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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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D MJ Binkley
Dave and Merry Jo Binkley
Cranky and Over It Brendan
Dave here.....getting "herded" is not the best way to travel. It can be quite the physical sport. But.....you got to see some seriously ginormous and spiritual rocks on this great planet.
See, there was a lot of good in the trip. Ginormous and spiritual rocks were worth putting up with some of the other "stuff"
D MJ Binkley
Dave and Merry Jo Binkley
Sounds of Silence
To tour or not to tour... always the question. We rented a car at Uluru and spent hours driving around it, hiking, and driving on. We didn't have to contend with a large group and could move at our pace. We did the bus thing in Israel and regretted it. You described the bus exit to a T. It is a puzzle. Ok, no need expecting the wings to be good as the ones you prepare at work. Misguided expectations. I've traveled with cranky Brendan and he can get frustrated but to be honest he was traveling with cranky MJ. :). We enjoyed this piece of Australia. The sounds of silence was a lovely evening.
It was worth it
This is a case of the ends justify the means. My choices were pretty much yes or no, so I feel I chose wisely. I am glad you had free reign when you were here. Oh, cranky MJ and BV were quite the pair, weren't they?
Ohh, Brendo ... you do know, don't you, that you are now always going to be "Brendo" to us. :) A good Aussie nickname. Aussies do like nicknames and, once given one, it's a good sign that you have been accepted as a mate or good friend. Are you sure that you weren't an Aussie in a past life? Some of your expressions give you away. Either that, or they have rubbed off on you while you were here with us :) Good stuff! Regarding tourists, and, all jokes aside, I know exactly what you mean as, we too, really dislike the thought of being a tourist when we travel and, I too, can very quickly become grumpy and Cranky Jan and Over It Jan, when dealing with inconsiderate tourists.Grrrr!! Much prefer the thought of being a traveller. Great blog, by the way - despite the tourists and, you saw the country at its best - after (monsoonal) rains :) Jxx
The Aussie Inside
I am proud to have an Aussie nickname and view of life. What a wonderful country and group of people I met. I'm glad you liked the blog. I was concerned that it would come across too heavy or unhappy, which wasn't the case. You certainly know what I meant. Thanks for your comments.
Isn't it strange...
I often wonder why it is that we often do not see the wonders of our own country, yet fly around the world to see the wonders of others. Uluru, the Kimberleys, the Great Barrier Reef... all places I am yet to visit in my own country. Seeing your photos of Uluru, with the gorgeous colours at sunrise and sunset makes me shake my head at why I haven't been. One day... I too understand the tourist vs traveller dilemma. I will opt for a tour when constrained by time. It's not ideal, but sometimes it's either that or miss out altogether. I find though, that Cranky deejayvee is soon forgotten but the memories of wonderful experiences are not. I trust it's the same for you, and you will never forget such a beautiful sight.
I'm in the Same Boat deejayvee
Sad to say, but I still haven't seen the Grand Canyon or Badlands in the US.I will fly 9,000 miles for a train trip, but can't manage to pop over 2 states here. Sigh. I tell myself that I will do it when I am older. I'm glad you understand the tourist aspect. Sometimes that is simply how it must be done and Cranky-Us will be forgotten as you said. Thank you so much for following my blog and for such nice comments.
I think we have all been in your shoes at some point. Gah! Uluru was fantastic though right Brendo? It was 10 years ago that I went camping and hiking there and I can still feel the magestity of that sacred site.
What a perfect word. Gah!
Thanks Andrea, I appreciate your comments and am glad you still have such great memories of this place. It truly is a special place.
Left right left right...follow the flag
I can see you bucking the system...lining up then missing...long strides then dragging your feet...the many faces of indifference and displeasure...then looking at the mighty rock in awe lost in your thoughts...ignoring the tour guide trying to herd you back onto the bus. Ahhh...the joy of travel...no matter how you do it...all sorts of memories every time!
What an accurate description of my day. I try to be a good tourist when I have to be. Definitely love the joys of travel good, bad, or indifferent.
Michelle & Kevin Cavanagh
Uluru & Kata Tjuta
I'm so glad that your experienced the beauty and wonder of both Uluru and Kata Tjuta. I hope there weren't too many flies while you were there; the last time we visited the Red Centre we were extremely glad to have hats on which included a veil to cover the face. At certain time of the year those outback flies can be a real damned nuisance!!
Flies a Plenty
I loved the beauty of the Red Center, but yes, the flies were everywhere. All part of it though. If traveling was easy and comfortable, then everyone would do it. I'm glad you enjoyed your time there and very glad you were prepared with hats and veils.
Tourists and Travellers
I love your distinction between tourists and travellers. I completely agree with you, and much prefer to be the traveller myself. Sometimes you just have to be the tourist though in order to see such amazing places, and I, like you, often find myself having to find peace with it, as sometimes it's just what you've got to do. Amazing photos, and what colour and contrast between shade and light :)
It is a struggle for balance
Thank you Alex. I had a felling when I wrote this blog that many would be able to relate. It is something that comes with the territory sometimes. Seeing the color and contrast made it all worth it. I am glad you are following along.
Sometimes you just do what you gotta do.....
Tourist v traveller, like everyone has said - sometimes you just do what you gotta do to get somewhere. I'm glad in a way that I'm playing catchup on these blog entries of yours having now met you in person. Love the sense of humour, and now they are almost like audible books because I hear the voice and personality behind the words :-)
The Best Compliment
Thank you Jo. To hear that you can hear my voice is the best compliment because I try to write these as if I were telling a story. I hope you enjoy the rest of the stories.