Today was simply a getting to Yulara (the township supporting Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park) day. It’s 300 kms or thereabouts from Watarrka to Yulara, with not a lot of “civilisation” in between, and we stopped at both of them! First up, 40 kms down the road, is King’s Creek Station. We chatted to an old cockie from Yeppoon (near Rockhampton) who was giving a cow a much appreciated it seemed neck scratch. I, though, was more interested in the baby camel. The animals were in a little pen at the station. The coffee wasn’t great but the people friendly, and that’s the important thing.
Our second stop, nearly 200 kms down the road, and after more of those fascinating desert oaks, not to mention the intriguing Mt Conner, was Curtin Springs. Here, as we lunched at a long table, we met Michaela, a young Italian coming to the end of her two years here on a working holiday visa. She’s travelling on her own, seeing Australia, before heading home. And yes, even with her there were connections. She’s driving a Mitsubishi Magna station wagon which is what we drove on our first visit here in 2000, AND she’s a blogger. We had a lovely chat about her time here, about the challenges of solo travel living out of a car, and her plans for when she gets home. She’s graphic designer trained but wants to get into photography. Check out her blog. Even if you can’t read her Italian, it’s enjoyable for the photos. We gave her our leftover Kings Canyon Resort internet allowance. (She wasn’t using the Internet at Curtin Springs because of the cost). Len was impressed to see her checking her car’s fluid levels, before she set off. She told us she’d take 3 hours to drive the 220 kms to Watarrka for fuel economy.
Then it was the last stretch into Yulara, with some new landscape, featuring low red mounds covered with spinifex, acacia, mulga, and of course desert oak. Uluru seems to appear suddenly as you turn a bend close to Yulara. Wonderful. It’s 30 years this year since Uluru and Kata Tjuta were formally handed back to the traditional owners. (Here is where we say that we have not and will not climb the rock. It might be a natural feature, but for indigenous people it’s similar to a church, mosque, shrine, temple or synagogue. When we visit those places we wear what is asked – cover our heads, take off our shoes, wear modest clothing – and we don’t wander into sacred sections. We should pay the same respect here too we believe.)
Checking into Emu Walks Apartments
There aren’t many pluses to traveling without our planned companions, but one, we realised as we entered our apartment, was that we didn’t have to fight over who got the room with the queen bed and who the twin beds! Sorry Sylvia and Brian, you lost!
Before that point though was check in. I was rather amused. The paperwork all went smoothly and although we were a little early our apartment was ready. It’s a big complex, so we asked where best to park our car for transporting our luggage into the apartment. The young guy behind the counter told us that our apartment was near the village square and asked if we could climb a metre wall. No problems, we said, we’ve just done the Rim Walk! So, we drove our car around to the end of the complex and spied the likely wall. Sure enough, it provided a short cut to our apartment, so over we went. I still get the giggles though at the idea of a young receptionist suggesting this option to two 60-somethings at what is a reasonably classy complex. We are in the Centre though – and I like the informality. It put a smile on our faces.
Walking into our Emu Walk apartment brought back memories of our first trip here in 2000 with our then teenage offspring. The apartments are multilevel, and sight of the banisters reminded us of Evan’s sliding down them and taking a little, perhaps hammed-up, tumble – unbeknown to us until we saw the video evidence on our return. Given the recent catastrophes befalling both that member of our first party here and a would-be member of our current party, we are approaching the stairs and their banisters with respect.
Drinks and dinner at the Bunya Bar
We didn’t want to do anything too big and fancy for dinner, so we headed to the Desert Gardens Hotel to see what we could find. We found a quiet relaxed bar where we had a drink, then shared two entrees (kangaroo and crocodile) and a sorbet dessert. It was all we needed.
I loved the fact that our server offered me a taste of two Pinot Gris options to choose from – the one on the menu and another one from the Yarra Valley (which, he thought, might be Western Australia, or, maybe, South Australia! We gently corrected his geography). He left the two tasting glasses, along with a full glass of the chosen wine, on the table for me to finish.
And then, after our return to our apartment, down came the rain. What, we wondered, would Uluru deliver us on the morrow … but, for the answer to that you’ll have to wait for our next post.
An intruder in the Emu Walk apartments …