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Beginning of a Great Adventure On the road for a year with Nik, Dunc, Maeve (6) and Ella (4): 8 months in Oz with 4wd and Campertrailer, 6 weeks in NZ and 3 months in Asia.

update 5....the rock and NT....

AUSTRALIA | Wednesday, 15 October 2008 | Views [1130] | Comments [3]

Its been well over a month since my last update and we have now left the NT, and moved into Queensland.....i am writing this from Adel's Grove, in the nt. west crn....gulf country, just up the road from the beautiful Lawn Hill National park, having just returned from paddling a canoe through the gorge that runs through the national park....Good tip Marcus!! what an oasis! 

We got as far north as Mataranka, and decided to leave Katherine, Lichfield, Kakadu and Darwin for another trip...it was just soooo hot (39+) and the build up for the wet season has well and truly begun...Maeve had come down with a flu and was being eaten alive by bugs and we just thought-time to head to the east coast......all the travellers we met in Mataranka told us Kakadu was extremely dry and hot, with all the waterfalls now dry, and it sounded pretty unpleasant.....kind of felt like we'd only be going so we could tick the box saying "yep-we been there"....and we decided it would leave something to see for the future.....no idea what i'll be doing or where we will be living in a couple of years, but 4 weeks with a hired 4 wheel drive in may around top end NT would make a great vacation......

We loved the centre...Alice seemed like a great little town with plenty of get up and go.....the ban on public drinking has ,from all accounts, really improved things and we had a 5 days of relative luxury in a 4 star caravan park....We spent a few days out in Ormiston gorge checking out the west macdonald ranges, (love to walk the Larapinta trail one day in may or June....Marcus and Dom- might be something for our 50th)...then into Palm Valley...from the campsite to the valley was 4 kms but took a good half hour......the roughest road i have ever been on with large rock ledges and dropoffs to navigate....you travel through a "texas badlands "type desert landscape, then suddenly enter a tight little valley filled with a particular type of palm tree straight out of the Jurassic period that grow no-where else in the world....one expected t-rex to come trundling round a corner at any stage....this country continues to amaze us....just when you think your getting a bit jaded, or "spoilt", you find yourself yet again, somewhere special.....

Took the "back" dirt road to Kings Canyon....The kids managed to do the 8km Canyon Rim walk, which starts with a climb up "heart attack hill", and then, as the names states, follows the rim of the canyon....it was beautiful, but much of landscape reminded me of the Bungle Bungles, and in this case, did pale a bit by comparison...and then off to Uluru (Ayers Rock) and Kata Tjuta(the Olgas)......the extra days we spent here was one reason we did not make it up to Darwin and Kakadu, but the rock and the Olga's just blew me away....i'd never really got the attraction, and we could very easily have skipped the Tanami and stayed up north...i always just considered it to be just a rock, but not anymore....like the Monkee's...i am a believer!! It rises out of the plain, sooo much bigger than i anticipated, the surface of the rock folded and wrinkled, then smooth and soft, so feminine and sensual, the colour constantly changing with the light....We saw it at sunrise and sunset a few times, and each time was different...but the best day was when I walked around it.....Nik and the girls did an aboriginal run painting class (which they loved) and i took my hat and water bottles, and headed off in the midday sun....not the ideal time to walk but one big plus was i found myself alone for most of the 10kms....I found myself walking along, unable to take my eyes off it....and often just sat down and looked up at the curves and shapes, the patterns left by the rain run offs, some sections pockmarked or honeycombed, others seemingly smoother than the marble of Michelagelo's David.........i have wandered through st pauls and st peters, wide eyed at the richness of the vatican or the cathedral in Seville, stood hushed in the blue glow of the afternoon light as it streams through the magnificent stained glass windows of Notre dame, and in all these places you can feel  history, faith and devotion combining into something intangible....something that sends a a shiver down this committed atheist's shoulders anyway...the rock has all that and somehow, much, much more...i see it now as Australia's Grand Cathedral, deeply imbued with something special that lies at the heart of this country; i can't bring myself to call it a spirituality, but there's something very special about it.....and just as we don't go climbing up the high temple of st Peter's, so we should'nt  climb upon the rock......and not just  because the aboriginal owners don't want us to, though that is enough reason on it's own,  but because it is special, and it should feel special to us all: this is something to be looked up at in wonder, not down from......

