Pam's Journal For May 2005

     
  Sunday 1st May 2005  
 
We left Coober Pedy around 7:30 a.m. after topping up our water tanks at the town water bowser. We seemed to get more water over us than in the tanks. We had a good run through to a roadhouse called Kulgera which is just a few kilometres inside the Northern Territory border. We saw many dead animals on the roadside, mainly kangaroos, being eaten by crows and eagles. Not a pleasant sight.

We stopped a few times on the way to stretch our legs and have a coffee or lunch. In one place called Marla we were sitting outside a very mediocre café drinking coffee when a bird pooped on me! How dare it!!! I was not happy.

We arrived at Kulgera in mid afternoon, had a rest, then went and had a meal in the roadhouse. Not bad at all. However, showers and toilets there leave a little to be desired and a good clean wouldn’t go amiss.

Having now left South Australia, my summary would be that it's a very diverse state, treating us to mountainous areas, lush green vineyards, dry dusty peninsulas, beautiful beaches, lovely little towns so full of history and above all lovely, lovely people. We could live in South Australia without too much trouble at all.
 
  Monday 2nd May 2005  
  We managed to get an early start from Kulgera because we had a long way to go and by starting early we could have a few stops on the way. We had a good run through to a roadhouse at the turnoff for Ayers Rock. After a break there we proceeded down the Lassiter Highway towards ‘The Rock’.

The traffic was now much busier as bus after bus passed us loaded with mainly Japanese tourists. Plenty of caravans and cars with camping equipment, too. When you first get a glimpse of Ayers Rock, it is so thrilling and you can’t wait to get closer. We stopped off at a lookout point on the way, and could not believe The Rock looked so big when it was still 130 kilometres away. We had our photograph taken with The Rock in the background. Oh dear, red faces all round - we were looking at Mount Connor which looks very similar but flatter on the top. And we didn't find out for several days.

We arrived mid afternoon at Ayers Rock Resort. We quickly set up camp and had our lunch. Whilst eating our lunch another bird pooped on me! Or maybe it was the same bird. If it is true that you come into money when a bird poops on you I must be getting plenty. We were just deciding what to do next when a kind gentleman walked over and gave us two passes for the National Park for today and tomorrow. Great! That will save us $50, so maybe it is true about bird poop!!

We decide to get ready and head off to the ‘sunset car park’. All the vantage spots are clearly marked. Only then did we noticed that the box marked 'car' on the passes was checked, not the one for 'four wheel drive'. However, our disappointment was somebody else's luck; on the way here we had bumped into a couple that we had seen in Coober Pedy and Kulgera and we knew they had a car, so we did a tour of the caravan park looking for them and gave them our good fortune. We then set off to watch the sunset with our $50 in hand to pay. So much for bird poop!!

The sunset was fantastic! It was marvellous to watch the rock light up and glow bright orange as the sun went down. I could not believe that I was actually watching the sunset on Ayers Rock. By now you will realise that, for some time, it has been on my list of ‘things to do’ before I die.
 
  Tuesday 3rd May 2005  
  The plan was to get up very early and watch the sunrise over Ayers Rock. Well we both slept badly as we didn’t want to oversleep. So what happens? We oversleep. Anyway we arrived at the ‘sunrise carpark’ just before sunrise but the sun let us down and hid behind clouds. Maybe we will try again tomorrow.

Now it was time to ‘walk the rock’. We arrived at the ‘doing the walk carpark’ to find Ayers Rock had been invaded by busloads of Japanese. Sadly the climb was closed due to high winds on the summit. By this time we had met up with John and Carmel (the couple we gave our passes to) and decided to do the short walk along the base of the rock. When you walk around the rock it is very interesting as it has cavities and formations you cannot see from the road. We arrived back at the carpark only to find the climb was open.

I now had to come clean and admit I never intended to climb this ’ere rock. Have you seen it?!!!! Carmel, John and Peter decide to give it a try. I went for another walk around the base in the opposite direction. All three came off the rock without getting too far. Peter is going to wear different shoes tomorrow and give it another try.

