The day was to start with an early rise and off to watch the sunrise at Uluru to catch the colour change of the rock. Suzie, our guide, made the executive decision to let us sleep given it was still pouring rain and was pretty unlikely that there would be a sunrise. She was not incorrect in her assessment. Instead we got up and had a leisurely breakfast and several cups of coffee before we got moving.
Even with the rain we were off to Kata Tjuta, just in the distance, for a 7km walk through the “Valley of the Winds”. After the short ride we arrived. The rain was still coming down but not as hard as it had been. I was a bit torn about what camera gear to take given the rain. My fuji gear is mostly non-water resistant (the newer lenses are resistant but I only have the older crop). In the end I took them and trusted my Peak Design bag and my gortex coat to keep them safe. Both performed exactly as they should and all was good. But as a result I really didn’t pull the camera out as much as I could have given wanting to protect the gear. In the end no damage to any of my gear and I captured 99% of what I wanted. The parts I missed was because I did not want to swap lenses in the rain, too much risk of damage. Between this and the great barrier reef it has me wanting to explore options for the rain and water.
I had been smart and brought my waterproofed hiking shoes (from Quebec) – I had agonized about bringing them due to their weight – and my gortex jacket (from MEC). Who needs gortex in the desert? Turns out I did. Those along with my tilley hat and I was really the only person who was bone dry and warm. Most others were wearing garbage bags and spent the next couple of days drying their footware out. The tilley might be heavy as well but it kept my head and neck completely dry. Canada does make good stuff 🙂
Fortunately the trail was still pretty good even with the rain. The runoff was working and nothing really turned to mud. The biggest surprise was seeing water cascading off the rocks. This is a rare sight to see.
Down into the valley of the winds, it did indeed get windy but the bigger surprise was finding a stream full of water and frogs groaning all around us. Now these frogs sound nothing like they do in Canada and I wish I had a recording of them. At first I thought it was the howling of the wind through the rocks, next I thought it was a recording being played for the tourists to hear the wind but soon I realized I was actually hearing frogs. It was pretty cool.
A little further on our 7km hike we came to a sudden end. There was flowing water on our trail that was just unpassable. Up to this point we had seen no other groups of people as many had been deterred by the rain. We stopped for cookies – Suzie always had treats in her backpack 🙂 and we started the trek back. Along the way we started to come along groups of people who looked downright miserable. Meanwhile our group still had high spirits and were enjoying ourselves.
Back to the truck and off to a nearby viewing area so that we could get a great look of the entire landmass. I believe we had lunch around this time but that part seems a bit hazy as to when that happened. This tour really was great, breakfast, lunch, supper, driven everywhere, great commentary about what we were seeing, washroom breaks, snacks on the trails and good sleeping places. Couldn’t ask for more.
Then it was off to Kings Creek where we would be stopping for the night. This was my first experiences with driving in the outback. Miles of open highway with nothing around. Every now and then you come it a widening in the road with a gas station and a house. They call this a town. Just like you see in the movies. I just can’t image living like that. I think I live in the boonies. Nothing close to these folks. We stopped at Curtain Springs Cattle station for a pit stop and it really had me shaking my head.
From there we stopped on the side of the road to a viewing point where we could see Mount Conner and Lake Amadeus. Mount Conner is a big rock stuck in the middle of nowhere that looks exactly like a rock I am very familiar with in Thule Greenland – lol. But many mistake this for Uluru. Unfortunately the Mount belongs to a large landowner in the region (apparently his ranch is the size of Singapore) and he does not allow anyone on the land. All of his family has been married at the top of the Mount but it is private family land. This is as close as you can get. Apparently he has no love of the Aboriginals and is known as a bit of an asshole. When you look behind you from this vantage point you can see the only inland salt water lake in Australia. I believe it is Lake Amadeus or a small part of that lake. Someone can correct me if I am wrong on this 🙂
Then it was off to our campsite. Our first experience with a dirt road after the rain. Apparently others had tried to get down this road during the day but had been unsuccessful. Seems it had dried up a bit before we came rumbling down the road or our truck and driver was just a bit better 🙂
Arrived at the nicest campsite of the trip. I would have loved to have spent a few days here. Great views, tents were great, had a outdoor hot shower, good toilets and campfire spot.
As we were preparing our sleeping arrangements the sun began to peak out and suddenly we had light contrast like I had never seen. Ran around with the camera like a silly bugger.
As the sun lowered in the sky for the night we climbed up a little hill behind the camp to watch the sunset and have a glass of wine.
That evening we cooked supper on the fire and then relaxed around the campfire chatting and solving the worlds problem – while others dried their shoes and clothes 🙂
Off to bed for another great sleep until one of that goddamned smoke detectors began going off in someone else’s tent, who cursed it through until morning. After that we all vowed if another smoke detector went off the person was to drive their boot through it and no one would ever rat the other out.