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West of the Olgas
Wednesday 25th September 1996 6:50pm
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A great camp - we are west of the Olgas off the Docker River road. The sun has just set on the Olgas and the moon is almost full. We have travelled about 400kms today with many on foot.

Emily and Jack waiting for the Olga sunset

The day bagan with Susan furious about the people I thought were Buddhist monks but turned out to be Korean women with shaven heads. Looks like they had stolen all of Susan's clothes pegs for which she had paid through the nose - over $12.00. She had kindly lent the pegs to these women along with a stainless steel washing bowl. This morning the women had vanished along with the pegs, Susan having retrieved the bowl last night. We were all instructed to look out for shaven headed Korean women with bulging pockets.

We arrived at Kings Canyon proper about 8 am. Bonnie was feeling crook so she decided to stay in the car while we took in the 6km walk around the canyon, urged on by Emily. I was a bit suspicious because it was a tourist attraction but we not disappointed in spite of the crowds. It seemed like most of middle Australia, and a large part of Germany had decided to have exactly the same 'tourist experience' . Not a shaven headed Korean in sight.

After a brief but steep climb the rocks were spectacular and the cliffs were awesome. The approved track ran right around the top of the canyon through all sorts of spectacular.

Emily above and Jack peering into Kings Canyon

rock formations. Some of the rocks showed 300 million year old ripples of water on sand turned into rock. About halfway we came to a ravine where there was a chain of rock pools running to the edge of a cliff into the main canyon. Here we stopped for while and listened to the banter between bus loads of German and English tourists. They were incredibly noisy and their screams and shouts echoed through the canyon. I guess the need to get away from them made us walk faster because we managed the four hour walk in two and a half hours.

Kings Canyon - 300 millionyear old water ripples

It was just starting to get too hot when Emily's knee packed up. She had a rough last kilometre before descending to the parking area below.

Kings Canyon - rock formations

On we forged to Kings Creek Station where Jack had a camel ride around a paddock and I checked to oil in the car.

Now that we were on a bitumen road the kms flashed by and in no time we could see Mount Conner ahead. The country before Uluru changed into red sand drifts with desert oak and spinifex. The dunes hid any distant view of 'The Rock'. When it did appear, the top loomed large increasing a growing sense of expectation.

We needed petrol so we turned off at Yulara and decided to have a little look around. It was very hot. A few trees certainly make a difference to the general ambience of a place but nothing could disguise that it was a money making machine. The resort (I think it was all resort) had a sort of ski lodge atmosphere. The sort of place I loath and which brings deep phobias to the surface. Eventually we sat down and ate some expensive sandwiches but I drew the line a paying $5.00 for a can of beer.

Looking around at the shops which sold expensive tourist junk was to feel a kind of revulsion for middle Australia or middle Germany. Profound thoughts are difficult when drinking a $3 cup of coffee that tastes and looks like dishwater. I suddenly had supermarket phobia and had to get out of the place. In fact we were all a bit tetchy. As we approached Uluru about 4:30 pm the site of 'the rock' took over. I was amazed. It was so much more fluid that I had expected, words fail to describe its sheer presence.

We called into the ranger's office to enquire about the Lira Walk we had read about. A hostile ranger sent us to the Cultural Centre which was a mud brick building in which hundreds of people stood, zombie-like, in reverence. We finally found someone who explained that the Lira Walk had been taken over by Anangu tours and now cost $50 per person. She herself was guiding another type of walk, the Mala Walk, in the morning at 10am.

We raced off clutching brochures - past the zombies and headed for The Olgas. I was anxious about time but I need not have been. Bus loads of Japanese, Germans and middle Australians were everywhere. We walked up a ravine absorbing the enormous scale of the place. What hard stone. (The type Gosse described as plum pudding).

Olga rock - the type Gosse described as plum pudding

Close up The Olgas are not beautiful. They are aggressive, fortified and powerful. Dad must have been determined to get to the top. Signs everywhere warned against climbing because of aboriginal sensitivities. It seemed inappropriate to have a go amongst so many people.

Walking along, I listened to the varying conversations. Most were Germans, those in English were not about The Olgas but about the most mundane matters at home. There was no point in scoffing at this, it was an interesting phenomenon. I was one of these people. This was a kind of pilgrimage - a mass secular pilgrimage - a secular Mecca. It occurred to me that The Flight of Ducks was just part of the same thing - the journey to the centre, an experience of the interior of a continent. We seem to be building up layers and layers of mythology about this area. It bought to mind little plywood caravans in the 1950s. Yulara, for all its veneers of comfort still spits people out into the heat and into the 'experience'. I'll think more about this tomorrow.

The shadow of the son on The Olgas

9:00 pm

Right now it is a wonderful night. Our camp is amongst sparse mulga and mainly just red earth. Tiny peeping birds are sounding all around us with the occassional cricket. There are only a few moths around the lamp and a wisp of cloud in a strip from east to west.

Not long ago I went for a walk with Jack in the moonlight and we looked at stars and chased a small lizard. To the north is a small hill. If I'm up early enough, I think I'll go and climb it. The Olgas are there, in front of us, dark.

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