Uluru to Alice Springs

Uluru (and by extension the rest of the Northern Territory) has been fun, if incredibly hot. It reaches near 100 pretty much every day here during the summer, but unlike the deserts of home it doesn't really get that cool in the night time. Yesterday was spent almost exclusively at Uluru (Ayer's rock) doing a climb and small base tour. After a quick exhaustion nap I spent the evening around the hostel listening to average-to-moderatly-okay lounge music and meeting a really cool guy named Dave. Picture and story as we go I suppose.

First off, if you stay in youth hostels, don't kid yourself about what kind of accomodations you'll be getting. This is my room, it technically sleeps four but there were only three in there the first night and I actually had the room to myself the second. I don't think I could lie down and fit the width of the room - and I'm not that tall a guy. However for $17 a night you really can't beat it given the hotels all run close to $100 and are the only other option.

Uluru at sunrise. We had a sunrise climb and base tour the first day with a pickup at 4:45 am. This was probably the first time jetlag worked for me :) I woke up at 2:30 that morning, tried some brief starfield photography and had plenty of time to get ready. We arrived about a half hour before sunrise and got to setup up to take some shots. Like a fool I'd left my tripod in the room but found some germans who were nice enough to let me rest my camera on the top of their camper van. The vantage was pretty good, but some very ends of the rock were obscured by some bush. It was all about being there though.

This is the start of the climb to the top of Uluru. It should be mentioned that the aboriginal people would prefer you NOT climb the rock as it is sacred to them, however their teachings say that no man may tell another what he may or may not do so you are free to choose. I chose to do it, it's not any easy call to make though. It's an average difficulty climb - 50 degree incline to start - but so incredibly worth the effort for the view. Once you past the first 1/3 you crest a small roll into a wind cut gully that nearly knocks you over with blasts of pleasingly cool air. I met a nice frech girl here and we swapped snapping pictures for eachother and then got caught in what often happens at sites like this where more and more people kept comming up and asking either of us to take a picture of them. We managed to leave in a lull but agreed you could make a small fortune sitting there taking pictures.
The top of the rock is quite peaceful - not counting the occasional cluster of very "touristy" groups who come up, slap the top marker and immediately begin their descent.

Lest we forget that american culture is ever present, the aboriginal culutural center had a coke machine right outside the "how bushmen survive on grubs and twigs" exhibit. I liked the logo though :)

Fairly sore from the hike/run down the rock (40 minutes up, 20 minutes down) I took just a short base tour of the rock, not all the way around but to see some of the key points. If I had more time I'd take the full tour with one of the aboriginal guides who runs through the entire creation story rather than the pared down version I managed to get. This particular potion had not real cultural significance, but I really liked the effect of being inside a curl of rock. It rolls down to a point that hovers about a foot above a flattened rock benieth it, very hammer and anvil evoking. Some paintings on the rock but they didn't turn out well in the digital photos.

When I returned home from Uluru this little guy was there to greet me at my door. He was just cooling himself in whatever cold air managed to leak out from under my door. I tried not to disturb him as I grabbed my camera but he got startled and scuttled away. I caught him two doors down and grabed this quick picture. I think he knew I was done with him and settled right back into a little slumber.

No more pictures, at least not digital, but after a power nap I roamed around the hostel for a while and met Dave. Dave is a 50 year old ex-navy shipman currently in month 4 of a 1 year quest to spend the money he's been saving. His situation is vaguely similar to Pat's in that he had a long stint working in a place with basically no opportunities to spend the money he was earning. He spent 16 months in Antarctica then came up through New Zealand before heading over to Australia. He gave me lots of pointers on great places to dive around the western portion of the continent (where I won't be of course) and I've already forgotten a good portion of them save to learn to Wreck dive (there are apparently a couple of extrodinary sunken battle ship dives at a couple of places up near Darwin and down near Adeilade). He was basically the kind of person I wanted to meet on these trips, a real traveler as opposed to a tourist who was more than happy to talk about the places he's been and would recommend visiting (I'm supposed to place China fairly high on my list). We chatted for a while about diving here and in the puget sound (he was from Eugene Oregon) and the photography while on the road. It was pleasent conversation and I'm glad I met him, plus it's nice to have people in picture rather than just massive slabs of stone.

I'm typing this in the morning but it probably won't be posted until I reach Alice Springs in the afternoon. May have something to say about Alice but from what I gather it's mostly just a good place to buy hats and Didjs (the ones around here are surprisingly commercial). Doesn't much matter, I'm there for less than 24 hours I doubt I'll get to get much of an impression about it.

7:30am, time to go bother the Thrifty car rental people about getting my car early.

Road to Alice Springs
Just arrived in Alice Springs after a 3 hour drive. It's quite expensive to own a car down here, $70 australian (about $35-40) to fill up about 3/4 of a tank on an SUV. Granted it is an SUV and I was driving around 160 Km/h so I did tend to burn through the fuel. Trying to do things somewhat cheaply I'm not sure it's worth the expense to rent a car from Uluru to Alice, however saving nearly three hours of travel time could probably be seen as making up for the cost. Depends on your priorities I suppose.

The drive was interesting if somewhat uneventful. Early on when the day was still somewhat cool there were lizards every few kilometers sunning themselves on the roads. Some where smart enough to scurry out of the way of cars, others less so. A few flocks of red and white cockatiel-like birds that liked to play chase with my car and a whole host of kangaroo skeletons along the side of the road, but other than that just lots and lots of road - it gave me a chance to look at the country side though.

I keep thinking the Creator must have been a bit punchy when he got around to doing Australia. There's the animals of course, but everything else has a sort of strange sense of humor to it as well. The rock of this place is always either twisted on it's side or seems to have been haphazardly hacked at by some massive sword. Driving along through twisted red and white trees you'll see what basically looks like a mound of rubble just poke up out of the middle of the plains - and this isn't even counting the flat topped mountains ("nope, don't like how that one turned out, best just slice it off and set it on it's side somewhere else"). This isn't to sound like I don't like the place - I do have a rather strange sense of humor myself. I'll just have to wait to tomorrow to see what the coastal lands look like.

And now I'm off to try and find a hat and Didj - or rather good hat's and didjs. I think I may have given up on finding an "authentic" didj and will just go for one that appeals to me.


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