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Red Rock, you lovely thing

Red rock, you make my soul sing

Red rock so big and imposing,  you’ve seen the change of times

the change of people

the change of ways and the change of sentiment

Red rock, do you mind when they walk on you?

Red rock do you mind when they danced at your feet and painted your walls?

when the birds leave their messes, and the rains groove channels down your side?

Red rock, do the spirits still claim you? Do you belong to them? or to us? or to none of us at all?

Red Rock, you have so many scars, do you wear them for us all?

You have so many channels grooved by the tears of us all

So many faces to meet all of our expectations

Red Rock the brain, red rock the calm, red rock the spiritual, red rock the mineral, red rock the destination.

So much for Red Rock to get a big head about

red rock maybe doesn’t care. red rock is just there

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Need I write anything? the pictures say it all..

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It is about 10km to walk/ride etc around the Base of Uluru. Naturally I decided to ride it in the afternoon…like at 6.45pm. Yes I know it sounds silly to do, but it was still light, and I surmised I had about 40 minutes of light left, and I also surmised I could cycle 10km in 40 minutes. There would be plenty of tourists taking sunset photos in the area.

Oh dear..optimistic Sarah.

Actually it wasn’t the light that was the problem. It was a silently approaching wall of brown fog.

I sort of saw it in the far distance as I parked my van in the Mala Carpark at the base of Uluru and offloaded my bike, but I assumed it was rain. And rain would be a glorious cool off to the 40+ degree day we’d had.

As I set off, the carpark was clearing out, so that there were only two vehicles left in the carpark as I disappeared around the first bend.

‘It’s ok, I’ll pump it’, I assured myself, and stood up on the bike, pumping my legs up and down to gather speed over the red dirt track.

How lovely, no-one around, just me and the imposing rock and some birds. The sky in front of me was glorious. blue with the warm colours of the setting sun starting to tickle and grow on the clouds on the horizon. I glanced behind me as I rode.

Wow, the rain was moving in fast. It seemed to have come a lot closer in a very short amount of time. It really looked like a wall of brown behind me. I pumped harder. I reflected that brown was a funny colour for the rain. I thought, ‘maybe I can outride it until I get back to the carpark’.

I rode and rode..glance around..pump legs harder. Ok that must be a storm and it is coming in really fast. No-one around but me..and few birds skittering ahead of me.

I looked up at the rock. The brown mist had reached the side of the rock that I had started out at. Wow it was travelling so fast. It was about 3-4 km behind me I guessed.

It looked ominous as the brown mist slowly advanced, creeping along the rock.

Ok, now I am feeling a bit anxious. It is definitely going to get me before I get to the carpark.

Pump, pump…my thighs are really burning now, and I can feel myself tire. I round the bend and in front of me, I see the fog has crept it’s fingers around the other side of the rock. So basically it has its hands around both sides and is coming over the top of the rock straight for me. I panic. I am riding directly into it. Everything is browning out. Trees fogged, red rock with a brown fog around it. I’m riding fast towards brown nothingness. I’m scared.

I taste grit in my teeth and it is only then (dah!) that I realise it is not a rain storm, but a dust storm.

I look around. Beautiful sunset sky to my left. But there is no path to ride off there. I turn off the base track and head onto the ring road – still heading in to the brown mist, but at least I may find other people? I feel well and truly too scared to stay right next to the rock in a dust storm. I have heard stories about the ancestoral spirits that protect the rock and inhabit the area.

I briefly worry that I have done something to upset them. Arrogant me, assuming the dust storm is all about me. But with no-one else in sight, it feels terribly lonesome. I offer silent ‘sorries if I have upset you,’ and ‘I will respect you, I won’t ride late like this again.’ blah blah. Then the wind hits. Or rather I hit the wind. Full force in the face. I’ve hit the edge of the dust storm. My legs slow immediately against the powerful force of the wind. I struggle to keep riding.

I’m on the road, panicked. I wonder how far I am from the carpark..can’t be that far. I must be at least half way?

The sunset is darkened, and I have no torch or lights. I can still see, but it is dark and I’m scared.

Why am I scared? because to see this wall of brown come towards you and take over everything and dark out the light, and then stretch it’s fingers towards you is bloody scary! Especially when you have never experienced anything like this, and you are on your own.

So I close my eyes and chant to an Indian Guru. I repeat his name in my head as I ride. And after only 15 seconds of doing this, I open my eyes and can just make out a Troopy driving towards me…a ranger! I think. I wave my arm and he stops and puts his flashies on.  Red and Blue. It is a policeman.

‘Is this a sandstorm?’ I gabble quickly and nervously, ‘It came out of nowhere, I feel a bit scared’

‘Yeah it is a sandstorm, we get them from time to time, but this one is different. It is strange – it came so suddenly..where are you headed? I’ll give you a lift”

I was feeling slightly braver for having seen someone, and clarified what I was dealing with. ‘Ah, um, I could ride, um..my car is at the Mala Carpark…how far am I from it, is it far? I could ride, am I more than half way around?.” I gabble away, the adrenaline is moving fast with my blood.

“Nah mate you have a long way to go. Let me take you there. You don’t have any lights, it isn’t safe”

“Um ok (relief mixed with embarrassment), thanks.’

We bumble my bike in the cage of his truck and I hop in the front. It is only then that I notice that the policeman is not in uniform. My head immediately thinks about Peter Falconio and the madman that killed him in the desert.

‘Ah, you’re a policeman?’ I ask

‘Yeah mate’

‘Are you off duty?’

‘Yeah, I’m just driving home, I live at the community’.

I follow my gut and instinctively trust the guy.

