast then walk into
the Valley of the Winds.
It's quite fantastic to walk between the massive
conglomerate domes that form the mountain range. Unfortunately it's
all out of bounds, photographically speaking. The rules preclude
the showing of anything here accept minute details that could be
A solanum flower.
Fungus on a rotting log.
Nicotiana excelsior flower.
Showy (or Basedow's) Indigo flowers.
Isotome flowers, one with an insect.
Daisy bush, mulla mulla and something else flowers.
An Australian Raven (AKA crow) and a Port Lincoln Parrot.
Huge tadpoles in the creek.
Once again it's supposed to take three hours to
complete the walk, we return to the car park after nearly six.
Kata Tjuta at sunset
Fri 24 Jun
The truck's shadow on the dunes.
Insect tracks on the sand ripples.
I climb Uluru. It's quite a slog up the
rock but well worth it. The top is a wonderland of valleys, many
of which I explored.
Unfortunately I can't publish any photos of "the
climb", or anything that implies the climb, such as a photo
taken from the top.
Them's the rules.
After the climb we visit the cultural centre to
enquire about restrictions on commercial photography. We talk at
length with the ranger who deals with such matters, and leave with
the appropriate application forms.
Later in the afternoon we drive down to the Kata
Tjuta viewing platform to photograph the sunset.
I can show you some photos from here.
Uluru from the Kata Tjuta viewing platform.
Last light on Kata Tjuta
As it gets dark we leave the park and make for
our gravel pit.
Sat 25 Jun
Just a quick drive out to the 25k rest area. We plan to spend a
few days there catching up on cataloguing photos and doing some
maintenance on the truck.
I also have to submit any photos I want to publish
to the Uluru-Kata Tjuta media centre for approval,
and will need some time to fill out the forms and make a CD of images.
Sun 26 Jun
It's M day, that's m for maintenance. I spend most of the day greasing
and oiling all the truck's joints, diffs, gearboxes etc.
We also have a broken gas strut bracket, so I
weld it back together.
The workbench and welder are out so I can do some repairs
Mon 27 Jun
More maintenance, this time the batteries. All done, now I can go
wandering with the camera.
Curly bits on spinifex grass.
Fri 2 Jul
Had another slack attack for a couple of days, apart from riding
into Yulara to mail some photos, we've just sat around reading.
This spider has just caught dinner, a nice juicy fly.
Sat 3 Jul
We are supposed to leave for Curtin Springs today but slept in.
Tomorrow will do.
Sun 4 Jul
That's it, we're really off this time. We've been here over a week,
it's 50k to Curtin Springs, so we'll need an early start.
A dead feral cat on the road. WARNING: The second photo is quite
graphic and you may find it a bit off-putting. Personally I
can't stand to look at it. For this reason I have blurred the
above thumbnail image.
Tue 7 Jul
After spending two days at Curtin Springs we drive towards Kings
Canyon, pulling up in a very nice rest area about 120k from the
I find the terrain here to be very pleasant, rolling
sand dunes that create small valleys filled with desert oaks.
Desert oaks in the undulating sand-dune country
There's no firewood collecting allowed in the
national parks, so every tour bus and four-wheel-drive we see is
stacked with timber. For the last 50 kilometres we've seen piles
of firewood on the side of the road, hundreds of them.
Sometimes the piles are just remnants, obviously
someone collected more than they could fit on top of their trailer.
At other times the piles look complete, as though they were stacked
then just left.
Storm clouds over our campsite
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