I wanted to look through the Aborigine Cultural Centre as I wanted to find out more about the Aborigines from this area. Whilst at the Cultural Centre I did a really stupid thing, I left my handbag in the toilet. Money, credit cards, Medicare card, driving licence, glasses and - more importantly - the tablets I have to always carry with me in case of an attack of the heebie geebies I sometimes get. Of course, when I dashed back it had gone. We went to the rangers desk - no one had handed in a bag - but they took my details just in case. Peter and I then went searching bushes and bins in the hope that whoever found it took the money and dumped the rest.

Whilst we were searching for the bag, the rangers were searching for me as a lady had just handed it in . . . and everything was there! My faith in the human race was restored. I was so sorry not to have thanked the lady personally, and very, very much relieved. Now I had the task of locating Peter. The rangers were a friendly lot and said that if I couldn’t find him, to go back and they would look for him.

Later we went back to the park to watch the sunset over the Olgas. It was disappointing but we did meet two young men from the UK who had, in that one day, climbed Ayers Rock, walked 10 kms around its base and then done the 7.4 kms Olgas walk! They told me the Olgas walk was easy. Easy? I'll never again believe young Englishmen in car parks!
 
  Wednesday 4th May 2005  
  To watch the sunrise we were up at 5:00 a.m., which wasn’t as difficult as it might sound as the majority of people in the park are up at that time. All you can hear are engines running, footsteps crunching in the gravel and the incessant sound of ‘whiz bang’ doors (the common name for camper van sliding doors). So we were ready in plenty of time and we were not disappointed. The sunrise was marvellous and well worth the effort. It took a little while for the rock to change colour and as we waited and watched, we started chatting to the couple next to us, as you do. Apparently they had just been fined $105 for speeding in the park. Not happy! Eventually the rock started to change colour but up to that point she was complaining . . .

“Not only has it cost us $105, but nothing is happening and I need a cup of tea.”
When the colour of the rock started to change, her husband tried to explain the how’s and why’s of it to her.
“If I had a white board I could explain it better” he said.
“Never mind a white board, I want a cup of tea!” she responded.

We were still chuckling as we made our way to the café for a coffee before making our way to the starting point for the climb up the rock. Alas, the climb was closed due to high winds on the summit so we decided to go and do the walk around the Olgas. Little did I know what I had let myself in for. The walk was tough, very rocky and at one point I climbed up a rock face on my hands and knees. It took us four hours but we did it. Our next door neighbour said it took him two hours. Mmm. We didn’t feel too bad as the recommended time was four hours. It was worth all the aches and pains as the scenery was out of this world.

We went back to the campsite for a shower and a cup of tea then it was back again to 'The Rock’ for sunset. An excellent sunset. We met some French Canadians who had passed us on the Olga walk so it was merriment all round with them drinking beer and us drinking wine. During the course of the day we realised we still had another day left on our park pass so we have more or less decided to go back tomorrow so Peter can attempt the climb again.
 
  Thursday 5th May 2005  
  We gave the sunrise a miss this morning as we were still a little tired from yesterday. After breakfast we ventured forth to see if the climb was open. It was, so Peter set off up the face of the rock. I gave him ten minutes and then, as he appeared to be continuing up, I set off walking the 10 kms around the base of the rock.

I found it very easy after yesterday and was surprised that it only took me 2 hours and 10 minutes - not bad as our next door neighbour took two hours, so I must be fitter than I thought. I enjoyed the walk and the beauty of the rock surrounded me. It is so different when you are very close to it and it has some kind of enchantment about it. Whilst walking I came across an artist painting Ayers Rock in water colours. I was quite envious as I would love to be able to do that. Once back at the carpark, I sat and waited for Peter to descend the rock. It was a few minutes before I could see him coming down. I was beginning to worry but need not have troubled myself as down he came full of high spirits. Pretty good for an old man!!!!

We did the same as last night, home for a quick shower then back to the rock for the sunset which turned out to be disappointing. We collected a bottle of wine on the way. Ayers Rock Resort certainly knows how to charge! We are going tee total until we get to the next place!
 
