Week 13 | Pimba to Uluru

Day 85: Pimba to Glendambo

We set off early from Spud’s Roadhouse at Pimba for a short journey of 113km to the Glendambo Outback Resort.  The landscape is still barren and you can count the dead kangaroos by the roadside in the hundreds.  The crows are all over them and the scavenging eagles are the biggest I have ever seen.  They don’t leave the beast until the last minute, it’s like they are playing chicken with you as you approach.

Arriving at the Glendambo Oasis Resort just after morning tea time and the roadhouse is buzzing with trucks and vehicles of every description.  We choose a powered site and I set up my laptop and do a couple of hours work.  We are amazed that within a couple of hours the park is quickly filling and there are many families with camper trailers.

We soon realise that it’s school holidays and all of a sudden the alarm bells ring and we decide we had better do some forward planning as we are heading to Ayers Rock.  We’ve been fortunate most of the way that we have been able to pick where we want to camp as there hasn’t been a lot of travellers on the road.

I have my heart set on The Field of Lights Dining Experience at the Rock; there will be more on that later…  I try to call the Uluru Campground to make a booking and the phone continually goes to message.  Chatting with our neighbour he advises that his cousin works at the campground and offers to call him to see if he can get us a site.  Steve is not at work today but will try in the morning and ask the campground to call us to confirm.

There is no water at the park and the amenities are quite old but clean.  We decide to treat ourselves to lunch in the pub.  It’s a rambling old building with large front and rear decks and the biggest fireplaces I have ever seen.  The publican tells us it gets down to -5 degrees in winter, those fireplaces would certainly get a work out.  Andrew has his usual parmi, it’s a winner and I have the biggest slab of quiche that was just so delicious.

Sunset wasn’t too bad…

Glendambo sunset

Wildlife:  Dead kangaroos, dead cows, crows, eagles, magpies, rosellas.

Day 86 – 87: Glendambo to Coober Pedy

Coober Pedy is 260k away so that’s a big drive for us.  For the first time we experience no mobile service at all, it’s an eerie feeling when you are travelling.  There are 2 emergency phones on our journey today.  The landscape has changed again and there is not a tree in sight.  The Royal Flying Doctor Service has a landing strip on the highway for emergency pick-ups.  It’s a reality check of the challenges in the outback.

We have booked ahead and have been lucky to score an undercover caravan site with power and water.  The Oasis offers a discount to seniors of 5% which is welcomed.  Our site is right near the entrance and Andrew has to reverse in, lucky it’s a generous site.  He does well to get the van in.

The Oasis run a town & mine tour every morning which runs for about 3 hours.  George is the bus driver and he’s a real character.  He knows how to work the group.  We pass 5 buses parked on a vacant block of land and George explains that every Friday they take the buses out to meet the Ghan and then bring the tourists back into town.  It’s quite amazing that they don’t get broken into!

Our tour starts around the township with our first stop at the underground Serbian Church, built in 1993 and dedicated to Saint Elijah.  It is really something to see, carved from sandstone with rock carvings in the walls, a high roof “ballroom” style design, and stained glass windows.  It is an awe inspiring structure.

Next stop is the Catacomb Church which was originally built in 1977.  This unique church is cut out of the sandstone in the shape of a cross adorned in a simple and natural way befitting the outback opal fields.  Someone has obviously shown George how to do an extra special selfie, so we are all lined up waiting to take our turn!

Further on is the golf course which opened in 1976, of particular interest to Andrew.  The course traverses the desert flats and gibber hills, with white fairways and black sump oil greens. Andrew could not imagine having a round of golf here, it doesn’t look inviting at all.

Our next stop is the Umoona Opal Mine & Museum.  This is a ‘must do’ if visiting Coober Pedy.  Originally a working opal mine in the main street, now converted to the largest single underground tourist attraction.  We watched the award winning documentary “The Story of Opal” on three panoramic screens.  We also saw an underground dug out home with contrasting examples of a hand dug out and a machine dug out.  The temperature of underground dwellings is constantly a cool 24 degrees.  I couldn’t imagine myself living underground without windows and natural lighting.

Wildlife:  Sheep, crows, eagles, dead kangaroos, emu

Day 88: Coober Pedy to the border

11th April is my birthday and our journey is 385km today and there will be no mobile service for most of the day. There is not much between Coober Pedy and the border apart from the roadhouse at Marla.  It’s a welcome site with green grass – Cinta can’t believe her luck!  You can also camp here behind the roadhouse.  It’s an extremely popular spot with many caravans parked up and people having their lunch on the beautiful grass.  Buses also stop here and the whole place is buzzing with tourists heading in both directions.

Travelling further on to our destination is the South Australia – Northern Territory border.  There are 6 long parking bays, you could fit 12 caravans in with a squeeze.  There used to be bush camping available here but Wikicamps tells us that it has now been fenced off.  It’s a popular spot for travellers with lots of selfies being taken at the border crossing sign.

Flies…they are the worst we have experienced.  Everyone here are wearing their fly nets.  5.00pm is happy hour and we have a few beverages to celebrate.  Dinner won’t be a consideration until after dark and after the flies have settled for the evening.

What a way to spend a birthday on the road – digitally free…heaven!

Wildlife: Dead kangaroos, dead cows, crows, eagles, flies.

