Guess how long a trip that is.
14.09.2010 23 °C
From the South Coast to the Great Red Centre
Our next stop along the Great Ocean Road was Port Campbell. Our intention was that we were to camp in this location but these good intentions all changed when we, by chance, heard about a significant rain storm that was to descend upon the area on Friday and Saturday. With high wind warnings and the promise of significant rain accumulation we huddled down in the Flashpackers accommodation run by Mark and son Darcey (12 years old). What a great place to stay! Our unit was under two years old and with it we had access to a main cottage where we could make our meals, sit by a warm fireplace, chat with other guests, do some home schooling, and also watch TV. Our choice to spend the night under a solid roof was a good one, in fact, due to the continuation of the storm and also a child (Ayden) who was vomiting, we stayed three nights. We experienced 100kph winds one night; can’t imagine sleeping in a tent through this! Even in a building there were points where we thought that the building would fall down. The rain accumulation was also significant causing flooding and landslides which resulted in some towns in the Victoria Territory to be evacuated and many roads to be closed.
During our time in Port Campbell the wind did die down and the sun did occasionally shine through enabling us to see more of the rugged coastline that makes up the Great Ocean Road. In this area we saw “The Arch”, “London Bridge” and “The Grotto” all incredible rock formations.
Our next stop on our road trip through Australia took us north away from the coastline and into Grampian National Park. On our way to Halls Gap in the Grampian Mountains we drove through a town called Peterborough.
Peterborough; Drowning Fence
It was much smaller than the one you all know, but was still, in name alone, a small reminder of home....just had to stop and take a picture!! As we drove the severity of the weekend storm made its full impact on us. Many roads and fields are flooded, trees down all over the place, and road closed due to land slides or water levels on the road. Camping is simply out of the question for any site would be saturated with water. So, we are in a cabin in a caravan park in the town of Halls Gap in the foothills of the Grampian Mountains in Grampian National Park. From the front door of our cabin we see the beautiful mountains and also watch emus and kangaroos munching on grass in the campground fields. This is our first sighting of emus. Pretty cool!
Because of all the rain in Victoria Territory, there are many hike and road closures in Grampian National Park. Luckily there are still some which are accessible to the public. We managed the Wonderland Walk which ended at the Pinnacle. It was a 3.8km hike, (one way) that took us up about 400m. The kids are getting quite good at hiking mountains as time and again, they were waiting for their parents to catch up. The views at the top and along the way were spectacular as you can see in the photos. You will also see from the photos that the sun is out, and we are wearing t-shirts and not our coats!! A welcome relief from all of the rain! We are staying in Halls Gap for three nights.
View-pinacle; View-pinacle; View-from-pinacle; The-pinacle; Out-on-a-rock-pinacle; Mum-and-baby-kangaroo; Halls Gap; Allore-at-Pinacle
We did two more hikes in Halls Gap. They are the Chataqua Peak, (containing the Clamatis Falls) and the Silver Bank Falls. The hikes were 4.6km and 2.0km each and yes the kids did have to wait for the old guys. From Chataqua Peak we could see our campground. The Silver Bank Falls were very nice and we met a foursome from Adelaide, Alice Springs and England. They were all related and Gwen talked to the lady from Alice Springs while I talked to the man from Adelaide. He was not too impressed with the federal election that Australia just had. It took 17 days after the election to determine the leader of the government. Julia Gillard managed to get the support of 3 of the 4 independent candidates so she is the Prime Minister despite the fact that Tony Abbott got more seats and more votes than she did. I don’t think the Australians are happy with either of these people being their leader as it is the first minority government in around 70 years.
Heading North To Uluru
On our journey so far through Australia, everywhere we stay we are given advice regarding how to safely travel into the Red Centre of Australia. Putting all this good advice into action, In Adelaide, after doing a huge grocery shop, and loading up on water, we started our trek into the centre of Australia. The first thing that we noticed was how flat and empty this space is. For as far as the eye can see you see flat land and sky. A very different site from what we have experienced so far in Australia.
We drove to Woomera, a town that was created in 1957 for testing rockets. Our caravan park looks like an army barracks from the 50’s.
