Hello dear friends,
I wrote this piece for a website called Starts at Sixty about four weeks ago and imagine my surprise when I noticed that it was published today! A little late than never at all I suppose.
Therefore, while I am busy writing another blog for you today (an updated one) I thought you might enjoy to read what was happening in our travels weeks ago!It’s all about Chatting to locals wherever we go.
Follow the link here. Enjoy!
After four days of being ‘off the air’ so to speak, we arrived today in a little town of 2000 people called Coober Pedy where opal mining dominates EVERYTHING in the town.
Dear friends, it is the wild wild west as far as I am concerned! It is situated in the middle of nowhere. However, having said that, it is a very interesting town with more opal jewellery shops than you could ever imagine … at least about thirty of them.
When I left you last, we were leaving Uluru to go to a canyon called Kings Canyon 300 ks away. Everyone said, it was a ‘must see’ before leaving the area and it did not disappoint.
We stayed at an outback station called Kings Creek Station where we found Camel Pie on the menu – the camels were looking so innocent when we arrived. I wondered if they realised they could end up in a pie if they weren’t careful? They were also used for camel rides as well. Plenty of camels out there so perhaps there is hope for some of them!
Since leaving Kings Creek, we have stayed in two overnight stops – one in Kulgera (pop 50) and the other called Cadney Homestead (pop 30). Basically, these places are kept going by the grey nomads going up and down the centre of Australia staying overnight.
They are virtually a Roadhouse with petrol, food a pub and some groceries. We’ve had some very interesting experiences at these places although they have no mobile phone or internet access however, they attract a lot of people to Happy Hour at the Bar as well as meals. It is here you meet and chat with fellow travellers.
Now, we are back in so-called civilisation here at Coober Pedy, I am writing a post to fill you in on our travels. We’ll be in the wilderness again from Saturday onwards. We have decided to stay here two nights as there is a lot to see.
We visited a church this afternoon which is underground. Yes, I did say ‘underground’. It is so hot in summer that they have dug out areas under ground and turned them into churches, houses, restaurants or gift shops. Fascinating place this town!
I visited 45 years ago and it was a very small town then. I couldn’t believe how much it had grown and changed. Geoff and I did a walk of the town this afternoon and met some locals which is always great.
Now dear friends, I’ll leave you with this tale I was told whilst in town. We went to a Bakery to buy cake for afternoon tea (yes, I know … naughty naughty!) and saw a paper clipping on the counter “Thief breaks into Bakery and cooks himself a late night snack!”
When I asked the owner about it, he said the thief had been caught on CCTV and he was doing all kinds of bizarre things like dancing in the dark after he had cooked himself eggs. He also hit himself on a beam and got knocked out! He was found fast asleep in the storeroom and taken away.
The owner said “Oh, apparently he was from Melbourne and it seems his doctor is looking for him!” Don’t you love this story … and what’s more, it is true! It could only happen in Coober Pedy.
There is something special about being out here in desert of Central Australia dear friends. Everywhere we drive we feel as if we’re in another country because the countryside is like nothing we see on the east coast of Australia where we live.
In fact, coming along the highway to Uluru, I had an Andre Rieu CD playing “You Raise Me Up” and as we came to a rise, all we could see below were multi-coloured low mountains surrounding us on every side. For some reason – perhaps due to the isolation – I remarked to Geoff, “I feel like I’m in America and this is the last frontier!”
Combined with the uplifting strains of the violins playing, the mountains seemed to enclose us in an embrace of security and comfort. For a moment, I gasped at the sheer majesty of the scene before me. It was breath-taking; then as we sped along, the moment passed. Just like that it was gone!
Geoff and I remarked on the colours of this area: deep burnt oranges and reds, browns that veer towards tan, yellow flowering shrubs and grey-blue clumps of salt-bush on the flats with a few spindly trees here and there. I call them the colours of Central Australia.
Now that we are here, Geoff and I simply cannot get enough of Uluru also known as Ayers Rock – so we devoted all our time to it yesterday.
Today we decided that it was time to give some attention to the poor cousin to Uluru: KATA TJUTA. Formerly called The Devil’s Marbles by us white folk, it is also a very significant place to the aboriginal people. It lies 50ks from Uluru and it is a series of large round rock formations. It is now part of the Uluru/Kata Tjuta National Park and it costs $25 per head to visit for three days.
