Highs & Lows

Trip Start Sep 08, 2011
Trip End Jan 08, 2012

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Where I stayed
Alice's Secret Travellers Inn Alice Springs
Read my review - 4/5 stars

Flag of Australia  , Northern Territory,
Saturday, October 22, 2011

The day had finally arrived. The day without which no trip to Australia can truly be called complete. The number one 'to-do' on my bucket list. Today was the day to visit Uluru; Australia’s icon. So much was expected from this trip and I was sure I was not to be disappointed.

It started with a 6:00am pick up. The bus driver seemed as sleepy as the passengers which did not inspire us with confidence, until we realised there were two of them and the one who was taking the first stint did seem much more alert than the other. In fact, the first driver we had seen, soon went to the back of the coach to catch up on some sleep!

In the planning stage, Uluru looks quite close to Alice Springs, in fact, Alice is the nearest town to it. However, the reality is that it’s about 460km away – at least a five hour drive each way (toilet & refreshment breaks included). As you can see, this is no light undertaking. Although to be honest, after 26 hours on the Ghan, 10 hours on a coach seemed like child’s play. And so it proved to be. I slept through the first part of the journey and was woken up for the first of our ‘rest’ stops, where we could avail ourselves of the washroom and get a decent cup of coffee. Furthermore, the service station had a pen with some emus in it. Photo op!

After the refreshments, it was another 2,5 hour drive to the first real stop. As we were approaching Uluru-Kata Tjuta (the name of the national park), we spied out of the window our first glimpse of Uluru. Wow! Except, hold on, there’s one problem... why is it grey and not red? "Ah," said our guide, “well spotted. This is Fooluru not Uluru. Back in the day, people used to come here, catch sight of it, think it was Uluru and go back with photos of it, only to be told that no, it wasn’t Uluru but Mt. Connor which is similar in appearance. Hence its nickname, ‘Fooluru’.”

Ha! Ha! Ha! All very droll, that was the kind of thing I needed to get a photo of. I reached for my camera, but it wasn’t there. I searched my pockets, my bag, even my seat, but there was no sign of it. I tried to think of the last time I had it, and the only thing I could think of was when after photographing the emus I had it on a table next to me while I was having coffee at the service station 200+km back..... NOOOOOOOOOO!!!!! Not today! I couldn’t have lost my camera today! Not the day I was going to see Uluru! AAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRGGGGGGHHHHH!!!! Of course, I wasn’t happy about losing the camera, but at the end of the day, it’s just a camera, it can be (and already has been) replaced. That’s what travel insurance is for. No, what really upset me the most was the circumstances. Here I was at the most iconic point in Australia, and I wouldn’t be able to get any photographs of it. Yes, I know, I could buy some postcards, but I could buy postcards of Moscow, but they’d have no meaning for me.

The remainder of the journey was a nightmare as I kept reproaching myself for being so stupid, but then we rocked up (*see what I did there?*) to the Olgas and I soon forgot all my troubles. The Olgas is/are quite close to Uluru, and it/they look like a range of hills or mountains. However, it is a monolith that has split above ground. It is truly amazing. I won’t say I was cheerful when we got off the bus to have a look around, I was still a little upset – one or two of the other passengers looked at me as if to say that I was overcome by the Olgas. There was only one thing for it; my iPod. I suppose the iPod takes good pictures, but they were never going to be the same quality as my camera. However, to quote The Rolling Stones, “You can’t always get what you want.”

So now that I had a temporary solution, back to the trip. I’d heard good things about the Olgas, some people saying that it’s more impressive than Uluru, but I think those people are blind. One of the most remarkable things about Uluru is probably not the rock itself, but Lord knows that's impressive enough, but the fact that you expect it to be in a desert, but at the moment, the surrounding area is full of vegetation. It's not a desert at all. It was explained to us, that this area is not technically a desert but an arid country, which means it gets from 120 to 200 ml of rainfall a year. However, when it does rain, the local environment takes full advantage of the water and you get so much greenery as a result. The contrast of the green vegetation, the red soil, the red rock and the blue sky was simply stunning. When we got to Uluru, we were able to walk around part of it, touch it and soak up the atmosphere. The first thing you notice about Uluru is that it is not smooth. Of course, the rock itself is smooth, but what I mean is that for one reason or another, there seem to be carvings in the rock. Clearly these ‘carvings’ I’m talking about have been produced over time, but you could be fooled into thinking that they were done by human hands.

A great part of the Uluru experience is not only the guide telling us what each part of the rock was used for (classroom; old people’s home; men’s club; women’s circle), but also the significance of the ‘carvings’ in Aboriginal folklore, ‘Dream Time’. As they were explaining these stories, you could see the shape of the designs almost come to life. Truly magical.

The end of the day was a little unusual. All the coach parties turned up at a point where you can see the colours change on Uluru as the sun sets. Unfortunately it had been quite an overcast day, so that wasn’t as good as it could have been. However, the thing that the different tour companies do is offer dinner at sunset. In most cases, that seemed to be either Doritos or salad and copious amounts of wine. For us, we had a bbq, champagne and/or wine. I don’t drink wine, normally, and when I do, I tend to drink it like beer – lots of it and very quickly. Yes, you guessed it, it went straight to my head and I had the quickest 5 hour bus journey in history. I had intended to look out for kangaroos on the way back, as they’re nocturnal, but that plan went out of the window at about 10 seconds after taking my seat on the bus.

Despite losing my camera, it had still been a good day and I do have some photos, it’s just such a shame that they could have been better. Never mind, it’s all part of the Oz adventure!
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Helen and Paul on

The pictures may not be what you planned but they look fantastic. it's unusual to see the place so verdant. The memory of Ularu will always be with you :)

àngels on

Vaya día...great end though!!! tengo que decir que admiro tu resignación cuando te has dado cuenta de que no llevabas la cámara....pero me alegro de que por fin Urulu's day haya llegado ;-)

qué bueno lo del vino...

georgegoode on

Ya me he comprado otra camera, pero la calidad no es tan buena como el Nikon. Pero más fotos habrá! Y si, la cena fue un buen toque y bastante surreal.

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