  Friday 6th May 2005  
  Lay-day today before heading off to Kings Canyon, a 300 kilometres trip to where another walk awaits us. I woke up sore and ached in places I didn’t know I had places, so I though the best thing would be to do a short walk.

I set off around the resort, went one way and found a dingo looking at me. I quickly did an about turn and went off in another direction, and found a dingo on the same path. I quickly changed direction again, this time staying near the road. I hear they are very friendly but as I don’t like dogs, I sure as heck ain’t getting up close and personal with a dingo. I mean, I am only short. They might think I was a child.
 
  Saturday 7th May 2005  
  The “Ransons of Ayers Rock” were up and away early to our next destination . We had decided to have breakfast at the Curtin Springs Roadhouse on the way to Kings Canyon. This roadhouse was a ‘working sheep and cattle station’. People were coming and going and it took us a while to locate the food section. We wandered into a kitchen that could have been from the TV programme, “The Man from Snowy River”. Definitely not your normal café. We were assured we were in the right place and after giving the cook our order we sat under a huge, thatched canopy.

We had to wait a little while but that bacon and egg sandwich was worth waiting for! We decided to check out the prices of wine in the roadhouse shop - these places sell everything - as we did not want to pay exorbitant prices at the Kings Canyon Resort.

We chose our wares, which were reasonably priced, and then the chap behind the counter asked, “Can you wait twenty minutes, only we are not allowed to sell alcohol until 10 a.m.?”
“Yes, we can wait, we’ll read the wall”.
The wall in question was covered with jokes , funny quotations and witty stories.
A girl sitting at the bar then reminded the barman that it was Saturday and alcohol can be sold from 9.00 a.m. at the weekend.
“Are you sure it’s Saturday?” the barman asked.
“Yes” was the reply.
“No” he said, “it’s f---ing Friday”

It was so funny you could not be offended. Once it was established that it was, in fact, Saturday, he sold us the wine. We were still chuckling as we drove down the road. You meet some wonderful characters along the way.

We arrived at Kings Canyon Resort in good time. The place looks nice, not as commercialised as Ayers Rock, but the showers and toilets are very average. After lunch we drove to the actual Canyon and did the short 2 km. walk. On the way we passed the beginning of tomorrows walk, it looks a little tough but we will give it a go. The short walk was really nice and we saw good views of the canyon. It is a very beautiful place.

Later we were sitting outside having a glass of red and some nibbles when a cheeky yellow throated miner landed on the table. Without any please or thank you it took a large crisp from the bowl and flew off!
 
  Sunday 8th May 2005  
  We set off fairly early to the Kings Canyon Rim Walk, 6 kms. I found it tough going and it took us 3.5 hours, I am very slow. Some of the rocks you have to climb are so deep, I find it very strenuous. I would not be able to manage if Peter didn’t pull me up over these obstacles. The walk was more of a climb than a walk. I reckon so anyway. The canyon is very picturesque and the walk was well worth doing. I do feel, though, that I missed out on a lot of the scenery as I cannot look down, so the lookouts were wasted on me. I did enjoy it and was glad I had completed the walk but I was very, very glad to see the car.

Back to base for lunch and a relaxing afternoon. We are going to do the final walk tomorrow, (there are only three). Tomorrow’s walk is easy according to the leaflet. Walking at Ayers Rock and Kings Canyon brings home to you that if you want to see ‘all’ of Australia you have to get out of the car and walk.
 
  Monday 9th May 2005  
  Since arriving to this area the weather has been very cloudy, ideal walking weather, but not so good for taking photos. Today was no different so we set off to do the Kathleen Springs walk - a short walk of 2.6 kms. It was a very picturesque and a pleasant, easy walk, not too taxing after yesterday.

The rest of the day was taken up with getting ready for moving on tomorrow. We head towards Alice Springs, stopping overnight 'somewhere' as it is long way from here to Alice. I am so excited that I am finally going to Alice, I have wanted to go there ever since reading Nevil Shute's book, A Town Like Alice when I was a school girl in the UK.
 
