The Road to Uluru

Australia has done well by the land use heritage of its first residents, the Aborigines. The land was settled by people coming from coastal Sri Lanka as much as 60,000 years ago; certainly 40,000 years ago. These wanders/explorers/adventurers survived; maybe even flourished. They traveled during a period where the great glaciers of the last ice age held b billions of tons of water on land and the seas were much smaller. Any ocean water now less than 3400′ deep was dry land back then.

The Europeans (British actually) came in numbers only as a means to ease the burden of petty criminals and indentured servants on their British culture. Britain shipped folks by the hundreds, then the thousands, to a land no one had seen or visited in a decade. James Cook discovered and claimed the region (in a European colonial sense) and then when he departed it was again Terra incognito until the ships with criminals, marines, and public servants arrived ten years later.
The Europeans lived on the coast in scattered prison-town communities, the aboriginal peoples lived pretty much everywhere. They were adapted and survived. The coastal groups had life easier perhaps than did the peoples of the interior, but they were living throughout what is now Australia. When the Europeans arrived it is estimated that there were about 350 aboriginal languages being spoken throughout the land by about 750,000 people – there are now about half that many.

The interior is arid. It has had some rain the past few years and the desert oaks and mulga (acacias) are fully leafed out and quite green. The pictures below give you a sense of what the drive from Alice Springs to Yulara (where Uluru/Ayers Rock is located) looks like. Occasionally a flock of budgerigars or a kangaroo might be seen but generally it is just you, the vehicle, the vegetation, and the road. The geology has been designed by ancient water courses; for example the Finke River bed is well over 300,000,000 years old; the Todd River in Alice is maybe the same age. Wind and rain have worn away two great mountain ranges in the past billion years or so. Australia is quite flat now.

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Along these remote roads there are a few roadhouses; a place to stop and stretch and grab some water or chips. One of the first roadhouses you come to is the Camel Farm where Neil offers camel rides and other stuff to keep the curious around. Dental care is not provided for the camels as you can tell. Australia exports camels to the middle east and has more camels than any other country.
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One of the creatures living at the Camel Farm is an emu. This one was near several others which were sheltered in the shade (it was 111.2 degrees for there third day in a row) of a large propane tank. The emu is native to the region but not commonly seen.
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We were treated to a chin-scratcher of a sight; three cars which were decorated or camouflaged were being attended to by a few other vehicles and a small quiet group of people. They each had a computer array in front and no one had any real idea what they were doing. Someone said they were 2020 cars being road tested in the outback and another story was that the nearby US (spy/communications/satellite tracking) military base was testing out some new satellite communication system. The cars were left hand drive and very cryptic. Cool, but no idea what they were or what they were doing.
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So here is what it looks like….for a couple hundred miles. Old salt pans, clumps of mulga, and red sand along the edge of the road. The mesa in the distance is called Mount Connor and represents the height of the land a few hundred thousand years ago. Most of those old mountain ranges now lie in sandy bits in the great Amadeus Basin.


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