Thursday, 19 May 2016

Half-lap Day 17: SA/NT Border -> Uluru

A road train woke me when it pulled over into the truck stop up the road a bit from our camp – it sounded like it was right outside our tent! It was 5.30 so I figured I wouldn’t get back to sleep – it was cool to be outside before dawn and see the stars and smell the morning air – it smelt really familiar, I remember it from when I was in Central Australia nearly 20 years ago.

The others gradually emerged from the tent and we packed up as quickly as we could while still being relaxed. We played a bit of ‘I went to the shops’ and Caitlin rode her bike, we chatted to a couple across at the main rest stop (he was a shearer from Cowra), and we were ready to go by 9.30.

We headed north to Erldunda and then turned to the west for the long drive out to Uluru. Listening to Harry Potter helped pass the time, as well as watching the constantly changing terrain. It was rocky and red for a while after we left our campsite, then it became flat and dusty again. For a while there were taller trees (not very tall, but taller than bushes) with black trunks and branches. Occasionally there was water. We drove for a few hours then stopped at the lookout overlooking Mt Connor – a huge mountain in the middle of flat plains (people often mistake it for Uluru when they first see it). The lookout was hot and the drop toilets stank, the smell was wafting right over the picnic area. We had a quick snack and I encouraged the kids to stretch their legs as we still had over 100km to go. A tour bus stopped and most of the passengers crossed the road and walked up the sandy hill on that side, so we decided to have a look – there was a huge salt lake on the other side, completely hidden from the road by sand dunes – a big surprise.

The road to Uluru (only 140km to go)
Back in the car and the trees got a little taller for a while, and there were more hills and rocky areas. I spotted Uluru first, then it disappeared behind hills for a while which was frustrating – it kept coming into sight briefly and it took a while before everyone had seen it. It was rather exciting to lay eyes on it – for Tony and the kids it was the first time, and the 2nd visit for me.

We arrived at Yulara at around 2pm. The unpowered sites were all booked out, so they put us in overflow and said to come back the next day after 10 to get our permanent site. We’d planned to stay 3 nights, but the 4th night is free if you pay for 3, so we figured 4 nights would give us more time to relax and take things more slowly while we were here (and it makes the more expensive caravan park seem a little more worthwhile). The overflow area was a large red sandy cleared area, where people can camp anywhere they like. There were no toilets or water out there – but the walk back to the park toilets (it was right on the edge of the caravan park) was less than we’ve had to walk in some other places, so really no hassle. We set up next to a tree which gave us some shade – it was sunny and in the high 20s so a bit of relief from the sun was welcome. The kids explored the park while we set up, found the playground and the pool – which unfortunately was closed for maintenance. We put the awning up and felt quite comfortable in our little temporary spot. For once we weren’t the last people arriving – vans and trailers and motorhomes and buses kept arriving until fairly late at night, it became quite a little village out there. There was a massive 4WD opposite us – the tyres were the biggest and most rugged I’ve seen. It was a German car (German plates, left hand drive) and so impressive to look at. It was funny to watch every guy that walked past slow down and stare at it as he went.
Millie acting as a temporary tent peg. That desert ground was hard as a rock, so it took Tony longer than usual to get all the pegs in

Our first Uluru sunset
I took the kids to the pool at the Outback Pioneer Hotel while Tony went and got food for dinner. The sun was nearly off the pool by the time we arrived and the water was freezing! Millie and I had a quick swim and the other 2 swam for longer and didn’t seem to mind the cold. Back to camp and the sun was setting, we walked up a nearby sand dune and could see the sun set over Uluru – quite impressive. The kids had jumping competitions in the dirt on he dune, seeing who could jump furthest into the sand. Millie kept playing in the red dirt when we got back to our tent – she was starting to turn pink! Tony cooked rissoles for dinner, then kids played on the iPad and I did some puzzles, then we headed to bed early for Brisingr and to try to get enough sleep before getting up for sunrise the next morning.

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