We went for a walk in the town and discovered that only one or two houses we saw had grass. Most people have gravel or wood shavings for a lawn. There was virtually no one around; it felt like we were in a ghost town. Nevertheless, we looked at the local rocket display and play tag in the local playground park. It seems like a lonely, desolate town, a good place to be from.
Our next stop was the town “Coober Pedy” (white man’s burrow). This is an opal mining town with 70% of its inhabitants living underground. We decided to stay in the Desert View Motel, where the rooms are underground. They are drilled out of the side of a hill with large machinery and then finished to suit modern human standards. It was fun to sleep in a cave! In Cobber Pedy we also took some time to explore an old opal mine and also do a bit of shopping for a few bobbles of our own.
Coober Pedy Underground Hotel; Coober Pedy Underground Hotel; Coober Pedy Opal Mine; St Peter and Paul's Catholic Church; SA Outback; SA Outback
Ayers Rock – Here We Come.
We woke up in the morning to....guess what.....rain!! No worries (as the Aussies would say), it is a driving day . We had our longest single day’s drive in Australia and drove 722km north-west to Ayers Rock Resort campground located on the outskirts of Uluru National Park. Along the way we saw a wild dingo, drove through about a dozen spots where the road was covered with water and were happy when the road sign said Uluru 265km AND the rain stopped just in time for us to set up our tent. We were also very happy to find a spot on Lawn 14 to pitch our tent that was not a mud puddle. In fact, there was actually grass on the ground!!! At this campground you are not given a site in this camping area rather a ‘lawn’ to set up in. In your ‘lawn’ there can be up to 10 other campers setting up where ever they please. We set up the tent and did not feel the need to dress like Inuit as the temperature was in the 20’s. Despite this warmer day temperature, we still enjoyed the heat of an electric blanket at night!
Uluru: 3.6 km long, 2.4 km wide and 348.7metres tall.
Weather: Sunny, 23 degrees, blue cloudless sky!!! Yippee!!!!!
This was a dream come true day for Paul. He was actually going to see uluru with his own eyes. He was a very excited person as we drove into the national park and could see The Rock off in the distance. It is HUGE! Our first ‘mission’ was to hopefully hike to the top of Uluru. The previous number of days the hike to the top was closed and we had heard that the hike is closed more often then it is open due to weather.
Kata Tjuta in background.
Our Good luck, when we arrived at the Mala car park the hike was open. So we grabbed our water bottles and some GORP and headed up the rock. Good thing too, because when we came down we found dozens of people sitting on benches waiting for the climb to open. It had been closed for an hour while we were up on the rock. It was a hard climb, but well worth the effort. Because the climb is so steep, in sections there is actually a chain rope that you can hang on to for dear life as you make your way up or down the side of Uluru. The views from the top where magnificent! No picture can capture the vastness of space and land that you see all around your or the height of the rock that you have just climbed. Some folks along our journey through Australia sort of frowned when we said that we were hoping to go to Uluru stating that “it is just a rock”. Well, in our minds it is a very amazing rock and can understand why this area is listed as a World Heritage Site. 21 years ago Paul saw a picture of Ayers Rock for the first time and has wanted to come here ever since. He has now put to rest a 21 year old dream!
Kata Jtuta (The Olgas)
You may have noticed some mountains in the background in some of the Uluru shots, these mountains are called the Kata Jtuta (Many Heads). To get there from Uluru you have to drive about 50kms. We did the “Valley of the Winds Walk” which took about 3 hours. It was 7.6kms and took us through canyons, across a valley, along creeks and had many wonderful views. Although located close to Uluru, these rock formations, up close, do look very different. Rather than being just one single rock as Uluru is, these mountains are comprised of many small rocks. Visually the Kata Jtuta is just as stunning as Uluru. There was an Aussie from Victoria whom we met on the hike who told us the grass that grows on the Kata Jtuta only happens about once every 20 years.
We have been hitting many records down under, and this has lead us to some unique photo ops.
On the way back to camp, Gwen spotted eleven wild camels. We took some photos and were glad that we finally saw them.
We have been recently saying that we wanted to see wild camels, wombats and platypus. Now the list of desired sightings is down to two. We are fairly certain that we will not see a platypus, but are still hoping for a wombat.