When you think of Australia what comes to your mind? Perhaps the iconic Outback with its dingoes, kangaroos and red sand soil? Well these images resonate as true Australia to me. I finally change up the scenery from coastlines and cities to experience the bushland of the Aboriginal people.
My tour group was extremely international. We consisted of: two Australian guides, one girl from Hong Kong, two boys from Indonesia, three French photographers, one Brazilian girl, one Italian girl, two German girls, an Irish and English couple and four American girls hailing from the Southern states of Georgia, Louisiana (Katie) and Kentucky (me)!
Leaving Alice Springs in the morning was such a thrill because I was finally on the road to the Great Outback of Australia. I was surprised when I heard that due to the above average rainfall in the area, vegetation was actually growing in the Outback. It was nice because the red color of the rocks really stood out against the blue sky and green shrubs. Our stop for the day was King's Canyon. The start of this 3.5 hour hike is called Heart Attack Hill because it is a very steep climb and during the hot summers can really take its toll on hikers. The hike wasn't too bad. When we got to the top, we stopped for lunch.
|Blue, Red & Green|
The main part of the hike was through the Garden of Eden, a desert oasis with a pool. It was a nice break but the water was way too cold to go for a dip. After the hike we headed to Curtain Springs where we set up camp. Now let me tell you this isn't the kind of campsite my mom would drag me too; it was a bush campsite with bush facilities a.k.a. trees. Plus we collected our own firewood, basically pulling limbs off of dead trees. The bonfire we made was epic. We were really doing the Real Outback experience. After cooking a delicious meal over the huge bonfire and unrolling our swags (canvas sleeping bags with a head flap). I feel asleep under the Milky Way and a million stars. The night sky was right up there with Techapo in New Zealand and I learned how to find the famous Southern Cross constellation.
The second day of our tour was my favorite day. After a quick breakfast of Nutella toast (yummy), we entered the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, the home of the Anangu aboriginals. This is their sacred ancestral land.
|Panoramic of the Olgas|
We headed to the Valley of the Winds at Kata Tjuta (pronounced KAT-a Jew-TA). The views were amazing. The largest rock (pictured above center) is 500 meters tall and named after Queen Olga of Spain. At the top of the hike, Katie and I did a couple fun pictures.
From there, we went to the Aboriginal Cultural Center. They have a book called the "Sorry" Book. Since this is a national park, it's illegal to take rocks, sand, etc. from the park. Also it's frowned upon to climb Uluru because it is disrespectful to the sacred rites of the Anangu people; the walking trail traces a boy's walk to becoming a man. Some tourists have sent apology letters and these souvenir back, claiming that since leaving the park bad things have befallen them. One man sent back the shoes he had worn when climbing Uluru because he had horrible karma now. I got a jar full of the red sand from the Outback but I made sure that it was well outside of the park. I don't want any bad mojo with finals next week.
|I got fancy and did a changing color & sky picture|
After a little taste of walking around Uluru, we headed to the sunset viewing area to take in the changing colors of the rock due to the sinking Sun. Once it got dark, we went to the Ayers Rock (another name for Uluru) campground for hot showers and bed; what a treat! We made a controlled fire and set up our swags. Since sunset was around 6:30 p.m., we weren't tired. The group stayed up playing mind games around the fire which bonded us even more as a group.
Now it was time for sunrise at Uluru. Another early morning-actually the 4th day in a row waking up around 5 a.m. We were going to eat breakfast at the viewing site so we all piled in to the bus straightaway. we hadn't even left the campsite when our guide realized we had a flat tire. My heart sank. After three failed attempts, they finally got the tire on correctly and we were heading back toward Uluru. We made it in time for sunrise but it was only OK. I was expecting a more brilliant sunrise but during the winter months the Sun rises to the left of the rock and not behind it. Plus it was absolutely freezing that morning, even wrapped up in my sleeping bag. I couldn't even look at the sunrise because the wind would blow right in my face. I'm definitely a Southern girl.
|My one picture of sunrise|
The trip was finished off with a walk around the base of Uluru. Since this is a sacred site to the Aboriginal tribe from this area, parts of the rock can't be photographed. The signs were confusing about what areas were restricted. I didn't want a $5,500 fine so I just took mostly mental pictures and talked to new friends from our tour. It was an enjoyable hike and before I knew it the trip was over and we were headed back to Alice Springs.
|Katie and Kim at the base of Uluru|
I now feel like I've truly studied in Australia after having explored the Outback. I saw kangaroos, dingos and camels. I slept under the stars in my swag. I visited Uluru, the world's largest rock located in the middle of Australia.
Cheers for now,
|Uluru or Bust:|
The tour drew on all the bus windows was these cool markers