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At Yulara via Outback Australia Ross, Jo, Carol and Bill walk around Uluru and head for Kata Tjuta

June 06, 2007
At Yulara via Outback Australia Ross, Jo, Carol and Bill walk around Uluru and head for Kata Tjuta

From: Ross & Jo Whitty

To: Garth

Cc: Billy & Carolyn Judd

Subject: Into NT

Hi Garth,

here we are in the Red Centre. Just arrived today (Tues. June 5)and will be here for three nights before heading off to Kings Canyon.

When last I wrote we were on the banks of the Murray at Tailem Bend. Jo and I spent two more nights just up river at Murray Bridge waiting for a heating element for the a/c unit in the Geist.

The team at Murray Heating and Cooling were excellent and got us back on the road within an hour of the part arriving from Dometic in Melbourne. We then rejoined Carol and Bill at McLaren Vale which was our base for the Adelaide area.

While there we visited Victor Harbour, Glenelg and Adelaide and surprise, surprise, we managed to fit in a little more wine tasting.

There is a great cycling trail there that passes several wineries. Victor Harbour is a lovely spot and we walked along the pier for a coffee on Granite Island and watched the horsedrawn tram go by.

We had a terrific meal at Oscar's with some friends of Carol and Bill's and a great night out in the local hall at a fund raising dance for the netball and aussie rules clubs with a band playing music more suited to our era, Beatles, Deep Purple, AC/DC INXS to name a few, and not for the younger crowd that were in the majority.

We would have liked to spend more time in the area but the weather was getting cooler so we headed north and although we went via the Clare Valley we didn't stop this time until Port Pirie. Carol and Bill have friends there too and we were made most welcome by Boyd, Carol and family.

They have a big yard and we managed to get both vans in with room to spare. They even had a 15amp power outlet in the shed!

We stayed two nights there and did a local tour of the coast and the southern Flinders ranges. we visited Weroona Island, Port Germein,(the site of the longest wooden pier in Australia), before heading inland through the Germein Gorge to Wirrabarra, Stone Hut, Laura and Gladstone then back to the coast and Port Pirie.

Editor's Note: South Australia's first provincial city, Port Pirie contributes to help drive Australia's export industry through the Broken Hill Associated Smelters, which are the biggest lead smelters in the western world, and the Co-operative Bulk Handling grain silos.

Both are located along Port Pirie's river harbour, making this city an important interstate and international seaport.
Set against the backdrop of the Flinders Ranges, Port Pirie is also popular as a tourist stopover.

Ross says -The weather was atrocious, wet windy and cold but we stopped at Stone Hut for some delicious pies and pasties. There is nothing else at Stone Hut but the pie shop!

From Port Pirie it was northward bound into the outback and onto Woomera. We decided to leave the Flinders and Wilpena Pound until our return from WA.

Two nights at the caravan Park there where we just happened to be the first four customers at the new bar in the park!

The next day we planned to visit the Woomera heritage centre and outdoor museum before heading off to Roxby Downs and Andamooka.

Now those who have been to Woomera would know that trees are few and far between but some how one managed to find and remove my drivers side mirror and towing mirror!

Jo and I headed off to Roxby Downs to see if we could get a replacement towing mirror while Carol and Bill visited the Woomera attractions.

Bill, Ross, Jo and Carolyn mount up for the Mclaren Vale Wine Trail
Bill, Ross, Jo and Carolyn mount up for the Mclaren Vale Wine Trail

We had no luck there but carefully drove out to visit Andamooka while we were there.

It is hard to describe our impressions of Andamooka but, while it was very interesting, and we did a little noodling for opals, I don't think we will retire there!

On our return to camp Bill and I did a little bush mechanics' work on the towing mirror which has done the job and hopefully will last until we get to Alice Springs where the car will be repaired.

Editor's Note: Andamooka is a unique town of miner's homes and semi-dugouts nestles on a honeycomb of underground diggings in a field famous for the quality of its gemstones.

