to Uluru

It’s about 1000 miles/1500K from Adelaide to Uluru in the heart of the outback, more or less the center of Australia. Uluru FullSizeRender

We’ve been told we’ll be nearly alone as it’s mid summer and not the best place to be at that time, with temperatures going as high as 45C. But we’ve done our homework and have a plan, lol. It’s been awhile since we had to think, since before Karumba, where we time-crashed for lack of anything satisfying on the horizon. Here’s the Delorme track from Melbourne FullSizeRender

First day, Adelaide to Port Augusta Screen Shot 2015-02-20 at 3.09.50 PM

An uneventful ride. That’s Lucinda hiding in the shade with a fruit sign. Temperature low-to-mid 30’s DSC09725

Then Port Augusta to Glendambo Screen Shot 2015-02-20 at 2.48.41 PM

The change is dramatic beyond Port Augusta. The red sand is back, the trees are thinning DSC09729

Then nothing but increasing heat DSC09735

A rest stop with no shelter DSC09749

We’re riding into one of the most isolated places on the planet. I guess there are springs everywhere, or this is the remains of an evaporating lake DSC09751

We walk down to the water. It’s toxic DSC09754

It continues, never boring because it’s so empty. A wonderful feeling. There’s the occasional road train and maybe one car headed down from Alice Springs per hour DSC09761

And our destination for the day, the Glendambo (pop 20) roadhouse. When we stop we’re attacked by noisy flies. They head straight for the eyes and ears and are about as annoying and crazy-inducing as you can imagine, and there are millions of them. More on this in a minute. We’ll have to put up with them for the central 2000K section of the Stuart DSC09767

Glendambo to Coober Pedy Screen Shot 2015-02-21 at 2.29.54 PM

A few trees as we leave Glendambo. It’s so beautiful… DSC09787

And about every 75 miles, we guess later, mini solar power stations, should power ever be needed by crews on the road in the outback maybe. Lucinda’s in the shade for scale DSC09792

Then nothing. It’s over 40C and way hotter oven-blasts of air cross the road from some local effect every few minutes. Hours of riding towards the road’s vanishing point, for hours sometimes, unchanging DSC09807

From a rise we get this view into the far distance DSC09800 - Version 2

At one point it’s so flat and straight they have a full size emergency landing strip painted onto the road here for jets. The ‘flying doctor’ doesn’t need this, apparently they land nearly anywhere DSC09797

We see one spot of green all day, a spring we guess DSC09810

Off we go to check it out, hoping to see some wildlife under it DSC09818

But nothing. We poke around gently with a stick hoping for a snake, breaking RTW Rule #1: Don’t do anything stupid. But we’re all geared up and a snake will probably just hit the leg armour DSC09821

Then into Coober Pedy. The only real town we’re going to see other than Alice Springs for a long time, then Katherine, then Darwin DSC09827

The town sign. An opal mining truck. It vacuums up dirt excavated from below the surface. That can on the back is the filter. It’s pumped from the front. All the gear here has this super-primitive look, there’s a gold rush mentality to everything. But worse, opals, hardened silica gel, are a utility scam. But how we had that confirmed here is another story DSC09840

In 1915 they discovered the opals here in the outback and a town was born P1090098

It’s famous for the underground houses they call dugouts. And Coober Pedy is home to an isolated population of the world’s most venomous snake, the otherwise rare Inland Taipan (wiki link). It’s so hot, and the flies so fierce, the miners dug homes into the hillsides. The flies almost define life and dominate conversation in the central outback in the same way as crocs do in the smaller northern riverside towns. In summer, away from the comfy and dull east and southeast coast, this is not an easy country. This is a facade in front of a full-sized windowless underground home. Between the flies, the snakes and the extreme heat (42C today and still climbing) they had no choice P1090088

It was legitimately called the opal capital of the world, but the supply is running out so the town has been in decline P1090102

Strange signs and objects from previous days P1090100

We went for a tour of an abandoned mine, guideless but with a map. Very cool and quite bold. You just wandered around down there, following small signs. At one point a sign pointed to a small squeeze as the way forward and laughed: this was like the Fremantle prison tunnel system, Aussies are obviously into this. Not a country for claustrophobes P1090045

