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Marriage Lines Collected - Phil the Pom's first 12 reports from Down Under

Originally published in the IC from: 20 September 2009  – Marriage Lines (Singapore First Stop) up to and including
21 October 2009 
– Marriage Lines (To Adelaide) these  collected reports now appear below.


20 September 2009
– Marriage Lines (Singapore First Stop)

Taxi from Norwich at 3pm, delayed near Harrow, lots of Police. Arrived on time, see reason for delay on tv – race riot outside mosque. Glorious sunset over Heathrow. Departed into the night pondering whether the anniversary of 9/11 the best day to take a long haul flight? And drifted off into sleep.

Baby cries. Awake so listened to iPod for rest of journey, drifting in and out of sleep watching flight path on monitor – over the Baltic, Russia, Samarkand, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and shades go up over the Bay of Bengal. Coral atols, fishing boats then land and cities below, down Malaysia to land in Singapore late afternoon local time. Met by blast of hot air as we depart aircraft. Arrange transport to hotel, everyone friendly and helpful. Lots of smiling faces, but so humid. Grateful to reach the air-conditioned hotel, slightly freezing.

Dinner in the hotel – Blue Potato Restaurant, served blue crisps whilst waiting. Order a beer and glass of wine - $30!

Phil the Pom

23 September 2009
– Marriage Lines (So Long 'Singers',
                                                                      G’day Darwin!)

After breakfast leave hotel, met by wall of hot air. Walk slowly down to the riverside only a few yards away. Find cool spot under the trees near Clarke Quay and watch the river traffic (mostly tourist boats) passing. Stroll on to the spot where Raffles landed marked by a pure white statue. Watch the crowd around a vendor with an albino python which he's happy to wrap around your neck for a quick photo. Walk on and huge skyscrapers dominate the waterside. Everything looks new and ultra modern in Singapore very little of the colonial period survives apart from the bridges all of which carry the name and date of the builder. Finish our slow stroll at the harbour's edge and a huge statue 'Merlion' (half mermaid, half lion) with a jet of water spouting from its mouth. So hot and sticky we decide to catch the water-bus back to our hotel – nice to feel the slight breeze on the water.

Afternoon spent on booked City Tour by air conditioned mini-bus. Around the financial district and its sky scrapers, Little India and Chinatown where we visit a Chinese temple. Tour guide interesting and clearly proud of his country – one of the smallest in the world yet one of the most affluent with income from oil refining, container shipping and tourism. Great effort made to integrate the four main communities (Chinese, Indian, Malay and Timorese). Compulsory for all children, from whatever community, to attend the same school (how sensible). Also interesting that all cars over ten years old are banned from the roads. Tour finally ends in the Botanic Gardens, immaculately kept like everything in this city/country.

Next day take to the water again for 45 minute cruise down river – very relaxing – and on return explored up river. Fascinating bronze statues mark landmarks along the embankment – Chinese traders, loading wagon and horses, colonial transactions, young boys swimming – all very well done and very much part of this sophisticated and friendly city.

Taxi to airport and evening flight to Darwin, arriving 3am at the Matra Hotel almost as hot as Singapore but not so humid. Greeted with the news that we've been upgraded to a room, 808, on the eighth floor overlooking the bay – sounds good. Search for our room. Find 806, 807 and 809. The door in-between carries no number but says 'The Lameroo Suite'. We try the key and gain entry. A corridor leads to a kitchen area, then a huge lounge with flat-screen telly on the wall and a bedroom off and a balcony. Another door leads to a corridor with two bathrooms and another bedroom. So this is Australia – not a bad start!