But this brings me to another point, and i would welcome any feedback or thoughts.....

Before i came to Oz i remember reading a website about climbing the rock and someone had explained that the reason it is not forbidden is that the aboriginal culture is not one in which they like to"forbid" anything....they request, not demand......yet as i walked around the rock there are numerous areas where religious ceremonies take place where it is forbidden to take photos...."under section## of the aboriginal lands act, the taking of photos is prohibited and offendors will be liable for a 5000 dollar fine..."....so this got me thinking- "bullshit they dont forbid things- if it offends enough they will....".....now at the cultural center near the base of the rock, and in the guide you get when you buy your permit to enter and again at the start of the climbing route up the rock, it states it is deeply offensive to the aboriginal owners to climb the rock, that it is a sacred place and please do not climb it.....i came across a guide from one of the backpacker tours at one spot as i walked around and asked him why they simply dont forbid it, using the powers of the aboriginal land act....he explained that in the mid eighties, when the ownership of the land got handed back to aboriginals, one of the terms in doing so, was that people be allowed to climb it....it was the white owners of the resorts and hotels that make up what is now Yulara resort who demanded this......Ahhh....now this fit nicely with my left of center whiteboy midddle  class views.....yet again, as its always been, the natives were and continue to be squeezed by the powers that b, with little real regard for what they believe to be important......so when i made it back to the aboriginal run cultural center, i asked the white lady behind the countger in the gallery if the aboriginal owners were pushing to have this clause changed......"what clause??, she asked. " It was the aboriginal elders who decided to allow people to climb, they were free to decide what they wanted, but in 1984 90% of the 110,000 people who visited at the time climbed, and as they receive 5 dollars of the 25 bucks each person pays to visit the park, it was decided that they would lose too much money if they forbid climbing of it....it was a business decision".......now this really pissed me off, how  could they do this to themselves, how can they tell us that their spiritual beliefs are crucial to their being, then decide this?.....over the last 4 months in the numerous aboriginal visitors centers i have visited and the info i have read there, if there is anything i have learnt, it is that their ties with the land lie at the heart of their identity and spiritual wholeness, that by taking this from them, by destroying the keepers of the oral traditions and songlines, by tearing the families apart and placing them in white society however noble our motives were at the time,, we scarred and traumatised their culture, and created dependency and dysfunction and damage that continues to reverberate through their lives and may never be repaired.....now if we are to build any bridges at all, doesn't white Australia have to learn to accept that whether we share the belief, the belief is there, it deserves respect and it is crucially important to them...that rather than scoffing at this or sneering at that, we simply accept that this is what they believe and it is important...just as i don't laugh at a catholic who crosses himself at the alter or at the "miracles of the new testament" as silly superstition even though i think they are nonsense, neither should we scoff at the aboriginal who claims a place as sacred.....yet haven't they just sold themselves out.....aren't they saying, it's crucial,  but not as important as the bucks?? And if their elders can say that, what the hell is Dougie from the townsville rsl meant to think regarding the importance of their beliefs??...  Am i just naive, or perhaps i am expecting  too much from the political structure that is black fella politics? Am i placing them on a pedestal? I mean the politics of the Roman catholic church probably aint any better, and is probably a hell of a lot worse.... but at the time, I told the lady I found this very disappointing to hear, and she told me the local community were also deeply divided over it...she then proudly told me that of the 350,000 odd thousand that now visit only 30% climb, as if this was a major step forward.....did'nt have the  heart to point out that if each person is an act of defilement, there's more desecration now than 20 years ago....i said i still thought it was wrong....weak of the community.....she got shitty" Surely you've had to make difficult decisions when doing business?"......seems to me when you start transgressing your personel beliefs of what is right and wrong in the persuit of the buck, doing business like that leaves a black stain on your soul......but then as Nik pointed out, maybe this approach is better way to get the message across...to win people over rather than simply banning them from doing it...god knows, IF the money is getting through to the most needy members of the aboriginal communities, it is sorely needed, and if the trend keeps on going as it is, then ultimately very few people will climb it, but i did find myself thinking about this a lot....anyway....the rock left one hell of an impression on me......