  Tuesday 10th May 2005  
  We had a very uneventful journey and arrived at Mt Ebenezer Roadhouse just before lunchtime. We had heard we could stay here overnight for free. There were toilets and showers provided but no power or water for the van. We didn’t mind. It was true, it was free, and so we set up camp.

Around 6:00 p.m. we realised we were low on red wine, so we went to the bar in the roadhouse and asked to purchase a cask. The barman said we could only buy one (do we look like alcoholics?) and we had to leave by the back door as the Aborigines were congregating outside the front of the roadhouse. He said if we walked out with the cask (which was in a brown paper bag) the Aborigines would pester us to sell it to them, even offering us $100!!!

We had just arrived back at the van when this old chap, as black as black and smelly too, came over and asked us to go and buy him some beer. At this point Peter very discreetly removed our wine and glasses from the table outside our van. No, we said, we are not allowed to. “Yes, white fellas can buy beer” he said. But after a minute or two he got the message that we were not going to buy his beer for him, and he went away. We felt very mean but the authorities and the elders are trying to control their alcohol intake.
 
  Wednesday 11th May 2005  
  We were on the road fairly early and stopped for breakfast at Erldunda Roadhouse. Peter is feeling really rotten, he started with a cold a couple of days ago and cannot shake it off, in fact it is getting worse. Luckily we did not have too far to go today and stopped for another break at Stuarts Wells. We arrived in good time at Alice Springs. The park is actually 5 kms outside the town and we have been told good things about this caravan park. We parked the van and who should be our next door neighbours but John and Carmel from Ayers Rock! Small world once again.

We just relaxed as Peter was feeling really terrible by the time we got here.
 
  Thursday 12th May 2005  
  Another lay day as Peter is still laid up with his cold. At least I could catch up with a bit of letter writing and knitting.

In the evening we walked over to one of the barbecue areas where they had a chap demonstrating didgeridoos. He was very good and very interesting. He explained to us, not only how to play the didgeridoo, but some of the Aboriginal history that goes with it.
 
  Friday 13th May 2005  
  We went into Alice today to do some shopping, collect the mail and download all the emails that were waiting for us. Alice is totally different to what I imagined, it is a small busy town and the people are friendly and helpful. The place is full of 'Dot’s Natives' but I guess this is their part of the world. They ignore us and we tend to ignore them. Just wish we could ignore the smell!!!

Editor's note: There's a very unkind joke that comes to mind which I would never normally repeat in a forum like this, but it does illustrate how disgracefully racist some white people can be. It goes something like this:
Q. “Why do Aborigines smell?”
A. “So that blind people can hate them too.”
Isn't that disgraceful?
Quite seriously, Pam and I adopted a system of inhaling deeply as we approached a group of Cousins, and holding it for as long as we could. We really had to.


Re-reading Bill Bryson’s book Down Under I just discovered that the movie A Town Like Alice wasn’t made in Alice but near Broken Hill. Another rose-coloured illusion of mine shattered.
 
  Saturday 14th May 2005  
  Peter is feeling awful again so we had another lazy day. Well he did, I did the washing and other chores. I wonder if this cold is a ruse so I end up doing all the chores?  
  Sunday 15th May 2005  
  Free pancakes supplied in Barbecue Area One.

The camp employees do this every Sunday morning, so we - like everyone else - queued for our pancake and coffee and very nice it was too. We met some ‘new’ people and it was a very jovial occasion. So I guess we will be going again next Sunday.

We had heard about this marvellous place called Palm Valley where the views are marvellous and the palm trees rare. To get to this valley we had to travel down 20kms of very rough terrain, for much of the time we were actually travelling on a river bed. It was rocky, sandy in parts and overall not very pleasurable. We came to a clearing where another car was parked so decided to do the same and walk the rest of the way. Peter took advice from a driver leaving, he said it was very rough and it was only a one kilometre walk.

The walk was much further than 1 km and the road wasn’t any worse than what we had already travelled on. We finally got to the carpark where we started the 2 km ‘family’ walk to look at these rare Red Cabbage Palms and cycads. I would like to know which family mapped these walks, they must have very long legs and be super fit. Or maybe the problem is my short legs and not being fit.

