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Published: March 27th 2018
Trying to put myself together for a 5:30 AM wake up after the glorious Sounds of Silence Dinner was no easy feat. I was able to take a quick splash in the shower, throw some clothes on and managed to look halfway presentable. Remember now, desert presentable is not the same as city presentable, so it wasn’t that difficult. Herded onto a bus, our large group headed out to see the sunrise at Uluru. The cool morning air felt nice as I walked down the path to find my perfect spot. In front was Uluru towering over everything. Behind were the Kata Tjutas, slumbering quietly in the distance. The morning light was changing quickly and as fast as throngs of tourists could arrive. Snapping pictures a mile a minute, I enjoyed the phenomena of a sunrise. I have heard about these daily events, but seldom have seen one. Yawning out loud, I remembered why.
Quick Quick, hurry hurry, it was time to board the bus and trek over to Kata Tjuta. During the ride, we learned some history of where we were. The Aboriginal names of these mountains were Uluru and Kata Tjuta. When the white people came, they renamed
them Ayers Rock and the Olgas. In recent history, the Australian government restored the names to the original names. Impressive as can be, these towering rock formations stand tall and mighty above the flat landscape. We were going to hike between two of the domes to check out the rocks.
Nothing moves quickly when on a bus tour. To me it seemed fairly straightforward. The bus parks, I grab my hat, camera, water bottle and sunscreen. These have already been organized because I knew that I was going to need them. Sunscreen had been applied in advance and I was ready to go. How the heck is it that each time the bus stopped, it was a surprise? Gosh, I should probably start rooting through my gigantic super-purse to see if my camera is in there. Hmmm, do I need a hat? Do you honey? Do you have water? Where is my water? Who has water?? Quick quick, hurry hurry turns into slow slow, mosey mosey. And don’t get me started on the process of standing up, walking down the aisle and climbing down the steps of the bus. If I thought the Sydney Harbour Bridge Climb was intense,
I didn’t know what intense was until I had to climb down the 5 steps from the bus to the ground. Sigh, if only people were as perfect as I think I am. (just kidding) Finally, after what felt like an eternity it was time for the guide to take us on our hike.
Both formations, Uluru and Kata Tjuta were formed lifetimes ago by churning upwards and out of the Earth. They did not come straight up, so the sides had been the top and now show layers of rock from where they formed over the years. Striations, grooves and cracks added character to already impressive mountains. Large holes pock-marked the surface, evidence of boulders caving off and tumbling to the ground. Quietly, we walked over uneven, bumpy rocks and red colored soil under the hot, blazing sun. This region is known as the Red Center, a name which fits perfectly. Aside from having to be extra cautious of our footing, it was an easy walk. Dark green trees and grass added color to the surreal environment. There are tours that hike deeper into the mountains, but ours took us to a small platform with an incredible view.
It was enough to get a feel of how beautiful and impressive the Olgas are. After taking in the quietness of it all, it was time to head back to the bus.
Back at the hotel I hit the restaurant for lunch. Chicken wings and chips had my name all over them, so I went to claim them. It was nice to sit quietly in the air-conditioned restaurant and eat total junk food. I can’t lie here; they were not as good as the wings we serve at work, but they were hot, greasy and did the trick. I had several hours to kill before my next tour, so I did what any true adventurer would do. NOTHING!! And I loved it. My suitcase had become a sad, disorganized mess, so I took some time to discard clothes and things that I did not need. It was just the break that I needed before facing another tour bus full of tourists. Arghh. I hate being a tourist. I prefer to be a traveler, but in this self-contained environment, signing up for tours and being a tourist was really the only option that I saw, so I took it. But
beware, Cranky and Over It Brendan was about to surface and it was not going to be pretty.
The Uluru Base tour and Sunset tour met at 3:15. I recognized many of the people on the tour from the Sounds of Silence dinner and Sunrise tour. Docilely we boarded the bus and drove to Uluru. No matter how many times I see it or from what angle, Uluru always manages to make me stop and marvel. Our first stop was at a cultural center, which was little more than a tourist trap and souvenir shop. I sat at a picnic table in the shade and watched several birds hopping along looking for food. That I enjoyed. The rest, not so much. Happily, it was time to get back on the bus and drive to a viewing site at the base of Uluru where we could get up close and personal with it. The sun was starting to sink in the sky, so shadows were changing and making amazing patterns on the rock. Part of the mystic of this place is how light changes the color of it, and today it was doing a bang-up job. Dark red in areas
bathed in light gave way to chocolate brown color in the shadows. We walked in to look at ancient drawings in a cave. I would like to write enthusiastically about how serene it was, how magical it was, but it wasn’t. Serenity and magic are in short supply when group after group of tours pass each other laughing and chatting. Yes, I was part of this no matter how much I wished I wasn’t. Regardless, I was quite content to stroll along and enjoy nature’s show, until our time was up and it was back to hurry hurry, rush rush to get to our next stop.
This is where Cranky and Over It Brendan really took charge. We were dropped off at the sunset viewing site with approximately 2/3 of the population of the Northern Territory I think. Tables of chips and cheese and wine were set up as far as the eye could see and we were assigned our table. Nothing says tourist like pushing and shoving for a handful of chips. To paint a true and accurate picture of what this viewing section was like, I can only relate it to a subway platform during rush hour.
I was done, over it and not in the mood. True, this was my own doing, and I have no one to blame for this but myself, but that wasn’t making me feel better. As the sun started to set, I used my height to snap pictures over the heads of everyone. After a bit, I decided to stop and enjoy what I was seeing instead of trying to capture it on disc. That worked out well and calmed my cranky beast. Then, as quickly as it started, it was over. Back to the bus, back to the hotel and back to quiet. My time in the Outback had come to an end and it was time to fly back to Sydney and on to the next chapter in this trip. Little did I know what was in store for me in Sydney….
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