A flying visit to Uluru

Trip Start Jun 15, 2007
Trip End Jun 27, 2008

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Tuesday, March 11, 2008

So, after a couple of weeks on the road, we decided that we would give Jethro a well earned break and flew up to Uluru (the truth is that we didn't dare risk driving through thousands of kilometres of desert with nothing but the burning sun and snakes for company).

So, on the 11th March we took a flight to Alice Springs to join our three day, two night trip that would take us to Uluru (Uluru is the correct name for Ayers Rock and all the guides are pretty insistent that you call it by it's original Aboriginal name).  We arrived mid afternoon and had a wander around Alice Springs.  Lots of flies and very hot - that is my synopsis of Alice Springs.  Oh, and in the middle of nowhere.

Next day it was an early start, 5am to get ready to join the group for a 6am set off.  Through sleepy eyes we met up with the group of 25 that would form our travel companions for the next couple of days.  Before long we were on the road and I don't think one person saw anything other than the inside of their eyelids for the first 200km.  We were warned that today would be 'big drive' day as Uluru was some 400kms plus away.  After a couple of strong coffees people started to come round and we all had to do a turn on the bus microphone and introduce ourselves.  It became very clear, very soon that we were amongst a very diverse bunch of people; there were French, Irish, Norwegian, Swedish, Korean, Chinese, Greek, German, Dutch, American, Canadian.  Throw into the mix us as Brits and the token Ozzie tour guide and I think it was fair to say that many countries were being represented.

First stop - being pulled over by the police for not having the correct paperwork.  Excellent.  Second stop - to collect a camels skull to strap to the front of the van.  We started to get the feeling that this would be no normal trip. The first 'scheduled' stop came some six hours later at the Kings Canyon.  This was a beautiful place but walking around it in the midday sun is not to be advised!!  The temperature at the entrance to the canyon registered 100 degrees Fahrenheit IN THE SHADE!!  Plenty of water packed we walked off in to the distance, starting with the steepest hill imaginable. The swim in the water hole half way round was very very very well received.

After a couple of hours walking and a bit more driving we arrived at our camp for the night.  This was an unexpected highlight.  We pulled up in the middle of the outback, collected firewood and got on with the cooking.  Everybody mucked in and before long we had a proper camp ground set up.  Dinner and washing finished, it was time to settle around the fire.  Looking up we were greeted with the clearest, most amazing sky we have ever seen in our life.  The sky was alight with stars.  After a few minutes gazing we were able to see shooting stars firing across the sky.  What an experience.  Our beds for the night?  Swag bags.  Fantastic.  Basically big sleeping bags with mattresses that you zip up and lay on the ground.  This gives you the chance to lay in your bed staring up at the night sky with a beautiful camp fire next to you.  Truly truly unforgettable.

Next day and it was lie in.  7am start and a short drive over to the Olga's which are another amazing series of rock formations in this area.  It was on the way to the Olga's that we captured our first sight of Uluru.  Wow.  As a prize for being top of the class and noticing the rock first, Pat won a t-shirt (that was disgusting as the guide had worn it the previous day and had slept in - in future he will learn to keep his gob shut). Thankfully the walk in the Olga's was at a respectable time of day, and although it was 7kms with a few big hills, it wasn't too strenuous. 

We were then taken to Uluru and got to see the rock up close and personal.  It does not disappoint.  Many iconic sights you see all your life on the TV, and quite often in reality they look smaller that what you imagine.  However, most images you see of Uluru are taken from miles away and it is only when you are there you realise the true magnitude of this great big lump of rock.  It's something like 4.5km long and 4km wide.  The walk around the base is over 9km. We were given a very very informative walk by Scooter (our guide), about how the rock was formed, why it is so red, and the spiritual significance of it to the Aboriginals.
Second night sleeping under the stars was a little less impressive due to the cloud cover that also meant we were in for a hot night!! And hot it was.  The day temperature did not drop much once the sun had set. 

Third and final day and it was an early start to ensure we got to see the sunrise.  There was a very slight cloud covering so we knew we would be in for a good show.  We arrived out our viewing place about 6.15 and with cold Thai chicken curry (leftovers from the previous nights meal, which I can highly highly recommend as a breakfast), and coffee in hand we were set for a once in a lifetime opportunity.  The sun rose and we got some absolutely magical photos of the sun at different stages and the various colours of the rock.  We all stood in awe of this spectacle - I can recommend this experience to anyone.  Breathtaking.

It was soon time to pack up and head back to Alice Springs, but not before we had the opportunity to do the base walk.  It is possible to climb Uluru for those STUPID enough to do it but fortunately it was shut due to strong winds on the top. The climb looked very very tough so there was no way we would have even considered it had it been open.  Also the aboriginals request that you don't climb it as it is a religious site for them.  As mentioned, the walk around is over 9km so it took some walking. 

Walk completed and we were on the road home.  Some hours later we arrived back at the hostel and got ready for the post trip party with all the new friends we had made over the last couple of days.
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