Thursday, 14 July 2011

Round The Rock by Bicycle

Kings Canyon - Uluru

After 5 days of cycling with no food resupply we were running on empty so we were hoping for a general store at the Kings Canyon Resort. Unfortunately what greeted us was just a depleted fuel station shop. It was still another 5 days until our next proper supermarket so we made do with an odd assortment of tinned food.

Setting up camp in the late afternoon admiring the escarpment of the George Gill range our peace was soon disturbed as we were swopped on by some of the local birdlife intent on taking the bread from our plates. Signs around the camp warned of dingo activity and we watched closely as they strolled freely amongst the campers looking for any scraps they could find. To top it off we were alerted to the presence of mice as they scurried over our canvas whilst we cooked the evening meal. With all this activity we decided all food should be removed from the tent so we hoisted our supplies into the nearest tree, much to the amusement of our fellow campers.||

Curious mouse   Food pannier in a tree

After a day off recovering from our adventures on the Mereenie Loop we packed up and cycled out to Kings Canyon for the 6km rim walk. The first section was the toughest and aptly named Heart Attack Hill. Once over the steep incline the track meanders around the rim of the canyon at times coming right to the verge of the 100m high sheer cliff face.

The walk weaves amongst obscure rock formations, dominated by beehive shaped domes that give the place the feeling of an ancient city.

Kings Canyon beehive domes 

The canyon hosts the largest variety of plant life in Central Australia, some going back to prehistoric times and at the head of the gorge is an area known as the Garden of Eden where a spring supports a small oasis and feeds a tranquil water pool.

Kings Canyon   Wild camp

Back at the car park where we left the bikes we still had 40km to cycle to camp and wondered if the walk may have tired us out, but back on the bikes the legs effortlessly fell into the familiar rhythmic motion of cycling.

Arriving at Kings Creek Station we refilled our water bottles for $1 per litre as the bore water has to be pumped from 5km away. An inspirational couple (The Conways) had purchased 800,000 hectares of arid land here, completely off grid and developed a successful cattle and tourism enterprise as well as a charity supporting education for local Aboriginal kids.

The following morning after a bush camp just as we stopped to take a jumper off we noticed we were being watched by a magnificent wild horse. Word must have spread as one after another materialised from the bush. As we quietly cycled on they continued to watch us, then as we came within 50m they took off. We tried to stay with them, matching pace as the majestic horses galloped beside us. We thought maybe we had startled them but they continued on a parallel path, almost as if they were willing us on.

Wild horses

Feeling a little exhausted after our race with the wild horses we had just wheeled around the corner when we were flagged down by Trish and Tony, a lovely couple we had met at the Kings Canyon Resort camp site. They offered us coffee and muffins, which we promptly accepted over a chin wag in their ultra comfortable caravan.

Trish and Tony   Freddie cycling

That afternoon the wildlife fest continued with a dingo, pink and white galahs and 3 red kangaroos all in the space of a few hours. We struck it lucky with one of the prettiest bush camps we have had on the trip, it really felt like we had walked into a manicured garden.

The next morning we turned westbound onto the main road that took us all the way to Uluru. It felt a little wrong to be heading due west when home is south east Australia but this was a detour that had to be done.

As we summited a crest later in the day a massive red rock rose from the plains. Mt Connor, often mistaken for Uluru steals the show somewhat as it accustoms you to these beautiful rock formations. We set up camp at the dusty Curtin Springs Roadhouse, about 80km from Uluru. 

When we took off from camp in the morning a very strange thing happened to us, TAIL WIND! We clamoured on our bikes and were soon hitting speeds of 35km/hr, we couldn’t believe our luck as we raced along the desert plains. Coming up over a small rise we got our first glimpse of Uluru. We were so excited we pulled over for an early lunch and climbed the nearest sand dune for a private one on one with the world’s most famous rock. 

 Guy enjoying the view of Uluru

They don’t all live up to the hype, these “big sites” - but for us, sitting there on the dune with Uluru in sight having cycled such a long way to get there was a really unforgettable moment.

The day only got better as we got word that our Kiwi 4WD buddies Andrew and Therese were still in Yulara sorting out a few administrative matters and they would hang around for another night if we could make it there in time.

Rolling into Yulara, the small purpose built “town” that so cleverly camouflages itself within the bush that you hardly notice it was a delight for us as we knew there was a SUPERMARKET to raid with semi reasonable prices. 

After clearing out the supermarket we met Andrew and Therese at the campground and caught up on their 4WD travels. On the following day we cycled the 20km out to Uluru in the hope to bike around The Rock. A park ranger was pretty excited to see us on our bikes and being a cyclist himself he was keen to explain the best route to us.

Freddie at Uluru

Uluru is amazing close up, it takes on a different form the closer you get to it, far from just a big clump of rock. We were amazed by the smooth swirling drifts of sandstone that give the rock a soothing texture. As it is a very spiritual place for the Aborigines there are numerous rock paintings and in some sections photography is prohibited.

Uluru flowers   Cycling around Uluru 

Again we were amazed by all the plant life in the area and during the wet season rains spill over the sides cascading down the smooth sandstone to fill tranquil little water holes around the base.

Dwarfed by Uluru   Uluru waterpool

The Sorry Book at the cultural centre caught our attention. It contains hundreds of admissions from people who have taken something from the area and all of a sudden have had a string of bad luck. The bad luck seems to coincide from the moment the item was taken, as a result stolen goods (such as lumps of rock) are often posted back with a sorry letter in hope they will be forgiven for their sins.

The following day we made contact with Mark and Nadia, friends of Greg, the French cyclist we met in Alice Springs. They are tour guides working for a company taking school groups out to the bush to do workshops and cultural activities within the Aboriginal villages for 9 days at a time. They’d just returned from one trip and were due on the next one the following day. They kindly gave up their one day off to meet up for lunch. Afterwards they took us out for sunset on a dune with a fantastic view of Uluru followed by dinner at their house. They have done a fantastic cycle tour in Europe and Australia the previous year and will spend the summers not far from our new home in Victoria, so we hope to return the favour one day.

Freddie with Mark and Nadia

Our final must do in the area was a visit to the Olgas (Kata Tjuta), a magnificent group of orange dome shaped rocks clustered together like a handful of marshmallows. Getting out to the Olgas  is difficult if you don’t have access to a vehicle, as it’s a 110km round trip and a 3 hour walk. Enter Rachel and John, a couple from Victoria we met at camp. They offered for us to come with them, so we all piled into their car for the drive out and to do the stunning Valley Of the Winds walk that weaves its way through this surreal and beautiful landscape.

Kata Tjuta

Back at camp we paid one final visit to the supermarket to stock up for our 6 day haul to Marla. Soon we would be reunited with our mate, the Stuart Highway and foe, the south east headwinds.

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