Phil the Pom

29 September 2009 – Marriage Lines (Darwin Stroll)

We awoke to explore our Penthouse Suite more fully in daylight. The panoramic view from the balcony was indeed spectacular over the Lameroo Beach and Frances Bay from the Larrakehah to our right and Port Darwin to our left. After breakfast we decided to brave the heat (about 34C) and humidity and explore a little more of Darwin. Into the lift stepped Ben Gun, or rather a reasonable impersonation – sandals, shorts, vest  and a grey straggly beard down to his navel. We chatted, and eight floors later learned that he was a businessman from 'Melb'un' who'd just recruited a chap from London to work in his business - labour was a problem in Melb'un, he added before bidding us a good stay in Australia and G'Day.

The heat and high humidity was debilitating so our stroll was generally from one shady tree to another as we worked our way along the Bicentennial Park overlooking the bay. The bird-life was impressive, all sorts of large colourful birds, some with enormous curved beaks, strutted their way beneath the trees. At the Cenotaph there was some kind of gathering of veterans with medals jangling. Nearby were display boards telling the story of Darwin's near destruction during the Second World War when the city was bombarded for over sixty days by the Japanese.

Parliament House seemed to have survived however in a gentle colonial style but the Parliament Building and just about everything else in Darwin was modern following the city's second destruction by Cyclone Tracy in 1974. Since then the city was rebuilt and has expanded three-fold with a population of around 114,000 today, including many different ethnic groups and refugees from Africa, Afghanistan and Indonesia as well as a fair percentage of Aboriginal people.

Darwin has a pretty laid-back attitude to most things, having survived near destruction twice and having annually to survive the 'Wet Season' when the heat and humidity rise to even greater proportions. However our reason to be in Darwin is to be able to see something of the Kakadu National Park and that expedition is to start early tomorrow morning.

Phil the Pom

29 September 2009 – Marriage Lines (Darwin To Kakudu)

Up at 6am, packed and was in the midst of checking out when I was addressed by a burly man with a military bearing dressed in bush gear - shorts and wide brimmed hat, shaved head, drooping white moustache with a 'theek Frainche' accent. This was Guy, our leader for the next four days. We climbed aboard the bus - a newish military-style truck with a box on the back fitted for passengers. It had a capacity of 26 people but there were just a dozen of us, two Australian chaps from Brisbane, a young Swiss couple, two French couples, and another English couple plus Barbara and I - so half English speaking and half French. Guy had an excellent command of English (or Australian rather) having lived in Australia most of his life but had never lost his accent.

We drove south-west out of Darwin, through the suburbs and the incoming early morning traffic jams, past cattle pens and sheds, transporter lorries and into the bush leaving signs of modern life behind. Mile after mile of trees and bushes - thicker undergrowth than I had imagined but this after all is a rain-forest environment when the Wet Season arrives in a few weeks.

Breakfast at the Corroboree Park Tavern, a small roadside halt, then continued into more savannah-like country with clusters of termite mounds, past occasional ponds or pools which Guy was keen to point out all contained crocodiles, not that we could see any, but that's the nature of the beast. About 9.30am we stopped at a large billabong off the Mary River for an arranged trip on the water. A hand-painted sign near the water's edge stated 'Dead Slow, House Boats Don't Leave a Bloody Bow Wash!' Stan, the owner of the boat gave us some safety instructions as we settled on his flat-bottomed tin tub - something about not dangling your hand in the water, or rocking the boat by moving around, else the 'crocs will 'ave you!'.

Indeed he was soon to point out a huge Saltwater Croc slumbering seemingly peaceably beneath overhanging trees and not far away several Freshwater Crocs, smaller with a longer pointed snout. However their teeth still looked as formidable. What impressed me however was the abundance of bird-life around the water's edge - herons, storks, cormorants, egrets, ibis, lilly-trotters, all sorts of waterfowl and the occasional wallaby and overhead kites and eagles. For an hour or so we pootled around the water's edge photographing everything that moved. The highlight for me was a pair of Sea Eagles and their nest - magnificent birds disdaining to watch us as we idled by. On the way back, Stan offered a snorkel set for anyone who wanted a closer look at the underwater life. 'Never seem to get the snorkel back.' he added.

