I’m going to have to warn you straight up, there are going to be a lot of photos of rocks in this one. A lot! Like, seriously lots and lots.
While travelling between the East and West McDonnell Ranges, we stopped through Alice Springs and met a Sunny Coast couple who had relocated to Alice and taken over The Overlanders Steakhouse Restaurant. So we booked a table for the night of our reunion with The Stolls. That booking was then expanded to include The Tafai family, who we met at Palm Valley the day before.
It was great to see The Stolls, although I was reluctant to give them a hug after five days out bush without a shower and mostly two changes of clothes (I had to layer up due to the cold). What a fun night. We laughed till our cheeks hurt, thrust our hips around to the ‘home among the gum trees’ song and tried to pass Sol Tafai off as ‘The Rock’ on social media. A few people fell for it but most saw through my bluff.
We travelled to Kings Canyon Resort and took in the magnificent views from the Rim Walk at Kings Canyon. Rainer did the hard yards carrying Nathan up the steep ascent at the beginning. Craig also ended up doing some hard yards as Amelie decided to run up the climb. It could be that we’ve been watching a few Rocky films and she’s inspired to push herself or it could be that she chose to wear shorts, t-shirt and a flimsy jumper and needed to warm up! The rest of us were feeling the cold especially on the windy sections and were rugged up in puffy jackets, beanies and gloves. As Amelie and Craig reach the top of the steep section, she turns to her slightly out of breath father who had to actually work to catch her and said “I want to be an athlete when I grow up”. She is changing her mind about what she wants to be every week but I’m loving her choices, astronaut, teacher, doctor, scientist, veterinarian and now athlete.
Cotterral’s lookout was worth the extra walk and rewarded us with spectacular views. The other side trip we did was Eden’s Garden. That place was very serene, with remnants of rainforest vegetation a stark contrast to the red rock and spinifex. The Creek walk was blocked so we scrambled around the barricades and boulder hopped along the creek for a while.
Kathleen Springs was just down the road so after an epic days walking already, we made the kids do some more. It was an easy walk with cattle mustering ruins, hairy caterpillars, piggybacking bugs, “what are they doing dad?” along the way. At the end is a small waterhole. I didn’t read the sign and was imagining how much fun it would be to jump down from the cliff into the waterhole. DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT jump into the water. I was quickly put in my place by Craig who read the sign about the aboriginal legend where they believe the Dreamtime serpent lived there and if you swam in the water, the water would dry up.
We’re off to The Rock! Craig got a little excited, as did we when he pointed out Uluru and then got on the UHF and pointed it out to the Stolls. About 5minutes passed before it twigged that it was actually Mt Connor. Common mistake apparently.
Uluru a.k.a ‘The Rock’ is impressive. Almost as impressive as the two backpackers in onesies, cooking pancakes for breakfast in the parking lot. Seriously, Uluru has a feeling of ‘something’. I don’t know if it’s the enormity of it or is there a sense of spirituality? Okay, now for the big question – did we climb it? No, we didn’t. The kids really wanted to, Craig had climbed it many years ago and I was in two minds about it. We had a healthy discussion about why the local aboriginals don’t want you to climb it and should you be able to. On the actual day the decision was taken out of our hands as the climb was closed due to forecast rain. The small walks along the bottom were great with informative signs of how the aboriginals used the small caves and overhangs, and explained some legends and stories about the rock. The majority of the base walk did not have much info and was very restrictive about photographing certain sections.
We all agreed Kata Tjuta was awesome! Walking in and among such large formations of rock offered great views pretty much everywhere you looked. It was also a fun walk with steep sections and a bit of bouldering. I don’t really know what else to say about this place that would do it justice. If I could whisper in print I would whisper “I liked it better than Uluru”. Shhhh.
At the Yulara campground Laura and I headed off on the bikes to buy groceries. Riding the fat boy bike definitely increased my street cred. Wearing a helmet, any helmet, leaves me looking like a mushroom as I have a small head and long neck so it all evens out. The point is, I felt cool even though I stopped and got off to ‘jump’ the gutters. Riding along however, people were giving the fat tyres appreciative nods and smiles. A gap toothed local gave me a massive grin and said ‘wicked!’ We met basketballer Joe Ingles who I let have a ride on the fat boy. Didn’t know who the hell he was and as usual was being cheeky. Laura found out he was competing at the Olympics and I said “Well, I suppose I’d better get a photo with you. You might be famous one day.” Laura googled him later and he earns over $2million US dollars playing for a team in the States. That and making the Australian Olympic team… yeah he might be famous… one day! Joe (sounds very casual), Mr Ingles (no, too formal), you know who I mean, anyway he loved the bike, so if you see any photos of him riding a fat boy, it’s because of Craig’s bike.
Laura suggested doing a dot painting class with an aboriginal elder. I thought this was a great idea. Alice spoke in her native language, drew and explained the art symbols in the sand while a University graduate translated for us. Each painting pretty much tells a story. At Hermannsberg in the Western McDonnell Ranges, we saw many paintings depicting the story of the ‘Seven Sisters‘. We were told to tell our own story in a painting. Now, I love playing with art but I didn’t do so well at dot painting. I think, I tried to tell too much of a story in one painting. Painting dots of a uniform size was a challenge and I couldn’t believe how long it took to paint dots. The kids really enjoyed it and it was great to see everyone’s story interpretation.
Our time with The Stolls, is coming to an end. We’ve seen so many rock formations together that it seemed fitting our last campsite together was near The Devil’s Marbles. After a pub dinner and kids playing in the starry light display the only thing we had left to do on this adventure with The Stolls was race to see who’d leave first in the morning. Stolls won!
We loved hanging out with those guys and while it was sad to part ways, they were looking forward to an island adventure before heading home, and we were dead keen to visit all the Top End has to offer!