On an Australian trip a few years ago, my wife and I went to see Uluru, generally recognized as the largest “rock” on the planet. It is difficult not to be impressed by this huge chunk of sandstone. It rises 1,142 feet above the flat, desert-like area around it. It boasts a circumference of 5.8 miles.
Besides its sheer size, in itself enough to make you just stand and stare with mouth open, another attraction is it changing colors. While basically dull, red sandstone, during the course of a day it will appear to change color, most notably becoming a glowing red at sunrise and sunset. Also unusual is its homogeneity and lack of jointing and parting. Thus, one sees no trees, bushes or anything growing on the huge expanse.
It is possible to climb to the top of Uluru, although it is a steep and difficult climb. However, Uluru is sacred to the Anangu, the Aboriginal people who claim ownership of the area, and while they do allow people to climb to the top, they also make it clear that they would rather people did not. We did not make the climb.
Although it is 280 miles from the nearest city, it has become a tourist attraction and a small community called Yulara has grown up about eleven miles by road from Uluru, or Ayers Rock as it is also known. There are hotels, restaurants and an airport, with a population around three thousand.
We chose not to stay in Yulara but rented a car and drove to Curtin Springs Cattle Station, about sixty miles to the north east. For us, this was a lucky move. We arrived there and had the impression we had stepped into the bar scene of Crocodile Dundee. The people were as rough, genuine, and fun loving as Dundee and his mates. We were told that Curtin Springs was one of the smaller cattle stations in the Red Center—only 1.3 million acres. We stayed there several nights and before we left, we were invited to the owners’ home to view photographs dating back to their first arrival at Curtin Springs.
We learned much about the Red Center of Australia, the methods of raising cattle there (different from in Texas), and Australia’s wild camel problem. Estimates of the number of camels in this area now range to somewhat over one million. You could see herds of feral camels roaming across the land and walking through fences. The camel was introduced to the area many years ago in the hope that they would provide excellent transportation across this barren land. Eventually, that was abandoned and the remaining camels turned out to run free. They have increased and multiplied and now pose a real problem to ranchers and other inhabitants of the area. Naturally we took a camel ride, but not on a wild camel.
We enjoyed all of Australia, but the Red Center and Uluru were certainly special. And our time there gave me an opportunity to work on a writing project.
Before leaving Texas for our trip “Down Under,” I had read an old Texas folktale. I wondered how a folktale could affect the lives of people today. While my wife and I explored the Red Center, I began piecing together a plot for a suspense tale that could grow out of that folktale. A Ton of Gold slowly took shape. For young Crystal Moore, a long-forgotten folktale, plus greed, brings murder, arson, and kidnapping into her life. At the same time, a man from the past who nearly destroyed Crystal emotionally has come back. This time, he can wreck her career. She will need all the help she can get from a former bull rider, a street-wise friend, and a 76 year-old grandmother.
A Ton of Gold, Oak Tree Press, 2013
A Ton of Gold on Amazon http://amzn.to/UQrqsZ
Callan’s website: http://www.jamesrcallan.com
Callan’s blog: http://www.jamesrcallan.com/blog
Callan’s Author Page on Amazon: http://amzn.to/1eeykvG