Curtin Springs

Tuesday early morning seven weeks ago we watched again the sunrise. But today we saw the Uluru in the distance, but therefore the Kata Tjuta pretty close. Kata Tjuta is the name of the traditional owners, whereas when first seen by Europeans it was named after the Queen of Wรผrttemberg at that time, you see always the Swabia’s ๐Ÿ˜‰, The Olgas (and not after her older sister Olesja – which would then sound funny as The Olesjas ๐Ÿ˜…). We started the so called “Valley of the Winds” walk early that day, as it usually closes at 11 o’clock, or even earlier depending on the temperature. In essense, I was prepared for a rough hike, but it was much easier than expected. And instead of taking 4 hours, I already finished after about 2 hours. Kata Tjuta consists of about 50 individual domes, which were eroded differently over time. In between these domes are deep cracks, and the track was just making a longer loop around some of the domes . Afterwards we did the short Walpa Gorge walk, just underneath Mount Olga to the end of the gorge, where a waterhole was supposed to be. I met again Caim with his two ladies, they told me, that they were not doing the walk up to Uluru, but instead just enjoy the time around it. At noon we drove back to Yulara and Meg was directly heading for a 5$ Soya milk whatever coffee. Well…we finally realised that we have different priorities during travelling, and in the end I dropped off Meg in Yulara. She wasn’t even willing to participate at the fuel expenses, as the other two travel mates before. In the end I didn’t care too much, I was just relieved that this problem was solved. I don’t get paid for it, as I already explained, I don’t see the point why I should have such kind of stress during my travels. I mean it’s also my lifetime, and not just her holidays.

In the afternoon I went to the only local mechanical workshop and asked for a new tube for my spare tyre. For only 80$ they just did it, without balancing, but that’s fine for the spare tyre for the next week. And yes just the tube was changed, as I’ve split rims, and hence, tubeless tyres doesn’t work out. At the workshop I met Edi. He’s a bloke from Norway and drove all the way from Norway via Asia (southern route) to Bali and then shipped his bike to Perth. Then he continued to do so for 20,000 km in Australia just in the last three months. Now he’s heading off west through some deserts back to Perth. It was definitely impressive to listen to his stories and experiences he made in some remote places. The stand of his motorbike broke and needed to get welded until he could continue. In the end we talked much longer than I needed to wait for my tyre, but it was definitely nice to have had this conversation. In the late afternoon I drove back on the Lasseter Highway and met Marcus on his bicycle a few km before Curtin Springs. He’s from Switzerland and has made an amazing journey in the last 4 years on his bike. He cycled all the way from Switzerland to South Africa, just to ride eventually from Argentina to Alaska on the Pan American Highway. After finishing that, he rode through New Zealand and now is heading north to Darwin just to ship is bicycle to Bali. What an amazing trip is that!!! He has my full esteem.

Uluru from the distance…
…and a close up view of Kata Tjuta…
…during sunrise
The walk led along the deep cracks…
…around some domes…
…and finally up a small col.
Beware of skiers ๐Ÿ˜‚
The Olgas
Marcus from Switzerland, who has my absolute respect

