Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Adelaide to Alice Springs

I only had one full day to explore Adelaide and as it was my first day in a long time I didn't have to get up at about 5.30am I had a pretty lazy day. Jem and I had a wander around the town centre but there wasn't an huge amount lot to see. That evening a few of us caught the tram to Glenelg and watched the sunset and chilled out there for the evening. It's much nicer the further out of the centre you go but after just one day its hard to get a good idea of the place.

We drove most of the following morning to a small town called Quorn where we spent two nights. In the afternoon we took a walk through Warrens Gorge in the Flinders Ranges: yet again I was amazed by the dramatic change in landscape. It was much drier in this area and it was only a few days since quite a bad bush fire had finally been extinguished. We paid a visit to the local pubs after tea with it being such a small town they don't usually get many customers by the looks of it! The landlady in one pub in particular was so happy that we were there and convinced us to visit again the next night where we even got a bit of free wine tasting done!

On our second day in Quorn we went to Wilpena pond and walked to the summit of Mt Ohlssen Bagge It was a really fun walk but the most difficult that I have done here to date. You could see for miles from the top and we had such a clear day for it we were pretty lucky. The decent was much easier and a few of us made it back to bus in no time. After eating lunch we headed to Yourambulla Caves and saw some aboriginal rock paintings; these were pretty cool and Heff started to give us some info on the Aboriginals. I was really interested to learn about their history and as I learned more and more as the week went on it became clear how much western influences have severaly damaged their lives. Its quite sad to hear the way they were treated in the early years following Australia's discovery by the west with farmers being allowed to shoot them as they were considered pests – whilst the treatment has improved they still seem to be second class citizens in comparison to the White man.

This area is actually where the film Wolf Creek was filmed – of course I've not seen the film but on the way back some of the guys decided to try to recreate the DVD cover which provided much amusement. That evening we went back to the pub and it was then I was first taught the Nutbush dance! This became an ongoing theme for the rest of the week.

The next day we left Quorn and headed up to Coober Peady. We stopped off at Port Augusta for the guys to buy “costumes” following the decision to reinact Priscilla Queen of the Desert at King's Canyon. A couple of hours before Coober Peady we made a stop at an ancient salt lake which was incredible. I'd never seen anything like it before and with the bright blue sky that day it looked really cool. We all spent a while taking different photos playing with perspective. In Coober Peady we stayed underground due to high temperatures which in itself was an experience.

Coober Peady is renowned for its opal mines: in the morning we took a tour of one of the opal mine museums and were shown how they are cut and polished. Whilst mining is no longer permitted in the town itself, there are a few sites further away which are still used. Later we had a go at noodling for opals at one of the old sites and whilst they were nothing spectacular, or worth any money, I did manage to find a few nice pieces of opal. As we headed to Marla where we were staying for the night we stopped off at the Breakaways with some more amazing views of the desert.

That night was my first night in a swag! The best way to describe them is they are like sleeping bags, made out of tarpaulin with a mattress inside and are actually surprisingly comfy. It was great to be able to sleep outside under the stars but I obviously slept a little too well as I was woken up by Heff shaking my swag to find everyone had packed up around me – God knows how I slept through the noise but these days I sleep through anything!

We had another long drive that morning and eventually reached Kata Tjuta National Park, home to The Olgas (Kata Tjuta) and Ayers Rock (Uluru). We went for a short walk to The Valley of the Winds at The Olgas to give us a good idea as to how the landform was made. It was interesting to learn that, similarly to Ayers Rock, although The Olgas appear red in colour the rock is actually a white / cream colour but because of the red sand in the desert being blown across the land, they have a fine coating giving the red colour. I was also surprised at how much vegetation there was around in what seems to be such an arid environment. There had been some rain in the previous weeks allowing more to grow than usual however apparently there is still quite a bit for the majority of the year. On the way to the camp we stopped off to try to watch the sunset at Ayers Rock whilst enjoying a glass of Bubbles but sadly it was too cloudy and started to rain – no sunset for us!

Unable to swag due to the weather we slept in tents before our early start of 4am (!!) to watch the sunrise by Ayers Rock. This time it was worth it though; as the sun rose Ayers Rock was lit up and appeared to glow in the distance, it really did look incredible. After sun rise we headed to the base of Ayers Rock to do the base walk. It is possible and allowed to climb on the rock itself however the Aborigines request that you don't due to its sacred properties. Sadly thousands of tourist still climb it but it was actually closed on the day I was there due to the weather. The base walk was a nice easy walk and it was fascinating to see all the different parts. There are areas in which photography is forbidden to anyone so to see the whole thing you really have to go there yourself. There are several black water marks on the sandstone rock where waterfalls form when its raining. Vanessa and I walked round quite quickly in order to avoid the intense heat as it was already heating up. We walked to Katju Gorge (the watering hole) which was so serene and unexpected when observing the surrounding environment. Once everyone had retuned to the bus we decided we'd do the Nutbush before leaving – I think we can safely say we were the first people to ever dance the Nutbush at Ayers Rock before!

The afternoon was another long drive, this time to Watarraka National Park where we were camping for the night. I sat and watched the sunset which was almost as good as the mornings sunrise. The sky was so clear for the whole night so we took the opportunity to get our swags out again and watch the stars.

At 6am we left for Kings Canyon with a slightly different group – 5 of the guys (one of whom was our guide) had dressed up in drag in an attempt to re create Prescilla Queen of the Desert. They looked brilliant and if watching them walk up the canyon in dresses, wigs and feather bowers wasn't enough entertainment, seeing the reactions of on-lookers and passers by was enough to keep us amused for the whole walk. Paddy borrowed my leggins as his dress was a tad too short, but after seeing him in them I decided he could keep them... The initial climb up approximately 300 steps was hard going in the heat (and it was only 7am) but the rest of the walk around the rim of the canyon was easy going, towards the end where there was no shade it was quite intense though! We walked through the amphitheatre, the Lost City and the ancient Garden of Eden. The scenery was pretty spectacular and you had amazing panoramic views for the duration of the walk. Before we started to walk down, Heff said there was one last thing we had to do. He pulled out his speakers and started playing the Nutbush, so we danced the nutbush on the top of Kings Canyon aswell!

A refreshing swim at Kings Canyon Resort was well welcomed by everyone before lunch. All that was left was a 5 and a half hour drive to finally reach Alice Springs! That was painful but eventually we got there. So far I've done 3 seperate parts of my trip from Sydney to Darwin and this last week has been the best yet. We had such a great group, and a really good guide too. We all went out that night for a few drinks which started quite tame in a local bar, then developed into a mass tickle fight on the street (Kirsten fed me monster and vodka to wake me up which resulted in a LOT of hyperactivity) and ended in a casino! All in all a pretty good night, its going to be pretty hard to top this last week!

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