It is now a world heritage listed area and was handed back to the Anangu aborigine people in 1985 who immediately leased it back to the Federal Government for 99 years. However, it is jointly managed by both but the presence of our indigenous people here is very strong here.
So dear friends, I cannot begin to tell you about the wonderful time we are experiencing living here in the township adjacent to Uluru called Yalara (no one camps or stays in the National Park). There is a community here comprising all different levels of accommodation with a Town Centre at it’s heart.
We have so many activities to visit that we have had to forgo some due to lack of time!
And don’t get me started about meeting and chatting to people from all over the world either!
Today we managed to watch some traditional aboriginal dancing and when the men were invited to get up and learn to dance like a kangaroo and an emu, my dear husband was one of the first men to get up. Shouts went up from a couple of Canadian ladies sitting next to him who had convinced him to volunteer. Oh, it was fun!
Another highlight was watching the sunset onto Uluru last night in a special viewing area. People had their glasses and were drinking champagne or bottles of beer, celebrating as the sun slowly sank into the sky changing the colour of The Rock every few minutes. Geoff surprised me by handing me a bottle of alcoholic Apple Cider and we clinked bottles to celebrate our first sunset on The Rock. I now have the most amazing photo of Uluru which you will find above.
Today we went along to a ‘Welcome to Country’ ceremony for the Astronomy weekend which begins today and we made a point of meeting Dr. Karl our favourite scientist who is running the show. He was so generous with his time and posed for four photos with each of us. A real madcap professor, we had to have a photo with bunny ear fingers, one with a grin and another blowing a kiss. A real delight!
So now dear ones, I will leave you with some photos of our adventures. I have to be off to do some astronomy things on the weekend. Chow for now …
Since we left Alice Springs on Tuesday we have been having all kinds of adventures dear friends! One that ended up being very interesting was the first night’s stopover at a place called Mt. Ebenezer Roadhouse (pop 11). This rather unusual place is owned by an aboriginal community but is managed by white Australians with the help of some British backpackers.
Four hundred aborigines live in a community 15 ks away from the roadhouse and we managed to see quite a few of them while having dinner at the pub that night. In fact I think we were the only white people (besides the staff) having tea there but we loved every minute of our interactions!
As we drove along the highway the next morning, we thought we saw Uluru in the distance and got quite excited. However, as we got closer we realised it was Mt. Connor which Kenny, the manager at Mt. Ebenezer had warned us might happen. He was right!
I wrote this piece in my journal:
Wed 20th August 2014
Kenny told us to stop at Mt. Connor lookout so dutifully we stop (Kenny has that effect on you) and meet a bus load of seniors on a tour. As we take our morning tea to the picnic table, there are a few women from the bus sitting there. Geoff asks can we share the sunshine as it’s freezing cold. Val, one of the ladies, says “Well, we won’t bite …” to which I respond “He probably wouldn’t mind a bite from a lady. It would keep him awake!”
Well, that was it … hilarity followed. We were best buddies after that. We chatted so long they nearly missed their call to go and only then did we snap Mt. Connor and climb the reddest sandy hill I’ve ever seen, to view the Amadeus Salt Lake. Amazing view … to the left and the right; who would have known it was there if not for Kenny? Kenny who is about to walk the Camino!
After that dear friends, we were flying very high and the kilometers then began to fly by also. Finally, with about 30ks to go we see another huge rock. Oh yes we cry! THIS IS THE REAL ULURU! We’d seen the rock. I couldn’t get a decent photo but we are excited nevertheless.
We’ve come to see Ayers Rock – known to the aboriginals as Uluru – and finally we’ve arrived! I have been here 45 years ago, as a silly 22-year-old with so little commonsense that I climbed The Rock in sandals!! Yep, I did say sandals and I had blisters for the next two weeks to prove it.
Today, we visited Uluru to do what the call The Marla Walk and when I saw the sheer cliffs of Uluru I wondered all over again about climbing that rock in sandals! However, today we are asked to respect the Aboriginal people and not climb it as it is a sacred place for them.