‘I’m so stupid for leaving so late!’ I mumble apologetically. I feel like a tit.

‘Well if the sandstorm hadn’t come it would be light still at this time’ he said looking at his watch. ‘It came quickly’

The bike starts to fall out, so I offer to sit in the paddy wagon and hold on to it. He spins the truck around and heads off. I sit back, as we bump. The door swings open and closed, as the tyre of the bike sticks out. I still have adrenaline pumping through my body. As the door swings open I catch glimpses of the rock. It is eerie – hard to explain, but the rock has an energy anyway that is quite imposing, and with the sun darkened out it is eerie. I’m so glad to be in the vehicle.  The policeman picks up speed, and I get the sense he is keen to get out of the dust storm as soon as possible. 10 minutes later we are still driving and I am aghast at how far away the carpark is still! I’m such an idiot for thinking it wasn’t far off. I had barely done a quarter of the ride! When we finally pull in to the carpark it is very dark.

‘I am so glad you picked me up, I wouldn’t have made it back here in that wind for another hour. I would have been shitting myself!’ I shudder with fear at the thought of still being out there in the dark dust.

All the tourists have left. We are the only ones in the carpark.

My saviour poses for a foggy photo and helps me put the bike on. Thanking him, I gun it away before he leaves..I don’t want to be left out here on my own. it is so eerie. There is a strange feeling around the rock and I am sure the ancestors must be upset about something and are doing a cleansing or something.Image

As I drive I thank my guides. I marvel at how instant the response was to my prayer. I didn’t see another soul or another vehicle, I pray, and then a policeman – what are the chances!

Skies, Glorious skies!

What skies we have! In central Australia colours are clear and vibrant. Fluffy white clouds, vibrant blue skies. Every day I find myself gazing at the glorious skies here. I’m in cloud heaven!
They remind me of the Care Bears

1) My bike! Ruby rose, what I joy. I was unsure whether or not to take her, but when your campervan is your home, and you want to set it up at the campground, it takes a while to get the awning set up etc. Ruby is the best thing I brought with me. I can set up camp and ride in to town to explore or get groceries, I can stretch the legs after hours of driving. So happy I brought her! She gives me freedom!

2) Lime green non-slip bowl. I splurged on a large lime green non-slip bowl at Woolies before I left. It was about $15 I think. It is awesome. You put it on the table and it won’t be easily knocked off or slide. It is perfect for my wombok salad (which I eat at least once a week)

 

3) Wet ones, baby wipes or makeup wipes – for your hands. Priceless. Camping on dirt, rolling up awning, dirt dirt dirt all the time. baby wipe. thankyou.

4) Tom Tom Navigator – very happy with this. Saves time and is a companion on the road. I have set it to Chiara the Italian to practice my Italian. I will try French after Alice Springs. I don’t need her for the long hauls – very well signposted – more for the street addresses in towns.

5) Goggles and swimcap – so hot out here in Central Australia – most small towns have a pool and swimming laps after a long drive is so refreshing and keeps me fit!

6) Headtorch – forget all the other torches. just buy a headtorch. it is all you need

7) tubs – I brought three of those round tubs – they are so useful. Carrying stuff to the camp kitchen, washing up, washing clothes, drying dishes in.

Mt Isa. Hot hot hot.

Walking outside is like walking through the air that has just escaped from an oven when you open it. No relief at night. The campervan doesn’t have aircon.

I thought I was progressive – buying a 1994 campervan! When I was a kid, we went camping in tents, not a campervan..actually that’s a lie, I believe we did have a VW Campervan also. Anyhoo, this camping in a campervan thing is new for me. But what I’ve realised, is that camping is different these days. In none of the caravan parks from Cairns to Mt Isa have I seen people sitting around a camp fire chatting and laughing. or lying on a blanket looking at stars. Everyone is inside their RV with the aircon humming, and the murmer of TV voices accompany its flickering light.

Sympathetic faces greet my swelterering face in the morning. No aircon for me..infact, no windows either – except the top ones. I’ve called a wrecker in Alice. They have a sliding window – woo hoo! If I’m still alive by the time I get there!

Mt Isa. Different. I found the only campground with trees – original trees. People? hmm…special? When I first arrived in town I was starving after having taught two classes and driven from Cloncurry. But in the main street all I could see was, KFC, MCD, Subway, Pizza Hut and Chinese Noodle. So I went up to the whale of a lady waiting for three taxis to transport her weight home. It was her or the group of local indigenous yelling at each other, so I chose her.

‘Excuse me, could you tell me are there any nice places to eat in Mt Isa besides what is in the street? I’d rather something other than junk food’

‘There’s subway there, or there’s a chinese place in the street over.”

“Riiiight. thankyou.” Oh shit. I giggle at myself as she loads one leg into the taxi. Serves me right for asking the largest lady in mt isa. Of course she will recommend more junk. sigh.

afternote: It was to the pub for dinner, for a piece of cajun chicken over white rice and half an avocado with a small saucer of mango sauce.

Camping grounds: It sounded lovely in the magazine, so I booked ahead and then headed to AAOK Moondarra campground. Something gave me the idea to walk around it first before I went and spoke to the receptionist. It was rubbish. It was basically a mining camp. Nowhere for campers to set up, no lovely trees, no grass. Just donga after donga and men men men. Sure if I was single (I am) and keen to hook up (Im not) then I would be in testosterone heaven. Needless to say, like Cinderella with many eyes on me, I hot-footed it out of there, in such a rush to leave that I left a shoe behind…shit. Oh well, new pair of shoes for me today 🙂 Or I might try just wearing one shoe.

I’m here for 5 days..I wonder what Mt Isa will throw at me…

sweat