Back to the bus and on to a look-out over the East Alligator River (mistakenly named as there are no alligators in Australia). Here the road crosses the river and in the middle the water passes over the road. 4x4s pass through at speed creating a mighty splash and ordinary saloons gingerly edge their way through - not a place to get stuck as we could see a Freshwater Croc a few feet away from the road's edge waiting patiently just in case. There were plenty of warning notices about the dangers 'Crocodiles inhabit this area. Attacks cause injury or death - Don't enter the water, keep away from the water's edge, Don't clean fish near the water's edge, Remove all fish and food waste.' However we noticed there were fishermen dotted along the water's edge, some with children.

We continued our drive and reached Ubirr where we were promised one of the finest collections of rock-art in the world and some of the best views over the Kakadu landscape. We were not to be disappointed.

Phil the Pom

1 October 2009 – Marriage Lines (Ubirr to Jabiru)

G'Day. People have been living in Australia for 60,000 years at least - that's been known since human remains were found at Lake Mungo (which we plan to visit in a few days). The Aboriginal people developed their unique culture, values and traditions over millennia  spreading over the entire continent. When the first Europeans came in contact with them they were seen as backward savages - except by Captain Cook, who perceptibly noted that they seemed happier than most Europeans and had no need for any of the gifts, other than an iron axe, he offered them. They were in harmony with their environment but all that was to change with the coming centuries. The depth of Aboriginals' bewilderment, shock, anger and resentment since can only be imagined.

With no writing all their knowledge had to be memorised or recorded in dance, song or painting. That's why the elders in their society were so valued - they had the knowledge and were special. Only they knew the true meaning of the rock art which was painted, and repainted, over the centuries. Even today the elders only explain a little of the sacred meaning of the rock art to outsiders and it is not for everyone to see

At Ubirr a trail through the bush led to rocky overhangs and the first of a series of rock paintings. Guy was clearly knowledgeable and went to some lengths to explain something of the background to this ancient art. We call it art but to the aboriginal people this is simply their way of recording their knowledge. One of the paintings showed a 'White Fella' with his hands in the pockets of his shorts - probably a buffalo hunter from the 1880's. Somewhat older was another painting of a Thylacine (Tasmanian Tiger) which became extinct 2-3000 years ago.

The late afternoon sun reflected magically over the East Alligator floodplain from the high sandstone bluff we climbed. On the horizon a plume of black smoke drifted into the sky from a bush fire, probably burning by the local Aboriginal people to keep the amount of brush down and regenerate the land. Nearby was a notice with this message from an elder of the traditional owners of Kakadu who have leased their land to the Australian Government 'for everyone to care for and enjoy'.

My People . . .
Not many.
We getting too old.
Young people . . .
I don't know if they can hold onto this story
You responsible now.
You got to go with us to Earth.
Might be you can hang onto this story to this Earth.

Reluctantly we trooped back to our bus and on to Jabiru and our overnight campsite. It was dark around 7pm. Guy prepared dinner which was eaten with a glass of wine all together in a Mess Hut. It had been a long, hot, tiring yet memorable day and we were ready for bed by 9pm. In our tent the night-time noises seemed close by, owls screeching amongst the trees, cicadas keeping up a constant accompaniment and shufflings outside the tent which we trusted was nothing more than Wallabies padding around in the darkness as we drifted off to sleep.

Phil the Pom

10 October 2009 – Marriage Lines (Jabiru Kakadu)

G'Day. There were Wallabies around the camp as we departed not long after dawn, making the most of the cooler early morning air, to Jabiru a town in the centre of the Kakadu Park. Spotted rummaging amongst the bush was a wild boar with three legs - the other likely inside a croc mused Guy - however it looked plump and active so was making do, but well away from the water holes.

