We left a very wet Cairns on Saturday the 31st of July and headed straight for Atherton. The road to Atherton was amazing. It has the potential to be the longest, greatest hillclimb in the world – I would love to take the blue Avenger up there. The road pretty much starts at sea level and winds it’s way up through the clouds to the Atherton tableland. The road snakes through the rain forest, changing direction to meet the contours of the mountain side. When you get to the top, the rainforest disappears and turns into open green fields. It made for a rather spectacular start to the trip.
As we approached Georgetown, the roads came as a bit of a shock. On the map, Route 1 looks as if it is a six lane highway. In reality, you get a single narrow lane (of bitumen) with half a lane of solid dirt on either side. You drive on the bitumen until you see a car coming towards you. Then you put two wheels on the dirt and drive on. Of course, when you are out in the middle of nowhere, you salute the person coming towards you (you mightn’t see anyone for an hour). This involves raising the index finger of the more visible hand on the steering wheel (apparently).
At one stage we stopped for a short break, we stood out in the middle of the road for half an hour and not one car passed by – that was a little wierd at first.
We encountered quite a bit of wildlife on this leg of the trip; a large black snake (I didn’t want to get close enough to find out what it was), huge Ant hills some over two metres tall and a few hundred Wallabies (at last, a living one).
As we left Normanton (heading south), the land flattened out. All you could see was yellow grass in every direction as far as the eye could see. I’ve never felt so small in my life!
After a short stop in “Burke and Wills” road house, I was driving when I noticed the temperature gauge rise, which was funny because it doesn’t work! Then the battery light came on. The fan belt was broken and the radiator was boiling. Luckily there was no major damage. I put on a new fan belt and we were back on the road within ten minutes.
We were greeted on the border of the Northern Territory by a small “Speed limit no longer applies” sign ; ). Normally this would make me grin from ear to ear, but the Pajero isn’t a sports car! : (
After a great nights sleep on the roof of the Pajero in Tennant Creek (I only have a three man tent, so we take turns in the car… but it was too warm that night), we headed off down the Stuart Highway towards Alice Springs. We made Alice by lunch on Tuesday the 3rd… ahead of schedule. After a quick commitee meeting, we decided to bomb on. At the current rate, we could make Uluru (Ayers Rock) by sunset.
As it happens, we couldn’t have timed it better. We arrived at the rock with five minutes to spare. I’ve never taken so many photos of one rock before! It is amazing how it’s colour changes so much.
Tired after the 1020Km trip, we made our way to the campsite via a service station. I mention the servo because it seems utterly daft that we would go there when there was a bush fire just a few feet away – never mind hanging around for photos!