Thanks for your patience readers, we have been recuperating after taking one very long shortcut. At least, that is how they are marketing it. This week we drove the Great Central Road back into Western Australia. It was corrugated, long, corrugated, and occasionally interesting.
We awoke early to watch the sunrise touch Uluru. After the awesome sunset (last blog), the sunrise was, to be honest, underwhelming. The direction of the sun at this time of year meant that most of the face visible from the sunrise viewing area was in its own shadow. Oh well, not every experience can be a magical revelation of the beauty of mother nature.
Breakfast and coffee in the car park, then we high tailed it towards Kata Tjuta for a morning hike. Uluru bobbed around in our rear view mirrors for a while before eventually disappearing. A view of the mounds from a platform to the south, then it was hiking time.
We made it the first lookout and as we navigated past a large group of returning tourists, ended up going behind the wrong shrub and walking on the wrong track (there was still evidence of a walking track in the direction we went though). About 10 minutes of wandering, some rock hopping and then we went - where did the trail markers go? We backtracked, and when we were most of the way back to the path got yelled at by a very helpful stranger who chose the words "Get back on the track you fools!!!" instead of "Do you know you are going the wrong way?" or "Are you lost/okay/dehydrated/in trouble?" or anything constructive. A fine gentleman.
We picked up the correct trail and a new appreciating for just how easy it is to get lost in this landscape. No wonder people get turned around, dehydrated and need rescuing (or die). We continued down the windy valley and noticed that these rocks, despite their proximity are very different in texture and composition to Uluru. Here we found pebbly aggregates of harder rock had been cemented into the structure of the mounds, as opposed to the mottled pure sandstone of Uluru.
We descended the first valley, crossed a bridge, undertook then overtook a pair of Japanese girls, climbed over a big rock, wound up a badly eroded staircase and eventually got to the second lookout and the view... wow. Nestled between a pair of hulking mountains, a natural wind tunnel perfectly frames the valley below. We stopped for an apple and some oreos and just sat enjoying the magical view. What a special place.
We continued on, hiking down the next valley, then looping around along a creek bed and back to the bridge to complete the Valley of the Winds circuit. When we got back to the first lookout, we saw two adults and a child who had hiked along the same wrong track as us. Adam called out helpful phrases "Helloooo you in the blue shirt!" and on getting their attention, "The track doesn't go that way" "The path is over here (pointing)" they promptly ignored him (or didn't speak English, or were locals and had permission from the Anangu to go into another place, but doubtful) and went over the wrong hill. Hope they are okay...
Bellies full of lunch, we turned westwards and set about the task of crossing back into Western Australia. There was a bit of sealed road, then there was a lot of unsealed road. We stopped at Lasseters Cave to try and find his golden reef, and the geocache that Grant and Ayseha couldn't find. After much rock scrambling and checking behind every ghost gum on the cliff face, we too, did not find. Across the border and a little further and we made our camp near Gill Pinnacle. A little spot off the road in the middle of nowhere, but with some nice mountains.
As we were getting set up for the evening, Ruth noticed a high pitched hissing noise. Yep, welcome back to Western Australia, have a jagged shard of metal in your rear left tyre. Our gift to you. Wheel off, metal out, self vulcanising tyre plug in, pumped back up. All good in the morning. Mum Davies - you will be pleased to know we finally christened the thunderbox.
We enjoyed our own private slice of mountains and nature in the morning, before heading off to Warakurna (Giles) to see Australia's most remote weather station, some Len Beadell artwork and the original Gunbarrel Construction Party Grader - as used by Len and his crew to establish many of the roads through the Gibson and Great Victoria deserts. And a geocache.