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Published: February 15th 2014
The Final Part the Red Centre tour: Uluru
Just say the word out loud now – fun isn’t it? Rhythmic and lyrical, like a profession of love with a mouthful of lamington. The Rock stands as a beacon, a honeypot, an inescapable must-see for any voyager to the land down under. That was how I rationalised the excursion anyway. Fair play say I to anyone who makes it all the way out there to see it – apart from those who take the direct flight out to the resort. That’s cheating. Having spent 12 hours on an overland train from Darwin to Alice Springs I felt I’d earned my kudos, add that to the 6 hour bus ride to Uluru and I have to say my expectations were pretty high.
We arrived on Anangu land and within spitting distance of the rock at 2:30pm. The sun was still high and hot, so we were advised to sip little and often and not ‘neck it all at once’. Fair advice for the 10.6km walk which we had to get done with enough daytime left to make it to the sunset viewing area. At this point I’ll just squeeze in my p.o.v. about climbing the rock itself. While this isn’t banned, the aboriginal people prefer that people don’t, and I can’t see the allure seeing as 35 people have died doing it. I and my friend stuck to the base walk – mostly flat and both hands free to indulge in the obligatory photo ops.
A strange new tradition has emerged among the pilgrims to Uluru nowadays. Far removed from any ancient culture. Not clay painting, not singing, not smoke filled legends of mythical warriors. Cava. On reaching the coach stop viewing area, each tour company whips out a folding table and slaps out a spread of snacks and sparkling wine. No witchetty grubs then? Yet again I find myself foiled though as few things can pucker my face like wine. Of course I take a glass, I have to keep up appearances for the family album don’t I? And crudités are good for morale. The sunset itself was over fairly quickly, leaving us with the detritus of our feast to pack up before mooching back to the campsite. Another tick on the old bucket list.
The magic of the night was only just beginning though, as we were to be introduced to the mysterious ‘damper’ bread with our stir fry. My stomach purred in anticipation as our guide shovelled glowing embers from our fire onto strong cast cooking pots filled with nothing but flour and beer. Surely not? Surely yes. From thin air this Adelaidean turned Sherpa conjured delicious bread for our evening repost. We lapped it up. And for afters we had marshmallows. The movies make it look easy but toasting them just right over a fire is not an easy occupation. Too short a time and they’re not squidgy, too long and they’ll either catch on fire (which we managed to do) or fall onto the flames (also accomplished). But it is a pursuit of happiness for when judged perfectly, the reward is fluffy, sweet and pink. Irresistible.
We laid out our swags for the last time and watched the southern constellations be unveiled. Zips zipped, flaps flapped and all around shifting bodies curled, snuggled and squirmed. Ensconced in tight rings around our fire we all agreed the trip was a blast. Though ear plugs are always a sound investment where so many tightly packed bodies are concerned. Next stop: Adelaide.
I travelled with Emu Run tours: 3 day trip which includes an air-conditioned bus, camping, all food during the trip and guided walks of Uluru, King’s Canyon and Kata Tjuta (The Olgas). $350 AUD. Based out of Alice Springs, tours leave daily 5:45am, see website for further details: www.emurun.com.au
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