In April, for my 47th birthday. I went to the middle of nowhere… literally. I didn’t want to be at home for this birthday. I had huge anxiety leading up to it. The unfairness, that I would now be older than Claytie could ever be, missing him more than I would have thought possible, the sheer weight of my grief… there were a lot of feelings to process. So I thought stuff it! I can sit at home by myself and cry, or I can have an adventure – and cry!
This trip has been on my bucket list since Claytie finished working in Darwin. He had been doing FIFO for 5 years, and was able to purchase one of the site cars – a Prado that he absolutely loved. I flew up to Darwin for his ‘going away’ drinks, and then he and I drove his new car home. It was without doubt one of our favourite trips.
The vastness of the countryside is breathtaking. Beyond anything you can imagine. Litchfield national park, Florence Falls, Katherine gorge and Mataranka Hot springs are all insanely beautiful. The long stretches of nothing take you back through history imagining how difficult life must have been with out the comforts of modern life that we all rely on.
We were whistle stop tourists on our way home. We only had 5 days to do it, 3436 kilometres… but I will never forget how it felt to be that tiny in such a vast space. Those feelings inspired my birthday trip to Uluru – a place Claytie and I didn’t have the chance to see together.
My plan initially was to go by myself – but with an invitation thrown out that anyone who wanted to come along should do so. My parents and one of my sisters decided that they wanted to do just that! It meant that instead of flying straight into Yulara, we went to Alice Springs and got to see the Parrtjima Festival of Lights… a fusion of modern technology and ancient stories. It was freezing cold and magical, and I am so glad we were able to see it.
Having my Dad there, also meant that we had a driver to take us from Alice to Kings Canyon via a dirt road detour that was an absolute highlight- and I think maybe his favourite part of the trip! – especially the unmarked drainage gullies across the road that he took at great speed causing those in the backseat (not me!) to be launched into the car roof! … he had to do it a couple of times just for laughs!
Kings Canyon, for me, was absolutely like stepping back in time. The place is and feels ancient… the sounds and colours, the sides of the canyon rising up around you. There is a complete feeling of magic and connection, and a weight of history. You can not help but be introspective and realise how insignificant you actually are in the universe when looking at something that is millions of years old.
It was a bit of an adjustment to get back into the car, en route to the rock, this time on sealed roads. Scanning the horizon for that much anticipated first glimpse… fooled by Mount Conner – a magnificent site, but not the one we came for! … and then, there it was. My first impression was goosebumps… that tingling on the back of your neck, hairs standing up in your arm, needing to catch your breath!
Uluru is exactly as the pictures show it, and somehow so much more. It feels bigger than you can imagine and almost alive. There is an energy that comes from it that for me, was incredibly soothing and calming. Walking along the trails at the base, and seeing Mutitjulu waterhole, and the rock art that have all existed for so long, made me feel peaceful and lighter somehow. As though the rock had taken some of my load to carry. There was a feeling of gratitude, that I could leave it there.
Kata Tjuta – the Olgas… a place that felt, initially like it was calling to me, came as a complete surprise. A contrast I wasn’t expecting. I thought I was going to love it. I absolutely didn’t! … I loved the majesty of it, the sheer size and scale. But it did not give me a sense of comfort, in fact, quite the opposite. It felt, and is, incredibly masculine. It was almost menacing, like it was tolerating my presence, but I shouldn’t stay any longer that I had to. I felt relieved to leave there and head back to the feminine comfort of Uluru.
Of course we did all of the tourist activities that we could while there. They were fabulous and I would absolutely recommend them -the helicopter ride, sunrise tour on my birthday and the sounds of silence dinner in particular! But my favourite times were at Kathleen Falls (Kings Canyon) and walking the Uluru base trail on my own.
For me, in this palace, at this time, waking through the Australian landscape, seemingly unchanged for millennia – listening to the sounds of nature.. the wind, the happy chirping of great flocks of colourful birds and the chorus of insects, the incessant buzzing of flies was incredibly soothing. I can see how it has inspired poetry about the stark splendour of old man gum tree and the graceful ballet of spinnefex grass in the breeze. It demanded an apology for hundreds of years of trauma and abuse of aboriginal people at the hands of white man. It struck awe into the soul and initiated conversations with ancestors. It is the sort of magic that everyone should experience, whether your exploring the next that is now, or just because!