Uluru

Monday morning seven weeks ago we went to the entrance of the Uluru national park. Which is the only national park NT residence have to pay entrance fee, and from a technical point of view, I’m a Territorian ;). The lady at the cashier counter was a bit irritated, once I asked for the annual park pass. Until I told her that I want to purchase the NT annual park pass (not the other one for the rest of the Australians for sure). Then she was even more confused, until I showed her my NT driver license and everything was suddenly again fine. So, after coming straight from the desert, now we’re definitely back in the tourist bubble and watching the sunrise, from the official sunrise viewing point, with hundreds of other people. After a short stop at the visitor centre, which was actually still closed – so I couldn’t ask any questions, and I didn’t want to pay 6$ for a bad (instant?) coffee – but sure Meg did, we went to the Mala car park and saw already all the people on the steel chain in a queue, not really going forward, but at least they were lined up on the slope. In essence we need to queue at the entrance gate and could start the hike at about 8 o’clock. Meg already gave up after a few metres that day. She joined the free ranger talk along the Mala walk instead. I didn’t queue up along the slope and didn’t use the chain at all. I was just walking left of all the people. The sand rocks had pretty good grip at all, and only at a small “step” I took my hands for stabilisation. After 40 min I was on the top. Actually it’s not that hard or complicated, just a bit exposed in the beginning, but that’s all. Probably it was a once in a lifetime experience to be on top of the world’s largest monolith, as they finally now closed the walk 20 days later for several reasons. The view from the top was definitely stunning. There were no clouds, so you had an infinite look to the horizon in each direction. Depending on the sun light, and the direction of where you look, the sand rocks have always a different appreance, but it’s still some kind of magic and hard to describe. I rested for about one hour on the top and enjoyed the 360 degree view before going down in less than 30 min. Just to clarify, I walked down, again left from the steel chain, which was actually even easier than going up, as it was not so steep…and no, I was NOT sliding down on the bum and holding on the chain. This behaviour actually scared me more, as these people weren’t in a position to control their speed, and I definitely didn’t want to get hit by them. The main issue was, that too much people with too less experience try to get on top of the mountain. I mean not all of them, there was a young bloke who had definitely his fun out there, and even overtook me on the way down…yeah, times going on and I definitely don’t get younger. Afterwards, I also did the Mala walk, while Meg walked along the Lungkata walk to the Kuniya car park, while I was driving there. Along the Mala walk you get an explanation of the importance of different parts of the rock for the traditional ceremonies of the indigenous people. Even if you just get a glimpse of that part of history, the different shapes of the rock itself are worth the walk. The walk ends at the highest waterfall of the NT, in case it will rain. When driving or walking around the rock, there’re different parts of the rock, where no photos are allowed due to the cultural significance for the traditional owners. If you don’t want to walk 10km around, you can hire expensive bicycles (~50$ for a few hours) and join segway tours for even more money. The Kuniya walk is a short walk with a lot of history. Several dreamtime stories are “written” on the rocks and interpreted by the Aborigines. The rock is really nice, it has several features and depending on the time of the day it appears in several different shades, which makes it definitely a very special place.

In the afternoon we went back to Yulara, and attended a free talk held by an indigenous man in the local art centre about the history of Ulura, flora and fauna and the geology. Actually it’s a former river bed, which was tilted by 90 degrees. The different layers are deposites of the former river bed which were formed in a time span of 150 mio years from North to South. Also in the red centre Aboriginal people apply fire as a farming practice. This is done predominantly in the winter. Due to the ground frost, there’s some water available. Once the seeds are released due to the fire, they utilise this small amount of water and new plants and bushes can grow. If there’s a long drought of several years, the trees are adopted in such kind to survive, that they kill one of it’s own branches and use its nutritions in this bad times, until there will be again water. The same is for kangaroos, in good times the female has three children at the same time, a big one which jumps already next to her, one in her pouch and one in her belly. In bad times, she will kill the one in the pouch and put the one in the belly on hold, just to maximise the probability that the oldest, and therefore strongest child, will survive. This adoption of floar and fauna makes the desert still alive. After the talk we got finally a refreshing swim in a pool of one of the resorts next to the public library, as it was not fenced or so, it wasn’t a big problem to get into it. We need to hurry up a bit, as we went back into the park for the sunset. We stand again with the other hundreds of people to glimpse a view. But I’ve to admit that this is one the most beautiful view at all of the rock. During dusk the lights and the appearance changes a lot…and to experience the atmosphere is pretty nice. When I enjoyed that moment I met again Norbert and his Chinese wife and their daughter. We just briefly saw us the day before at Kings Canyon, but at this day we just talked a lot and exchanged our experiences, surprisingly he has a German passport, as he was born in Germany, but actually has an Australian background, and his other daughter from Canada now also tries to get a German citizenship, as she want to relocate to Germany. It was a very interesting connection to listen to.

Uluru…
…and Kata Tjuta during sunrise
The ascent is not really steep as you can see. Nevertheless, the people queueing up and not moving forward
Having a look to the rocks during the ascent
Kata Tjuta looks pretty close, even it is about 50km away
Ticked that mountain off my bucket list
From the top the different layers…
…and shapes looking again unique
One important and sacre cave with some large holes
The dark lines come from the algae which are formed during rain
This wave type cave with “petrified” dreamtime beings was an important meeting place during ceremonies
It’s supposed to be the highest waterfall in the NT…if there’s water once in seven years ๐Ÿ™‚
The northern wall with all its holes in the rock, has a completely different appearance
This dreamtime snake in the rock is an important part of the story at the Kuniya walk. Can you depict it?
Southerly view to the monolith
Sunset view of the Uluru, is definitely the most stunning one of the whole day
My short hike for the day

