The Centre

Alice to Adelaide

On Tuesday 7th December we flew from Cairns to Alice Springs. The flight took us almost two and a half hours and, after leaving the Atherton Tableland behind us, we saw no other settlements. The only signs of civilisation were long, straight, empty roads disappearing into the distance.

At Alice we transferred to a Backpackers hostel, had a wander round the town, including crossing the Todd River, and had supper. We had to be at the roadside, ready to go, at 5! We had booked an overland trek to Adelaide with Australian Adventure Tours and we were going to see “The Centre”.

Wednesday

And at 5 we were picked up by “Doc” our group leader, guide, cook, expert on Aborigines, raconteur and “animateur”. We toured round various other hostel and hotels till we had got all our fellow travellers. Then we set off for Uluru via King’s Canyon.

Our bus and trailer

Our bus and trailer

Despite looking close together on any map of Australia, Alice and Uluru are over 200 miles apart. And if you go via Kings Canyon, the journey is over 500 miles. And most of the way is through featureless scrub. So there was a lot of sitting in the bus, dozing, waking with a start and finding the scenery had not changed.

Tame emu at our refuelling stop

Tame emu at our refuelling stop

Stops were for refuelling – you need to know how far to the next petrol station – and toilet stops. And lunch stops. At various places you would find barbecue facilities – places for food preparation and gas powered barbecues. And here Doc’s expertise would come into play. He would have us organised cutting up salad, cooking, slicing etc. And afterwards doing the washing up.

Doc (on the right) shows us how to cook lunch

Doc (on the right) shows us how to cook lunch

At King’s Canyon Chris walked along the canyon while I went up to the canyon rim. The temperature was in the high 30’s and early 40’s, the trail was steep, so we all suffered. Plenty of drinking water and sunscreen were essential.

King's canyon - the climb to the rim

King's canyon - the climb to the rim

King's Canyon

King's Canyon

King's Canyon

King's Canyon

Gum tree on the rim of King's Canyon

Gum tree on the rim of King's Canyon

The rocks are Sandstones and Shales 350 million years old and show many signs of shallow water deposition. And there are even desert dunes. I think a creationist had preceded us up the trail – all the dates on the explanatory signs had been scratched out! The views are wonderful with the strong reds of the rocks, the deep blue of the sky and the green of the vegetation.

Geological information sign, corrected by creationist; ie information deleted, nothing added

Geological information sign, corrected by creationist; ie information deleted, nothing added

Current bedding in King's Canyon

Current bedding in King's Canyon

Near the top of the rim, King's Canyon

Near the top of the rim, King's Canyon

Generally it would be the grey and yellow of the vegetation, but we were continually reminded that this had been an unusually wet season with lots of rain. Doc told us that to be called a local in Alice Springs you needed to have seen the Todd flow three times. It had taken him three and a half years to see this. But this year it had flowed 8 times!

While on the top of the canyon we had heard thunder and while driving back to the Uluru main road we crossed several water splashes. Rain is so infrequent that rather than build bridges over creeks, they let the creek flow over the road. This is fine if the water is shallow but sometimes a road can be closed for days.

The road to King's Canyon

The road to King's Canyon

Did I mention the red earth?

Did I mention the red earth?

We got back on the Uluru road and got to our camp in time to see a Uluru sunset and also KataTjuta (previously the Olgas, looking very like Homer Simpson). Uluru used to be Ayer’s Rock.

Kata Tjuta, the Olgas or Homer Simpson

Kata Tjuta, the Olgas or Homer Simpson. Homer is lying down with his head on the right.

Sunset near Uluru

Sunset near Uluru

Our camp was a permanent one with a kitchen and dining hut and tent-like huts with bunks. But many people slept outside looking at the stars which are amazingly bright. You get all the bright stars which you can see in town but, in addition a host of less bright one filling the spaces in between.

Thursday

We were up before 4 in order to see our Uluru sunrise. This was rather impressive as some of my photos may show.

Sunrise at Uluru

Sunrise at Uluru

The sky at sunrise, Uluru

The sky at sunrise, Uluru

Sunrise at Uluru

Sunrise at Uluru

Sunrise at Uluru

Sunrise at Uluru

Then we went for a walk around the base of the rock. This is mainly a coarse sandstone. Various parts are sacred to the local people and therefore should not be photographed. I think all my photos are legitimate, but it is very difficult to be sure. Much of the culture of the locals seems to be explanations of how the rocks look as they do.

Wild flowers at Uluru

Wild flowers at Uluru

Erosion of Uluru; or Darth Vader

Erosion of Uluru; or Darth Vader

Detail of Uluru

Detail of Uluru

Waterhole at the base of Uluru

Waterhole at the base of Uluru

Uluru erosion or a crocodile

Uluru erosion or a crocodile

The way to the top - not encouraged

The way to the top - not encouraged. The Australian Government gave Uluru back to the aborigines on the condition that people could climb it. But the Aborigines do their best to discourage you.