Once back at the carpark we then had this long walk to where we had left our car, but a kind man offered us a lift and we were on his back seat ready to go before he had time to say Cabbage Palm!

It took us ages to reach the bitumen road as we travelled back with great caution. It was late when we arrived back at camp so it was cheese for supper with a glass of red and an early night.
 
  Monday 16th May 2005  
  After a slow start to the day (why hurry when there is no need?) we went to the caravan repair place to check out a service that is due for the caravan. We bumped into a couple who we had met in Coober Pedy. We then went the Ghan Museum and the National Road Transport Hall of Fame. The only thing I found interesting was reading about women truck drivers from an age where women didn’t work, never mind drive these huge monsters. Peter enjoyed the museums but for me it was a waste of money.

We went into Alice to do a spot of shopping; I needed new walking shoes and one or two other things. The town was much quieter than Friday, it was as though half of Alice was closed.

In the evening we attended a four wheel drive information evening. It was yawn, yawn, yawn. The odd thing was interesting but it was mainly a promotional night for this four wheel drive company. The chap running it really didn't have the right personality to give such a talk.
 
  Tuesday 17th May 2005  
  We had another wander around Alice as we really like the town. We visited the Panorama Guth which is an art gallery extraordinaire. We had heard about this place and people had said it is a definite must see. Peter baulked a little at the price of $6.50 each but when he left he remarked, "Worth every cent".

The main painting was of the scenery around Alice but it was a 360º display. Wherever you looked you could see this beautiful scenery. You felt that, if you reached out, you could touch one particular tree. The rest of the paintings in the gallery were also impressive but the main attraction was magnificent.

From there we walked along the street to an ‘English’ pub. It was very nice but it also charged English prices!
 
  Wednesday 18th May 2005  
  We actually managed to leave the caravan at a reasonable time as I had planned a full day.

First stop was The School of the Air. It was explained to us how it all works and we watched a short video. We also watched and listened to a lesson in progress. The pupils are on remote cattle stations and this way of receiving their education has been in place for just over 50 years.

Second on the list was Anzac Hill. This is a lookout from which you can see Alice Springs in every direction. It is also the location of the War Memorial. You could imagine it would be a very special Anzac Dawn Service, high up there on the hill.

Next we went to The Flying Doctor's Base. Again it was very interesting and the ins and outs were explained to us. We had lunch at the café there as any profit goes to fund the Flying Doctor Service. Both the School of the Air and The Flying Doctor Service have to raise funds to survive as they are not Government funded. One of the displays in the Flying Doctor Service explained how, on some remote stations, the owners keep medical boxes and everything in them is numbered. This enables the doctor to treat some ailments over the radio.

On one occasion the doctor told a farmer to give his wife a number 9 pill. The farmer relayed to the doctor later that as they didn’t have any number 9 pills left, he gave his wife a number 4 and a number 5! “She came good,” he is reported to have said.

The Cultural Precinct was next on the agenda. The Precinct houses galleries, craft shops, museums and most importantly, two aviation museums. We decided that we would go our separate ways as one plane looks like any other to me and Peter doesn’t really get excited over galleries and craft shops. Peter seemed to enjoy his afternoon more than I did. Some of the art was really good but others, well not my cup of tea. The museum was quite interesting. We had had a full day but we still had a concert to go to at night.

What an enjoyable evening it was too. It was a concert of bush songs and poems and, best of all it, was free. We all took our chairs and drinks over to an area that had huge fires blazing and we were entertained by a chap for a couple of hours. He had everyone joining in the singing and doing the actions to ‘A Home Among The Gum Trees’. It was a clear night and to listen to bush music under the stars whilst sipping red wine, well it doesn’t get better than that. A perfect end to a perfect day.
 
  Thursday 19th May 2005  
  Big day today, the Ghan arrives from Darwin this morning and then at lunchtime leaves for Adelaide. Peter was up and away to the railway station before I had had a shower. We both went back to see it leave at lunchtime. It was a very long train. We then went and had lunch again at the Flying Doctors Café. The food was very good again and reasonably priced.

