jump to navigation

Down UnderThe Big Red Rock

On 30 August 2004 from Alice Springs, NT | comments closed

On Friday we drove the 450km to Yulara, the resort town next to Uluru – Kata Tjuta National Park. After we set up the tent, we drove into the park and up to Uluru (a.k.a. Ayers Rock, a.k.a. the Big Red Rock). We did not have enough time to walk around, so we decided to check out the visitors centre instead. Afterwards we drove to the sunset viewing area, where we were able to make some nice photos of Uluru changing to a red colour.

Saturday we got up really early to see the sunrise at Uluru, but the sun was hiding behind some clouds, so it was pretty disappointing. After sunrise we drove to the other side and climbed the rock. A little note on that: the Aboriginal owners ask everyone not to climb it, but they have not actually closed the climb (except in bad weather conditions), so still thousands of people climb it. Also, the park entry fee for Uluru – Kata Tjuta is A$25 p.p. for 3 days, which is exorbitantly expensive, considering you pay only A$22,50 for a car for 30 days for all the national parks in Western Australia. If they do not respect my financial situation (being a poor backpacker), I do not respect their wishes not to climb it. However, I did refrain from calling people from the top (yes, there is mobile coverage on top of Uluru), and sent SMS instead. On top of Uluru it really felt like I was in the centre of Australia, with a huge expanse of flat country almost everywhere I looked. After climbing Uluru, we drove to Kata Tjuta (a.k.a. the Olgas), where we did the Valley of the Winds hike, passing along some of the characteristic domes. Next was Walpa Gorge, a short hike to a lookout into the gorge, not very interesting. On the way back to Uluru we stopped at the sand dunes for a view of Kata Tjuta, but it had become really cloudy, so it was not very good. Back at Uluru the climb was closed because of high wind speeds at the top, and we did our last hike of the day around the base of Uluru. During that hike it rained as well, the first rain since I left Exmouth. All in all we hiked some 26km on Saturday. We went to see another sunset of Uluru as well, but the sun only came out shortly half an hour before, so the rock did not become red that day.

On Sunday we drove over 300km to get to Kings Canyon, and did the Canyon Rim walk, going all the way around the canyon. This was probably the most interesting hike in the centre, and reminded me somewhat of Karijini NP in Western Australia. Initially the plan was to camp at the Kings Canyon Resort, but they were asking an exorbitantly high price (A$14,50), so we decided to get back to the highway. That included driving 100km on unsealed road (the alternative was 270km of sealed road), but it was easy in my 4WD. We camped for free at Stuart’s Well.

Today we drove into Alice Springs, David and I said our goodbyes, and I finally had some time to update this website, since I had not been able to do that since leaving Darwin.

Down UnderDown to the Centre

On 26 August 2004 from Alice Springs, NT | comments closed

I spent all Tuesday kayaking and hiking in Katherine Gorge, while David explored and relaxed in Katherine (he had been to the gorge before). In the morning I rented a kayak for 4 hours and paddled up to the end of the first gorge, where I had to carry the kayak over rocks to the second gorge (pretty hard work). I turned around about halfway through the second gorge, but this time I went through the rapids to get back to the first gorge, a lot easier. After returning the kayak, I went for a quick swim in the river, and decided to hike a bit in the afternoon. So I went to Pat’s Lookout that gave a good view over the gorge, but kayaking is definitely better. Back in Katherine we happened to stay next to a guy who was the expert on my type of car in the Northern Territory (he just rebuilt an engine himself), and he fixed my oil leak, so we were all good to go to Alice Springs (1200km South).

Wednesday we set off for Alice and made a stop at Mataranka on the way, to look at the thermal pool and flying foxes (bats) who are inhabiting the rainforest in huge numbers (very smelly indeed). We camped overnight at Banka Banka, a very good value campsite, with an interesting presentation on outback station life in the evening.

On Thursday we spent quite some time hiking around and making photos of the Devil’s Marbles. I also cought up with a Swiss couple I had met before in Broome and Turkey Creek (of all places). We got to Alice Springs in the evening and quickly put up some signs looking for people to travel further with (David wanted to go straight to Sydney from Alice).

Down UnderKakadu & Arnhem Land

On 23 August 2004 from Katherine, NT | comments closed

Wednesday morning I packed all my stuff in the car and said goodbye to Adina (Peter had already left to work), before meeting David at his hostel. Unfortunately I was only able to find one person to share fuel costs with, but that would have to do. I did not want to spend much time looking for other people, since my flight date seems to approach fast. And despite the fact that David is from London, our ideas about travelling were fairly similar and he knows how to cook, so we have been saving quite some money by camping (sometimes for free) and cooking during the trip.

After shopping for food at Woolworths we drove towards Kakadu National Park. Before the park we stopped at Adelaide River for a jumping croc cruise. On this river the saltwater crocodiles (the nasty ones) actually swim towards boats to get fed. But the meat is hold out in the air, so they have to jump for it. And they do! I saw crocodiles jumping from the water up to one metre in the air. Very spectacular, and I have a few very good photos and videos. After the cruise we checked out some more huge termite mounds, before finding a campsite for the night.