Yulara

Sunday morning seven weeks ago, we wanted to head off at 6 o’clock, in order to start hiking the cliff walk at Kings Canyon. Somehow my smartphone had the Adelaide time zone all the time, which was fine until now as South Australia and the NT shared the same time zone…but now it’s the first Sunday in October and daylight saving starts. So actually the alarm clock didn’t ring at 5:15, but even an hour earlier. I just realised that, when I was out of the car and looked for the time on my watch. Well, in the end I decided to sleep again for one hour, but as you can imagine it’s hard to get back into sleep. Anyway I got out of the car, prepared my breakfast in order to get ready, and even prepared the car afterwards so we can head off, but Meg still preferred to stay on the mattress. Well the walk closes at 11 o’clock, or even earlier, if it gets too hot. So it’s definitely a good idea to be early. After 6 o’clock, the car was already ready, the water already on the top, Meg blamed me that I didn’t wake her up earlier, and that she needs now water. I explained her that she had time to refill her bottles the whole evening, but she preferred to watch Netflix (higher priority than gettting water), as every evening. And as we agreed before to start at 6 o’clock, I’m not a baby sitter for adults to wake them up again. Probably you want to experience what happens, if you’re a few minutes late to your mountain guide from South tyrol…not a good idea at all. He who makes no mistakes, makes nothing…When we finally arrived at Kings Canyon, after having a great arguing in the car before, the parking area was already full and we were definitely not too late. In the end we decided to walk separately, so everyone can have their own speed.

The Kings Canyon is not very large, but it’s definitely very deep. And especially due to the vertical over even slightly overhanging high walls, it’s an impressive view. The walk is not that difficult, you just need to make 100m altitude, and everything is well prepared, as always in an Australian national park. The rocks around Kings Canyon (which was actually named after a bloke with his surname being King) compose of three different kinds, two(?) of them are different kinds of sandstone. The top formation got eroded by water, and once these squares are now getting to smooth domes. The morning light made different colours to the rocks, as well as the different points of view. In between the rocks there some deep gorges, which still hold water in some billabongs. As this as sacre site from the Aboriginals, they ask not to swim into the water. Having a sip or washing the face is still ok. After less than 3 hours I finished the walk. Then we drove back to the Kings Canyon resort, because I needed to pump up the tyres from the unsealed roads, as the next days everything is sealed, well and Meg was looking for a 6$ coffee, as the instant coffee we have in the car doesn’t suit her standards. At Kathleen Springs we had a short walk and afterwards some lunch, where we also met Caim and his mother and a friend of her. We had a nice conversation with them, and he gave us some travel advices. In the afternoon we drove along the sealed road almost to Yulara, where we had a nice sunset view to the Uluru and the Kata Tjuta.

Walking up to the cliff of Kings Canyon
Nice sandstone formations…but definitely too much people around for some moves
You can clearly see the two different kinds of sandstone at the southern edge
While the sandstone domes on top remind me to some temples in Indonesia
All of a sudden there’s a steep vertical wall…
…even with an overhanging part on the southern side. But it’s too hot and probably too sacre to try an attempt. The last large boulder cracked down in the 1930’s. Hence, there’s still a change, but pretty slow.
Lookout down to the arid area
There’s still a billabong with water at the end of the Kathleen Springs, which is an important water source for animals…and hence, a good hunting spot. But always kill the last Emu, so the others are just wondering where it disappeared, but wouldn’t be afraid to come back soon for a sip ๐Ÿ˜‰
Enjoying the sunset from a sand dune next to the road, with Uluru…
…and Kata Tjuta.