After lunch we went to the internet café to send emails and update the web. The man who runs the internet café could do with a session at charm school! As he is the only one in town I suppose he thinks he can be miserable to everyone and get away with it.

After the internet ‘stuff’ was completed we went to do some shopping. I was walking across the car park when I heard a woman shouting at me: “Get off the road, you stupid woman”
I thought, “How rude!”, then recognised the ‘troublemaker’ as a lady we had met in Coober Pedy!!!
 
  Friday 20th May 2005  
  Today we did the rounds of the medical profession in Alice. All because some doctor in Perth reckons I have a heart problem. We have decided, after talking to the doctor today, that when we get to Darwin I will ask for a second opinion.

After this exhilarating morning we headed for Telegraph Hill. We did a couple of walks (one was just a stroll a few yards to Alice Spring). It was named Alice Spring after Mr Todd’s wife. Mr Todd was in fact Sir Charles Todd, the Superintendent of Telegraphs. To cut a long story short, the spring wasn’t a spring but a dip in the river bed which resulted in a pool when the river dried, but that is where Alice Springs gets its name. Furthermore it is recorded that Alice Todd never came to Alice Springs!

After our walk we explored the Telegraph Museum which is the original buildings restored as they were in 1895. It was very interesting but I did get a bit bored when Peter and Bruce, our tour guide, started chatting using technical jargon. By now it was 5.00pm and Bruce was waiting to close up, so I had to drag Peter away. Besides, a glass of red was calling.
 
  Saturday 21st May 2005  
  We didn’t really do a lot today. In the afternoon we went to have a look at the Gliding Club in Alice. Another God-forsaken place! Some of the people were friendly, others . . . well, I guess they had other things on their minds. We had a bit of a look around and then left without Peter being enticed into having a flight. There is always next Saturday.

On the way home we called in at the liquor store for some wine. Whilst queuing to pay for it I noticed an Aboriginal man ahead of us in the queue. The assistant was brusque with him and he was very subservient. I felt very sorry for him as he was so pathetic. I don't mean that in a derogatory way, but they are obviously aware that they are disliked and tolerated by the white people. The answer to this problem, I think is beyond anyone’s thinking. It is alright for us 'city folk’ to come up here and spout objectives but what do we know? When I say ‘city folk’ I include the likes of John Howard and Kim Beasley and their cronies.
 
  Sunday 22nd May 2005  
  Free pancakes for breakfast again. We had another nice time eating pancakes, drinking coffee and chatting to friendly people. After breakfast we went to the markets at Todd Mall. Peter was thrilled. The markets were okay, we bumped into some people we knew and found a good internet place, but alas no connection for the lap top.  
  Monday 23rd May 2005  
  Another beautiful day, warm and sunny. We are having some perfect weather, warm sunny days and cool nights. A lay day today, apart from a short walk.  
  Tuesday 24th May 2005  
  We had heard so much about Standleys Chasm we decided to go today. The scenery was stunning. We had to be there before noon to watch the sun work its way across the gorge. As it did, the sides of the gorge changed colour. Apparently some days are better than others and we were told today wasn’t as good as yesterday. We thought it was good and the scenery was, as I have said, stunning. We ate our lunch in the picnic area then made our way to another gorge. This one is called Simpsons Gap. Again the scenery was something else, absolutely beautiful. We didn’t see any black footed wallabies that are supposed to be around that area but we did see lots of birds and a very fine eagle. The eagle looked like it had just left its nest high in the rock wall of the gorge but we couldn’t quite make it out.

It was so peaceful there, even though there were people milling about it was a really lovely, tranquil spot.

We left there to go and sort out the tyre on Billy which has a slow leak for a while. $264 later we headed home. It was a lovely evening so we had a barbecue using the free gas 'barbies' provided by the camp.
 
