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Published: June 25th 2017
Geo: -25.2505, 131.008
The day after the night before. What a luxury to sleep in. We set the alarm for 9.45 as an emergency backup so we wouldn't miss our helicopter flight - but didn't need it. At 6.45 am we co-ordinated the doors, blinds and screens so we had the sweeping view of the sunrise from the luxury of our plumped goose down pillows.
A drop of the hair-of-the-dog would have been appropriate this morning but we settled for tap water instead and watched the ever changing light dance and play over Uluru. Again, the addition of the clouds makes the scene more dynamic. The clouds cast a shadow on the rock as they passed overhead and our now old friend Uluru never looks the same twice.
This is the first morning for us in the Dune House and is therefore a breakfast treat. We abandoned the usual apple and juice for the full complement for Mac (including muesli, yoghurt, bacon and eggs, mushrooms, sausages and toast) and the eggs Benedict for me with lashings of avocado! Freshly squeezed OJ and slowly sipped coffee rounded out the breakfast experience.
We had walked the key destinations over the last few days and it was
now time to take a look from the air. The Professional Helicopter Services' little "beetle" has been a permanent fixture at the resort and really has looked like a Lego toy on a cement pad each day as we have passed it. Dean, our pilot arrived right on time and looked about 12! With a little intro to the safety procedures and after playing a game of "truth or dare" as we declared our weights, we were heading out to the launch pad for 30 minutes of flight time over Uluru and out towards Kata Tjuta.
Mickey transported us down the dune to the helicopter pad in a golf buggy. Feeling right at home and had to have a few shots posing behind the wheel to send back to JPC!
All aboard! Mac was allocated as the back seat driver and I was perched up front sitting in the bubble of the cockpit.
We were not alone in the sky as our headsets filled with the noise of other pilots communicating with the airport personnel registering flight paths and changes to each craft's direction. The view from above was absolutely NOT what was expected.
Uluru was, however, predictably iconic and familiar but
the landscape itself did not present as a barren, bare desert. It was a surprising green carpet. It didn't match the varieties of green of Kakadu but it had its own hues. The desert oak, the mallee and the spinifex were interspersed with well worn tracks as we made steady progress across the landscape travelling at land speeds of around 200 kph.
And the sand was so red. It presented as an even burnished red as if someone had scrapped it smooth in preparation for our viewing.
Kata Tjuta was the most surprising from the air. It was amazing. The 36 heads stood out clearly from each other as rounded mounds jutting from the desert sands. They were pitted and gorged, were of different heights and circumferences and presented as mysteries waiting to be explored. The Rock is the star here, but Kata Tjuta dances with as many colours and standing some 200 metres higher than Uluru carries a similar mix of sacred sites, art works, flora and fauna and challenging terrain.
Agree with Dean - it rivals the rock and is the true "heads many" sleeping giant of Yulara.
We have been exchanging texts and photos with Richard and Loraine all morning (
including a sighting of the elusive hat). They were finishing their short sojourn into the desert by taming the camels for us before leaving on a flight out after lunch. It was a long way to come for a desert walk but Mac has locked that memory in the vault! Very special and much appreciated.
Our first breakfast was followed by our "last lunch." We have photographed every menu and then every course - this has been an extended fine dining experience. I broke the mould today and asked if I could have two entrees instead of an entree and a main. Well, you should know that the answer was a resounding "yes" and while Mac dined on his prawn entree and swordfish main, I revelled in two amazing salads with lashings of Australian king prawns and even more avocado. Not sure how we can keep eating but, heroes that we are, we have found the strength, persistence and grit to "just do it," (and our weight estimates must have been right because the helicopter flew like a dream!)Longitude 131 always seems to be fully booked and it is a constant revolving door as new people arrive and familiar faces depart.
Had to say goodbye today to Jacqui and Stephanie as they head to their new adventures in Cairns and Hamilton Island. It has been a treat sharing Aussie slang with these two dags. Don't even want to think about it being our turn to say goodbye tomorrow.
A relax in our tent for the afternoon with wine, cheese and crackers was the prelude to the sunset camel ride. Nathan collected us for the 10 minute ride down the road to "Uluru Camel Ride - a magical experience" farm. We had seen the race track for the Camel Farm from the air. Nathan had a bit of a spring in his step because his partner (Claire) works at the farm...and with their crazy hospitality hours....this meeting in daylight hours .... is almost like a hot date for them.