We went back to alice, via Owen Reserve....a bush camping area that was lovely but the heat had suddenly hit and it was dry everywhere....it had been 30....suddenly it cranked up to high 30's and even  40.....we had planned to spend some days in the east macdonald ranges, but as all the water holes were dry, we decided to leave them for another time.....it really was baking.....so we headed north....left alice early and made 500 ks to Tennent Creek, then spent a night at Banka Banka station, one of the Kidman empire (sydney kidman was one of australia's great cattle barons-nothing to do with the movie star), and his family still control a number of stations.....this station was over a million hectares...3 and half million acres.....there were over 4000 kms of roads within the one property...had been 100,000 head of cattle but was now down to 70k.....just insanely big.....

Next stop was 500kms up the highway at Mataranka......beautiful spot...we bushed camped along the Roper river....the ranger assured me the salties were downstream and it was safe, and it was beautiful lazing about in the River....i love swimming in Rivers...something really special about it....the girls are swimming better and better ( and talking english better and better too- i'm super glad about that!!!)...Maeve could swim before we left holland, but Ella has really come on....she loves swimming underwater with her goggles on, and can easily swim breaststroke 30 odd meters in one go now......not bad for for 4 years old, though her propensity for diving deep underwater and swimming along has given me a few panic stricken moments..."christ-where is she???" and then she surfaces a good 10 meters from where i thought she was....One tip- at Mataranka much is written about the Thermal hot springs, but there is another place nearby called bitter springs......the hot springs feels like a swimming pool favoured by bus groups of geriatrics......did zero for me, but Bitter springs is a creek with 4 or 5 large pools, filled with the clearest water i have ever scene-34 degree's and crystal blue....you get in at one end, and then let the current carry you the 200 odd meters....Ella just kept going through, swimming underwater most of the way, coming up for breaths, then shooting down amongst the turtles.....the kids are strong, healthy and totally alive, so vibrant they make my head spin at times, and it is by far the biggest plus of the whole trip- spending all this time with them- such a luxury, and something we will always have between us, whatever the future brings!

It was there we decided to forego darwin and kakadu....and headed east onto the dirt roads towards Ropers Bar and Booroloola ona 4wheel drive road called the Savannah way... once again we were way out there....did'nt see another car for ages.....lost a wheel and rin on the campertrailer when we somehow picked up a shitload of fencing wire and got it wrapped around one of the trailer wheels wheels....i didnt know till i heard a bang and then "thump, thump thump.....ah well....shit happens when you spend 20000 kms on the road, especially these roads.... There's a new national park in the region called Lemmens.....nothing about it in our map but we found a beautiful free camp site called Butterfly spring....the only safe place to swim in the entire area as all the other rivers and creeks are filled with salties...spent 4 days there, we were the only ones, and it was a a little gem of a place, swimming around in this limestone rock fed waterhole as the mercury climbed up towards 40.....it's just so "out there", so wild and desolate and so unlike any other country i have been in....flat, and dry and harsh, with the widest skies you've ever seen...they just open up in front of you, and stretch for ever....and then within this overwhelming dusty dryness, (for now anyway- in a few weeks/months much of it will be underwater) these beautiful pockets of water, teeming with life.

That's enough for now....we are heading off to Cairns via more of the Savannah country....Burketown, Normanton, Georgetown, and will spend a few days in the Atherton Tablelands before hitting Cairns in time for Maeve's 6th birthday...i'll update again there. 

Hope all reading this are in fine form and i have'nt bored you senseless with my ramblings.....the rock really got my head spinning...., and peace, love happiness to you all....

nik, maeve, ella and dunc

Tags: alice springs, mataranka, savannah way, uluru



Another great read Dunc, and the jealousy grows and grows. All our love to you, Nic and the girls

  Patrick Phillips Oct 18, 2008 12:15 AM


Wonderful to hear about your walks and the girls swimming. We send our love,
jess and mickxxx

  jessica and Michael Oct 20, 2008 8:29 PM


Great story to read! Wauw, what a great experience! We are jealous...

Hugs to you, Nic and the girls.
Very and Werner

  Very and Werner Dec 7, 2008 9:07 PM

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