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Many Adventures of a Nomadic Poet A young poet with Asperger's makes travel his passion, and away he goes...

Stargazing, campfires, and the Dreamtime

AUSTRALIA | Friday, 19 January 2007 | Views [2844]

This whole area was underwater a half billion years ago

This whole area was underwater a half billion years ago

Today was my 11th day in hot “red” Australia, as I’m in the middle of the Outback. I woke up at 5:30 AM after being so tired last night. The birds were singing and making their morning calls. There are a lot of beautiful birds out here. I saw some birds yesterday that have a pink neck. It was still gloomy out. I threw on my shoes and returned my bed sheets and got my key deposit back. I walked to the Shell station up the street because I wanted a Red Bull, but they weren’t open yet. I walked back and then just hung out until the tour leader, Leith, showed up at 6:30. I paid the $35 Uluru park and sleeping bag fee. Afterward, Leith finished his paperwork and we packed up and started our Outback journey. There are about 20 of us going. Leith told us that we’ve had a year supply of rain in the past few days, and that there is a legend that if you see the Todd River flow three times, you’ll never leave Alice Springs. He also told us that the river was named after Charles Todd and that his wife’s name was Alice, and that’s how Alice Springs gets it’s name. When Todd discovered it, it was actually a lagoon in the area, not springs. As we were driving out of the Alice, I began to see miles and miles of no buildings or homes. The red dirt, which is caused by rusting and the sun baking the land, is a very vibrant red. I can see why they call this the “Red Centre.” All the dirt is red, like Mars. This really is more like another planet. The speed limit in one area we were driving was 130 km! However, Leith told me that if you have passengers, you can’t drive faster than 100 km. We drove for many kilometers until there was a deep flood lake in the middle of the road. We had to stop and Leith had to get out and walk through it to see how deep it was. We had a few moments to stretch and take photos. There were Aboriginal children swimming in the “lake.” The water only went up to Leith’s knee and it was safe to keep going. We continued on the red landscape until we saw a semi stuck of the road. Leith told us that it went off the road yesterday and that it wouldn’t be moving for quite sometime. I got a photo of it and talked to the driver for a minute or two. We then continued to drive south until we reached the service station at Erldunda. One thing I can say about the Northern Territory is that flies here are super annoying. Even Arizona isn’t this bad with flies. I can’t even go a minute without doing the Aussie Wave (brushing away of flies). At the station, I got a Red Bull and some Arnott’s tea biscuits. I also got an Erldunda postcard. Afterward, I got a photo of the sign pointing in the direction of Alice Springs and Uluru, and another photo of the sign pointing to Alice Springs and Adelaide. I have the signs to show that I’ve been there. We began driving along the Lasseter Highway and it was a very long drive. Leith told us that it’s the longest drive of the trip. We passed Mount Ebenezer and continued for many kilometers toward Kings Canyon. On the way, Leith passed out sandwiches for lunch. I didn’t eat much of it because it was smeared with globs of margarine, which I hate. Oh well though. I’ve never seen so much land without any buildings. We drove through hundreds of kilometers of a vast expanse of red desert. Our first stop of the day was Kings Canyon, which the Aborigines call “Watarrka.” We stopped and changed into our swimming gear and filled up our water bottles. I only had my Diet Coke bottle, so I didn’t have much water. Leith told us that it is special because it is one of the few places where white men and Aborigines have worked together. It’s also a true canyon. Leith told us that a canyon is formed from a crack in the ground and then erosion, whereas a gorge is formed by just erosion. I learned that the Grand Canyon is actually a gorge. We then began our hike up one of the oldest geological regions of the Earth. Leith said that it’s over 400 million years old and that there is evidence of an ancient inland sea that once covered most of Australia. The first 10 minutes of the hike were the steepest. The landscape and rock formations were amazing. The rocks look kind of like pancakes stacked up. I hiked up, taking tons of pictures along the way. It started to get hot out, but I didn’t care. After getting up to the top, Leith showed us fossilized ancient sand ripples and fossilized sea snakes. You could definitely tell this area was once the ocean. A cool rain fell as we were walking. It’s actually quite special to be in the Outback when it’s raining, because it’s rare out here. It’s like being in Egypt when it is raining. As we continued our hike, I could not turn off my camera. I thought the landscape was so spectacular. It’s really a dream come true to be here. It was one of my childhood dreams to visit the Australian Outback. At several points, I looked down into the canyon. One wrong move and I could have been gone forever! We then hiked down into the canyon, and Leith showed us what’s believed to be fossilized jellyfish: more evidence of an inland sea. We continued to hike though the canyon until we reached the Garden of Eden, where we could go swimming. It was really full because of the recent rainstorms. We all had