Day 89: SA/NT border to Erldunda

We are only travelling 95km today to the Erldunda Roadhouse Desert Oaks.  On arrival we decide to fuel up before checking in and the queue is unbelievable.  Fuel is the dearest we have come across at $2.04 litre.  This roadhouse is a licence to print money.  The park is quite large with lovely green grassy sites, however there is no water available here as they use bore water and it is quite smelly.  The amenities are clean however all the tap-wear is oxidised from the bore water.  Our washing comes out smelling worse than when it went in.

The park also has an emu and kangaroo farm and 2 camels.  There is also a viewing platform to watch the sun go down.  We meet quite a few people here and in particular a lovely family of 5 on school holidays that have come from Melbourne.  The kids are really well mannered and well behaved.

Wildlife:  Dead kangaroos, crows, eagles, camels, emus.

Day 90: Erldunda to Uluru

Departing this morning it’s a very cool 12 degrees.  We’re heading for Uluru which is 246km away so we are up and organised by 8.00 am.  Most unusual for us!  The scenery is constantly changing today and we see a large variety of flora including spinifex, river red gums, desert poplars and desert heath myrtle all growing along the roadside.  Mind you I had to google to see what a lot of these plants are as they are all foreign to me coming from tropical North Queensland.

Arriving at Uluru we check into the caravan park and we have secured a site in the overflow.  It’s half price at $30 per night, however you are still able to use the facilities.  It just means you have further to walk and you are at the rear of the park right next to the desalination plant which runs 24/7.  There is plenty or room to park up, so Andrew tries his luck at reversing again – well done, we are parked in no time at all.

I am so excited as we were lucky enough to obtain tickets to the award winning Field of Light Uluru dining experience.  It’s a very expensive experience at $265 per person, however one that we are hoping will fulfill our expectations.  The internationally acclaimed artist Bruce Munro has produced his largest work to date covering more than 7 football fields.

We meet the coach and are taken to a secret location within the desert.  We traverse the dunes to the viewing area and are greeted with champagne and canapes which are plentiful.  Beneath us is the Field of Light installation.  We meet Cam and Ally from Mackay and immediately have a connection with them.  As darkness falls we are taken further on to the outdoor dining area set up in the desert.  The starched white tablecloths, silverware and glistening glasses are such a contrast to the red ochre earth.  We are immediately welcomed by the staff and wine glasses are brimming with the best wines from the De Bertolli Winery.

Entree is served; roasted tomato and native thyme soup.  Table by table we are ushered to the buffet to enjoy; chilled prawns (already peeled – winner!) barramundi in lemon myrtle cream, caramelised lemon & glazed beans, native dukkah crusted kangaroo, organic quinoa and roasted capsicum salsa, seared chicken breast with coastal rosemary, garlic baked potatoes with leak veloute, braised crocodile, pepperberry roasted cauliflower and the list goes on and on…

The sky is ignited with stars and the resident star talker decodes the southern night sky.

Our glass is never less than half empty before being topped up and the wait staff are exceptionally friendly.  Our table is ushered first to dessert; Desert lime cheesecake, warm chocolate and wattleseed slice, warm apple and quandong crumble tarts, pear and lemon myrtle tea cake, vanilla anglaise, davidson plum and berry compote.  Of course we both tried every desert!  Several wines later we can uncomfortably say we are full.

We are now invited to immerse ourselves in the fantasy garden of 50,000 spindles of light, the stems swaying and breathing through a desert spectrum of ochre, deep violet, blue and white.  Some of the stats; over 380km of optical fibre, 36 portable solar panels, 144 projectors, 49,000 square metres, weighing 15 tonne, transported on 32 flights to and within Australia.  It is a magnificent field of light and colour, words can not describe.  The photos do not do it justice.

Wildlife:  Dead cow, kangaroos, crows, eagles.

Day 91: Uluru

Time to explore the Olgas and Uluru.  Entering the National Park requires a permit and the fee is $25 per person.  It’s only 20km from Yulara and the Olgas are a further 53km away.

Kata Tjuta is sacred to Anangu men, women entered the area to collect food and water.  We decide to do the Walpa Gorge Walk through the sheer walls of rock.  The colours are amazing as the sun beams down against the walls and the area is described as walking through an ancient temple crafted by nature.  The walk takes approximately 1.5 hours and is graded a 3, moderate difficulty.

It’s time to visit Uluru.  We call into the Visitor Information Centre, the Cultural Centre and then head off for a coffee.  To our surprise there are no indigenous people working in the coffee shop, instead there are backpackers from all over the world, some difficult to understand and the customer service is extremely disappointing along with the luke warm coffee.

We head off on the Mala walk, it’s a short distance from the car park.  We view the kitchen cave where the people camped when first arriving at Uluru.  There are also some fine examples of rock art along the walk.

I climbed the rock back in the early 1980’s and had no desire to do it again.  The rock will be closed to climbers in October of this year.  Andrew has finally ticked off one of his bucket list items!

Uluru

Wildlife: Kangaroos, crows, eagles.

Where to next week?  Stay tuned to find out!

Week 13 total expenses:  $1410.13 Well over budget this week due the extraordinary expenses of the Field of Light dining experience, the Coober Pedy Town & Museum tour and the National Park fees.

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That’s a wrap for Week 13 of the Lap of the Map.

PS: Don’t forget to leave me a comment!

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