Friday, May 16, 2008

What I Did On My Australian Vacation: Day Six

I'm determined to finish this account... eventually. So, where was I? Oh, yes...

Day Six:

That was this day, for those of you keeping track. Here's what happened:

The previous day, we were told that this morning would feature a trip into the park to see Uluru in the sunrise, for anybody who wanted to get up early and come, and that at that point they'd drop off anybody who wanted to do the climb up the rock on a chain or to walk the trail around it. A couple of people opted for the climb (which ended up being canceled due to wind), but I was the only taker for the hike. Apparently a six-mile walk isn't most people's idea of fun... an attitude which I confess I find baffling. Me, I usually walk at least two miles per day (often a fair bit more), and after all that time in buses and airplanes and hotel rooms, I was feeling more than ready to get out and stretch my legs. (Actually, my friend would have loved to have done it, but, while she could probably have physically managed it, due to her health problems it would doubtless have left her exhausted, and she would never have managed it in the alloted time, so I regretfully talked her out of it. But her willing spirit earned her an exemption from the "What a bunch of wimps!" jokes I inevitably made afterward.)

Anyway, as you know if you read the post I made that day, things didn't exactly go according to plan, as the stupid hotel alarm clock failed to go off at the right time, and I woke up about five minutes before we were supposed to leave. Amazingly enough, I managed to throw on my clothes and grab my stuff (well, most of my stuff -- I had to go back for my water and managed to forget my park entry ticket entirely) and get to the bus before it took off. (This is a little trick I learned in college, where more than once I overslept and woke up mere minutes before I was supposed to be at my 8 AM class.)

Being as I was in an unwashed, under-caffeinated, generally groggy state, I was figuring on scrapping the walk idea entirely and just enjoying the sunrise and heading back to the hotel. But the weather was unutterably beautiful, there was coffee at the sunrise viewing, people were encouraging, and, well, the tour guide had already gone to the trouble of arranging a boxed breakfast for me. Plus, I'd had the presence of mind to grab my deodorant and toothbrush on the way out, so I could even clean up a little. So, what the hell, I went.

And I was glad I did. It was a really pleasant walk, among pleasant scenery, and I had long stretches of it all to myself, which was soothing to my introvert's soul. Unfortunately, thanks to first having to make a long trek to the distant restrooms and then taking a wrong (although very pretty) turn onto a side trail, I really had to push my pace to make sure I'd be there when the bus got back. I felt it later, let me tell you. Hell, I felt it during. But, still, definitely worth it.

Despite my need to book, I did take frequent stops for photographs, as I'd promised my friend I would do so she could at least live the experience vicariously. Unfortunately, it seemed like almost every time I did so, immediately after that I'd see the sign, a dozen feet or so along, forbidding photographs in that area. As I mentioned before, this is a hugely significant area for the native population, and there are many spots around the rock that are used for religious ceremonies. These sites are considered sacred, and not to be entered or viewed too closely, except by the appropriate people at the appropriate times, so they ask visitors to stay away from them and not photograph them. Now, I'm not great respecter of anybody's religion, but I figure any people who've been shit on as much as the aboriginal Australians certainly deserve to have their wishes honored when they're asking for something as simple as random tourists refraining from snapping pictures on their land and plastering the results all over the internet. So a lot of those pictures, you're not going to see. Here's a few that should be OK, though:

And here's a picture of the rock as a whole:

After the walk, we did a much, much shorter walk down into a gorge with some rock art:

Then we stopped at the aboriginal culture center, which had various shops and an interesting visitor's center/museum featuring information on various aspects of local aboriginal culture.

Then it was back to the hotel for a long, long, long shower, after which we clueless Americans spent a ridiculously long time trying to do laundry and having trouble figuring out why the washing machine wouldn't work. (Hint: The power switches located on all the wall outlets in Australia? It's kind of important to make sure they're on. D'oh!)

In the afternoon we went to Kata Tjuta (aka "The Olgas"), a lesser-known but almost equally impressive geological formation also located in the same national park. Here's Kata Tjuta:

The name means "many heads," and it's a pretty good description of a fascinating landscape.

We rounded off the (very, very full) day with a barbecue dinner under the stars. No kangaroo this time, but the chicken was pretty good.


  1. Extreme jealousy is setting in :)

  2. Great pictures. I commend you on your decision to not show certain pictures.