—by Mark Powers—
But it was the 70s; I was a young, naïve high school teacher that had immigrated to Australia from the US and was teaching Phys. Ed. and Music in an all-boys technical college in Melbourne and knew nothing of the background and historical significance of the area. I was determined to climb the monolith and throw a disc from the top of it, and so, with a like-minded group of four other teachers, set off eagerly to the centre of Australia in my newly-acquired ten-year-old Land Rover—convinced that nothing or no one could stop our discovery and conquest of the fabled Outback!
Warning Sign on Road to Pine Gap[photo by New York Times] After a few false stops and starts from our Melbourne origin, a few days later we ended up on a fantastic sealed road not far from Alice Springs, the gateway to Australia’s hauntingly beautiful but forbidding Outback, and what we thought was the way to Uluru—only to discover it was the secure road to the highly-guarded U.S. Pine Gap satellite surveillance facility in the middle of the vast expanse of the Northern Territory. The U.S. Marine sentry kindly directed us to a rather non-descript dirt road heading off in the distance and said that was the way we should be going—through the Alice and on to the Rock—and firmly lowered the boom gate as we U-turned out of the carpark!
Uluru National Park It was only a further 220 kilometres away, but in those days of corrugated dirt roads full of bull-dust and road-trains, it took another day to navigate our way to the fabled Rock. We pitched our tents in complete darkness in the designated camping area and eagerly anticipated the next morning’s climb. As the sun rose, we stumbled from our tents to the awe-inspiring sight of the looming mass of the Rock, dark purple in the early morning light but set to put on a show of a million shades of red throughout the day!
It was a sober moment in the waiting line to start the climb when viewing three plaques mounted in the red monolith to remind everyone of the deaths of three climbers who, in recent years, had wandered off the chain track that was built in the early 60’s and fallen to their deaths on the slippery sides of the rock. As I stated earlier, the deaths of more tourists throughout the decades spurred the Anangu to close the Rock to climbers in 2019 and focus visitor marketing to activities around the rock rather than on it.
But in my youthful naïvety I had stuffed an orange Toltoys Pro Frisbee in the back of my jeans and eagerly grabbed the chains to haul myself up the steep slope—and when I reached the summit couldn’t wait to launch the disc over the edge. What I didn’t realise at the time was the summit was quite a flat area of the Rock, and when I threw the Frisbee over the side couldn’t really witness the rest of the flight. I could only imagine the glide of the platter out over the burnt soil surrounding Uluru—but it was an exhilarating feeling!
Wham-O Mini Toltoys World Class 141GFour-signature, all gold stamp Eiffel Tower The Gap Over the years since that trip I must confess to many more disc-tossing transgressions, including throwing a mini Frisbee off the first deck of the Eiffel Tower in Paris and hurling a Toltoys World Class 141g 50 mold clone from the rugged cliffs of The Gap in Sydney’s eastern suburbs, a breathtakingly beautiful but notorious suicide site. Both were dangerous efforts to get that fleeting feeling of exhilaration again and watch the disc sail gracefully away into the distance—my hopes and aspiring dreams attached to its flight.
Now I’m wondering dear readers, how many among you have tossed a disc off an impossibly high place and watched in wonder and joy as it floated away?
I have often pondered if there has ever been a launch off the top of Everest—if the climber even has the spare time to throw a Frisbee from that peak nowadays what with the huge corporate numbers lining up to make the run to the summit—I know that astronauts have packed discs with them when launched into space, and thrown weightlessly to each other or themselves in their capsules. When will the first lunar or Martian flights of a disc occur? Will that be the ultimate dream...all puns intended?!
Just a footnote on the karma of that climb on Uluru—when driving back to Melbourne from the red centre in the old Land Rover, one of its pistons broke free and pushed the rod through the engine block—ending the trek in Port Augusta and forcing all five of us travellers to urgently hitchhike the last thousand kilometres back to Melbourne to make the first day of a new school year—but that’s another story!
Unfortunately, I have lost all the photos of that trip in my many moves around this large island, mainly because they were made into slides and not photographs at the time. But none of the memories of that wondrous flight have dimmed!
So please enjoy the photos of a friend (who shall remain nameless!), taken when on a similar pilgrimage to Uluru in the 80s. She threw her Pro off the same area that I did years earlier—probably inspired by my ravings of that earlier sojourn and Zen-like experience!
About the Author:
Around a year after the great trek into Australia’s Outback and the Uluru Frisbee Launch incident, Mark competed in and won the Open title for the very first Australian Frisbee Championships held in Melbourne’s parklands on the site of the now famous Rod Laver Tennis Centre in January 1978. With that win came the prize of a free trip to compete in the World Frisbee Championships at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California. Mark attended the WFCs that year with fellow Aussies Brian Vanallen and junior Mike Benjamin—and they were suitably blown away by the advanced state of disc play by the other competitors, especially the U.S. team!
Coming back from that tournament, Mark and Brian became Frisbee ambassadors for the next few years for Toltoys, the Wham-o licensee for Oz—and vowed to make Aussies take flying discs more seriously! He subsequently competed in the next three WFCs at the Rose Bowl, and in Australia he founded and promoted disc golf courses in most of Australia’s capital cities during the early 80s.
He now lives in the coastal town of Adelaide with wife Denva and Shnooki the wonder mutt and has recently rekindled his love of collecting discs—tracking down a yellow American Trends Pluto Platter and enrollment card in late December as a major acquisition and star attraction of his Fred Morrison tribute display.