The story of my tour of Uluru (Ayers Rock)! I can't possibly do it justice, but when I see you all again, I won't shut up about it, so I'm sure you'll get all the info then!!! Lucky you!
Ok guys, this one is going to be a long one, so go and get a cuppa, a fair few biccies, and settle in for a long one - sorry!
So I arrived in Alice Springs, stepped off the plane into a sauna apparently. The forecast was right, it was about 40 degrees, and I don't think I've ever experienced heat like it. Certainly not in Oxford or Kettering, that's for sure!! I settled into the hostel that I was staying in, and more importantly my air con equipped room, and then braved the oven outside, and went for a quick wander around Alice. It's a very small town, not a great deal to do, with several groups of aboriginal people hanging around on the grassy areas. I later learned that these groups have often been rejected by their own tribes, and have now been cast out of local society, and are often drunk and not part of the other Alice community. It was odd to see, and felt very sad, and also slightly intimidating. I was really keen to learn more about aboriginal life though, and looked forward to finding more out on my tour.
The following morning, I got up at 4.50am, and hopped on the bus that I would spend the next 3 days. There were 21 of us in total, all from different countries or areas, and all ranging in age. I think David was the youngest - it was his 18th birthday on the first day we began our journey, so we tried to make it a good one!! Hayley was our guide, and got everyone to introduce themselves, on our initial 5 hour journey out in the desert. I was sitting next to Eimear, a lovely Irish girl who I hit it off with straight away, and we spent the bus journey chatting, snoozing and being shocked by just how bloody hot it was!!!!
We arrived at Kings Canyon at about 12 noon, and Hayley explained that we were going to do a 3 hour walk around the rim of the Canyon, starting at a climb up 'Heart-attack Hill'. This didn't sound like a clever plan to me, but we headed up, and I gave it a go. Unfortunately, I didn't react too well to the extreme heat (we later found out that it was actually 44 degrees) and I didn't manage to make it up the hill. I was really disappointed with myself, but started feeling really faint, and just generally not good, and I didn't think it was fair on me or the group to push myself and then be ill for the rest of the tour. I climbed back down and went to sit in the shade, with another lovely Irish girl, Sandra. We chilled out for a while, and then did a shorted creek walk which was still really pretty, and incredibly hot.
We then headed to Curtain Springs, which is where we were going to set up camp that night. Curtain Springs was a cattle ranch, which actually covered a million acres! I can't even imagine what that looks like, but it gives you an idea of how big Oz is, and how much land there is up for grabs. We set up camp, and got out our swags, which are kind of like thick, heavy sleeping bags that you can climb into, and keep you off the ground. Bearing in mind it was still about 28 degrees when we actually went to bed, I didn't fancy getting in, so I slept on top of the swag and the sleeping bag, and just slept in my silk liner. Anyway, Hayley and a few people in the group cooked up a great dinner, and we all sat round the fire and tucked in. Eimear, Sandra and Gigi, a lovely American girl on the tour, all sat and chatted, taking in what was around us, and just generally couldn't believe that we were actually out here! It was so great to be out in the middle of nowhere, and when we finally did lie down, looking up at the stars was a completely magical experience. There were hundreds of thousands that you could see so clearly, and it was one of the most amazing views I've ever had. I thought I would feel a bit nervous about all the creepy crawlies and animals that could be around, but I didn't at all, and I just drifted off to sleep under the stars.
The following morning we were woken by Hayley at about 5am, just before the sun got up, and got ready for the day. We had brekkie and then headed off out to Kata Tjuta (the Olgas) which is a group of rocks just a few km's from Uluru. Kata Tjuta means 'many heads' and that's pretty much what the rocks look like. We started our walk at about 8.30am/9ish, and headed off into the rocks. There are quite a few parts of both Kata Tjuta that the public don't have access to, because they are parts that are particularly sacred to the owners of the land, the aboriginal tribes. We walked through some of the rocks, and I was overwhelmed by how huge they were, and how they looked as though they were made up of lots of smaller bits of rock all semented together. The weather was similar to the day before and the heat was completely suffocating at times, but we all made it up to the second lookout and rested there for a while and took some pics. Then a few of the boys (and Carmen - a just-turned-40 yr old Spanish Lady who seemed to take every task completely in her stride!) headed off to do the longer walk, while the rest of us headed back to the carpark. Just to let you know, all of the walks are actually closed at 11am everyday in summer purely because of the heat, so we were pretty hardcore, even if I do say so myself!!!
