Out in the Bush

Trip Start Sep 04, 2003
Trip End Dec 16, 2003

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Where I stayed
The Uluru Resort

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Saturday, November 22, 2003

Where were you when the English won the Rugby World Cup? We were in Alice Springs of all places, in a dusty pub on the edge of town with a bar full of Brits! The Aussie contingent were slightly outnumbered and outsung that evening. Having dual loyalties to both the Pommies and the Aussies I am afraid I cannot say who I supported!?! I thought it would be quite nice to hear from somebody who was at the final game so hopefully we can ask Zsa Zsa to put a few words up here for us to read soon...

The Outback
Alice Springs is a bit of an Oasis in the desert. The town is surrounded by at least 4 deserts. The town developed around the Telegraph line that was established in the 19th century, passing from Adelaide in the South, through central Australia and up to Darwin in the North. The town is small and full of Opal shops from the mines in the surrounding area. The airport ensures a contiuous influx of tourists on their way to Ayers rock, which is the way we were destined. We joined the Adventure Tour bus at around 5am, far too early in the morning. We met the rest of the rather international group , a mixture of Americans, Swedes, French, Brits, Irish and Canadians (strangely 50% of the group were nurses earning a fortune in Australia?). 'Fiery' Steve was our guide and he made sure that we all settled back to listen to some good early 80s rock music as we drove out of Alice Springs.

Australian highways are pretty desolate places, they run for thousands of kilometres through the bush and scrub. Any Roman would have been impressed at how straight the highways are. These highways are used mainly by road trains, which thunder across central Australia to deliver fuel, animals and other goods. There is no speed limit on this particular highway and vehicles are usually found speeding along the centre of the road occasionally swerving to avoid the odd lizard. You can imagine that our journey along these roads for the next 800km to King's Canyon and Uluru would be rather dull! So did we, until suddenly Steve hit the breaks and the bus came to a tire screeching stop! He jumped out of the bus and ran off without saying a word to us! Had we upset Steve so early on in the journey with the classic Australian and a sheep joke? We all piled to the back of the bus to peer out the available windows to see Steve running off down the highway. Had a piece of our luggage fallen off the back of the trailer? Steve did return (it would have been a long way to the next farm). He brought with him a Thorny Devil, a tiny lizard covered in thorns and about the size of a man's hand. These little devils will live within a 20 metre area and hold their tails up high when happy. They have an extra nobbly area above their head, which acts as a defense against hungry preditors who will be unable to attack the lizards head. We all jumped out of the van to have hold of the lizard before he was returned to his 20 metre spot. We were on safari......

We passed small herds of wild camels eating the sparse vegetation. Interestingly, the camels were introduced to Australia in about the 1860s to assist with exploration, laying of the telegraph line and building of the Ghan railway across central Australia. Once all work was completed the camel handlers were paid by the Australian government to put the camels down. The camel handlers unable to do this to their animals set the camels loose. Twenty thousand camels were let loose into the wilds of central Australia, where they now number around 400,000 in central and southern Australia. The bush is just overflowing with wildlife, we were lucky to catch sight of a small gathering of wild brumbies. Beautiful chestnut horses with long black manes, standing on their toes watching us from a distance as we drove by. As the sun began to set more animals appeared, we spotted a few kangaroos nibbling on some scrub and lizards catching the last of the sun rays on the road.

We spent the afternoon climbing King's Canyon. The guide was very serious about each person carrying a big bottle of water as the temperature was in the high 30s. The climb took us up the steep side of the canyon stopping every now and then to admire the stunning view across the Australian plains and to take in the native plants and trees that had made their home in the sandstone (wild tomatoes, prehistoric ferns, gum trees and even mistletoe). Being sandstone rock, the top of the plateau or the Lost World as it is called, has been worn away into hundreds of dome like shapes. The Aborigine people believe these domes to represent their ancestors. Having sweated profusely while hiking to the top of one side of the canyon we all were stunned to see the canyon itself. It is vast but with only a small waterfull falling from a crack in the rock. The water has allowed for a lush green oasis to develop, full of palm and gum trees. To see the creek properly, it is best to lie on your tummy on the canyon cliff top and look over the side. We clambered down to the creek area but had little time to stop and admire the vegetation before being herded up the other side of the canyon with the promise of being able to see some pygmy koalas. These so called Pygmy Koalas turned out to be those little clip on souvenir Koalas that the guides had hidden up a gum tree - really funny guys (not)!

We arrived late at the Uluru resort (kicking off point for Ayers Rock) just as the van was beginning to stall from lack of petrol. We settled in at our campsite and immediately set about getting dinner ready. With one guide and 24 of us, it was up to us to do the cooking. Everyone took on a job including BBQ chef, veggie cutters, salad creators and we were in charge of marinating the steaks. We put together a highly potent mixture of soy sauce, sweet chili sauce, curry powder, cajun mixture and lots of garlic. Lets just say it made the steaks a little more interesting! Everything was thrown on the BBQ and I mean everything, including the pasta salad but the food was fantastic! We spent the night tucked up in our sleeping bags and swag bags underneath the stars (no openings for creepy crawlies). As there is no light pollution whatsoever at the resort, the sky seemed to arch around us as if we were on top of the world. Stars filled the sky, more stars than we ever seem to see at home, with shooting stars everywhere, the sight was just awesome. I was determined to stay awake as long as possible to count shooting stars but must of drifted off to sleep almost immediately!

We were up at 4am to grab a quick breakfast before heading off to see the sunrise over Uluru (Ayers rock). The sight is impressive and the rock glows a deep red. The rock itself is actually a white, grey colour but has been stained by the oxidising minerals in the ground and sand. A couple of people were determined to climb the rock, however, the guide laid it on thick about the sacredness of the rock to the Aborigine people and how they would prefer it if you did not climb it - no one climbed! Hundreds of other tourists did climb the rock and it is incredibly steep. There is a chain to help you up most of the way. Instead we all walked the 6km base walk, as you can imagine the rock is huge! The way back to Alice Springs was quiet, we were all catching up on some zzzzzs...
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