We arrived at the Jabiru escarpment home of the Warramai people, now gone, and looked after by neighbouring clans. A trail led to Nourlangie Rock a sandstone outcrop, beautifully bathed in yellows and greens in the low early morning sun. The Aboriginal people like to refer to this place as Burrunggui, for the upper area and Anbangbang for the lower area which contain rock shelters and some of the best-known galleries of rock art. We learned that Aboriginal people have no past or future - just the now. Further on the trail finally led to Gun-warddehwarde Lookout with panoramic views across to the Arnhem Land escarpment. There was a welcome breeze to ward off the constant flies as the temperature rose.

After lunch Guy, our tour leader, took us to one of his favourite spots, a rock pool deep in the bush fed by a waterfall. Some (including Barbara) swam whilst others (me) explored the area with a camera. Lots of big colourful spiders. Guy assured everyone that the pool had been checked after a five-metre croc had been found in a nearby river. Leaving Kakadu we drove onto Pine Creek, an ex 1911 Gold-Rush town, deserted apart from a bar for a welcome drink and natural break (signposted 'Drip Dry', and 'Shake Dry'). Two of our party left us here to be picked up and returned to Darwin to catch the Ghan down to Adelaide. The remaining ten of us continued on to the Nitmiluk National Park and Leliyn, home of the Jowoyn People, and another swim, this time in a large pool (we would call it a lake) surrounded by cliffs and fed by the pretty Edith Falls. Reassuringly a notice read 'Freshwater Crocodiles feed at night. Please do not enter the water between 7pm and 7am'. You just trust they don't feel a little peckish during the day.

Phil the Pom

10 October 2009 – Marriage Lines (Katherine)

G'Day. Overnight at Springvale Homestead just outside the town of Katherine and the Nitmiluk National Park. The park is dominated by the towering walls of thirteen sandstone gorges cut by the Katherine River. A flat-bottomed boat, skippered by 'Mark' (from Barcelona) took us up Katherine Gorge pointing out tempting little sandy beaches at the water's edge. However each carried a notice saying 'Crocodile Breeding. Do Not Enter' (now would you?). There were traps along the river bank to catch the large 'Salties' after each rainy season, however the Freshwater crocs are left alone. Fig trees and large Fruit Bats hung from overhanging trees. We changed boats in order to get further up the gorge where we were able to inspect rock art that had been dated back 10,000 years old.

Later, over lunch, we met 'Manuel', an Aboriginal artist from Arnhem Land, who demonstrated something of his technique which we tried (and mostly failed) to emulate. This was our first opportunity to speak with an Aboriginal. He was articulate with an easy manner, the kind of natural communicator who would be successful in any walk of life. He'd chosen to become an artist and was scornful of those of his people who have turned to alcohol. It was a pleasure to listen to him. We discovered that 'Manuel' was only one of his many names. Aboriginal people have a complex family naming system which guarantees that family members do not inter-marry. Through this complex naming system, and memorised knowledge, some can name their ancestors back a hundred generations we were told.

Our next stop was at The Grove Hill Hotel, next to The Ghan Railway line, an historic building largely constructed in corrugated iron (the vernacular building material of older Australian buildings) well away from anywhere. The lettering of the hotel sign was made up from bits of rusting iron, chains, spanners and the like, below which a fading painted sign proudly proclaimed that it was 'Under New Ownership: Stan & Mary' however we'd been told that the sign had been up a decade or more. To the side of the hotel was a field with a dozen or so old cars and trucks, all completely paint free, sand-blasted by the desert dust, and deep brown with rust. They looked as if they could have been there for fifty years or more.

Next to the rusting vehicles was a campsite and I chatted with a chap who answered my query about what bought him to such a remote spot by saying he'd dropped by to see his son who was prospecting for his company nearby. 'Found Uranium' he proudly told me. 'So is it time to buy some shares?' I asked. 'Sure is, they're only 35 cents.' 'So what's the name of the company?' I wondered. I made a mental note of his reply as we watched the Ghan thunder by speeding its way southwards to Adelaide.

