From Marla to Uluru - the climb, Kata Tjuta to Kings Canyon

Saturday, Jun 18, 2011 at 07:37

Member-Heather MG NSW

Day 15
Wednesday 15th June (Marla-Erldunda)
It is a cool start to the day but we are on the road north by 9, with Barb and Darrell soon close on our heels. It is a wonderful road fast and clean..but mundane and busy compared to the dirt track we have become accustomed to during the past few days. We pull up briefly at the NT/ SA border rest area to take photos of Barb and Darrell in front of the sign, and visit the toilet.
We arrive at the very busy Erldunda roadhouse around 12.30 and I check us in ($30 powered site, bore water, drinking water can be purchased from the roadhouse) while John fills the fuel tanks. We have been driving into a headwind which is enough to cause the fuel usage to soar apparently and he is muttering the usual comments re shocking fuel figures!
We choose one of the drive through sites in a park which is almost empty at lunch and close to ful before darkl. The amenities are ok with good hot showers.
There are mice here and plainly visible as they dart and hop around the grass under the van and awning in daylight hours. The bucket trap is set as there is that record of 41 at William Creek to beat....
This afternoon is quiet and uneventful compared to the past week. We take a walk to the bar and a look around the shop but can't see anything attractive to buy. It is stocked with an abundance of tacky souvenirs is not nearly so clean and tidy as Marla. John and Barbara enjoy a couple of beers at the bar and enquire as to whether the State of Origin footy match (No 2) is to be broadcast on TV later in the evening and get a yes which makes them happy.
Back at the van I sit and read in the sun outside the van before the evening begins to cool, then go for an early shower before preparing our evening meal.John tries to get a picture on the TV...but it's not good and he has to venture into the cold and watch the second half of the match there. I spend time on the laptop and catch up on email and internet so I am happy.
Day 16
Thursday 16th June (Erldunda-Yulara)
We wake to a cold frosty morning and are glad to be able to run the fan heater which keeps us cozy inside. John checks the mouse trap but there is a thick layer of ice on top so he doesnt bother to count his kill! He is sure it doesn'tcome close to 41.
We are back on the road before 9, heading west towards Yulara and Uluru. Its a great road, bitumen all the way and we make good time. Our first stop is at the Mt Connor Lookout where the well used pit toilets are used before we do the short walk to the red sand hill lookout to take photos and enjoy the views. On our first visit here, I like many others thought that this huge red rock was Uluru, until I had a closer look and realised that its shape is just too symmetrical and mesa like. Until then I hadn't heard of Mt Connor. I take photos of a 'new' spectacular flower and of the views to the north across a salt pan with strong colour contrasts - blue sky and terracotta red sand...just wonderful.
The trip continues and we pull past the bowsers at Curtain Springs Roadhouse but don't refuel here as diesel is $2.15 per litre. We hope its less than that at Yulara but can't remember from the last time we visited 5 years ago.
About 30 kms from the town with our first views of Uluru, Barb and Darrell finally catch up to us and we arrive at the Ayers Rock campground reception together...lining up in a sizeable queue. We are allocated site numbers and given the necessary information, pay our fees ($41 per night powered for 2 people) and are soon parked and setting up. John does the outside stuff as usual and I prepare lunch. We are happy to finally have water connected and can use the hot water from our tank....seems like such a luxury as the last place we did this was near Mildura a couple of weeks ago!
My first job is to wash the sheets and any other clothing which still carries remnants of the dust from the track and it is soon on our clothes line and flapping in the breeze. We visit the supermarket and stock up on any items we need for the next week until we arrive in Alice Springs and I am pretty devastated to discover that the gelato shop has closed!! (not really devastated, more disappointed). We buy an icecream each at the Red Rock deli ($9) and decide a box of 4 drumsticks from the supermarket is a cheaper option!
With groceries packed away, we take a drive to the entrance of the Uluru - Kata Tjuta National Park gates, purchase our 3 day passes ($25) and pay the rock a visit. It is Barb and Darrells first time here and I can tell they are not disappointed. I am once again just in awe of this huge red monolith rising from the plains...its undulating surface ridges with lines and pockmarked with holes and honeycombing in small areas. We stop at the car park and watch people on the climb...Darrell decides he won't do it which is a good thing as he is not a fit man and considerably overweight so would probably end up a statistic if he tried! Last time we were here, John and I decided that it looked just too steep for us to contemplate, then overnight John changed his mind and I, not to be outdone, just had to follow. We managed to get to the end of the chains but didn't go any further so have returned and plan to walk over the top, with camera along to document the experience.
We do a drive around the base and then return to the sunset viewing carpark where we take up a position and sit and wait for the sun to drop close to the horizon. Meanwhile we chat to the many others who arrive and its a happy group of international visitors who congregate, some with drinks and food and all of us with at least one camera.
I take around 40 photos as the sun begins to drop and the colours on the rock change from orange through red to a dusly deep purple/brown. Its once again worth the wait and an unforgettable experience. Each time we visit here I tell my family that every Australian should pay this place a visit.
We return to the van park in the dark in a long line of vehicles and retreat to out vans for warmth and dinner. My photos are put on the laptop and edited, ready to be uploaded to my blogs on EO and also on Facebook for friends to see.

