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Published: November 18th 2017
Uluru base walk
When it gets to be this hot (35C) in Ottawa, we stay inside!
Three days on The Rock Tour. Outback. Desert. Camping. Hikes. Lots of wildlife. These past few days were everything we expected, except the real roughing part. As in helping cook and clean up. Unclean swags and sleeping bags. Heat and more heat! Sweat, dirt. Overall though, well worth the experience with great young folks to enjoy it, and our great trip leader Geordie. But make no mistake, this is a pastime for younger folk, especially the hikes!
Departure was Wednesday at 5:40 am. We sat at the front of the bus, a Toyota Hiace with about a 20-passenger capacity, towing a trailer with all the camping gear we would need, stove, pots, swags, sleeping bags, and everyone’s luggage, etc. A swag, by the way, is a waterproof canvas zip-up bag with a small mattress inside, into which you put your sleeping bag. It’s quite warm and meant to be used without a tent. It’s cover flap can be placed over your head to thwart critters from getting too interested in you and your warm place, example when a dingo starts to sniff around around your face, just pull the cover over your head and he’ll go away. However, we did
Touching The Rock
Several areas at Uluru are considered sacred places by the Aboriginees and cannot be photographed.
not experience this.
We noticed funny looking mini-potato-like things alongside the road in many places. They’re called patty melons and they are, as you might guess, poinsenous. Our bus had to pick up several people at the Uluru airport, twice, and that was about a 2-hour delay. But we got to the Rock early afternoon for the base hike. Because of the time of day and the hot temperature, about 33C in the shade, we only walked half the circumference, but with an additional guided tour after that, we probably walked the equivalent of the entire circumference of Uluru. In many people’s mind, it was too hot to walk this much, especially considering that every person is expected to carry one litre of water for every hour of walking, two litres for this one. That’s a lot of weight in your backpack, but a safe thing to do to prevent dehydration in the searing heat!
During the walk, Ferdy developed quite the blister, probably because of a crease in his socks. Another reason was that he felt he brought the wrong shoes for this type of hiking. Even good Columbia hikers with softer soles are no match for
the uneven and rocky terrain of these trails, high quality hard-soled hikers would have been better. Live and learn.
Dinner was a great stir fry and beef curry, along with a few cold ones, from a prime spot to watch the Uluru sunset. However, the weather did not cooperate. Soon the clouds moved in, and the driving rain mixed with howling winds and airborne sand to give us quite the desert thunder storm. So instead of a red sunset, we got a double rainbow over the Rock, a rare sight indeed! We slept under the sky but protected by a steel roof. The only wildlife we saw was a harmless walking stick or “stick insect” that had gotten near Ferdy’s pillow (shoes covered with a light jacket) overnight.
Next morning we were up at 4:30 to have breakfast while watching the sunrise over Uluru. It was cloudy so we did not get the best experience there. The hike at the Olgas is supposed to be a 3-hour hike, so we need to carry 3 litres of water. This is a spectacular hike, but not easy. The Olga’s are about 550 meters high (Uluru is less at 350 meters)
and the rock is sedimentary with many smaller rocks having been pressed together with other sediments over millennia, while Uluru is a singular rock of which only about 1/7 shows above ground. Unfortunately, our speed is far less than that of others in the group, so we had to turn back before we got to the summit and lookout, with the others still beating us to the rendez-vous at the bus.
The drive to the King’s Creek Campground was eventful. We saw hundreds of kilometres of desert, sparsely covered by what we were told are mulga trees. Tough trees these are, we saw a lot of evidence of bush fires, yet these trees survive in spite of the fact the entire trunk was burnt to black. We learn from the only Australian tourist on the trip that her parents and grandparents survived such bush fires and saw first-hand that gum trees regenerate! Also saw several wild horses along the way.
The heat was intense, and at about 39 C is a “warm day”. At one point Ferdy alerted Geordie that there was exhaust fumes coming into the bus, shortly thereafter to be confirmed by the signs of a
breaking belt. Geordie had trouble contacting his company by satellite phone but eventually did and discussed plans for us to go the last hour to our campsite. It was decided to go ahead, drive slowly and keep an eye on the temperature gauge.
A mechanic at the campsite concludes that the AC belt has broken and that we should be able to get back to Alice Sorings on Friday. That’s a relief!
What’s not a relief is that the half-dingo dog on the campsite decides to get into a rumble with a King Brown snake, very venomous. Since the dog survived, clearly he was not bitten. The campground owner showed he can handle snakes, picks it up and with Ferdy’s flashlight guiding him, deposits the snake further into the bush. If that event wasn’t enough, our Australian tourist got stung by a scorpion at the bathrooom. Needless to say, Marion wasn’t overly excited to sleep next to the campfire in our swags, so we slept in the kitchen shelter with several others. Thunderstorms also threatened again but some hardy souls stayed near the campfire and were lucky not to get rained on.
Friday’s walk is the longest
Sunset dinner at Uluru
Spoiled only by a severe thunderstorm, great dinner Geordie!
of the trip, King’s Canyon. We decided to definitely take the easiest and shortest hike. Marion can’t keep up and Ferdy’s blister is bad enough not to attempt a tough 3-hour trek straight up the canyon and all the way around. Although we got up at 4 am to be able to experience sunrise from the top, it heats up very quickly after sunrise.
On the way back to Alice Springs, we not only saw some wild camels (there’s more than a million of them in Australia, most living in the wild), we rode a tamer one at Stuart Wells Roadhouse. Anyone realize that Australia exports camels back to Africa because they’re a better breed, knowing that their original camels came fron Africa? The bus was overheating most of the day, and we had no AC in this 35+ temperature! Nevertheless, almost all of us campers met up for a farewell dinner at the Rock Bar in Alice Springs, owned by the Rock Tour company, and got treated really well there.
All in all a memorable trip these past few days. People from all over the world: 4 French, 3 Germans, 3 Taiwanese, 3 Canadians, 1 Jamaican, 1
Rainbows at Uluru
The silver lining of the storm was this rare sight!
South Korean, and 1 Australian. The old Outback is some tourist destination!
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