October 12 – 23, 2016

Did you know that Perth is nearer to Singapore than to Sydney!   “Incroyable”!  Well, we knew Singapore.  Now, once again, it was time to get out of our comfort zone and move further west.


And look who was following me!


As we flew in, I was fortunate enough to get this straight clip with my phone……  A life-long dream was becoming a reality; we were arriving in Sydney!  And, tomorrow was Jouko’s birthday.  Perfect!

After picking up our rental car, we headed north, a 2 hour drive to a place with a funny name – Cooranbong.  It took me a long time to remember it but after a few tries, it began to roll off the tongue 😊.


Inge-Lise and Russell Butler

 Inge-Lise and I had became friends through our parents and we had also lived close to each other in England while our children were young. And her aunt had been like a second mother to me ….so we have a long history together.  They invited us to spend the weekend with them and having met Russell a number of times, we knew that we were in for a weekend of great discussions and fellowship.


Avondale College is also in Cooranbong.  Having heard about it all our lives, we wanted to visit it.


It is a lovely campus, having retained some of the old architectural buildings along side the new and modern.


And it is surrounded by farm land, with grazing sheep on either side of the main approach to the college.  Very peaceful and rural.


  So far, we had only seen dead kangaroos on the road, so we were eager to see the alive version.  They told us about a place where we would probably see some….


Faced with this fella, I was reticent to get out of the car……


….but they were so curious, one had to get down on their level and interact.


“Oh alright, you can get in …”


“Ah, the world looks so much better from this vantage point”.


The males are so much larger and here they are sniffing each other out.


Suddenly they took off in the direction of potential food – it seemed as though we were in something like Jurassic Park (even though I have not actually seen the movie 😉).


This is a rather strange sight; a mother with only the tail of her joey showing.  Sometimes one sees just the legs protruding from the pouch.


That evening, the Butlers invited Rose (Webster) and Keith Howson to diner.  While living in South Africa, Rose and I had known each other since our parents were good friends and Keith and I had attended Hillcrest school at the same time while in Cape Town.  What a small world it is.  Of course we had a great evening together.

Originally when planning our Australian trip, we thought we would not go to Uluru (former Ayers Rock). After all, it was “just a large rock”!


Alice Springs

But we knew that if we did not go, we would always regret it.  We couldn’t make it part of our round-the-world ticket, so it was going to be an extra expense.  We bit the bullet and flew into Alice Springs,


   ..rented a car and spent one night there and on the way back (with some of Jouko’s Hilton Hotel points).  The Butlers had kindly offered to keep some of our luggage, so we only had a few basics with us.


I had read the book “A town called Alice” several times and just loved it, so I was eager to see how the town had developed so many decades later.  It didn’t measure up, but my expectations were probably unrealistic.

I only add these photos because I smile remembering……..this was the best we could find to eat; Jouko had quesadillas (funny because it is a Tex Mex dish) and I thought I was going to have a healthy dish –  a Portobello Mushroom Burger.  All part of the experience, hey!


The 5 1/2hr ride to Yulara, the Uluru/Ayers Rock resort was enjoyable. Since we had never experienced the outback, we drank in the constantly changing terrain and wild flowers.


The sun beat down, but it was not unbearable.  This was only October – Springtime in the center of the country.


Just in case one became disoriented, there were signs to remind you stay to the left..


Mt Connor


We arrived mid-afternoon and found our way to our room.  It was the most basic room the ‘resort’ had to offer; just above sharing a dorm room!   We looked around the center and bought a few supplies – water, bread, etc. and then unpacked our bags.


We then made our way to the park and found the best area to view the sunset.  My initial impression was, “Wow!  The rock really is red.”


Gradually the sun sank further into the western sky and a glow developed on the horizon behind the Rock.dsc_9353

We were left with the other spectators, in awe of what we had just experienced and were eager to return the next day to see more.


On the way back to base camp, the western sky was lit up in a deep red glow.


It was not that hot outside, so we expected the temperature in our room to be ‘comfortable’, but it was COLD, probably around 12 C/55 F. To our dismay we found out that there was only one central air-conditioning system for the whole building, so we had no way to control the temperature except to open the windows. There were 2 sets of bunk beds, so we both used 2 bed covers and managed to get some sleep.


At 8 am the next morning, we met a Ranger for a free guided tour of the Mala walk.dsc_9375


The above link gives you a history of the Rock, when and why the name was changed and why it is recommended not to climb it.



Our guide led us along the northern face of the rock, here in a cave with Aboriginal drawings behind him.


His sensitivity and respect of the area and the Anangu people, their history and legacy, was powerful.


The shapes and contours of the rocks and caves and the colours were constantly changing.