Phil the Pom

10 October 2009 – Marriage Lines (Litchfield to Darwin)

G'Day. Our final day exploring the national parks of Australia's Northern Territory started in the comfort of the 26-seater bus with only four passengers - our six French speaking companions over these past three days departed separately for Darwin the previous evening. Those of us remaining took it in turns to sit up front with Guy, our leader and driver, and that's how we saw our first snake of the trip. He braked heavily and there in the road a few feet from his enormous truck was a King Brown, one of Australia's most deadly and classed as 'Dangerously venomous', capable of injecting more venom than any other Australian snake. Guy slowly reversed then carefully weaved his truck around it and we were on our way again. 'Has as much right as we have.' he added.

Litchfield National Park is known for its cascading rock pools and waterfalls. Our day began at Buley Rockhole, a 'spa' with some of the cleanest water around fed from springs just upstream replenished each wet season. Barbara swam for an hour or so, in each of the cascading pools whilst I hunted dragonflies with my camera. We then moved onto Florence Falls, via Shady Creek Walk, looking down from a high lookout on a large plunge pool fed by two high waterfalls, before ambling our way down to the valley bottom and following the river back to the bus. The plunge pool would have been a super place to swim but that pleasure was saved for our next stop at Wangi Falls where water cascades into a huge plunge pool surrounded by cliffs and trees full of Fruit Bats. 'The most wonderful best place ever to have a swim!' declared Barbara (apart from the Hindre Virus carried by the bats, rather lethal with no known cure, she added).

We then began our way back to Darwin with just one final stop - at a flood plain with 'Magnetic Termite Mounds' dozens of mounds unusually shaped like a thin shark's fin, each about 8ft high and 1ft thick narrowing to a razor's edge at the top, all aligned ten degrees off true north. The reason, explained Guy, for this peculiar alignment is nothing to do with magnetic north but rather each new termite colony making the mound with the thin edge facing the midday sun, with the broad side in shadow. If they fail to get this right the colony fails so only the successful survive to grow to this great height. Guy returned us to our hotel, unfortunately not to our previous luxurious Penthouse 'Lameroo Suite' but to a room overlooking the back yard. Such is life.

Phil the Pom

15 October 2009 – Marriage Lines (Alice Springs to Kings Canyon)

G'day. We flew from Darwin at Australia's 'Top End' to Alice Springs in Australia's 'Red Centre', some two hours in the plane which gives some idea of the vastness of this continent. Next day we picked up a hire-car, an automatic Toyota Corolla, and headed south on the Stuart Highway towards KIng's Canyon and Uluru/Ayers Rock. The weather was still blisteringly hot, in fact we read later that the night we arrived in Alice Springs had been the hottest on record, so we were grateful for the air-conditioning.

Around midday we turned off the Stuart Highway following a sign to the Henbury Meteorite Crater. This seemed like a nice idea when we we examining the map - after all how often do you get the chance to examine a 4000 year old meteorite crater? However the tarmac finished after a few hundred yards and we were on a dirt road. This wasn't so bad providing we kept the speed down and were careful to miss the largest ruts, but soon the smooth dirt degenerated into ridges about a foot or so apart and the car vibrated at every bump. By then we'd travelled about half-way to the crater and were reluctant to turn back so persevered with the constant shaking and bumping until we arrived at a small car park, then a 15 minute walk to the crater's rim. In the midday heat that was quite an achievement especially with the exercising right arm to swish away the ever-present flies.

We walked around the rim of the crater which was impressive enough though much eroded over the intervening years and now full of trees and bushes. We returned to the car and the relief of the air-conditioning. A bumpy ride back eventually led us to the Stuart Highway again and time to reflect that what we had just done wasn't the most sensible thing as a breakdown or puncture would have been most inconvenient. There's no passing AA vans or mobile phone coverage in the outback. We would have had to wait until somebody came along and then trust them to get a message back

Another hour or so's drive saw us turn west at Eridunda on to the Lasseter Highway, through Mount Ebenezer and then northwards on the Luritja Road towards Kings Canyon. It was late afternoon when we noticed, with alarm, that the fuel gauge was getting low. A quick consultation with the map revealed that the next petrol was still some way off at Kings Creek Station, so we switched-off the air-conditioning, wound down the windows and crossed our fingers. Before long the dashboard warning light came on and we were running on empty.

