I've been to hell - and it's beautiful...

Trip Start Nov 09, 2012
Trip End Mar 04, 2013

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Where I stayed

Flag of Australia  , Northern Territory,
Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Today I'm writing my blog from a Boeing 717-200 – the first rear engined
plane I've been on. These are my least favourite type of planes –
engines should never be mounted on the rear... Period.

Just as it was bumpy coming into Alice Springs a few days ago, it was
equally bumpy flying out – but we're currently at 30,000 feet and
fingers crossed (there's no wood to touch), it'll be a good flight
into Darwin. Weather in Alice today – 40 degrees. Weather in
Darwin – 37 degrees with 78% humidity. Nice...

In the last blog, we had just checked into Alice Motor Inn and saw bugs.
Weird bugs that we hadn't seen before – flying cockroach things,
legless lizards (we're pretty sure it was a snake and the hotel
manager was trying not to freak us out). The night didn't get much
better with things running and flying around all over the shop. We
did eventually man up enough to not sleep lying across the bed as
originally planned cos of creepy crawlies coming up the wall – to
sleeping normally. 

We were picked up by the tour company at 6am on Saturday morning for our
3 day tour in a 4 wheel drive bus and made a 5 hour trip to Yakara
and to our campsite for the evening. The campsite was 'premium' with
permanent tents (more like condos). Food was prepared by our chef
(we had a chef!) for our group of 24. There was a large French
contingent on board as well as a few Austrians, Germans and Brits.
They also provided a French translator which meant everything the
tour guide said, was repeated – at length- in French.

So after our first day lunch of quiche, pasta and tuna salad (I ate my
very first quiche) – we went off to Uluru – otherwise known as
Ayres Rock. Uluru is the rock's aboriginal name – but it was given
the name Ayres Rock after an Englishman 'found' it and named it after
the then Central Australian governor – which gained him a

Uluru is a sacred rock for the Aboriginal people of the area, and is home
to many creationist stories, including one about the nephew of a big
snake woman who stole from another tribe who then killed him, and
enraged the snake woman enough to seek revenge and turn the area into
spoilt land (worth looking up – they're very interesting stories).
We walked half way around the base of Uluru – baking in 38 degree
heat and wondering what the hell we'd let ourselves in for. After
the tour of Uluru we travelled a little way to watch the sunset over
Uluru and to watch it change colours with champagne and nibbles. I
drank half a glass of champagne and was two sheets to the wind. Debs
faired better managing a glass and a half (same amount as milk that
goes into bars of Cadburys!). The sunset was quite magnificent, with
Uluru and surrounding landscape changing colours as the sun went

After the sunset we went back to our campsite for showers and dinner which
consisted of camel sausages, kangaroo steak, or cow steak. This
proved a little difficult for Debs and I who don't really eat red
meat (it looked pretty minging) so we settled for delicious salad
sandwiches! Pudding however was a lovely fruit crumble :-) 

Being so hot, it was important to drink a lot of water – which meant lots of
trips to the loo. Unfortunately the loos were a couple of minutes
walk away which meant getting dressed and walking at night – past
the big posters which warned of wild Dingos. 

The chef doubled up as chambermaid as well and our tents were made up
with beds and linen ready for us which was lovely. Definitely worth
paying the extra for (the bush tour was half the price but with a
sleeping bag and a hole in the ground)... We had a little company
from a gecko who watched over us (literally) while we slept and
gobbled up the flies. The only issue that I had with the campsite
was the flying (and dropping) beetles that infiltrated our eating
area and started dropping from mid air all over us (mostly Debs!) and
in our food.

The second day started with watching the sun rise over Uluru and Kata
Tjuta (The Olgas) and this meant being on the road for 4am. The
early morning was definitely worth it – the sunrise was
spectacular. After sunrise we went for our a walk – if you call it
that – I'd call it more a obstacle course mixed with survival
training! We went to a group of small mountains called Kata Tjuta or
The Olgas. They were quite beautiful and went walked up and down
dale, through the canyons, literally over some of the massive rocks
and all around the area for approximately 6 miles. By the time we
were an hour in, it was hot... Really really hot. By the second
hour it was hotter. By the third hour we were ready to go home or
die. I don't remember the fourth hour but I do remember that there
were no toilets! Lol. It may sound like it but I'm not moaning –
it was a fantastic experience and we're really glad that we did it.
Anyway so this was all before 10.30 in the morning – so we go back
to the campsite for lunch – more burgers, and yet more salad/cheese
sandwiches for us – and then we hit the road for Kings Canyon –
approximately 5 hours by coach. We arrived at the nicest of the
campsites yet – a bush campsite near a resort (where we were
dropped off for a little while for a shower and game of pool).