The farm was spick and span because next weekend they host the Outback Camel Race and the Camel Ball (don't even start me.) and they are all talk about the excitement of the weekend and the crowds who will converge for the 10 event programme. Camels are being prepared, saddles are being polished, the frocks, shoes, hats and bling are being pulled out and the
alcohol will be flowing. Sounds like a treat.
Sam took us on a tour of the yards and introduced us to Ebony and Ivory. As orphans, they are two recent additions and have been hand reared in this their first 6 months. No camels are "bred" here - all their stock is herded and caught from the wild. Seems as if there is a constant source of livestock from the half a million that run in feral herds.
Herb was our lead cameleer. He was able to give the run down on safety with a liberal dash of Aussie humour and outline at length the secret to the mount and dismount. Basically, lean back as far as you can and hold on. The riders are then "matched" to the camels. A bus load of riders had arrived and we had to line up with our partners and Herb walked up and down the line selecting the appropriate riders for each camel.
Each camel was introduced and their personality or traits explained. There were stubborn camels (Mulga was a bit difficult to get up - they had to start up a grass blower engine to make him jump up.) There were noisy camels
(one sounded like Chewy from Star Wars, another like a spluttering outboard motor and one just screamed), camels that were tall or strong, camels that were experienced or new. Some of the camels had muzzles to stop them nibbling the guests and more importantly to stop them nibbling the leather saddles and the camel in front.
According to Herb, there is no such thing as a "spitting" camel. They chew their cud when content but when agitated, don't actually spit, they projectile vomit! Thank goodness all camels in our train were content.
We were one of the last riders to be allocated. And our lucky ride was Trigger. He had a muzzle and he was head shy (don't pat him on the head) but best of all, he was the fastest camel in Yulara and was the current holder of the coveted Camel Cup! He will be the defending champion at the races next weekend.Thank goodness he was tethered to the line of 40 other camels so we couldn't charge off into the sunset.
Mac was the back seat driver again (constantly nuzzled by Nibbles the camel behind him) and elegantly threw his leg over the camel. Then it was my turn and
I know you know where this is going! I was not so elegant but with the assistance of Herb and Jake and the nonchalance of Trigger I was man handled and manoeuvred into the saddle and somehow landed legs very wide and very astride! As soon as Trigger felt that the riders were in place he lifted his rump straight up off the ground in one strong bucking movement and with a little scream and gasp we were two and a half metres up....and safe.
We took a slow saunter around the tracks for 90 minutes listening to the meandering musings of Herb which were delivered with relative degrees of accuracy. There were photo stops along the way, we spotted a few rabbits and arrived at the top of the sand dunes right on time for another view of the sunset, this time tethered in a camel train. We never tire of the the views of the sunset. And this was quite magical.
Back to the yards for drinks and food and when the "magic" came to an end, Sarah was there to pick us up and take us "home."
A quick refresh (removing camel stink) and then our "last dinner." It is Table 131 night again but we have opted to eat in the dining room in the Dune House rather than under the stars. We did think that we would be going solo and were quite surprised to be joined by five other couples. But it doesn't really matter, we were tucked away in the corner table and it did seem like an intimate dinner just for two.
And what a meal it was! As always, every dish presented to perfection, every wine matched with care. We did "linger longer" and included arrangements for the next morning in our discussions. Felicity and Lauren were as attentive as always.
The swag was set for us on the balcony with the usual lashings of of port, cognac and Baileys accompanied by the fire. We ignored our unpacked bags, delaying the inevitable. Set the alarm for 3.30 am for our 4.10 am pickup hoping that extra 10 minutes will allow packing time. And snuggled into the swag contemplative and quiet. We really don't want to leave Longitude 131....ever.
PS The indigenous people count one, two, three, many. I'm feeling a little connection here because everyone under 30 is now being classed as "twelve." But seriously, every one
is sooooo young and wow, do they do a great job! Impressive.
Tot: 1.532s; Tpl: 0.07s; cc: 8; qc: 49; dbt: 0.033s; 1; m:saturn w:www (126.96.36.199); sld: 1;
; mem: 1.4mb