'We won't die out here, but how embarrassing,' said Barbara, 'if we end up at the side of the road in the middle of nowhere waiting for someone to chance upon us'. Thoughts of the Good Samaritan came to mind.

By now it was late afternoon and the sun low on the horizon. I uncrossed my fingers as I saw signs to King's Creek Station only 10K then 5K away and then suddenly it was behind us - we'd missed it! I was expecting some kind of township as Kings Creek Station was in big bold letters on the map, so that was when we learned another lesson it was only big and bold because it had water and fuel. We turned around and found a small side road leading to a shop, bar, cafe and most importantly a petrol pump. It was with great relief that we filled-up and watched the sun go down in a brilliant sunset and we covered the remaining distance to our overnight stop at Kings Canyon. It had been a day with some fantastic memories but not without it's dramas. Our next was to be equally exciting.

Phil the Pom

16 October 2009 – Marriage Lines (Kings Canyon)

G'day. Barbara spotted dingoes in the early morning light prowling around outside our room at Kings Canyon Lodge, there were signs everywhere saying not to feed them and the communal washroom had a gate to keep them out. However, dingoes play their part in the desert ecosystem. Being at the top of the food-chain they keep feral cats and foxes down as well as rabbits and kangaroos, so it's a difficult decision to cull them.

Making more of a fuss was a mob of Galahs, parrot-like birds with a crest, quite pretty but very noisy swooping around the car-park like a group of excited eight-year olds at a birthday party. It was fun though to watch them fighting over top spot on the lamp posts. One would land at the top of the curved metal pole leading to the lamp, then another would land next to it shoving it aside so it would lose its grip and slowly slide down the curve of the pole valiantly trying to arrest its slide by using its beak on the impossibly smooth metal pole.

Kings Canyon is part of the Watarrka National Park and made up from ancient sandstone walls, carved by the weather, rising up 270m to a plateau of rocky domes. There were two walks signposted, one steeply up to the ridge to the canyon rim and around, and the other along the valley floor. With Barbara's new knee less than a year old we chose the former which meanders along Kings Creek ending at a lookout at the valley end. We could see walkers looking down on us from the ridge high above.

An hour or two later, after we'd completed the walk, I paused near a tap of drinking water provided for walkers, to photograph finches drinking from a pool there. Suddenly I felt something brush past my trouser leg, heard a loud skidding noise on the gravel followed by a thump and my viewfinder was filled with the sight of an enormous lizard, motionless except for a squirming critter in its mouth. The hind legs and long tail of an unfortunate small lizard were still visible but then the squirming slowed and inexorably the body was consumed down the lizard's long throat. I started taking photographs, grateful that my telephoto lens allowed me to keep a distance for the lizard was about a metre long. After a few moments a crowd gathered around me and I asked one chap if he knew what it was. 'I think it's a Perentie, but I've never seen one before' was his reply.

And so it proved, as I read later the Ngintaka - Perentie, Giant Lizard, at two metres long is Australia's largest, and the world's second largest lizard, only surpassed by the Komodo Dragon of Indonesia. This one was smaller but no less fearsome as it slowly turned and waddled off into the undergrowth with its forked tongue tasting the air. Fortunately they leave people alone. Somewhat reluctantly I returned to the car and prepared for the next leg of our journey, the 300k drive to Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park.

Phil the Pom

21 October 2009 – Marriage Lines (Uluru)

G'day. The drive to Uluru (Ayers Rock) from Kings Canyon took us back down the Luritja Road past Kings Creek Station (where we'd so gratefully filled-up the previous evening) to join the Lasseter Highway near Curtin Springs. It was near here that we saw in the distance a vast reddish mountain suddenly appear out of the flat plain. We stopped to look more closely and it was clear that it wasn't Uluru, being a table-top shaped, and our map told us it was Mount Conner (or Atila) 859m, a lesser known cousin to Uluru which never seems to get a mention in the guide books but is no less impressive.

