'poor skippy!'

Trip Start Sep 02, 2007
Trip End Sep 01, 2008

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Flag of Australia  , Northern Territory,
Tuesday, April 22, 2008

We couldn't come to Australia and not take a trip into proper 'outback' territory and visit Uluru (or Ayers Rock as most of you will know it). Recently the rock and surrounding land has been given back to the Aboriginies by the government and is now called by it's Aboiginie name, Uluru.

Our flight from Melbourne took us to Alice Springs airport, a small airport totally surrounded by bush - for as far as you could see the ground was a deep red colour with nothing but outback for miles. On arrival we got several strange looks - we were all wearing our 'I love Melbourne' t-shirts which we'd each bought as our roadtrip souvenier. This had attracted particular attention from a male flight attendent who proceeded to talk to Tom about how he was from Melbourne and also loved it, much to the amusement of Trace and me!

We spent a morning looking around Alice Springs. It didn't take very long! It's quite a strange place being in the middle of nowhere. Although it is small there were plenty of shops, cafes and restaurants mostly aimed at tourists.

When we had first booked our flights to and from Alice Springs we had not realised that Uluru is actually 5 hours drive away! We figured that it was really close by. We've made this mistake several times in Oz - the country is so huge it's hard to begin to understand just how big and far apart everything is. To give an example, there are cattle stations (basically farms) scattered throughout the outback area and it is not unusal for them to be about the size of Belgium! Thankfully we didn't fly all the way to spend two days stuck in Alice as we booked a day trip to Uluru and back - it was a long day, 5.30am to 11.30pm but was totally worth it. Oh, and another thing to show how big Australia is - there are three different time zones within the country! Unfortnuately my mobile did not automatically change time so I ended up sheepishly having to tell Tom & Trace that I had actually woken them up half an hour early (as if we hadn't had to get up early enough - oops!) Anyhow, after this minor setback we eventually got in the coach and headed to Uluru.

We had a long 5 hour drive until we got there but we made a couple of stops along the way to break it up a little. It made us appreciate how desolate the area is and we were so glad we had not considered driving ourselves. There are hardly any towns or petrol stations or shops or anything really along the way. We saw some wildlife but most of it was roadkill.

On arrival at Uluru we took a walk around the visitor centre which is basically a small museum giving a bit of history of Uluru, the surrounding area and the Aboriginie people. We were given three options:
1) walk around the rock (a mere 10km walk in high heat!)
2) climb the rock (but often it was shut due to wind/ the heat)
3) stay in the air con coach and the driver would take us on a drive around and we would also be able to take a short walk to the rock

We didn't fancy the 10km walk in the heat and the driver told us the climb would be shut because it was windy. So, we stayed put and took a drive around. We were able to do a couple of walks - one by the base of Uluru where we saw some rock drawings and could appreciate the size and colour of the rock formation. It really was a lot bigger than we thought from all the pictures we had seen. We also took a walk through Olga Gorge which was a walk between a group of large rocks. As it turned out when we got to the other side of Uluru we found the climb route was actually open. Although we didn't have time to walk up the whole way we were able to sit at the bottom and take our pictures!

A dinner had been arranged as part of the tour and the driver took us to a look out point where we could see Uluru at sunset - along with about 20 other coaches. Sunrise and sunset are supposed to be the best times of day to view Uluru beacause of the changing colours. It wasn't as good as we were hoping as it was really cloudy but it was still fun to sit watching the sun go down. Oh and we kept a few of our neighbours entertained whilst trying to make the video clip for this blog (loaded on for you to see!)

On our way back we were excitedly looking out for Kangaroos as they are most active at dusk and nightime. They sit grazing at the side of the road and the drivers have to be careful not to hit them as they are attracted to the headlights. We'd passed a few but I kept missing them. Suddenly the driver slammed on the brakes as one hopped in front of us, we narrowly missed it. I yelled out 'I saw it I saw it' and then it proceeded to hop back in front of the coach. Unfortunately, although the driver had slowed down by braking we were still moving and felt a bump, bump, bump as we hit it and then ran over it. Never mind, plenty more out there - there are about 3 kangaroos per person in Australia.
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