Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Heart of Australia

For our last major trip in Australia, Ethan and I flew out to Ayer's Rock, or as it's called by the Aboriginal people, Uluru. Although it's iconic, it's way out in the middle of nowhere, in what's called "The Great Red Centre" (of Australia). As we flew in, we could see Uluru from the air, but it still didn't look as majestic as it did from the ground.
Our first view of Uluru from the ground.
The first day, we drove up and took plenty of pictures, and then waited to see the sunset on Uluru. It's supposed to be amazing and magical, or something. It was pretty. Perhaps our opinion was tainted by the fact that we were watching with 10,000 other tourists, like the obnoxious German girl who climbed over the fence to get her picture taken, or the obnoxious Brisbane man who yelled at her for getting in his time lapse photos.
The sun going down on Uluru.

As the sun set, the colors gradually changed.

Color Ethan unimpressed.
We did get a nice photo of the two of us in front of the rock.

I have to say, though, the sunsets we saw were some of the best I've ever seen.

One of the brilliant sunsets we saw.
I was also excited about getting the chance to stargaze someplace with no light pollution. I was not disappointed. The stars were amazing. I even saw a shooting star.

Can you find the Southern Cross? (hint: it's towards the lower left)
The next day, we spent hiking all around the base of Uluru. The base walk is really cool, with traditional Aboriginal sites, signs telling the legends behind the formations on the rock, and neat little waterholes.

We also spent one day traveling 100 km to the west to see the Olgas, another rock formation. On the way, we happened on a wild camel.

Color this camel unimpressed.
The Olgas were formed from different rock than Uluru, so they have a more lumpy appearance. Each of those rocks has a canyon between it, and the hikes go up and through.

The Olgas from the viewpoint on the road.

I was impressed by the amount of water around Uluru and the Olgas. Granted, this has been one of the wettest seasons on record. But part of the reason these rock formations are special for the Aborigines is that water flows off and forms waterholes around the center. They were able to find water here even in the driest of times.

One of the streams running through the Olgas.

We weren't allowed to climb on the Olgas, and the Aborigines strongly request that you don't climb Uluru (although people do, which seems pretty disrespectful given how strongly they request you not to). However, the hikes through the Olgas went up to a couple of really cool lookouts. From the top of this hill, I felt like I was looking into an ancient landscape. I almost expected to see dinosaurs roaming around.

Lookout! Oh, I'm clever.
Although the terrain around Uluru and the Olgas isn't completely flat, which surprised me, it is really wide open. I think that's what impressed me the most -- it really felt like Big Sky Country out there. I made an awesome panoramic photo, but unfortunately it's 8M, so I won't upload it here. Instead, I'll put one of the many other pictures I took.

Wide open spaces...

The main thing I didn't like about our trip was that there's really only one place to stay. So that meant we were at a campground with about a million other people, including a lot of inconsiderate backpackers. There's nothing like lying in your tent at 5:30 in the morning, listening to the rest of the campground wake up to go watch the sunrise.

I was also disappointed that we didn't see any kangaroos. We've seen kangaroos while we've been here, but I was really hoping to see some of the big red kangaroos that only live out west. No dice. We did see a dingo though, and of course that surly camel, so our trip wasn't without wildlife.

Before this trip, I felt like it was one of the "must-dos" in Australia, and after going, I still feel that way The landscape is beautiful and iconic, and it's really neat to be in a place with such a sense of ancient culture. There's a lot we haven't done in Australia that we won't get to, but I'm glad we didn't miss out on this.

1 comment:

Carlw4514 said...

how are camels faring there down under?

I got my fix for a nice picture of the two of you close up with the feature in the background!

Uncle C