on our bathers on and we jumped on in. It is really fun swimming in the Outback. I jumped off the rocks a few times and swam downstream and swam in the plunge pool, which is the basin created at the base of a waterfall. I had to be careful, because the next waterfall down, I could have fallen hundreds of feet down and killed myself. After swimming there for awhile, I climbed up the rocks and swam in the Garden again. I jumped backwards into the pool and then sat and let the rapids massage my back. It’s the best free massage. After about 45 minutes of swimming, it was time to continue the hike. I got a picture with Julia in her bikini. She is from France. After packing up our gear, we continued our magical Kings Canyon hike. We hiked up the other side. We walked along the canyon rim and went to this area where we could lay on our stomach and look at the canyon below. I saw one section of the canyon that gave way and collapsed about 60 years ago. It was really spectacular though. I took so many pictures on this hike. After that, we started to head back. I don’t think I could trade anything for this! Out of my three big trips, it’s hard to say which one is my favorite. We walked down the same way we went up, and I noticed the shadows on the rocks. It was a long walk down. After making a complete descent, we stopped for a breather. We had a few minutes to rest, and the sky had mostly cleared. I was still hoping we would go bush camping. Afterward, we continued our drive. We drove through many miles of Outback country, and our next stop was the petrol station. We had some time to stretch our legs and buy stuff. I got a Red Bull, Diet Coke, and a bottle of water, and also got an Australia road atlas. I like to retrace my steps during my travels. I’ve covered more ground on this trip than I did in New Zealand. The train ride on the Sunlander was longer than the entire length of New Zealand. At the petrol station, Leith made the decision for us to bush camp. I was really excited! I came here to see the stars. It was about 6:00 when we left the fuel station and we kept driving through miles of vast periphery. About an hour along on our journey, we got a flat tire. It was one of the front tires, so we were really lucky. We had a break, and I felt bad because I don’t know how to change a “tyre,” as they’re spelled out here. I collected some red dirt in a water bottle and then watched the magnificent Outback sunset. Leith told us to gather wood for our campfire, so I helped out with that. After gathering firewood, I kept taking pictures of the sunset. It took about a half hour to fix the flat. Leith told us that he’s had a flat on each of his previous three journeys. We continued and I began to see stars. About five minutes up the road in the darkness, a kangaroo jumped in front of the van as we were going like 100 km and slammed straight into it. It sounded like we slammed into a rock. We stopped, got out and ran to the crash site, but the kangaroo, sadly, was dead. There was even a little joey that didn’t even have any hair on its body. I was so sad! Harold and I decided to move the body off the road, or else it would be run over by a thousand cars and then be part of the pavement. I didn’t want to touch it, but we grabbed the tail and dragged the body into the bush. It turned out that we hit the animal so hard that the headlight broke. I had a very sad feeling over me as we all got back into the van, because we had taken the life of one of Australia’s own. We continued to drive and it was now getting very dark. I could see many more stars out here than anywhere else! We narrowly missed another kangaroo and then some horses. Up the road a it, there were cows crossing the road. It was so dark out and there were no lights at all for many miles. My friend Angel told me that much of Australia is vast nothingness, and she’s right! At the same time it’s also magical, with the many millions of stars. I think this is the real Australia, just like the Aborigines told me. We drove until we reached Curtin Springs cattle station. The station reminded me of an American old west bar, kind of like in Arizona. While everyone else was buying beer, I got some Diet Coke. After 10 minutes or so, we loaded up and headed toward our bush campsite about 10 kilometers up the road. At like 10 PM, we pulled in. There was not a light in sight! We unloaded the firewood and lit a small campfire and then unloaded the swag rolls. Now this is true bush camping! This is a great cultural experience and is just like how swagmen used their matildas. With the campfire, the bugs were very annoying. Leith started making dinner, and I was really enjoying the stars! For the second time I could see the Southern Cross. Dinner took awhile to cook, and we had stir-fry. It was absolutely delicious, and I loved it so much that I had two bowls. I sat with Julia when I ate and we shared travel stories. I’m really enjoying this incredible experience. This is something I’ve always dreamed of, and now I’m here! I laid in my swag, using my backpack as a pillow. I could see millions and millions of stars, and shooting stars like I never have before. I simply could not stop gazing at the sky as I was falling asleep. I’m headed to Uluru and Kata Tjuta tomorrow, which are two sacred sites to the Aborigines. I hope to get a great photo tomorrow night and see the sunset. Well, I’m sleeping in a swag roll tonight, and if I can overcome the bugs, I’ll sleep well. I’ll see you tomorrow at Uluru.

 

Tags: culture

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