Day 17
Friday 17th June. (Yulara-Uluru Climb)

It's another cool clear morning and we decide to get out to Uluru by 9 to begin our ascent. I pack lunch and snacks and we are soon parking and anticipating the difficult climb we are about to undertake. There are only a few others visible on the chain when we start out, me with camera and small pack on my back. I almost don't make it to the start of the chain when i stop and lose momentum for a moment! It is so steep that its hard to get moving again but I perservere and soon I have reached its safety. We decide that not having a chain to this point is designed to allow only those who can reach it have the necessary fitness or 'head for heights' to do the climb without an accident.
I take a photo or two and already the car park seems way below and there are good views across to Kata Tjuta and the surrounding landscape. We start the ascent, pausing every now and then to catch our breath and to have a look around. It is just so steep that I use the chain to help pull my body up.
John hesitates around 100 metres up, decides its too windy and says he wants to leave it for tomorrow but I am keen to press on and tell him we may not have the may be closed tomorrow. I am determined to at least reach the end of the chain as the photos from there will still be spectacular. And so... we both continue. My mind plays games and I have to continually tell myself not to think of what may happen if I am to stumble or fall or...and refuse to look down too much unless firmly attached to the chain, or sitting with foot on one of the poles while I take out the camera and take a photo.We only meet one or two people making their descent, so different from our last time when we met a tour bus full of Asians.
Before long we are at the end of the chain and on a small flat 'plateau' where we can walk around and take photos, have water and relax for a bit. Then its up the very short chain and onto the track marked with white lines....over small rises and dips, along ridges and between small pools of water. Its like climbing over a giant organic sculpture...just wonderful and worth the climb. And the views are truly spectacular.
I am happy to have people in the photos as they at least demonstrate the size and scale of this rock...appearing like ants in the distance on top of what looks like a drop off to the land far below. We follow the track ever upwards but don't get to the highest point, deciding we have done what we wanted and turn around to start down.
It is hard work on the chain as we make a slow knees and toes especially feel the steep angles, and the chain is so low it is awkward to hold onto even for me. John finds it extremly uncomfortable but he is determined to keep well in front...which is great for my photo compositions. We are the only people using the chain...a weird sensation to be up there all alone with people watching from the car park and I feel like i am in a circus...performing!
Towards the end of the chain, I hand John the camera so he can take some photos of me and I wait at the last pole while he gets the job done. From here there is the final sideways crab walk down to the safety of flat ground and we see the reason for our lone descent...the signs and barriers are up and the walk has been closed 'due to high winds at the summit'. I take a photo and we are so thankful that we did not leave this experience until another day.
We sit on a seat in the car park and eat our lunch, watching others who we had talked to on the top make their way down the chain...feeling satisfied that we had also done this and lived to tell the tale! There is a sense of camaraderie amongst walkers which can only be experienced if you are one!
We call in at the Cultural centre on our way back to the van and I resist the urge to buy another aboriginal painting...although theres one there I just love. Its over $1000 and we are trying to save for a new 4WD so I say no to and walk out!(Also because John, my hand brake, is with me!)
Our afternoon back in the park is spent around the van and I edit pics, get online and upload them to my EO blogs and FB. We see the others and catch up on their day our at Kata Tjuta...they are very happy we have come here.
Before we drift off to sleep we hear dingoes howling somewhere near the eerie sound and one which brings back memories of a childhood spent growing up on a property on NSW South coast.