Andamooka is 600 kilometres north of Adelaide and visitors today will discover that underneath its rugged exterior, like the rough opal itself, there is a wealth of warmth and colour.

There are a variety of things to do and see. Discover Andamooka's unique 'matrix opal' or the rare beauty of the famous local crystal opal. Buy directly from the miners at one of the opal showrooms in town or from The Bottle House (built in 1972), eliminating the middleman and saving dollars.

You can buy painted opals from Hilda, and art from resident artist Alex Mendelsohn. Visit Don's to see a fascinating collection of rocks and fossils or ask for a tour of the early miners and buyers cottages in the centre of town (listed on South Australia's Heritage Register). Don Clark is a long term resident, as is Inge Duke from the post office who also offers cottage tours.

Try 'noodling' (fossicking) for your own piece of elusive opal, but please check you are not on somebody's 'pegged' claim and always be alert as there are many old mine shafts around.

Visit the vast, usually dry salt lake of Lake Torrens, the satellite opal fields of White Dam or the remote Stuart Creek opal diggings for a taste of the real outback. Take a two hour self drive tour of the opal fields with Erica of the Rainbow Opal Showroom and see how and where the opal miners live and work.

Relax at the Tuckerbox or Opal Hotel for meals or a refreshing drink, or explore this tiny opal mining town and unusual lunar like landscape by foot. Andamooka is the gateway for four wheel drive vehicles connecting with the Oodnadatta or Birdsville Tracks, or taking the Farina Adventure Trail and linking up to the Flinders Ranges.

Andamooka opal adorned the hemline of the year 2001 Opal Dress worn by Olympian Tatiana Grigorieva; a breathtaking beauty valued at AUD500,000 and housed at the South Australian Museum.

The opal fields were discovered in 1930 by two drovers from Andamooka Station who saw flashes of brilliant colour on a hillside after a rare thunderstorm. Opal is still mined in close proximity to the town and extends into 24 fields, giving the area a fascinating moon-like appearance. Andamooka is the only town in Australia where none of the streets are named and the main thoroughfare is built in a creek bed.

Ross says - From Woomera it was onto Coober Pedy, a bit more upmarket than Andamooka and geared up for tourism. Again we stayed for two nights to allow us to explore the town and take a drive to the Breakaways and the dog fence.

On the  homefront Andamooka
On the homefront Andamooka

This is a truly spectacular part of the outback not to be missed but the road is very rough in parts and although passable is probably not suited for 2WD vehicles.

Editor's Note:The Opal Inn Hotel, Motel and Caravan Park in the centre of Coober Pedy. There is has something for everyone with well appointed accommodation, all caravan and camping amenities, plus a range of dining, bar and gaming facilities.

Oasis Tourist Park is situated at the north end of the main street opposite the Drive in, just 250m from shops and attractions.

Powered sites some with their own Ensuite, and there is a range of accommodation to suite most budgets, from Budget rooms to well appointed Fully Self Contained Deluxe Park Cabins. There is a pool, TV/Recreation Room, camp kitchen, barbecue area, Internet access.

The Worlds Only Underground International Hotel the Desert Cave Hotel is centrally located in Hutchison Street, the main street of Coober Pedy.

Coober Pedy is an opal-mining town in Outback South Australia (located on the Stuart Highway, 850km north of Adelaide and 680km south of Alice Springs).

There are 50 rooms, including 19 underground and 31 aboveground. The dugout style rooms are of natural sandstone, where the temperature is naturally controlled by the earth.
There is an award winning underground display gallery on mining, opal and the unique nature of living in outback Australia.

The Desert Cave Tours - $60 per person is a comprehensive daily 4 hour tour featuring town tour, underground home and church, an old mine, underground potteries, opal fields, The Breakaways, Moon plain and Dog Fence.

The Mail Run - $155.00 per person. Visits remote outposts delivering the mail. You can travel hundreds of kilometres and get a feel of how big Auistralia is visiting cattle stations, desert terrain and remote townships.

