Aus Update 7 - Uluru, Kata Tjuta, Kings Canyon, the jurrassic Palm Valley, Stanley's Chasm (although no one knows who Stanley is) & on to Alice Springs


16 August 2006 - We left Coober Pedy and were going to head back on to the Oodnadata Track, however we were having some trouble with the car, so we decided to skip that part of the trip and head up the Stuart Highway towards Uluru.

We got to stop and enjoy the beautiful view of The Breakaways.

We stopped along the way a couple of times so Chris could do things to the engine to try to identify why the engine would unexplainably cutout briefly.  We got to Marla and Chris decided to spend some time working on the car. I wish I had taken a photo of him under the hood in the car park of a roadhouse.  That took a while so we ended up staying the night in the campground behind the roadhouse.  He did manage to fix the problem, if you are interested Chris can fill in the blanks of what happened.  I forgot to mention what Chris found when he looked at the engine in Coober Pedy, he did take a photo I will let him explain that too.

[Chris] So the problem turned out to be that the points were welding themselves together. Probably the condenser had failed so it was arcing a lot. Fortunately I was prepared for just such an event, so I popped a new set of points and condenser in (wish I had already done the electronic ignition...) and reset the timing. It was a bit tricky setting the dwell. I had to basically put it all back together again, see what it was, then disassemble it, shift it a bit and repeat (about 3 times).

In relation to the Coober Pedy point Paula mentioned. After we had been travelling on those pretty rough and corrugated roads, I thought I should have a look around the car and make sure nothing was falling off. Well it was (or had). The windscreen washer bottle had come unscrewed and was bouncing around on it's hose. Would you believe it though, when I took off the cover, there were the missing screws. Simply re-insert, tighten and all fixed! :-) I was so surprised I did take a photo.

[/Chris] While we were staying at Marla I couldn't help but think of Mert.  There were a large group of cyclists riding from Darwin to Adelaide staying the night as well.  They were a quiet bunch, tired I suspect.  It is a company called Ozcycle that organises rides between major cities. I could just see that it would be something that you would love to do Mert, it is a bit hotter here than in NZ though.

17 August 2006 -  Leaving Marla we travelled to a place called Curtin Springs Station.  It is 80km's shy of Uluru and they have a free campground so we pitched the tent for the next two nights here.

18 August 2006 - We went to Uluru and Kata Tjuta just for the day and travelled back to Curtin Springs for the night.  What can you say about these places, they look just like the pictures only they are right in front of you, hence lots of photos.  We did some walks and looked at the cultural centre.  I did find it fascinating learning about aboriginal culture. I particularly enjoyed learning about the foods that they eat.  They can survive  in such a harsh environment and the knowledge that they pass on from generation to generation is valuable.  I am glad that they are teaching people about it.  Apart from that there really isn't much to say.  The cultural centre is not something that you can describe in words, and the actual sites can't be either.  Here are a couple of the pictures we took on our walks.

The classic postcard view from the side of the road

Usually there's only one of us in the shot, but it's not that hard to take a photo of ourselves!

Kata Tjata (previously known as "The Olga's") out of our windscreen

Going for a walk at The Olga's (I can't say that other name)

19 August 2006 - We drove to Kings Canyon, and went for a walk up the creek.  It was very beautiful, but as with all these sites it is difficult to understand the scale, the enormity of these land formations.  I particularly liked the River Gums.  They look so majestic in the dry creek bed.

We then got a permit to drive the Mereenie Loop. It is a short cut through aboriginal land to get to Palm Valley and on to Alice Springs.  The Loop was some of the roughest dirt road.  Some funny signs too.

If only they'd elaborate... which techniques were those again?

Did you notice the last line, CORRUGATIONS, they are not kidding!!!

This is just before a corner. It says "LIFT UM FOOT"

Followed after the corner by "PUTUM BACK DOWN". Your accelerator foot presumably, but you never know!

There is a 4wd bus in front of us. No, we couldn't see it at this stage either.

Umm, we'll take their word for it. There's creek signs everywhere, but it never seems to be much more than a dip in the road.

We arrived at Palm Valley camp ground and sat and enjoyed the sunset.  At 7.30pm the ranger came down and lit a fire and boiled tea.  She told us of the Palms and the uniqueness of the area.  Palm Valley is in Finkie National park.  They not only suggest 4WD but high clearance 4WD to enter.  We understood why when we went down to the valley.

These Palms and other trees in the Valley are rainforest plants and they live in this incredibly arid place.  The palms are called the Red cabbage Tree Palm and are only found in one other place in the world and that is in Queensland, 850km away, only a small amount of them there too.  They are working to save them from extinction. Firstly they drove out the 4,000 wild horses in the park, they also don't allow you to walk amongst them so you don't trample any seedlings.  It was a beautiful untouched oasis that was a privilege to see and well worth the drive in.  The palms survive by the water held in the sandstone rocks and the springs.  The creek that goes through floods occasionally, once every 10 years or so, and the palms survive, it is really quite incredible.

20 August 2006  - We saw the palms in the morning and then drove on to Stanley's Chasm. Again you have to see a person in the picture to really understand the size of what you are looking at.  Who is the Chasm named after you might very well ask? No one knows.  A surveyor for the overland telegraph mapped it and named it, but failed to state who Stanley was.

The sign says "No swimming". Considering it's a dry creek bed, ok!

You can just see Chris at the bottom left of the gap.

Another one of Paula's favourite river gums.

23 August 2006 - We drove on to Alice Springs on the 20th and here we have been for a couple of days.  We have been relaxing, grocery shopping.  We would have stayed at Palm Valley to relax, but we were in need of food and gas for the lantern and a few other things.  Chris has built the electronic ignition for the car and is installing it as I write this.  We have also made some changes to the bed in the back of the car to make it easier to get things in and out, and generally we have done not much here.

Amazing what you can do in a caravan park with a $6.95 soldering iron from The Warehouse and a $18.20 cordless drill from Kmart. Don't know why I had to do it at night, but I guess there was nothing else to do and there's no TV or internet.

We went up Anzac Hill and had a look at the town, we also went to the actual Alice Spring.  The surveyor named it after his bosses wife Alice Todd.  Alice never saw it and has never been here.  Really we think he was just buttering up his boss for some reason.  We had lunch there with some cheerful birds, lots of them.  I don't know much about birds so I will just say lots of different types, yellow ones, black and white ones, ones with pointy hair dos, I do recognise the pink gala.  ([Chris] That is like saying what kind of car is it? a blue one. [/Chris])

The Alice Spring

Bird with "pointy hair do"

We also took a tour of the School of the Air.  I liked this, school was in session, year 5 & 6 when we arrived and year 3 & 4 when we left.  It started in 1950, officially in 1951.  Alice Springs School of the Air has 93 students ranging from 4 years old to 13 years old.  They have to do high school by either correspondence or boarding school, apparently a lot go to boarding school.  Where there is a group of 10 or more students in an area the state supplys a teacher and they have their own school.  The kids that attend this school have neighbours more than 100kms away.  They all get together for two weeks of the year.  They said for some of the young ones it is the first time they have met a child the same age as them.  It is really hard to believe, but you can understand why.  The school has come a long way from using the Flying Doctor's radio in the begining to internet and video streaming.

Through the window is a teacher taking class. She actually had two of her students in person for the day. On this side of the window you can see the monitor which is what the kids in the bush see.

History board showing the different students, technologies and milestones along the way.