The Red Centre Rip Off

Trip Start May 18, 2005
Trip End May 18, 2006

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Flag of Australia  ,
Saturday, March 25, 2006

We were up early for our flight to Ayers Rock - 4am to be precise - and we were on a pretty much empty plane. There were only about 10 others on board. As the day broke the landscape opened up below us and its mad to see how much it changes as you get closer to the rock. First theres just dense tropical jugle for about a thousand miles which gradually gives way to the dusty outback then a blood red desert. Great to see it. It made up for the fact that there was no in flight movie.

Ayers Rock is, in a word, expensive. Really expensive. The whole area is owned by the indigenous aboriginals who have some say in how the park is run, but its not them who rip you off. Its the company who has a monopoly on all of the hotels and trips in and around the area (unless you come in as part of a week long backpacker tour which we didn't do) who rip you off charging outrageous prices on everything, including bringing you to the rock. The problem is that any places to stay are about 20km from Uluru so you have to get a lift there. And they are the only ones who can take you there.

But, apart from that, it really was a great thing to see. Before we came we felt as if we had to do it as part of the whole 'Do Oz' thing. We were even considering not going at all. But we were glad we did. Its actually more impressive than you could imagine and its not until you get up really close to it that you see why. There are some amazing shapes and formations on it and it is much bigger than you think. All those photos you see on the postcards are taken from about 10km away. The only annoying thing about it is that most of the best places are sacred to the Aboriginals in the area and you are not allowed to take pictures, so as impressive as the photos I took may look they are nothing compared to the stuff I couldn't photograph. But you have to respect thier culture, its kinda nice actually.

Speaking of respecting the culture the indigenous peoples in the area have posted a sign asking you not to climb the rock (although they technically own it the government still allow people to climb it as they reckon the area would lose a fortune in revenue otherwise). They give a list of alternatives, like walking around it as we did which is a better option because thats where you find the best looking sites. But a lot of tourists, especially the Japanese and Korean ones I must admit, completely ignore this and climb anyway. Even the old ladies try it and believe me it looks no easy feat, even with the ugly hand rail that has been driven into the rock to help. It is actually really steep and I reckon I would even have trouble climbing, especially with the heat (it was in the 40's!!). Most of them don't make it up anyway and give up after s few minutes, but a lot of those who do end up injured or even killed. There were 5 deaths on it last year and 8 people had to be airlifted off it. Mad. Anyway, you get my drift, don't climb it.

We watched the sunset from a distance where you can see it change colour as the sun dips below the horizon. It goes from a bright yellow to orange, red, purple the brown before going gray. Cool to watch and one for the obligatory photo album.

The sky at night is quite incredible and if you look at it for long enough to let your eyes adjust you can even see the milky way. It looks like a sparkly white cloud behind the stars. Beautiful.

As amazing as it was I don't think I'd pay the money we did to see it again. It really is taking the piss out of tourists.
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