Oh dear friends, we learned so much today from the Ranger about aboriginal people! I realised then how much I had changed in the last 45 years wince my last visit. The world too has changed … especially Australia. We understand about the original inhabitants of our land now and we respect them for their culture and share their land with them also.
What’s more, I understand clearly now WHY this part of our country was/is so precious to them. The Rock fascinates and draws you. It has that effect on those who visit. We have met so many different nationalities who keep wanting to come back. We met some Germans at Mt. Ebenezer who are visiting here for the third time.
We will be in Yulara (the township attached to Uluru) for another three days so you will be hearing more from me before I leave. Also, we have again arrived at the very right time for an Astronomy weekend and plan to attend a couple of the activities relating to astronomy with our very own Dr. Karl the scientist.
Until then … bye for now.
P.S. Since writing this, I have some amazing photos to show you next, but enough for today as I am off to an aboriginal ‘Welcome to Country” dance here at the campground.
It looks as if Geoff and I are in love … with Alice Springs that is! Oh okay, we are still ‘in love’ with each other too – but that is another story!
We arrived here since last Friday 15th right smack bang into the festival they call The Henley-Todd Regatta which involves a so-called ‘boat race’ in the middle of the dry river bed aka The Todd River.
Now dear friends, keep in mind that we are in the middle of the desert and most of the rivers do NOT run unless the rains come and then it floods. Yes, I did say: FLOODS. The rains do not come very often so Alice Springs decided – 54 years ago – not to wait for the rivers to flow. Instead, they would create ‘boats’ of all shapes and sizes, powered by people to run the course of the race … in the dry river bed.
Hence, the Henley-on-Todd Regatta was born. The Regatta street parade is followed by the race on Saturday 15th. Such good timing! The ad in our brochure said “A must-see event once in a life time.” Yes, we would agree with that!
On Sunday we went on a bus tour to the West MacDonnell Ranges to give Geoff a break from driving. These ranges actually run through the town and become the East MacDonnell Ranges to the east. This is a long mountain range dear friends!
Geoff called this tour “the highlight of our trip” and he wasn’t wrong. Picture this: coloured mountains that go on forever, beautiful gorges and huge gaps between mountains with billabongs (waterholes) at some locations. We were taken to a summit where we viewed the beautiful Finke River flowing (amazing, one river does flow in certain places) and the Sonda Mountains in the background.
Friends were made on this trip; German people were advised on where to go when they visited Brisbane; lovely food was eaten and Clive the captain of the show filled us in on everything we needed to know about Australia, aborigines and the West MacDonnell Ranges. A wonderful day out!
Today is our last full day here and we’ve visited a few places which I’ll tell you about later on. Yes we are feeling sad. We’ve come to feel at home in our rustic Caravan Park where the afternoon sun wafts into our van before it sets.
However, for the moment I’ll share a selection of photos of the journey so far. Tomorrow we pack up and inch ever closer to Uluru (Ayres Rock) the amazing Rock which Australia is famous for, but for now I’ll say my good-byes. I’ll be back when we get to Uluru to give you the latest news.
Chow for now… from talking to the Italians mentioned below.
Well, I am back to tell you more travel tales dear friends! Since I last wrote we travelled from Winton to Cloncurry (pop 3500) and then on to Mt. Isa (pop 13,500) built as a mining town many years ago. We are staying here with my cousin Mick and his wife Tina and just by chance the rodeo is on this weekend! Therefore, we are busy busy so while I have a chance I will leave you this piece from my Travel Journal which updated recently. Enjoy!
Thursday 7th August 2014
What a day it has been! We set off from Winton just after 8.30am to drive the 258 ks on the long lonely highway to Cloncurry where I have relatives. It has been a little difficult as Geoff feels sleepy. Presently he is laying down on a concrete picnic seat having a snooze! As he is the driver I have to look after him.
We’ve had a couple of interesting experiences along the way. We stopped for petrol at Kynuna (pop 20) and a cold drink to keep us going. What a deserted, windy and wild place! One building: a petrol station; a shop, cafe and a hotel to boot. A five year old boy was ensconced at a big table covered in junk. “Home schooling” said the mother serving us.
