Welcome to the flies

Trip Start Dec 20, 2008
Trip End Jan 10, 2009

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Flag of Australia  , Northern Territory,
Friday, January 2, 2009

We arrived at the Uluru airport. It is one of those airports without gates, where the plane just rolls in wherever and they pull up a set of stairs. Apparently, the only thing in the whole area is the resort that exists solely to bring in visitors to the rocks, so they don't really need a large airport, it just has to support one large tourist plane at a time. The nearest town is Alice Springs, which is 440 km away, and takes longer to drive to than it takes to fly to Sydney.
We had some time before our dinner, so we wandered around. The resort has a spa, a few different hotels, and a small town center with a grocery store, a bunch of souvenir stores, and about 3 restaurants. That's it for miles.
Mostly though, the resort has flies. Tons and tons of obnoxious flies, indoors and out. Fortunately, they are not the biting kind, they are the kind that eat your sweat. Unfortunately, that means that standard Off of other bug spray just attracts them more. We got some fly nets for our faces and some strong-smelling lotion/cream stuff specially designed to keep these bugs away. This is the type of place that you don't care how you look or how you smell, you just want to keep the flies away. In fact, if you have a few pet bats, birds, frogs, or lizards that like to eat flies, I highly recommend that you bring them with you and just wear them on your shoulders everywhere you go.
Beyond that, the other first thing I noticed was the sweltering heat. It is freakin' hot here. It is also reasonably muggy. It's pretty much impossible not to sweat outside. Even taking a nap in the shade would be a sweaty ordeal. Which of course, would attract more flies. Wonderful.
I tried to make our explorations short, although I definitely wanted to check out the aboriginal art gallery. I LOVE the aboriginal art. It's so colorful, yet not tacky. It's all dotted, but the dots are separated, more like old-time newspaper print than a Monet. I want to find a print for my house, but those are a lot harder to find than the originals. I would love to have an original, but somehow I don't think that spending $2000 on a piece of art is within my budget right now, unless the art can also clean my dishes, do my laundry, and vacuum the floor.
I've decided that every second we're not on a tour, I'm going to be inside in the air conditioning, where the flies aren't too bad. I brought enough reading material to last, plus I have some pictures to sort through. There's no way I'm going out in the nasty unless I'm headed towards a directed experience. This is no place to just go wandering about aimlessly.
Our first tour was tonight. We left a little before sundown and travelled to a highly rated "restaurant." That's in quotes, because the ceiling of the building is the sky and the walls are the desert (except for the bathrooms, those have real walls). The cocktail hour area was on top of a hill that had a view of both Uluru and Kata Tjuta. We ate little hors de oeuvres while listening to a digeridoo player. I had these adorable mini sushi rolls the size of a dime, but Rachel, Mike and Mom had some sort of crocodile and kangaroo ones.
My statement about the digeridoo player is a little misleading. Apparently, that is the name of the melody that the instrument makes. He did play those melodies, but the instrument itself is called something else. The musician also told us how real ones are made. They take trunks that have been hollowed out by termites, cut them off, and play them. However, if the termites haven't hollowed the trunk out enough, they place the cut trunk into a termite mound and leave it there for a while until the termites finish. The little tracks the termites leave are different on each individual instrument. As a result, each instrument has its own voice, just like people do. If you had a good ear, you could tell which instrument created a piece of music, just like many people can identify individual singers.
After cocktail hour, which dragged on a little long because we were waiting for the sunset, we were led down a path to the tables. They were very fancy- tablecloths, candles, wine glasses. Not exactly what you'd expect to find out in the middle of the wilderness. We ate dinner as the twilight turned into night. It was a little hard to see the food on the plate, but that was a cheap price to pay for being able to see each start come out. Besides, the food itself left me unimpressed.
With our bare eyes, we saw Venus, Orions Belt, and then star after star I couldn't name twinkle into existence. By the time we were all done with dinner and they blew out all the candles, the sky was jam-packed. We had view of more stars than in a planetarium. It got difficult to see Orion as he was full of stars that weren't part of him. We saw nebulas with our naked eyes, and had a great view of the Milky Way. As we were watching, we got a glimpse of several shooting stars.
Just like the Greeks and Romans, the Aboriginals have their own stories about what the stars are and how they got into the sky. One of the staff members told us about a man who went fishing. He caught many fish, even some so beautiful he put them in a special river because he didn't want to eat them. At some point, he got tired of fishing and wanted to go home to his family. He tried to find a good place to put his canoe. He searched and searched, and finally settled on an empty spot in the sky. He threw his canoe up there for safe keeping, as during the day it would be hidden and at night he would be able to keep an eye on it from anywhere. If you look at what is also called the Milky Way, you will still see his canoe to this day. From a city, there may not be enough Milky Way stars to see it well, but out in the darkness of the wild, where the nearest small town was hundreds of miles away, we were definitely able to make out the canoe.
During dessert time, they opened up some telescopes for us to see the craters on the moon and also see some stars closer.
The whole experience was breathtaking in a similar way that going camping and seeing the night sky is when you're used to city lights blocking the stars, just on a grander scale, and a little bit neater because we could see the southern cross, which I don't think had been pointed out to me before. To be honest, I could have done without the food. They could have brought us out, had us all lay on blankets or towels so we could see the sky better, and then taken us back.
By the time we left the site to go back, it was after 10 pm.
Tomorrow: some tour that leaves before 5 am- you do the math
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