Monday, March 29, 2004

Alice Springs, Australia--Day 59

Today I woke up several times before it was actually time for me to wake up at 5:30. I packed up my things and headed out to meet my guide (whose name I would later learn to be Brendan) for the next three days who was waiting for me. We exchanged hellos and I put my stuff into the back of the trailer and got into the landrover. We pulled out and picked up two other people along the way Uli, a guy from Germany, and Vicki, a woman from Australia. We then pulled into a convenience store and stopped to pick up four others, Emma and Victoria from England, and Marika and Gherman, a couple from Belgium. After sorting out paperwork we set off to our first destination Uluru, which is also known as Ayers Rock, and is a sacred cultural site for the Aboriginal People as well as the biggest rock in the world!

After driving for about an hour we made it to a camel farm where we stopped to use the facilities and could also pay to ride a camel. Since it was only $5 and I couldn’t see the next time that I would actually be riding a camel, I paid and climb on top of a camel and for the next oh, two minutes or so was paraded around with the Marika and Gherman on our camels around a big loop. As we headed down the final stretch towards the others waiting for us, our guide made the camels sort of jog which of course made us bounce up and down more. The worst of it was when the camel was getting up and down because it just felt like the camel was going to fall over and that you were going to fall over with it. The camel guides instruct you to lean back as far as possible and trying to do this while holding on and keeping your balance was actually quite hard.

After our camel rides we got back in the landrover and kept on driving towards Uluru, having a contest to see who could spot the rock first. Unfortunately it was pretty cloudy outside so our hopes to find the contrast of bright blue skies with the massive orange rock were low but everyone was excited anyways. We stopped off at a roadhouse on the way to a few drinks for later tonight and then made our way to Uluru. We finally spotted Uluru and headed into the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park where we first stopped off at our campsite to have lunch and to get an idea of where the facilities were during the daytime, since we would be coming back at night after the sunset and it would be difficult to point everything out then! After lunch we headed over to Uluru and the Aboriginal Cultural Center. The (Aboriginal) Cultural Center was really interesting and had several different buildings dedicated to telling bits and pieces about Aboriginal culture as well as video and audio clips all of which were fascinating. After spending about an hour in the cultural center we were dropped off by our guide at the base of the rock for a walk around. There is also a climb up to the top of the rock, however it was closed today due to the weather (impending rain and winds) and so it was closed but just looking at it made me not want to do it anyways since it was so steep! Aboriginal people also ask that people don’t climb it since it is so very sacred to their culture (its kind of like stepping right over and into a church’s altar) and so I would not have climbed it anyway.

The base walk was really nice and took us about 2 hours to complete after stopping for photos many times and talking with Emma and Victoria the entire way. The rock itself is just magnificent and it really is hard to believe that it is just one huge and rusty rock. I was actually really glad that it had been raining and was a bit cloudy because not only did this add an extra element to the rock (including water trickling down it!) but was also not as hot as it could have been. The flies were in full swing though and I felt very happy that I had my new fly netted hat to keep them away!

After walking around most of the way we met up with Brendan again to have a sort of mini cultural lesson about Uluru and the stories that Aboriginal people tell to their children about the rock’s formation and origin, as well as some really neat cave paintings. After this we headed to the sunset viewing area/lookout only to join about 50 billion other caravans and coaches who were setting up their own places to view the sunset from afar. We picked a good spot and opened up four bottles of sparkling wine as well as chips and dips and watched as the sun made it way down behind us which made Uluru different shades of orange, red and purple.

After the sun had set we got back into our landrover and headed out back to the campsite and built our campfire, set up our swags while Brendan made us dinner! What luxury! Dinner was great and afterwards it was time for bed! Falling asleep under the stars was wonderful--a nice change from hotel life.

(c) 2004 Sarah Galbraith. All Rights Reserved.