We drove the remaining 270k to Yulara and the Desert Gardens Resort with Uluru's massive 348m high bulk dominating the horizon. It was late afternoon when we arrived so, after quickly booking in to our hotel, we set out to the National Park entrance to witness sunset. There was already a fair crowd of cars in the sunset viewing area, many with cameras or camcorders on tripods, all trained on Uluru as its colour gradually changed from red to orange then purple as the sun dropped below the horizon. It was a memorable sight.

We'd planned to be up before dawn the next morning to see the sunrise over Uluru but the excitement and long drive of the previous day ensured we slept in well past dawn. So, after breakfast, we drove back to the National Park and spent time in the Cultural Centre, learning a little about the Anangu people, the traditional Aboriginal owners. Their people have been in this area for at least 22,000 years. In 1985 the land was given back to them and they, in turn, leased the land to the Federal Government for 99 years.

We spent the next few hours driving around Uluru, stopping occasionally to take photos or for one of the many walks. A favourite was the Keniya Walk, past a rock shelter containing art to a waterhole surrounded by trees and vegetation. I was photographing a gorgeously coloured bird (later identified as a Rainbow Bee-Eater) when I noticed a movement of the undergrowth and a large goanna slowly appeared - not as large as the Perentie seen a couple of days back, but big enough to keep my attention as it waddled down to the waterhole for a drink. Once satisfied it turned, quite unconcerned, and disappeared back into the undergrowth.

Our last stop was at the point where people climb Uluru. There were large information boards, provided by the aboriginal owners, at the start of the climb saying 'Please don't climb Uluru' and politely pointing out that the climb is not prohibited but has great cultural significance as it is the traditional route taken by ancestral Mala men upon their arrival at Uluru and, as guests on Anangu land, visitors should respect their law and culture and not climb. As far as I could see most people just strode on by, ignoring the request, keen to make their way to the top.

The traditional owners seem to have it summed up:

"That's a really important sacred thing that you are climbing . . .
You shouldn't climb. It's not the real thing about this place. The real thing is listening to everything."

About 32k from Uluru is another great series of rocks - Kata Tjuta (The Olgas) more eroded than Uluru, less well-known and less busy. It seemed as if we had the place pretty much to ourselves much of the time but more people started to turn up as sunset approached. We didn't stay until the end but returned to our hotel to prepare for tomorrow's early morning long drive back to Alice Springs and thence to Adelaide to meet up with our friends and the next phase in our adventure.

Phil the Pom

21 October 2009 – Marriage Lines (To Adelaide)

G'Day. A long day with an early alarm at 4.15am, quietly leaving the Desert Gardens Hotel at 5am, still dark. Empty roads, starry sky. We've seen plenty of Wallabies on this trip so far but no Kangaroos until one was illuminated by the headlights, bounding down the other side of the road, then a couple more on the near side and a little later we had to swerve to miss another. Driving through the pre-dawn twilight on a completely empty road - in fact it was an hour and a half before we saw another car in either direction. Just as the sun came up we stopped to watch two Wedge Tailed Eagles feasting on a fresh kangaroo road kill at the side of the road - unfortunately the first of many road-kills on the long drive back to Alice Springs Airport arriving just after 10am, all told about 450k, five hours driving.

We were leaving Australia's Northern Territory tropics to arrive in South Australia and its more temperate climate. The flight to Adelaide was uneventful apart from a little mirk in the air following the great dust storm that hit Canberra, Sydney and the headlines, mostly over the red centre desert with little sign of water or life, mile after mile of reddish-orange dunes and rocks, landing about 2.30pm. A nice temperature, about 18C with clear sunny sky. Received a text message from our Australian friends to say they would pick us up from the airport.

Phil The Pom


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