Wara-where?? Not for the first time on the Outback Way, I’m rolling my tongue around names of places I’ve never heard of before.
Warakurna is our destination on Day 8, but before dawn we head to a lookout for sunrise. From this spot, we can see both Uluru and Kata Tjuta, the domes of rock sometimes also called The Olgas. We’re not alone, with bus-loads of tourists armed with cameras and iPads jostling for position in the breaking light.
It’s beautiful, despite all the people. The grasslands glow golden, the sun breaks free from the horizon, and as the cameras click Uluru is bathed in light.
We have a picnic breakfast in the shadow of the 36 domes of Kata Tjuta, the rock formations that are the other major landmark within Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, about 25km west of Uluru. The highest dome, Mount Olga, stands about 546 metres above the surrounding plain and is 198 metres higher than Uluru.
Soon we’re hitting the red road again, the Lasseter Highway leading us on toward our westward destination, 285km away – but with plenty to see along the way.
The Lasseter Highway is named for Lewis Harold Bell Lasseter, who in the 1930s became famed for his reputed discovery of a rich gold deposit, the location of which he later searched for in vain. Lasseter’s “lost reef” became a story of mystery, and was never found. What we found – along with all other travellers along this road – was Lasseter’s Cave, where he was said to have sheltered on an ill-fated expedition on which his camels bolted and left him stranded. He later died while attempting to walk to Mount Olga to meet his relief party.
West of Docker River, we hit the border between the Northern Territory and Western Australia, where a hand-made sign competes with the official one for photos. From here on, the road gets rougher and more corrugated, but the scenery continues to astonish us. It’s like driving through a painting by indigenous artist Albert Namatjira, famed for his landscapes.
After about 25km, we turn south-west and before too long pull up to inspect a plaque embedded in the trunk of a tall ghost gum alongside the road. It’s a tribute to the crew who constructed the central desert roads, including Len Beadell, one of Australia’s modern-day explorers. We’ll see and hear more about Len as we go along…but he was responsible (in the late 1950s and ’60s) for surveying and constructing many of the Outback tracks that made travel possible for vehicles.
At the end of the day, we roll into the Warakurna Roadhouse, where our cabins await. And not even the bright orange sheets on the bed can keep me awake tonight! It’s been another great day on the road.
A Glass Half Full travelled as a guest of the Outback Way Development Board.