Where do I begin? Uluru, also known as "Ayer's Rock" is located near the dead centre of Australia in the legendary "Outback". It is also known as the "Red Centre" because of the spectacular red colour of the landscape. Of course, this being one of their rainiest seasons ever...the landscape was blanketed in a velvet green collage of plants, trees and every prickly type of shrubbery you can imagine. As the plane descended, I was able to see Ayer's Rock from a birds-eye view, and this green blanket only made it stand out even more. Even though we are enamoured with the "Rock" because of our "Priscilla" adoration, this monolith of stone is very sacred to the Aboriginal peoples of Australia. Every crevice, indentation, "landscaping" and shape of this massive stone has an explanation tied in with their spirits and indigenous culture. Photography is forbidden around certain areas because they are considered sacred and with a $5000 fine attached to this warning...it is both practical and morally-wise to respect their wishes! It took me nearly two and a half hours to walk around the 9.5 km base of Ayer's Rock and every angle, every perspective was completely breathtaking. Even though we
began our walk shortly after sunrise at 7:00 a.m. I soon realized what a wise decision it was on our guide's part to commence so early as the heat was quite blistering. By 10:00 a.m. it had easily reached 30 degrees Celsius! Daytime highs are usually 35 to 38 degrees!
For this leg of my Australian odyssey, I was part of a small tour group of eight other people...two Swiss, four Germans, two French women and Luke, our tour leader and Jenn, our camp chef! Such a lovely group of people...I have been somewhat starved for conversation and each person brought a unique and interesting blend to our mini-"family". Jen introduced us to some "Outback" cuisine...kangaroo steak one night, and camel burgers for lunch...no, it did not "taste like chicken" but it did however, taste very much like beef! For shame, Kevin Finlayson! Especially after the last blog entry! I hope PETA doesn't catch me! (I would imagine a "joey" is particulary tasty wrapped with a bit of bacon!).
My experience in the Outback wasn't exclusive of Uluru itself. We also visited an amazing collection of rock formations nicknamed "The Olgas" (those Europeans are everywhere!) but to the
Aboriginal people they are referred to as "Kata Tjuta". Very similar to Uluru, these formations have many spiritual meanings and explanations as well. Each one is unique in size and formation and collectively they are very impressive with their stark red cover against the deep blue sky. Our final visit was to the "King's Canyon"...a stunning geological vista point that required a 4:30 a.m. wake up so we could watch the sun rise over this vast landscape. Millions upon millions of years old, with unusual vegetation (the haunting ghost trees littering the area) and unbeknownst to us, a bevy of creatures waiting for our departure so they could go on about their daily business!
Oh the creatures! Every campsite we stayed at usually involved some sort of dialogue about snakes and our final place...thank goodness not our final "resting place"...had numerous signs warning us not to feed the dingoes! I guess they weren't satisfied with Meryl Streep's baby after all! I slept quite well...it is amazing how copious glasses of Australian wine before bed can induce sleep so quickly. Each night we were entertained by a glorious night sky that was littered with all sorts of constellations. Again, I
am so amazed that it is a completely different night sky as we are in the Southern Hemisphere.
As we drove to each place over the course of our three days, I was fascinated by the punishing heat and the infinite landscape that seemed to have no borders. People have settled and actually live out here! One can never complain about living in the "burbs" after seeing this region of Australia.
So glad I did it...somewhat disappointed we were not able to climb Ayer's Rock...it seems nobody can as it is considered a sacred site to the Aboriginal people and a potentially lethal experience for tourists according to the rangers in the park. How those queens did it in the movie is beyond my comprehension! But in terms of experiences thus far, this one definitely has earned the title, "other worldly". Time now to fly up north to Queensland, devastated by floods and a disastrous cyclone...little do they know what other danger is about to arrive!!!
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