The amenities at Yulara were smaller than Erldunda but were clean and we enjoyed high pressure showers. Despite being in a resort, we enjoyed a quiet night with the fiery sunset still lingering, having only gained a few neighbours during our walk. I did some research and decided we would walk Kata Tjuta the following day after checking out the resorts small hub of shops and cafes.
The hub was smaller than expected, given the size of it, with only one cafe open, offering limited fare, but we ordered bacon and egg Turkish sandwiches and coffees, enjoying that chill factor of the morning and doing a spot of people watching. The souvenir shops made up for the lack of cafes, in their abundance. I picked up a couple of hatpins, patch and a tea towel with beautiful Aboriginal artwork, one for Mum too. Took a little effort but I managed to at least buy Australian made souvenirs, something of a luxury it seems these days.
Considering our newfound holiday, I thought it might be a good idea to pick up a backpack, just for snacks, water, and jacket. Despite the cool weather, we were experiencing a full swing of Centralian weather, cold and warm alike. In our hiking boots and armed with water, peanut butter sandwiches, fruit and half a clue as to where we were going, we headed off to Kata Tjuta. Stopping for a couple of Uluru photos along the way
An amazing 7km of varying terrain, albeit mostly rocky. The Valley of The Winds walk proved more exerting than Uluru and certainly more immersive, contrary to the oppressive beauty of Uluru, Kata Tjuta transferred us to a seemingly extra-terrestrial or hidden place to explore within the confines of the blue triangle markers.
This time we had the sporadic company of a few other walkers, but by no means crowded and we felt relatively alone for the most part. We took our time, enjoyed apples and peanut butter sandwiches about half way.
Afterwards, still buzzed we drove towards camp but pulled in and completed the Windy Gorge 2km walk, a much more popular walk complete with a couple of idiots climbing the walls, but no less impressive to read the natural history and strain our necks to admire the scale.
On our way back we stopped at the lookout to photograph where we had been, a vantage point that included both Uluru and Kata Tjuta. Brilliantly quiet, with plenty of wild flowers to admire.
Back at camp we took advantage of the camp BBQ and cooked steak, and capsicum. I made a quick stir-through pasta with some herbs. A gluten free variety, cooked up fairly well in the Snow Peak strainer, but I would be glad to be rid of it, it took up so much room! And nowhere near as yummy as rice.
We essentially kicked back after dinner with a couple of overpriced softdrinks from Reception. Tomorrow we would check out the Cultural Centre before heading towards Alice Springs, and potentially a welder. We had sketched out an alternative route west that would bypass the now excluded Defence area, and sussed out the revised permits we would need.
The following morning we were up early, the sun was warm and energising. We packed and headed off to the cultural centre, I bought some Mala poo paper, a small endangered marsupial local to the area. We watched the educational footage, including the memorialised occasion of handing back Uluru as well as traditional bushtucker methods. I asked after information or history on Kata Tjuta but was informed it was Men’s Business, so not for my ears. A few more lingering photos of Uluru on our way out and then we properly departed. Curious as to how far we would get considering the mundane Stuart Highway that awaited us, nonetheless any road untravelled had enough draw to get us moving down Lasseter’s Highway
Once on the Stuart Highway, we rolled into Finke River Rest area which offered plenty of shade, toilets, picnic table and fire pit. We had a look and opted for a river frontage site away from the caravans and their assumed generator use.
Before rolling out the swag we went for a walk down to the river, barely a trickle but a sandy walk circulated the stagnated blood through our legs after the day of driving.
The silence broken only with the birdlife and now occasional road-train across the bridge.
After setting up the swag we opted for a camp shower to refresh, and listened to an audiobook for a while longer; Andrew St Peirre-White and wife Gwynn’s adventures managing an island resort in the Ockavango Delta.
We had a little chat with our nearest neighbours, a couple with the biggest van I had seen and their tiny dog, they had had a water tank failure as well and were headed to Alice Springs. I tried some astrophotography techniques I had read online with more success before my battery ran out and we retired to bed.
There were one carload of folks who visited the rest area playing music but they must have only used the toilets because they’re only 15minutes and away again, thankfully – their taste in music was far too pop for us.
The sun was bordering on hot in the morning and we were packed and away slow. Sluggish in the warmth. Coming into Stuarts Well Roadhouse at lunchtime we decided to stop and eat, also considering a camel ride… when in Rome.
We ordered burgers; I opted for Camel, which I was told were not sourced from the dearly beloved beasts next door. Tasty, nonetheless. The roadhouse itself is full of bits and pieces, half roadhouse half man cave.
We pushed north after lunch, without a camel ride, pausing briefly to look at the Cannonball Monument, memorialising where four people, competitors and officials had sadly died in 1994.
Arriving in Alice, neither of us had an inkling of what to expect. But the increasing ranges as Hema told us we were approaching the greater Alice area should have hinted at what we could expect. I was thinking something akin to Broken Hill maybe, but the stunning Heavitree Gap or Ntaripe as a gateway to Alice Springs swallowing the Todd River thrust into a city, multi lane roads, traffic lights, McDonalds, Jaycar!
The workshop at home had not been able to find us a welder to help but a call to the local ARB store (chasing an elusive air compressor attachment) they referred us to a workshop, ANK Engineering. We had called them in the morning giving them our ETA. Within minutes of arrival, Cecil’s undercarriage was getting a tickle.
We literally just found a slab of sandstone in the neighbouring vacant lot and sat; the air, warmth and age radiating through our hair, skin and lungs. In such a large city, the sky was still so ridiculously big and intoxicating. We were sitting in the capital of Centralia; about as far north or from any coast as we had travelled.
A local Aboriginal boy who looked no older than 10 asked us for coins but we had left our change in the LandCruiser and he lead his much younger companion on down the road, as quietly as they had appeared.
It didn’t take long for the welder to wield his magic and we were on our way to refill the tank. Their firehose would be too much but the nearby Fuel station had some. We got talking to a couple who were filling their van and the jerry cans within their Grand Cherokee, they had just returned from the West MacDonnell Ranges. They validated my thoughts of finding a spot to camp somewhere in the immediate ranges, the hour was late but we were keen to escape town. I had Lawrence Gorge marked, within the Owen Springs Reserve. We were aching for a bush camp.
Fuelled and watered, we headed west; the lowering sun seemed to be equally pushing against and magnifying the ranges. As we left the outer suburbs of Alice Springs, an industrialised remnant of its oasis, it was somewhat easy to visualise water and abundance of flora and fauna that would have attracted Indigenous and Settlers alike. The protective scale of the ranges offered a constant reminder.