Uluru in the daytime

Uluru in the daytime

Then we went to Kata Tjuta to walk into Walpa Gorge. The rock here is a very coarse, polymictic conglomerate. I thought I was back at Dunottar Castle in the Old Red Sandstone!

Walking into Kata Tjuta

Walking into Kata Tjuta

Walking into Kata Tjuta

Walking into Kata Tjuta

In Kata Tjuta

In Kata Tjuta

In Kata Tjuta

In Kata Tjuta

View of Kata Tjuta

View of Kata Tjuta

Back to the camp for lunch and rest. Aborigine Culture Centre and walk round another part of the rock where we got to look at various caves and waterholes.

Walking to the base of Uluru

Walking to the base of Uluru. The black bit is where water runs when it is raining.

Waterhole at the base of Uluru

Waterhole at the base of Uluru

And finally our final Uluru sunset.

Uluru Sunset I

Uluru Sunset I

Uluru Sunset II

Uluru Sunset II

Uluru Sunset III

Uluru Sunset III

Friday

We travelled to Coober Pedy, a distance of about 460 miles, passing nothing of any great interest – mile and miles of bugger all – as one of our companions described it.

But Coober Pedy was worth looking at. It is the centre of opal mining and if it were not for opals it would not exist. It is bleak, dry and hot. So if you can, you live underground where temperatures stay stable at about 25 degrees. Our bunkhouse was underground and very comfortable too.

Underground house, Coober Pedy

Underground house, Coober Pedy

We were taken round an old mine which had an underground house at an upper level. And which happened to have an opal selling shop attached. Christine succumbed to an opalised belemnite pendant. And there were various other temptations which we managed to reject.

In an opal mine

In an opal mine. Big brother is watching!

Opal in the rock

Opal in the rock. This is colourless opal and hence valueless.

Polished opal in the shop

Polished opal in the shop. Note the price!

Opalised belemnites fossils

Opalised belemnites fossils

Chris's opalised belemnite pendant

Chris's opalised belemnite pendant

Our underground bunkhouse

Our underground bunkhouse

Walking over the rooftops, Coober Pedy

Walking over the rooftops, Coober Pedy. The "dustbins" are ventilation for underground houses.

Saturday

We travelled to Quorn in the Flinders Range – a journey of 400 miles. And we did pass some things of interest. I was able to photograph a road train in all its glory – usually they just flash past, making the bus rock. And we walked down to Lake Hart, a salt lake. And a T-junction in the middle of nowhere.

A road train

A road train

A road train

A road train

On Lake Hart

On Lake Hart

A road junction

A road junction

Quorn is a town of faded splendour which used to be on the Ghan railway to Alice Springs, but the new Ghan bypasses it. But it is surrounded by the Flinders Range which provides it with a backdrop infinitely more interesting than Coober Pedy

Sunday

This was another early start as we were off to look at Wilpena Pound which is a plunging syncline of Ediacarian age – just before the Cambrian. These rocks contain some very early fossils of which I would see more in the South Australia Museum in Adelaide. But none were observed by me at the Pound.

Wilpena Pound

Wilpena Pound

Charniodiscus arboreus

Charniodiscus arboreus, in South Australian Museum

Dicksonia costata

Dicksonia costata, in South Australia Museum

The area of Wilpena Pound is very scenic with lots of kangaroo and emu.

We made our way back to Quorn by way of Yourambulla Caves where there are lots of aborigine paintings.

Monday

We travelled to Adelaide, a total of 237 miles, but we started by walking up Dutchman’s Stern, a mountain near Quorn. Its name refers to a perceived resemblance to the stern of a Dutch ship, not to anyone’s anatomy. And it had to be an early start as we had to see the sunrise.

Sunrise from Dutchman's Stern

Sunrise from Dutchman's Stern

Sunrise from Dutchman's Stern

Sunrise from Dutchman's Stern

View from the summit of Dutchman's Stern

View from the summit of Dutchman's Stern

The sunrise was quite good and the view from the top was magnificent. And it was a very nice walk. There were lots of kangaroo on the lower slopes.

 Spot the kangaroos!

Spot the kangaroos!

The drive down to Adelaide was in strong contrast to our journeys along the Stuart Highway. There were farms everywhere and we were never very far from a village. And the Adelaide suburbs stretch a long way north.

And so, very soon, we were saying goodbye to our travelling companions and settling in to our Hotel in Adelaide. Together we had travelled 3000km – not bad for six days!

 

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Categories: Australia, Geology, The Centre | 3 Comments

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