Once everyone was back, we headed to our next campsite just outside the national park, where everyone now has to camp (before anyone could pitch up a tent anywhere in the national park, so you could sleep right next to Uluru) and had some lunch and then had a swim in the pool which was looovely!!! It cooled us all down for about 5 minutes until you actually stepped out of the pool and back into the heat, and then it was like you'd never been in! We then drove out to the Cultural Centre which is just next to Uluru and learned more about the history of the ownership of the land, and the conflict that has occured between the Aboriginals and the Australian Government, as well as more about the stories that go along with Uluru and why it is so sacred. Again there are areas that you can't take pictures of, and parts that no one knows stories about, as only the local tribes have this information.
It was now about 4.30pm and we headed out to do the Mala walk, which was just a short part of Uluru and had some amazing caves and crevasses to look at. Hayley informed us of the uses of some of the caves, as teaching caves for small boys when they are learning to hunt, and then there was a cooking cave, where the women would grind down some seeds and pulses that are found in the bush, to feed to the rest of the tribe. It was all so interesting, and really added so much to our understanding of this huge rock!The flies were worse than ever on this part of the tour, and just swarmed round us for the entire walk. I think the girls and I spent most of our time doing the same 'swatting dance' and just generally getting slightly irritated by them crawling into your ears and up your nose and eyes constantly!!
Once we had completed the walk, we headed over to the sunset area, where all coach groups go to watch the sunset over Uluru. We had dinner there and just took in the sight of Uluru changing colour as the sun fell in the sky. It was awesome, I loved every moment of it, and just couldn't look at it enough. The girls and I took loads of pics, and there was just such a lovely vibe to it. I wish that everyone I know could have been there because it was so special. I will definietly remember the sight for the rest of my life, and I'm so glad I got to share it with such lovely people. We didn't get the dramatic sunset that everyone talks about, when the rock goes really red, because the clouds seemed to have it in for us, and gathered just before the sun went to bed, but it was still incredible. Hopefully you can get a bit of an idea from my pics (http://www.flickr.com/photos/abilucy/) but it really can't do it justice.
We headed back to camp, and chatted to a real-life drover for a while who actually worked on curtain springs, before heading off to bed.
The next morning, Hayley got us up at about 4.30am and hustled us up onto the bus super quick to get out to the sunrise spot nice and early. Again there were so many coach parties there, but once again the experience was bewitching, especially when we were driving up to Uluru, the sun was just hinting at coming up behind the rock, and the bus was silent - we were all just taking in the sight, and I actually welled up at the intense atmosphere of the moment. The colour change again was unbelievable and I was just so grateful I had seen it. We then headed off to do the 10km base walk. Eimear, Gigi and I walked in a group, and had a good old chat. It again was really great, and amazing to see Uluru up close. It looks completely different to the pictures you usually see, and it's so much bigger than you think.
On our way back to Alice, we stopped off for lunch, and then headed to a camel farm for some camel rides! Apparently there are more than a million feral camels in Oz, which is crazy!! Did anyone know that already??? Anyway, Eimear and I hopped onto Curly, our camel, who was bloody massive! Any Hayley and Gigi went on Holly. We had a little walked and then ran back and Eimear and I were just laughing soooo loud the whole way, it was hilarious!
We arrived back in Alice at about 5pm, and all agreed to meet up for dinner and drinks at 7.30pm at the rock bar in town. We were all looking forward to having a lovely cold shower, and actually looking normal again, and not grubby! We had a great night, so much fun with everyone just chilling out, having a few drinks, and Gigi trying to drag everyone up to the dancefloor, including a group of Aboriginal girls, who she managed to get to know about 2 mins before!!! The next day, there were still a few of us around, and Gigi, Line, David and I decided to go for a free Didgeridoo lesson. I was completely useless at it, but it was funny nonetheless. Then we headed to Bojangles in the evening for a dinner of Emu sausage, Camel kebab (we hoped it wasn't Curly!!), a crocodile meatball and Kangeroo and Buffalo steaks. All the meats were pretty good, but we all kept picturing each animal as we ate!! hehe, not for faint hearted veggies thats for sure.
Ok, well that it pretty much the end of the Tour story. I'm sorry it took me so long, and that it has taken you about as long to read! Yes you can leave your computer now, I'll let you! But basically, it was without a doubt the highlight of my trip so far, I met some fantastic people and I will never forget Uluru!
I'm in Cairns now, and heading to Port Douglas tomorrow for a week of chilling, and then I get to see my boyfriend again - WOHOOOO! I'd almost forgotten I'd got one! hehe (Joking Dan).
Anyway, love you all, and miss u lots and lots.