A museum that was part of someone’s house in the 70’s, which gives you an idea of living space underground. Not bad at all P1090076

They had jars of snakes in formaldehyde P1090080

It was all so interesting we spent a day here. So the plan has been to make a dash from roadhouse to roadhouse in the mornings and be off the road by some time after lunch. So when we wake to a cloudy day and only 33C, and a mid-afternoon high of 38C due to a storm over Alice Springs, we ride a less defensive stretch to Erldunda, 500K north, past the previously idea of the Marla roadhouse. Coober Pedy to Erldunda. Unfortunately our OSM map doesn’t have the few buildings of Erldunda at this resolution but it’s there Screen Shot 2015-02-23 at 6.50.04 PM

We start the days with 3 X 680ml’s Powerades and/or water and a Camelback with 3 liters. Every water-stop we find we soak our t-shirt and stock up DSC09864

At one point there was this plant fruiting in the grass shade. About the size of an orange DSC09871

A low ridge beside us for a while, the only feature we’ve seen for hours DSC09882

Through our worst-case stop, Marla. Water, gas, shade and an Aussie pie DSC09889

A mini-mesa DSC09892

Back to the nothing DSC09893

Just outside our stop at the Erlunda roadhouse, low granite crags. There was a shower here last night and the grass is lushly green. The red of the ground is getting more intense. It’s stunning. They call this area the ‘red center’ DSC09902

We rode off to the rocks and took a Lucinda pose shot DSC09904

Outback fried granite DSC09908

The big event: the 160 miles west off the Stuart to Uluru Screen Shot 2015-02-24 at 5.36.08 PM

Off again from Erlunda DSC09920

Red, green and blue. And some black DSC09924

The landscape DSC09921

A small hill has attracted 4X4’s. There’s a left lane and a right lane. I guess they race up it DSC00127

A nice pose on topDSC09936

Then, not on the map, is a little gas station and cafe at Carvin Springs. The spring must be very productive: it’s an oasis of green DSC09966

Baby birds on branch DSC09949

Mom appears and they scream for lunch DSC09942

The final 100 miles or so looked like this. Beautiful DSC09967

Then, finally, Uluru. It’s massive. 1100 feet high and 5 miles around. Of course the feeling you get seeing it after 1000 miles of flat nothing stops you DSC09987

The final ride in DSC09991

Some close-ups on the less steep side DSC09996DSC00007

The most massive of the buttresses DSC00009

For more, the uluru wiki Then after a while, back to the little town 5 or 6 miles back. The two-day GPS track around Uluru and Kata Tjuta, about 30 miles further west. The black line road below has been closed in an agreement with the aboriginals but we rode all we could Screen Shot 2015-02-25 at 12.11.37 PM

We’d set the alarm for 5:00 to ride out for sunrise. A bit early and worse, when we arrived at a good spot we were attacked, as we always are, by the flies. I took these pictures later and cropped in hard so we could see what the bastards looked like. I guess they’ve evolved to drink the moisture from animals eyes, nose and ears, but the favorite target are eyes. They’re noisy, aggressive and have no fear of being swatted and there’s anywhere from 10 to 50 in a cloud around and on your face. It’s no small deal at all. About 3 or 4mm’s long DSC00080

Nasty DSC00077

Back to the rock. A bit of light. The sun will rise behind us, hopefully giving us a nice effect on the rock, as we’ve all seen in photographs DSC00026

Then, turning around, action DSC00024

But it takes a little longer, until it’s like this DSC00030

And the result is perfect DSC00045

Then the ride out to Kata Tjuta. Not too hot yet DSC00054

It was similarly impressive but the pics didn’t turn out as the sun was behind them, and there was no way around without a big hike, and we don’t do big hikes in full gear DSC00091

Uluru is as special as anything we’ve seen and attempting to describe it won’t do it justice. It’s definitely worth a special trip to see, no matter how far away. Some birds that day DSC00058


2 Comments so far. Leave a comment below.
  1. Tom D.,

    I’m not sure why – this whole area is brilliantly fascinating to me. Probably because I would’t last a minute. I hate flies and I hate the heat. Damn you’d have to be tough to live in this area of the world…

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