Trip Start Jul 28, 2006
54Trip End Jan 06, 2007
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Where I stayed
My flight to Melbourne was crap. We arrived at Melbourne airport at 4am, then had to wait till 8:30 to get the connecting flight. That meant no sleep for me. But I did get to see some good movies on the plane and got a travel gift pack (yea Qantas!) So I was extremely bleary eyed and drinking coffee non-stop to try to stay awake for the rest of the day.
Australia is hot beyond belief and the center really is red in the outback. I really enjoyed the flight into Ayers because it was low and I could see the landscape below change into the red center. You could also really get a feel of how flat it is, as there is nothing for miles until Uluru rises out of nowhere.
I stayed at the Outback Pioneer Lodge, in a 20 person dorm room full of a Japanese tour group of giggling young girls. Ayers Rock is expensive beyond belief, many people were saying even more so than Sydney ($7 lg water anyone?). The entire resort grounds are owned by one company, which doesn't really help much. But it is nice, there's bbq areas and there's even a pool.
The first night I did a dinner under the stars, except because of the crap weather there were no stars. They set up an open air restaurant out in the outback with full waiter service et al. The food was really nice too, my first taste of kangaroo and alligator. It was also open bar, so everyone pretty much got hammered. The company made the evening salvageable, otherwise it would have been a disaster due to the weather (it rained on and off and was really windy).
I was supposed to go to Uluru for sunrise the next day, but slept through my alarm. It wasn't a problem to change it to the next day, I think this happens quite a bit when you have to wake up at 4:30am. So I slept the rest of the day and did an afternoon trip to the Olgas. I met some Canadians on the bus, and it was nice to talk about Toronto for awhile. We did a 3 hour hike, which was beautiful but strenuous in the baking heat of day. They tell you to bring lots of water with you so you don't dehydrate, and there's water stations everywhere so you can refill your bottle. It's very cool to see these things up close as well as from afar because they look so different.
After the Olgas, we went to Uluru to see the sunset. The sun sets on it not behind it, so it casts an orange glow on it that was quite spectacular. We were lucky we got a clear sky! Had another fun evening at the restaurant in the resort - you meet so many people there because everyone's a tourist.
I finally got up and made it to Uluru for sunrise, which was less than fantastic. I was left at 6am with 2 hours ahead of me before the ranger walk, so I walked part way around the base of Uluru. The ranger tour was well worth it (ok, it was free - but very informative nonetheless). They point out all the caves and sacred spots the aboriginal people would use on Uluru during festivals and celebrations and explain some of the cave paintings. They also explain how the native people don't want people to climb the rock because it's so sacred, but spoiled travellers demand to do it because they've come such a long way. I chose not to climb, and try to respect the natives. After the walk, I finished the remainder of the base walk before getting picked up to return to the resort. Even by 9am the sun was in full force and just walking on flat ground was tiring. It was cool to be so close to the rock, and to be alone with quiet. Absolute quiet is one of those things that doesn't come around so often anymore, so when it does I relish it.
I had an afternoon flight to Cairns that I felt like crap on. I think I've caught a cold and really feel terrible :(