Still Friday -The Liru Walk connects the Mala carpark in a south westerly direction to the Cultural Centre. Two kilometres. Shouldn’t be a problem. Track flat and wide as usual. But I was concerned it may be too hot. However, there was no shelter from the sun at Mala and the next shuttle bus wasn’t due for an hour or more, so I headed off despite my feet yelling at me to give them a rest.
Perhaps the temperature was 30 or 35 degrees ( I will never know except the forecast expectation was a maximum of 33) with no shade except the occasional wispy shadows from a few open trees as I walked along the Liru Walk. There was no-one else around except one couple who passed me coming from the Cultural Centre and headed for Mala. I felt very isolated, and wondered what would happen if I collapsed. Again it was mind over matter that propelled me to the Cultural Centre. Later, while waiting for the bus to return me from the Cultural Centre back to my hotel, I talked with a couple who looked half dead (perhaps that was how I looked) – they had also walked the Liru Walk seemingly not far behind me, carrying and drinking lots of water as I had. Both seemed to be suffering from heat exhaustion, but we were under cover as we talked and they were still drinking so I decided not to worry about them too much. We exchanged stories about how 2 kms seemed like 100 in that seemingly airless, unforgiving relentless environment. There were no seats along the way, and no signs to indicate how far you walked with the exception of one at the midway point.The height of the trees blocked out Uluru for most of the walk, but it was always spectacular when visible.
Over and above the physical struggle, I had sufficient mental reserves remaining to love many aspects of the Lira Walk. In particular, I found the desert plants with their flowers endlessly appealing. Initially I spotted a carpet of White Paper Daisies.
Then I began to see more and more of the brilliant pink/purple coloured flowers of the Broad-Leafed Parakeelya. I noted that the fleshy quality of their ‘leaves’ reminded me of our pigface plant. I knew this means water and it means edible – in that extreme environment with the heat radiating up from the ground as well as pouring down from the sun, I thought in an emergency this would be a moisture and food source. A couple of days later I learnt local aboriginals have used this plant for sustenance.
Now I can see that I did not take many photos and I can only put this gap down to my mind being devoted to survival and making it to the Cultural Centre. When I saw the bare bones of a building and then the edge of a vehicle I knew I was close. But there was no signs to tell me how to get into this curvy building with its high walls and fences – later I was to learn the official entrance was diagonally opposite where I arrived. By the time I reached the Cultural Centre I was almost staggering. When I saw a group of people walking down a tiny side lane, I asked them was this the way in. They were vague (probably assuming I was a weirdo because they had come through the main entrance and wouldn’t be able to conceive of someone arriving by a different route) so I proceeded to stumble along in the direction from which they came. Later I realised it was the toilet block that I had passed.
In the shade at last. A souvenir shop with the Ininti café attached was the first thing I noticed and in I went for a drink and lunch. Sitting down. Lowering the body temperature. Restocking the reserves.
When I set out to explore the different facets of the Centre there were no signs and someone vaguely waved me over to a facility where they thought I could get a map and more information. Across the sunny courtyard I plodded following a line of images.Inside I found help in what turned out to be the reception and the entrance spaces with museum and aboriginal stories and displays. I could hardly stand. The receptionist sold me a very useful $2 booklet with maps. I sat near the reception counter and when the space was empty I explained the challenges of walking the Liru Walk and the fact there was no entrance to the Centre designed for such walkers. Whether or not he would pass my suggestions on I have no idea, but I hope he did something as a result of my experience.
I was simply too exhausted to read the booklet and to explore the Cultural Centre complex. Instead I decided to catch the bus back to my hotel and somehow fit in a return visit another day.
The day finished with Betty and I enjoying dinner in the Arnguli Grill and Restaurant at the Desert Garden Hotel – their website explains Arnguli is the Pitjantjatjara word for bush plum. After bussing back to our hotel, I was soon asleep with another big next day planned. I would be travelling to Kata Tjuta and expecting new marvels.