Painted Desert Tour $180.00 per person. Shows the colors of 80 million years of natural erosion and presents the Painted Desert. Sediments originally laid down by the ancient inland sea have eroded away over time.

This erosion, combined with the leaching of minerals from the soil, created this magical area whose colours change during the day, making it an enchanted place.

Down Dirty- The only authentic Opal digging tour in Coober Pedy $85.00 per person. For those who want to experience the thrill of digging for a fortune, a must do for any international guest.
Try your luck noodling (fossicking) for your own opal. Transportation to and from the site is provided on request.

Ross says - From Coober Pedy we pushed onto Kulgera Roadhouse and the Northern Territory. One nights rest there and today we drove here to Yulara.

After setting up we took off to watch the sunset at Uluru.

The weather however appeared to have other ideas as it was very cloudy and with five minutes to go before sunset people started packing up their cameras and heading off back to Yulara.

As we had decided to have our happy hour there we had to pack up our table and chairs which took a couple of minutes.

Salt and pepper formation at the Breakaways near Coober Pedy
Salt and pepper formation at the Breakaways near Coober Pedy

Then with two minutes before sunset out it came and Uluru glowed in all it's glory.

People were running back to get their cameras and shouting and cheering and snapping away, it was crazy!

Tomorrow we plan to take the walk around the rock and visit Kata Tjuta, (The Olgas), the following day.

Until next report


Ross, Jo, Bill and Carol

Here is information from our files which is also available through the Northern Territory Tourist Commission on places to see and things to do in the Red Centre and the North of Australia's NT-

Uluru/Kata Tjuta National Park
This World Heritage Listed Park of ancient geological treasures epitomises the Australian Outback for hundreds of thousands of visitors who flock there every year to see its stunning grandeur.

New arrivals are advised to drop by the Uluru-Kata Tjuta Cultural and Information Centre prior to any touring or walking in the area to get a full range of information and background on the attractions and touring options.

The park is located close to the centre of Australia and takes in 132 566 hectares of arid ecosystems - as well as its two most famous features, Uluru /Ayers Rock and Mt Olga/Kata Tjuta.

These remarkable formations stand dramatic and stark in contrast to the surrounding flat, plain landscape of the desert. Uluru /Ayers Rock rises 348 metres above the desert floor and measures 9.4 kilometres around its girth - the equivalent of a three to four hour walk.

It comprises 0.54 cubic kilometres in volume above the ground and extends 3.1 km from east to west and 1.9 km from north to south. Such vital statistics have assured this gigantic natural icon its status as the most famous monolith in the world.

But the size of the Rock is even more incredible when it is considered that an estimated two thirds of it lies beneath the surface. Images of the Rock are used around the world as the symbol of the Australian Outback landscape. Uluru is the Aboriginal name for a rock hole in the vicinity.

Ulurus ancient neighbour, Kata Tjuta /Mt Olga is 50km to the west. The Olgas are a spectacular collection of 36 weathered red domes with steep sides, separated by narrow valleys and covering about 35 sq km.

A place of many heads
Kata Tjutas highest feature is Mt Olga that rises 546 metres from the desert floor and 1072 metres above sea level. In the language of the local Anangu people, Kata Tjuta means many heads.

Kata Tjuta /Mt Olga might be less famous than Uluru /Ayers Rock but park visitors are always captivated by its sheer beauty and many people believe it holds even greater charm than its monolithic neighbour to the east.

Geologically, both Uluru /Ayers Rock and Kata Tjuta /Mt Olga started out as sediments laid down in a shallow inland sea known as the Amadeus Basin. More than 300 million years ago, the sediments were forced upwards, buckling and thrusting above the sea level.

The force created cracks and fissures that have been eroded over millions of years to form the smooth domes visible at Kata Tjuta /Mt Olga.