Day 18
Saturday 18th June (Yulara-Kata Tjuta)
This morning we pack lunch and drive to Kata Tjuta (meaning 'many heads' in the aboriginal language) ..50 kms from Yulara. We pull in and walk to the viewing area on our way out then continue to the carpark to begin the 7.6 km return loop walk to 'The Valley of the Winds' which we did on our last visit here. Its cool when we start out but the clothing layers are soon shed and we enjoy this walk which meanders close to the huge dome like rocky forms and through a creek. There is one short climb up some rough steps to a lookout between two of the domes to the valley beyond before the track continues down again and through the valley before rejoining the track.
It is a picturesque walk and we do much of it alone. We are amused when we meet a trio of Asian young people probably Thai's, and notice one of the women is wearing sheepskin ugh boots. I ask her whether they are comfortable to walk in and she indicates quite vehemently 'no'. Its amazing to us that many people walk in the most inappropriate footwear and clothing.
We are ready for lunch when we arrive back at the car and our sandwich tastes so much better than usual! We eat in the car and then call briefly at the picnic area to use the toilets before our drive back to Yulara.
Back at the village, John fills the fuel tanks and the extra 20 litre container which is empty as the fuel is only $1.83 and close to 40 cents per litre cheaper than it will be at Kings Canyon. I decide to make pizza dough and prepare this for our evening meal and because the bowl is already used, also mix up a boiled fruit bread with the remaining dried fruits and nuts we are carrying. Its a healthy alternative to fresh fruit and jam packed with fibre.
By the time the cake is cooked I spend time on the phone letting family know our expected whereabouts for the next four nights when we do not expect to have mobile service. Then its getting dark and dinner is on our minds.
Darrell chats with a neighbouring camper who has travelled the Mereenie Loop during the past few days and finds out that has been recently graded. We decide to take this road to Alice after Kings Canyon. I book a caravan park in Alice from Thursday for three nights for the two of us as by all reports it is a town busy with tourists like ourselves.
Day 19
Sunday 19th June. (Yulara- Kings Canyon Resort)
Once again we pack up the vans and head out of the park...this time towards Kings Canyon. We leave Barb and Darrell packing up and know they will catch us before we reach our destination as they travel faster and tow considerably less than us. As we are packing up, John discovers the reason for the large amount of dust which entered the ensuite on the trip between Oodnadatta and Marla a week or so ago...a hole and crack in the water sullage outlet pipe. It will require some repairs before we leave Kings canyon on Tuesday morning.
We call briefly at Curtin Springs for toilets then not again until we arrive at Kings Creek Station. Here John tops up the diesel ($2.17 pl) and by now the Johnstons are on our tail. We pull into the reception area at Kings Canyon resort and when Darrell and I enter the building our noses are beseiged by the distinct stink of dead and decomposing mice! John is a happy man when we let him know, and he is on the hunt for a 2 litre juice bottle not long after we get the van set up! He is determined to beat the previous total of 41 tonight!
We have paid for two nights ($42 per night powered) and are happy with the campground facitilties. The water is drinkable and sites are adequate, amenites blocks plentiful. After lunch, John and I set off to walk around the resort and visit a sunset lookout over the Canyon which is picturesque even mid afternoon. Barb and Darrell drive to the Canyon and do the short walk which follows the bed of the creek.
John spends two hours watching the Sunday afternoon rugby league match on tv and I use the shower in the van rather than carry my gear to the amenities block...lazy but very nice when we have water connected as theres plenty to have a leisurely shower.
He also repairs the pipe under the back of the least until we reach a plumbing supply place.
Dinner tonight is chicken and mushroom pasta with steamed vegetables, followed by chocolate gelato....yum!

Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt. John Muir
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