A story of Statistics, Colours and Numbers
Let’s start with the statistics. Whenever you run a trip as big as this one, there are bound to be some interesting numbers which help tell the story. In our case it was a story involving 27 people - 21 adults and 6 kids - in a fairly epic 22 day journey across some 7768 km of the Australian continent. It also involved 10 vehicles and 4 camper trailers carrying God-only-knows how much cargo, with a total of 48 tyres on the road. We clocked up a total moving travel time of just under 100 hours, and had an average moving speed of 76 km/hour.
But the real story of this trip can’t be told with numbers and facts. Numbers can tell you how far we travelled each day but they can never convey the experiences we had. They can’t begin to describe the unbelievable corrugations of the road between Apatula (Finke) and Bundooma Siding. Or the feeling of standing at the top of Uluru and staring across the vast spinifex plains to Kata-Tjuta over 40 km away. Or the feeling of utter surprise as you drive over a crest on the Oodnadatta Track to see the sparkling blue waters of Lake Eyre stretching off to the horizon, filled with water for the first time in many years. Or swimming in the pre-dawn waters of Dalhousie Springs and seeing the most incredible sunrise, with the red sands of the nearby Simpson Desert reflecting off the clouds and into the gentle ripples of the pond, mixing with the deep purples and blues of the early morning sky.
The intense colours are one of the most stunning facets of the remote arid regions. The sky is so deeply blue, the vegetation is made up of countless shades of green, and the sand is so deeply red… the red oxide of Central Australia makes the rocks and soil such a rich, deep colour. Sunsets and sunrises are unbelievably beautiful; they glow with intense colours that one might scarcely have even realised existed. Even the darkness of the night sky seems to take on a whole new shade of black…or perhaps it’s just the countless number of stars that can be seen in the sky, with the hazy river of light that is the Milky Way, stretching from horizon to horizon. Whatever it is, the Outback seem to exaggerate and amplify your senses. Your senses start to operate more fully. You start to become more acutely aware of your surroundings, and you actually start to feel and experience the landscape, rather than just see it. It’s easy to understand why the aboriginal people had such a bond with the land. It’s a bond that’s hard to escape.
The truth is, the part of the trip I enjoyed the most was the doing, the being, and the experiencing. I loved the fact that were doing things and going places that most people never experience. I like the fact that I can say I’ve been there and done that, and most people will never have the faintest clue about what it was really like. I realise it’s not exactly pioneering stuff these days and that the Outback now has more traffic than ever, but it’s still such a tiny minority of people that get out there and experience their own country, but I’m so glad to be a part of that minority.
Highlights of the trip included…
The Oodnadatta Track “art gallery”. A curious collection of sculptures in the middle of nowhere; gates made of old combis, an entranceway made of two aircraft stuck together, a sophisticated display of gas torches that would have been amazing to see at night. And no one around… how bizarre.
Lake Eyre South. The sign said 12 metres below sea level, and the GPS confirmed it to the metre. As a catchment area for Australia’s massive river systems like the Cooper, the Diamantina and the Georgina, it was quite an awesome feeling to stand on the edge of this enormous inland lake and see it full of water, something that does not happen very often.
Algebuckina Bridge. The bridge was interesting, but the campsite was really pleasant. A night time cinema for the kids, and an early morning walk at sunrise made this a special camp spot.
Lamberts Geographical Centre of Australia. If you could balance Australia on a pin, this is where you’d stick it. Lambert is about 30k out of Finke, and has a monument there similar to the roof of Parliament House in Canberra. It was a good feeling to go there.
Old Ghan Line, Finke to Bundooma. Notable as the worst road we travelled on, the corrugations were simply indescribable. The Finke Desert Races had been through a few weeks earlier and chopped the road out completely. It was good to do it for the experience, but once is enough.
Chambers Pillar. Not exactly on the tourist route, it takes some effort to get out to Chambers Pillar. The road is rough and rugged and crosses the Charlotte Range, but the drive is well worth it. I wish we had more time here.
Ruby Gap. Only a few of us went here for the day, but it was a wonderful spot. It was 4WD access only and we made the most of it by following the trail all the way through to Glen Annie Gorge. It was a long day and a late return to Alice, but worth it for the stunning scenery and a bit of real 4WDing.
Palm Valley. Great spot, we did the long walk and the short walk through the Valley, and thoroughly enjoyed our time here. The road in was not difficult, but certainly not suitable for 2WDs either.
Uluru and Kata Tjuta. I hated Yulara, the support township for Uluru-KataTjuta. It was overcommercialised, unfriendly and did not impress me at all. However, The Rock itself is an amazing place, and a truly spiritual experience. There is no denying it has a real presence as you see it rising up 360 metres from the surrounding flat desert and to get up close to it is to be truly in awe. We did the “whitefella stuff” – climbed to the summit and took lots of photos – but it’s easy to see why the local people call it a sacred place. You can’t describe the rock, not even with a picture… you just have to see it for yourself.
Coober Pedy. Despite the desolate landscape, Coober Pedy has a certain charm about it. We did all the touristy stuff, and even slept underground in the town’s only underground camping park.
As the trip leaders, Donna and I want to express our sincere thanks to everyone who came on the trip… you were all very patient and understanding, even in those moments where I wasn’t quite sure what I was doing, and you made the trip very special for Donna, Alex, Kate and I.
Yahoo! Where to next?