Scientists studying the Uluru-Kata Tjuta landscape have found evidence of invertebrate life forms aged between 435 and 600 million years old which inhabited the surrounding sea.

Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park is owned by the local Anangu Aboriginal people and is managed by Parks Australia in cooperation with them.

Uluru holds a significant place in the Anangu peoples creation stories and laws, which are known as Tjukurpa, and many of these stories relate to how the ancestral beings formed the Rock. Aboriginal guides at the park share these ancient stories with visitors during cultural tours around the base of Uluru.

Understand traditional positions
In keeping with the parks importance to Aboriginal people, a major emphasis is placed helping visitors to understand Aboriginal traditions, lifestyles and culture. These aspects are well catered for at the Uluru-Kata Tjuta Cultural Centre, a spectacular building in contemporary Australian architecture, and housing all the parks information services.

Inside there are dynamic displays presenting the sights and sounds of Tjukurpa (creation stories and laws) and the local Aboriginal culture. Display collages portray the interaction between traditional owners, the landscape and the park rangers, with extensive use of video and audio media to help give a clear picture of how this all blends together.

Cooperative represents Aboriginal artists
Aboriginal creativity at its best can be experienced through Maruka Arts and Crafts, an Aboriginal owned and operated cooperative which operates from the cultural centre and which represents more than 800 traditional artists from Central and Western Australia.

A guided tour through the cultural centre will help visitors to understand the spiritual significance of the works.
Uluru /Ayers Rock is a monolith of many moods. It changes colour depending on factors including the time of day, dust, cloud cover and where you happen to be standing.

It presents its most dramatic light show at sunset when it changes colour from vibrant red to orange to lilac all within a matter of a few minutes the show depends on the prevailing weather conditions. Kata Tjuta /Mt Olga holds its own spectacular sunset light show to rival that of Uluru.

In Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, there are many opportunities for sightseeing, photography, walking and gaining new knowledge.
Take guided walks through the fascinating nooks and crannies around the base of Ayers Rock or visitors can climb to the top of the Rock if they are fit and healthy.

Aboriginal people prefer tourists choose not to climb Uluru and suggest tourists visit the Uluru Cultural Centre before deciding on whether to climb or not. The distance from the base to the summit is 1.6 km and it takes about two hours to complete the return trip.

Some sections of the climb are extremely steep and should not be attempted by anyone with a heart condition, asthma, a fear of heights, vertigo or dizziness. Several people have died during or as a result of a climb up the Rock.

The climb can be closed due to safety issues related to temperature, wind and rain as well as for cultural reasons such as the death of an Aboriginal elder.

Walk the Valley of the Winds
Out at Kata Tjuta /Mt Olga, visitors can explore the picturesque Valley of the Winds through a choice of walks.
For the experienced and fit who have plenty of time, there is a four to five hour walk that meanders around several domes. A shorter walk of around an hour takes visitors through the valley to peaceful Olga Gorge (Tatintjawiya).

There is much more to Uluru-Kata Tjuta than its famous monolith and towering domes. It is also a haven for many native birds, reptiles and mammals that have adapted to life in the harsh arid conditions of Central Australia.

The magnificent Wedge-tailed Eagle, the Brown and Peregrine Falcons, Australian Kestrel, Black-breasted Kite and the Little Woodswallow are just a few of the birds which might be seen around Uluru-Kata Tjuta.

The arid zone is a rich reptile habitat and the park has its fair share of local species, among them geckoes, skinks, goannas, dragons, legless lizards and several venomous and non-venomous snakes.

The park is also home to 24 known native mammals including red kangaroos, rock wallabies, dingoes, the Mulgara (a small marsupial) and the marsupial mole.

Yulara opens the way
The entrance to Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park is at the township of Yulara, 18km from Uluru /Ayers Rock and this is the place to find camping facilities, resort accommodation, Aboriginal dance and music performances, tour booking agents, souvenir outlets and any other information.