  Wednesday 25th May 2005  
  Lots of errands to do today in the town.  
  Thursday 26th May 2005  
  Across Australia it was ‘The Big Morning Tea’ today to raise money for cancer research. The caravan park organised one so we went along and did our bit. We had our cup of tea and piece of cake with some people I had met earlier. To one of the ladies I have given the title ‘Laundry Policewoman’. Some-one earlier had warned me about women like this, they seem to think it is their responsibility to make sure people do not use more than one machine when other people are waiting. They also glare at people who leave their wet clothes in the tub longer than is absolutely necessary. I was ironing when the lady in question was giving me the run down on the machines and the people that use them. I am glad I had followed the rules!!!

After our morning tea we departed to spend the rest of the day at the Desert Park. We had heard a lot of good things about this park and David Attenborough stated it was the best in the world, or so they say.

On arriving we winced at the admission fee of $18 each (unless you are a senior, then it was $12.60 each). Well I am married to a senior! We entered the park with someone grumbling about ‘another rip-off’. He was soon to change his mind. We spent six hours in that park and enjoyed it all. We attended different talks about bush grubs and plants that you can eat. The plant maybe, but the grubs . . . I’d have to be desperate. No, very desperate! We watched the bird of prey demonstration and a short movie about ‘our land’ Australia. The whole day was superb. We left the park understanding more about the outback and bush than we than we thought possible in one day.

I have not mentioned the best bit yet. We attended a talk about Aborigines. The chap giving the talk was, of course, an Aborigine and was extremely good at telling his story and demonstrating it with drawings in the dirt. He had a way with him that kept your attention at all times and it was fascinating. I felt we came away with a better understanding of their culture, their despair, and generally their lives. What he explained to us was only the tip of the iceberg as the talk only lasted 40 minutes. Walking away I said to Peter I would have liked to ask a couple of questions but as a white person you are always on your guard that you might offend.

As luck would have it, on one of my many detours (you all know what a good map reader I am) we bumped into him and his Aboriginal assistant. As they were friendly and said hello I decided to plunge in and ask. I wanted to know why, at Ayers Rock, there are signs marking sites as sacred to women but no explanation of why they are sacred. He explained as best as he could, (I think it embarrassed him a little) that the sites were all to do with how a woman’s body functions. The information is only passed down from grandmothers to their granddaughters. Therefore they could not put up signs explaining it. Their customs are passed on by grandparents not parents, as parents are not wise - they are young and too busy making babies. A long time ago, when we were growing up, grandparents played a large part in our lives but now, in this modern world, we seem to have lost a lot of that.

I asked why, at Ayers Rock, that we did not have access to someone like him. I told him we went to Ayers Rock with open minds to learn but came away no wiser. He said the reason Aborigines were not employed there was racism. He reckons Australia is behind everywhere else, they are so slow it takes Australians two hours to watch ‘60 Minutes’. I have to say we were impressed with him, the rest of the staff and the park in general.
 
  Friday 27th May 2005  
  Today I had a streaming cold and a raging sore throat, so I did what you can do when you are retired. I stayed in bed and read and did crossword puzzles. No having to go into the office because the wages needed paying.  
  Saturday 28th May 2005  
  Another lay day – feeling better but not 100%.  
  Sunday 29th May 2005  
  Pancake breakfast started the day well - or so I thought. We then packed a picnic lunch and set off to explore the East MacDonnell Ranges, an area we hadn’t been to. We looked at Emily Gorge which was very pretty and then carried on to Jessie Gorge. By this time I was flagging. We had a quick look round, again a very pretty place, then we went back home where I spent the rest of the day lying on the bed.  
  Monday 30th May 2005  
  Went into Alice for a final look and to do the internet and shopping. I also went to the National Museum for Women Pioneers, Past and Present. It was very interesting and I picked up a couple of amusing pieces of prose. I will endeavour to type them up for the net, plus a poem I picked up at Todd Mall markets a week ago. The museum was interesting in that it illustrated how the female contribution to the structure of Australia (past and present) is very much understated in day to day life.  
  Tuesday 31st May 2005
 
  Busy day today getting ready to leave Alice tomorrow. We really loved Alice but it is so cold at night.