As I glanced over at the boy who was playing with a large toy tractor, I could see no sign of anything to do with ‘school’ nearby. Too many people coming and going for Mum to do any school work. The boy looked very happy about this fact too! Back now on the road and our next break for lunch at MacKinlay.
As we travel onwards, the countryside is changing and we see an abundance of ant hills. Strangely enough, a lot of them have singlets and other clothing placed on them. Wierd! Soon we come across a sign saying “Crocodile Dundee”. Underneath is written “The Walkabout Creek Hotel.” Of course, the pub from the movie Crocodile Dundee!
We stop and go inside and there is the bar straight out of the movie. This little town MacKinlay (pop 20) has a great picnic area where we have lunch. Again, dry and desolate. The little library next door is classified ‘The smallest Library in Australia; (it is like a little backyard tin shed). We find out that it is the same shed that was used in Crocodile Dundee as Mick’s tour office. We had seen the sign in the pub up the road!
We chatted awhile to the librarian Tarnee who is having a culture shock working here after living on the Sunshine Coast. Only dial-up internet she tells us and if a few people are using it, you have to wait until one hangs up! Oh dear friends, it is the back of beyond it really is! Tarnee’s father is the policeman for the town.
We find out all about MacKinlay from a Centennial Museum on the property so we check it out and discover that John MacKindlay the explorer founded this area in 1862 when he was searching for Burke & Wills who had not returned from the outback. What a story this was … of course he found them alright … evidence of where they had died that is. What men of great adventure they were in those days taking camels and sheep and walking the outback for a year!
We packed up and headed the 100ks to Cloncurry. Nearly there now and Geoff had overcome his sleepiness! When my cousin Ronnie saw us get out of our car, he nearly jumped out of his skin. He had no idea we were coming as we couldn’t contact him on the phone. “It’s Therese!!” he says to his partner Maria in his country twang.
Well, everything at Ronnie’s house happens under the huge mango tree in the backyard so soon we were drinking tea and having a wonderful reunion. He insisted we stay at the house and with a sense of relief we went off to have tea at the local pub and then settle in for the night.
What an adventurous day it has been!
Saturday 9th August 2014
We left Cloncurry with hugs and kisses all round and a map to the house of another cousin (Ronnie’s brother Mick) in Mt Isa only an hour’s drive away. Mt. Isa has a huge mine and a big stack blowing smoke all over the town. I lived here in 1969 for six months and it has grown beyond recognition since then.
Ronnie is sure we will stay here too for a night and not a caravan park but when we arrive Mick is insistent we stay until Sunday because of the Rodeo which is in town!
Oh, so that’s two nights then?
No, says Geoff. We will leave on Monday as we will be so worn out from all the activities planned that we’ll wait until Monday.
Oh, so that’s THREE nights then? Yes, indeed it is!
So the Rodeo weekend is now upon us. We’ve been to Mardi Gras last night and watched the floats as they came along. Just when we were starving – around 7.30pm – a Hari Krishna van serving hot food came along and insisted on feeding us! Battered and deep-fried cauliflower and semolina for dessert washed down with fresh lemonade. It hit the spot I can tell you!
We’ve been to town today and checked out the family dress shop run by wife Tina and daughters plus daughter-in-law. What a lovely shop! Tomorrow is the big (read here ‘huge’) Rodeo breakfast here at Mick and Tina’s at 9am. Afterwards everyone goes to the Rodeo. Can’t wait.
That’s all for now folks. Signing off for now. Keep safe and well. Bye for now!
Life on the road has been so busy that I’ve had little time to think about my blog! Sorry dear friends, but sometimes you have to ‘Seize the Day’ and not just write about it!
We are having the best time since we arrived here in Winton on Sunday for two nights. After a trip to the Info Centre we realised there is too much to see in one full day so we have extended our stay for another night. Oh the fun of it! Too busy having fun!
It’s great here, we are just across the road from a great pub who actually run this little pub caravan park. The owner is amazing … just as you imagine a Publican should be: friendly, helpful and attentive even supply washing machines free of charge, which has all the women twittering … but not on the Twitter network … just telling one another how amazing it is!
Because I have been through a few town since I last wrote, I am going to leave you with a slide show of same of the places we’ve been to.
Enjoy! I hope to back very soon with more photos and stories. We’re heading for Cloncurry tomorrow.