For the Aborigines, these shapes have their stories……


I see a Double Bass here.  What do you see?

dsc_9385A close up of the sandstone rock.  In later pictures you will see how porous it is.


Climbers who have chosen to disregard the sacredness of the Rock.


The dark areas have been created by thousands of years of rain falling along the same lines.



The waterholes are fed by rainwater.


As we progressed east, we came across  “sensitive areas”.

“There are some important sensitive areas around the base of Uluru.  At these sites, the rock details and features are equivalent to a sacred scripture – they describe culturally important information and must be viewed in their original location.  It is inappropriate for images of these sites to be viewed elsewhere.
Particular senior traditional owners are responsible for the stories and ceremonies associated with these sites.  These are handed down from grandparent to grandchild as family inheritance.
Under Tjukurpa, cultural knowlegde is earned and with it comes great cultural responsibility.  This has been the custom since the beginning of creation.
Visitors are encouraged to learn about this place and by not photographing or filming these areas you will be showing respect.”   Taken from the Park’s Visitor’s Guide


Our guided tour had come to an end and since we only had one full day here, we chose not to walk around the Rock, which would have taken several hours.


We drove east and from this angle we could see where the Rock had been eroded by the elements,


…to expose the porous sandstone rock underneath.  Another reason they prefer that people do not climb the Rock.


The eastern end.


A bit of safety advice at a shelter.



I think my favorite side of the Rock was the southern exposure.  I loved the vertical grooves and gentle rounded edges.




There was not much water at either water hole, but they were restful & peaceful places to visit.  Here is an interesting YouTube link to a recent downpour of rain.  How I would love to witness one of these somewhat rare events.


The flies were an awful nuisance, though.  We were going to need to buy nets.


Nature is so wonderful; among the dry bush, the ground was occasionally covered with these beauties, Parakeelya


In the afternoon we drove 40 mins to Kata Tjuta.

Poached Egg Daisies (what a great name!) and Grevillea Eriostachya.


And there is Uluru in the distance. I was starting to love this dry, red landscape.


Photo #1

We felt so much better with the protection of the nets.  These flies feed on the moisture around the eyes and mouth – yuk 😧

The Kata Tjuta are made up of about 36 domes and cover about 20 sq km/12.4 miles


Photo #2

My friend Immi (we spent time with them in Spain) turned photo #1 into a Van Goh-like “masterpiece”  in photo #2 😀  I love it!


We hiked up into the gorge and around the domes.


 Apparently spring is the worst time for flies


Walking out of the gorge the afternoon sun was beating down so we were glad of some cloud cover, but that also meant that our sunset over the Olgas would not be so picturesque.

dsc_9526 More resilient flowers to brighten the landscape.


Sure enough, it was not as dramatic as the previous evening, but still a magical experience; as these magnificent rocks went quiet after hosting another day of explorers.



On our way back to base the sky went a deep red.  I took this picture from above the car’s roof, unintentionally getting the reflected glow.


The next morning we got up around 4.30 am ( we used to get up every work day at 4.30am, so it was like old times) to arrive at the sunrise viewing spot in time.


It was such a neat experience to stand there in this peaceful place and to feel part of something we all take for granted; the run rising every morning. Most of the clouds from the previous evening had dispersed.  Kata Tjuta in the distance.




As we drove away from the area, I had tears in my eyes.  It is hard for me to put into words what effect the place had made on me, but we knew for sure that we were glad that we had  made the effort to visit it.

70% of the Australian mainland is classified as semi-arid, arid or dessert; making it the driest inhabited continent on earth


View from our hotel room in Alice Springs.  We made it back in time for Jouko to get in a round of golf.  I have to admit, it seemed luxurious to be back in a regular hotel room.


And I found this Desert Pea on the grounds of the hotel.  Quite a funny looking little flower; it looks as though it has numerous eyes.


We returned to spend our second weekend with Inge-lise and Russell.  It was interesting to share our experience because they are so well acquainted with the Red Center.


NEXT:  Queensland


  • I had such a powerful dream after we had visited Ayers Rock. I dreamed that I was being initiated right next to the Rock. We had not even gone that near while visiting…..


  • I’ve never seen such exquisite, intimate photos of kangaroos! They are quite superb, Hilary. And your photos of Uluru – out of this world ! I really feel like I have been there in person. I can understand how the place had an effect on you.


  • Oh, Hilary, I had tears in my eyes reading and looking at Uluru. Its the only place in the world that has exceeded my expectations, the dreams one has when going somewhere exciting. I could smell the earth and feel the wind, though it was oven hot and dry when we were there, and thus no flies buzzed around us! Beautiful, beautiful …thank you my dear!!


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