"Destination Unknown" Day 7 - Finke, Kulgera and the Giles-Mulga Park to Mt Connor & Uluru

Thursday, Jul 07, 2011 at 18:00


7th July, 2011
Ayers Rock - Uluru

A big day of driving was intended to day. As a result we got a good early start from Mount Dare and a clear blue day (thank god!). Stupid had taken his camera to the campfire last night to show photos of some of the camp areas. Fool. Thankfully we’d only gotten a kilometres down the road when I realised my mistake and returned to retrieve it, doubly thankful that it hadn’t spent the night in the rain as well. It was to be a long day in the saddle firstly to Finke and then on to Kulgera.

The road was stony, as expected. The park boundaries have changed since my last visit here in 2008 as have the gates and signs. On one highpoint, we got a magical view to the north where a low fog had settled at the lowest point below us. The tops of the eucalypts could be seen poking eerily from the mist. A great photographic opportunity in the early morning light. Then it was on through the cattle country around Charlotte Waters and north to "New Crown".

Once we turned on to the Andado Road to continue west, the road conditions improved no end. It appeared as if this area had totally missed any rain fall. The road was wide, well graded and allowed excellent time. At Finke, we had a quick look around before heading west once again. I had intended to head in to the Lambert Centre, the geographical centre of the continent but some lousy map reading (poor placement of descriptors on the map actually) meant I’d actually missed the turn and was looking at the access road to a Umbeara Station instead. Hema might want to look at that (or perhaps I could improve my act....or a combo of both!).

At Kulgera we refuelled and grabbed a bite to eat. The roadhouse seems to have gone down hill a bit in the last couple of years so we didn’t hang around and headed south towards the SA-NT border, Mt Cavenagh and the Giles Mulga Park Road. I do enjoy this route west. It’s a great alternative to the bitumen if you like a little bit of adventure and you don't need a permit! It also provides some good views of the Musgrave Ranges along the way. Believe it or not, this road was actually part of the original Gunbarrel Highway. While that name “Gunbarrel” is usually associated with a group of tracks heading west from Giles and Warburton to Carnegie, historically, this eastern section was/is part of the full 1500 kilometres of the original Gunbarrel. It was the first of a series of track to be created by Len Beadell across 2.5 million square kilometres and was designed to be the main east west service road from which all other tracks would radiate outwards. The first 150 km of road from Carnegie Station to Mulga Park Station was constructed in 1955. In 1956 the next 575 km to the site where Giles Meteorological station now stands was constructed. The last 800 km to Victory Downs Station near the Stuart Highway was finished in 1958. I am fortunate to have completed the entire route on more than one occassion, the earliest being in 1984 (bragging a bit there).

The road was a mixed bag of conditions with the first 30 km or so, freshly graded. After that it was a bit hit and miss with the odd soft patch, stones and of course corrugations. There were plenty of cattle about but not one sign of a camel was seen anywhere which is a good thing. The paddy melons were a prominent feature this year with great swathes of them coating the roadside verges and rolling down onto the road in many places. We had a comfort stop along the way for a quick bite of lunch somewhere around Mt Cuthbert before reaching Mulga Park Station and beginning out trip north towards Curtain Springs and Mount Connor. A 700 million-year-old sand and rock tabletop mesa, Mount Conner lies in a straight line with Uluru and the domes of Kata Tjuta. It is part of the same large rock formation that forms all three of these features.

The view afforded of Mt Conner is much closer than that from the viewing area on the Lassiter Highway, this striking table topped mesa was discovered by surveyor and explorer William Gosse during his unsuccessful attempt to cross from Alice Springs to Perth in 1873. He named the mount after Mr. M. L. Connor, a South Australian member of parliament. The Aboriginal names are Atula or Artilla and are associated with some of the most fearsome of the ancestral beings of aboriginal lore, the ninya or ice men. The GMPR passes within 7 km of the Mount which is only a third of what the distance is from the Hwy. It’s very impressive from this angle.

In no time we were back on the black top of the Lassiter Highway heading west to Uluru (herby referred to as “The Rock”). The rock comes into view some km prior to entering the general vicinity of Uluru. There were a few oohs and ahhs from the boys for whom it was a first time experience. Negotiating the winding streets, we went straight to the Camp ground to secure sites. The campers all got a grassy area but they decided the ute was a camper in its own right in an effort to pinch us for another site fee. That’s the hospitality industry for you. We wasted no time in getting the washing underway and soon had the only machine in the toilet block staked out and loaded. I think the urge to sit and relax overpowered the urge to head to the sunset viewing area and we soon found ourselves preparing dinners and taking care of personal ablutions. Surprisingly the place was not overly crowded which was pleasing considering the time of the year.

''We knew from the experience of well-known travelers that the
trip would doubtless be attended with much hardship.''
Richard Maurice - 1903
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