Wednesday, 23 August 1995

Alice Springs to Uluru

Erldunda, Mt Ebenezer, Curtain Springs (Stuart & Lasseter Highways) 454 kms

We excelled again in the packing up of the tent and gear and we were off and away by 9:00 am.

Each kilometre south took us a little closer to Soutlh Australia and a new chapter of our trip. For now,
however, we had the final, dramatic part of the Northern Territory to act out. The road south was smooth and steady and we travelled along at the desired rpm of 1700, which had appeared to give us our best fuel consumption.

Morning tea was taken at a roadside stop beside the Finke River and despite the heat (34 degrees C) we enjoyed our biscuits and cuppa. Whilst we were in the midst of enjoying it, an ex army staff car, used in WWII, pulled up with a trailer in tow. As part of me Australia Remembers celebration, a convey of army vehicles had gone north to re-enact the transport line which established the Stuart Highway between Adelaide and Darwin during the Second World War. Many old diggers had travelled the old route in relative comfort, fifty years after their original weeks of slogging through boggy, rough dirt and mud tracks. Painted in army green, it was a Special Deluxe Desotto, imported from USA by the US Army. Lovingly restored, it was in mint condition and I was able to speak with the owner and his sons.

Putting this chance encounter behind us, we continued south, pausing long enough only for fuel at Erldunda and then turning west for the final 260 kms to Uluru. Lunch was taken at a very dusty picnic bench beside the road at Mt Ebenezer.

Onward, ever onward, we ploughed toward the Rock: each kilometre raising our level of anticipation.

Mt Connor
We failed to be fooled by the fiat topped Mt Conner, as we had been warned by Pa the first of the inselbergs we would see was not Ayres Rock. We renamed this perfect example of a mesa "Fooly Rock" and drove on. At this point in the drive, the sand dunes which Sue had so wanted to see, were more than evident. Large rolling dunes of sand fixed by the sparse grasses and low, twisted trees and shrubs, formed a succession of obstructions to our view, as our necks craned this way and thatfor the first sight of Uluru.

First sight of Uluru
I was the first to catch a glimpse of Australia's most famous icon, as we crested another dune and started down the other side. Soon, we were all tracking it as we progressed at a seemingly slow pace.
First impressions were of a large purple mountain, way off in the distance, but as we got closer, we realised the impression of distance is caused by the sheer size of the thing.

It had been a long day. In our entire trip, there was no other day where we all were so focused on where were headed. There was no doubt this had been the most anticipated place of the trip, among the children and close to the same for the adults. Excitement balled in the pits of our stomachs for much of the journey.

We booked into the Ayres Rock Campground - not without some aggravation and trouble - and set about cooking our tea on the free gas bar-b-q's installed adjacent to our site.

Following tea, I contact Teng to say hello. Avoiding school conversation was difficult, but necessary if I was to remain detached and relaxed. However, the mention of some restructuring in the DSE soon had me on the phone to my relief, Peter Mclnnes, to determine what was happening. The resultant news was a bombshell, but not entirely unpredictable to those who had watched developments during the past few years and listened closely to what the political masters had been saying. The initial sounds of how it will affect the school sounded reasonable, for a number of important reasons.

The immediate effect was to make sleep difficult. I grabbed the opportunity to write some letters to friends and eventually dropped into bed after midnight.

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