Thursday morning we got up early, viewed the Mamukala Wetlands (Australia being as dry as it is, wetlands are quite unusual and an important feature of Kakadu NP), and checked out the visitors centre. There we decided to make it a day of Aboriginal rock art and hiking, so we drove to Ubirr, did a 9km hike around sandstone formations, creeks and the river. Before driving to the rock art, we got some ice for the esky (coolbox) at the store and I met Lieke there. Australia is a big place, but not big enough not to run into the same people all the time. The Aboriginal rock at Ubirr (and later Nourlangie Rock) is definitely the best I have seen, and some paintings are thousands of years old. Besides rock art, Ubirr has a really good lookout, and we planned to see the sunset there, but could not be bothered to wait more than 3 hours, so we drove on to Nourlangie Rock to see some more rock art. We were just in time for the second ranger talk about Aboriginal culture, which was very interesting. The rock art here was really good, but also really recent (around 1960). In Aboriginal tradition it is not a bad thing to put a new painting over an old one. Before driving to our free campsite, we checked out a billabong (waterhole) and another lookout.

We booked a tour to Jim Jim Falls and Twin Falls on Friday, because the 60km road there is a very rough 4WD track with a deep water crossing on the way to Twin Falls (I heard it was 1m deep). The deep water crossing was the main reason to do a tour (getting stalled in crocodile infested waters does not sound like fun), and additionally we would get to hear about the flora and fauna, and not have to worry about driving rough tracks that might end up costing more in repairs than the tour. We drove to Twin Falls first, where we had to get on a boat for the last bit, because of the saltwater crocodiles in the water. The falls were probably the highest I have seen in Australia. Next we drove to Jim Jim Falls, and it took a decent hike to get there, but the swimming was great (the falls were not flowing unfortunately). All in all it was a pretty relaxed day.

Saturday we drove into Arnhem Land, and every other day of the year it is necessary to get a permit to drive there, because it is Aboriginal owned land. But Saturday happened to be the yearly open day in Oenpelli, with lots of activities going on. We checked out the art store and the school where all the activities centered. After the official opening at noon there did not seem to be much going on however (we had already checked out all the stands before), and it seemed most things were run by white people anyway, and there was even an Asian food stand. So I was getting fairly bored, but the problem was getting back. To get to Arnhem Land it is necessary to cross the East Alligator River, which is impassable during high tide. So we had to wait a while before we could drive through the river, and got back late afternoon. We made a short walk near the river, before heading to the campsite at Yellow Water.

Sunday we checked out the wetlands and the Aboriginal cultural centre at Yellow Water. The rest of the day was driving, hiking and swimming. First we drove the 4WD-only road to Maguk, where the waterfall and plunge pool was refreshing. Then we drove the 4WD-recommended road to Gunlom, another waterfall with plunge pool. We did not swim here though, since there were some more rock pools and small waterfalls at the top of the falls, and those were much better to swim in.

On Monday we started the day with a hike to Motor Car Falls, but it was too early to swim, so we hiked back and drove out of Kakadu NP. On Friday the tour guide had given us the tip to go to Molime Rockhole, just outside Kakadu NP down a 4WD track that was not signposted. So we went there, had the place to ourselves and went for a swim. Afterwards we drove to Edith Falls, where we also hiked to the top of the waterfall for a refreshing swim in the rockholes. It was also the first place where I forgot to take my camera (left it in the car), so annoying. Late afternoon we drove on to Katherine, where we camped at Coco’s. Finally I was able to get 2 litres of Hokey Pokey ice-cream, since there was a freezer and we stayed two nights.

Down UnderLots of Western Australia Photos

On 17 August 2004 from Darwin, NT | comments closed

I spent the last 4 days in Darwin getting organised, cleaning my car and sorting out my photos. Adina and Peter were really nice to let me stay at their house, a little bit (20km) out of town, but overlooking a lagoon with lots of wildlife. Somehow it seems all the Australians I know have a 5-acre block. I tried using their computer to sort out my photos, and spent about a full day trying to get it to work, but in the end had to resort to an internet cafe. I will save you the details, just never buy a computer with only recovery CDs to repair Windows.

I made about 300 photos in the last 6 weeks (I know, I am not making as much photos anymore as I used to), and I put the best ones online. You can find them in the Western Australia album starting from the end of page 2.

On Saturday I went into town to put up notices looking for travel mates, and I got a few responses (not as much as I hoped for though). I met up with an English guy today and it seemed we have fairly similar ideas of travelling to Alice Springs, so I hope that works out.

I spent all Sunday and Monday morning cleaning out my car, since it was an absolute mess. I had not cleaned it since I left Mandurah, about 2 months ago, and everything was covered in red dust. So I cleaned it outside and inside, and did the same for all the camping gear, sorting that out at the same time. Monday afternoon I took the car for a service, and bolted the bull-bar back on in the evening. In Katherine I noticed that it was only fixed to the car with 2 bolts on one side, so I put a tent peg in as a temporary measure, but fixed it properly on Monday. I also noticed I lost a license plate, so I applied for new ones today. It must have come off on this rough gravel road in the Kimberley, and the bull-bar probably lost a few bolts there as well (the others during towing).

Besides all this, I went to the Darwin city centre almost every day to check out the sights (not many), shop (I got the last book of ‘Lord of the Rings’), sort out my photos (almost for free since I helped them trying to get their computer fixed), and meet friends (the Australian who towed me and Lieke).