Camping is not permitted inside the park. Call at the Ayers Rock Visitors Centre at Yulara for valuable information on the local history, geology, flora, fauna and ancient Aboriginal culture. The centres displays have been carefully created to give a deeper understanding of the park, the region and its people.

Watarrka National Park a place of the unexpected
The spectacular scenery, and eerie collection of weathered rock formations known as the Lost City, and an oasis with a permanent waterhole veiled by palms and ferns known as the Garden of Eden, combine to make Kings Canyon an unexpected surprise. There are several ways to explore it.

It is worth taking the 6km return walk to the rim of the Canyon - the view from the 300m drop to the valley floor is breathtaking. The 6km walk is a four-hour return trip.

The walk takes visitors through the Garden of Eden of permanent waterholes, Desert Oak woodlands and fascinating rock formations. There is an alternative a leisurely walk along the canyon floor.

The area of the Park has been the home of the Luritja people for the last 20,000 years. Their word, Watarrka, refers to the umbrella bush that proliferates here. In fact, this area has over 600 different plant species as well as a variety of animals providing excellent sightseeing, photography and bushwalking.

There are accommodation options from campsites to hotel units, as well as a restaurant, cafe, bar, souvenir shop and fuel pumps. The Watarrka National Park can be reached by the Mereenie Loop Road, or 276km via sealed roads from the Stuart Highway.

Must see and do
As suggested by the Northern Territory Tourist Commission

Call at Tennant Creeks Visitor Centre at Battery Hill that features displays and films on the rich mining, pastoral and droving history.

See the Gold Stamp Battery, still thundering and pounding, where miners brought their ore to be crushed and smelted into gold bars.

About 100 kilometres south of Tennant Creek, is the regions most spectacular landmark- Karlu Karlu, or the Devils Marbles.
Situated 462 km from Ayers Rock/Uluru and positioned between the East and West MacDonnell Ranges, Alice Springs makes both a good touring base and holiday destination.

Learn more about the local Aboriginal people, the Arrernte clan, whose traditional lands include the area in and around Alice Springs and the MacDonnell Ranges.

Join of the numerous Aboriginal cultural tours around town, or gain a fascinating insight into their life and work at places like the Museum of Central Australia and the Aboriginal Art and Culture Centre.

The Alice Springs Golf Club, is rated amongst the top 10 desert courses in the world. Spend time at the Alice Springs Desert Park, world-class home to more than 400 animals and 120 species of plants.

Alice Springs provides some unique dining experiences, from taking a camel to dinner to dining under the stars.

To appreciate the West MacDonnells, explore the ranges rugged gorges, gaps and chasms and experience the unspoiled serenity of this region.

Outside of Hermannsburg, travel by 4WD through the Finke River, thought to be one of the worlds oldest rivers. The Finke Gorge National Park is best known for Palm Valley.

The extensive Larapinta Trail in the West MacDonnell national park is the showpiece of Central Australian bushwalking.

The Tanami Track, is for the most part, unsealed road. The Track is becoming a popular tourist route to WA for those equipped to get off the beaten track.

Most of the Simpson Deserts attractions are within a day trips range of Alice Springs. Chambers Pillar rises as a solitary beacon out of the vast red plains and captivates the imagination on how the early pioneers used this as a navigational landmark.

The entrance to Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park is at Yulara, 18km from Uluru /Ayers Rock and this is the place to find camping facilities, resort accommodation, Aboriginal dance and music performances, tour booking agents, souvenir outlets and any other information.

In keeping with the parks importance to Aboriginal people, a major emphasis is placed helping visitors to understand Aboriginal traditions, lifestyles and culture. These aspects are well catered for at the Uluru-Kata Tjuta Cultural Centre, a spectacular building in contemporary Australian architecture, and housing all the parks information services.

The spectacular scenery, and eerie collection of weathered rock formations known as the Lost City, and an oasis with a permanent waterhole veiled by palms and ferns known as the Garden of Eden, combine to make Kings Canyon a most unexpected surprise.

Editor's Note: Also See -


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