The campsite was about a 10 minute drive in the middle of nowhere,
literally a group of huts and a toilet block. We had dinner of
Chicken and Macademia Nut sauce, rice and veg which both of us
actually like – followed by chocolate cake – num num num. The
dinners were set up inside a meshed off canteen hall which got so hot
– it was warmer inside than outside! After dinner Debs & I sat
out and watched the stars – with no light pollution the view was
spectacular and we even saw a few shooting stars. All this in shorts
and t-shirt. Amazing!

Another early 5am start and we were off to Kings Canyon. A large canyon in
the middle of nowhere and another 8 mile walk starting with 'Heart
attack hill' as one guide called it – 350 sandstone steps up to the
top of the first part of the canyon. The views were outstanding, and
even though the terrain was tough with lots of steep ups and downs,
it was definitely the highlight of the tour – the pictures don't do
it justice. We saw the fossils of sea cucumbers from when the area
was once covered by sea, learnt how the sandstone was created over
millions of years from sand blown from the desert and how Central Oz
has gotten it's red colour through oxidisation of the sandstone (go
beneath the surface and it's 'sand' coloured\). We visited a water
hole and saw how water seeps through the rocks to create little water
nirvanas in the middle of the outback and looked over kilometres upon
kilometres of the canyon ranges. We headed back to camp for 11am for
a salad wrap before departing for a 5 hour off road journey through
the outback and our way back to Alice Springs.

The outback isn't at all what I expected – it is mountainous and green
(and black). There is lots of vegetation as it gets a fair amount of
rain – as well as the high temperatures. Bush fires are common –
we saw 2 whilst we were out there. Bush fires are considered
essential for the management and regeneration of the outback and
whilst most are accidental – some are started on purpose by the
National Parks (which used to be Aboriginal land – with some of it
being handed back). Interestingly, unless homes are in danger, no
attempt is made by authorities to manage the fires. On our outback
tour we saw some wild camels, horses a dingo and a donkey! It's a
massive place – nothing like driving across Dartmoor...

We visited a few cattle and camel farms and I'm a little disappointed
about how they treat their animals – disappointed but not
surprised. Lots of animals were kept in cages in the blazing sun –
including camels – animals that need a lot of room to roam. Also,
a lot of cows from Central Oz are road trained to Darwin (a 2 day
trip) and sent to Indonesia for slaughter (Halal) which must be a
tremendously distressing experience for the animals.

We returned back to Alice Springs last night and found a pub where we
stuffed our faces! With chicken schnitzel and chips :-) and watched
football highlights on one TV and Aussie Rules Football game on
another – I still don't get Aussie Rules Football... Then had a
very long and very lovely shower before getting an early night. Only
this morning did I see the huuuuuuggggeee spider in the room which
I'm very grateful for. First spider of Australia – not bad for
having been here over a week.

We're both glad to be on our way to Darwin – Alice Springs is a useful
gateway to the outback and to some amazing sights/adventures – but
the town itself is a bit of a shit hole, a lot of the buildings are
run down, there are indications of high Aboriginal unemployment and
alcohol dependency and there's not much to do (cinemas, pubs, clubs

Okay so we're all checked in to our hotel in Darwin. It's a nice, family
run motel on the outskirts of Darwin's CBD (Central Business
District) – it's a little remote but it's a nice hotel within
budget. It's hot hot hot with high humidity making it seem hotter
than 37 degrees. We may go down to the pool and then on to watch the
sunset at the beach – which is supposed to be spectacular –
although we've been warned that after sunset the flies come out to

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Julie on

I'm loving reading about your travels in Oz, meal by meal & insect by insect! Great photos. But I'm already worried about you kayaking in Sydney harbour!

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