Morris Pass Lookout

Saturday morning seven weeks ago, the day started not very good, as I got a flat tyre at the rear left side. I already expected something like this, as this tyre was a bit low on air the evening before. So I needed to change the tyre before breakfast, as it gets very soon very hot. The main problem was the old jack, as it’s a hydraulic and and two pistons should come out. But unfortunately only one piston got fully out. In essence, the problem was not to get the old flat tyre away from the hub, but to put the spare tyre back onto it. With the help of a large branch for some intermediate support – luckily we were in an area with some trees, I could put the jack underneath another point and finally lift up the car high enough. The whole procedure took more than one hour, and I was fully covered in dust afterwards. As we had mobile reception, we could have called also someone from the community and ask for some assistance, just in the worst case. After a few minutes drive we finally arrived in Papunya. Only the general store was open, where we could refill our jerry cans with water, which wasn’t possible the day before in Yuendumu. There was no possibility to get the broken tyre repaired, even as one of the store employees had a look to it, well I still had a second spare tyre…just for these cases. It was Saturday, so also the Art centre was closed, which Meg was interested in. It’s interested that in the communities the general stores as well as the art centres always get managed by white people. And these are, beside the police offficers, typically the only white persons in the communities. The gravel road for the next section was definitely more often used, than the section before. Hence, the corrugations were a bit more severe. At the mountain of Haast Bluff we stopped, as there was a memorial for the early white explorers, which travelled also along here. Shortly afterwards we arrived in the community of Haasts Bluff. The people were very friendly, and invited us to come over and have a chat. We asked, if we can drive the shortcut directly to the Mereenie loop. We were forwarded to the traditional owners of the land, and first they were a bit sceptical, but in the end they granted us permission to drive to Tarawara Bore and from there onto a track to the Mereenie loop. The road to Tarawara bore was well maintained and graded. The traditional owners told us to stop by the farmer, who’s checking the bore for the cattle. But as we arrived at the bore, we couldn’t see anybody. Hence, we just continued the drive onto a track. The track was not too bad. I just slowed down and it took some time to drive all the way to the Mereenie loop. I guess there might be a car fortnightly driving here, as the traces are not very prominent. Shortly before we arrived at the Mereenie loop road, we had some lunch. The Mereenie loop road to the Morris Pass was heavily corrugated. It was definitely a long time since the last grader came by. From the Morris Pass lookout we could already see the mountain ridge of the Kings Canyon.

Morning Work
Haast Bluff
That’s always a good sign…that you’re on the right way. I understand that the distances are long here in the outback. But speeding, especially during night, combined with fatigue is fatal
After Haasts Bluff we drove in Western direction between two mountain ridges, that’s the one to the right (North of us)
Suddenly something like a forest emerged between the sand dunes
We drove around the western extend of the MacDonell ranges
The sand of the track is still in virgin conditions
Finally made it to the Mereenie loop
In the distance you can see the…no, not the flaring at the Mereenie oil & gas field…but the MacDonell ranges
Lookout from the Morris Pass to the south

Papunya

Friday seven weeks ago we continued our drive along the Tanami road until Yuendumu. First we passed the Granite gold mine, sure we were not allowed to enter the premises. They also don’t offer fuel or supplies, only in case of emergy you might ask for assistance. Apart from that they only want to do their business. They’ve also constructed a large runway, in order to fly in and fly out the workers. Because no worker wants to drive along the Tanami for a day or something like that, just to get to the next shift. So in essence I just saw a Fokker 100 aircraft on the airfield. Even as it is a small aircraft, it is pretty impressive, once you see it in the middle of nowhere. The road is mainly straight, and the only variety you might get is from the different plants which are lined up. At a distance for about 60-100km there are also several bores along the road. In a depth of less than 5m there is groundwater. It is pretty salty, and probably a bit too salty for humans, but it’s for sure good enough for cattle, as a bit west of Yuendumu the pastoral leases with cattle on it already started again. In Yuendumu we got some supplies and fuel at one of the two general stores. We asked for a permit in order to get south to Papunya through Southern Tanami IPA, but everyone told us, that’s not necessary. So we turned off the Tanami road and started the “shortcut” south. The gravel road south in the direction to Papunya is pretty good and not too corrugated. Even the signposts are clearly visible. Hence, we were much faster as I anticipated, and just camped about 15km north of town next to the road. We even got mobile reception there, and only one car drove by in the evening. All in all, it was trouble free to stay there…

Fokker 100, I guess I’ve never seen one before, as this type of aircraft from the 80’s is quite rare
One of the bores with the natural water just a few meters underneath the soil…
…is pretty salty
There were pretty large termite mounds in one section…
…whereas in another section, they didn’t built up that high. Apart from grass and small bushes, there’re no other plants around here.
All of a sudden, there’s a natural spring near a dry river, and everything went green around that. That’s a somewhat surreal place in the middle of the desert.
Supplies for the outback are always transported like that
There’s a lot of bushes and trees south of Yuendumu, not just when we left the Southern Tanami IPA.
The Central Mount Wedge is a precursor of what else will come
These kind of interesting trees just grow north of Papunya, I guess they have such kind of leaves to use the humid air in the cold nights as water source