Day 239-245: Adelaide to Alice Springs/Uluru
Trip Start Sep 12, 2004
57Trip End Jan 05, 2006
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Set the alarm for 6am....when I got to the kitchen the clock said 5.30, would appear my alarm clock was slightly out :O( What an obscene time of the day to be up and about. So it was a pretty leisurely start before catching the bus at 7am, though it didn't leave til just before 8, as the bus pulled up the driver hit a post with the wing mirror....good start! Bus was full, 21 of us, driver was a 20 yr old girl from Alice Springs who used to be a trucker so I wonder how much stuff she hit with one of them. First stop was a wine tasting in Clare Valley where we also dunno the "Hello, my name is Paul and I'm from Norwich" thing, one crazy person stood out as she introduced herself; "Hi, I'm Tea, South Korea, yaaaaaaaay!!"...think she could be bonkers. Bored with wine tasting now.
People of note on the tour; Vick - blond girl driver, Mads - a very good looking 19yr old Danish boy with obligatory blond hair and blue eyes, Liam - a walking Scottish cliche, Ian - Irish bloke, another Ian - English this time, Brett & Daz - young brother's from Liverpool, Jayde & Laura - couple of English girls, plus some assorted Germans and Japs. We had lunch in some tiny town, only breakfast is provided so we have to fend for ourselves....luckily they had a Woolies and a bakery with a marvellous selection of fat bitch cakes :O)
We had a little hike in a place called Alligator Gorge late afternoon, lots of rocks and stuff but no alligators at all, massive violation of the trade description act...tsk. Arrived in a first overnight in a hostel in Quorn - not the meat substitute but a small town in the arse end of nowhere. Hostel had delightful carpets and bedding circa 1976, I shared a 6 bed with Mads, Ian Irish, Brett, Daz & Ian English. Despite being a small town it still had 4 bars, tho we only spotted 2....my dormies plus Liam, Laura and Jayde started in one where a few of us had food - I had a pretty good kangaroo and vegetable soup...mmmmm. Then we all ended up in another bar with pool table having a few games and chatting to scary locals. All getting a bit expensive so we all chipped in for a couple of boxes of wine and took it back to the hostel for many drinking games and boys with tops off in the pool room - isn't it great how blokes like to get their kit off when their pissed.
Carried on till well after 1am where some of them pissed off some Germans by making a shit load of noise when going to bed, German's could be heard shouting "Get out!! Get out!!" and waving their arms uncontrollably, very funny.
Knocked up at 5.45am...and not in a good way. Kitchen had a delightful smell of gas, yet stupid people had switched on lights and the toaster, i ate brekkie in my room just in case the kitchen was engulfed in a fireball. We left about 7 and I managed to leave my ear plugs in the dorm so sleepless nights await me until Alice. We stopped at some Botanical Gardens near Port Augusta at 8am which no one was really interested in looking at, far too early for all that. Unfortunately nature decided that I needed to go to the loo and the visitors centre didn't open until 9am....so I had my first squatting behind a bush experience :O(
After being bored for an hour we moved on and started the drive to Coober Pedy, and this time I nearly pissed myself on the bus after being on the road for bloody ages with no stop, a quick pull over and all was well again. Lunch was at Woomera which is 'famous' for being a missile test site, hence lots of missile and plane displays in the town centre. I had pumpkin soup for lunch, the group seem to thing that's all I can eat. In the afternoon we stopped at a massive salt lake which went on as far as the eye can see....very cool - cue pics of licking salt. The rest of the afternoon was non-stop to Coober Pedy with just a couple of rest stops. Annoying driver decided we all wanted to listed to shite rock music very loudly, had to ask her to turn it down as my ears were bleeding.
Coober Pedy looked scary from the bus, groups of Abos hanging around looking like their ready to stab us. We had some crappy tour of an opal mine - as Coober Pedy is famous for mining opals, which is how people now live 'underground', they actually live in the hills which have been created from mining, so it's not strictly underground, it's more like living in a fancy cave. Tour guide was a monotone dullard who sounded like she'd said the script 10 billion times and had forgotten the punctuation during that time and the tour started with a super cheesy film about how great opal is - I wasn't convinced.
Evening was spent at a pizza house for dinner where they cooked pizza and managed to remove all the flavour during the cooking process. Then we went to the 'underground' bar in the hotel for a few drinks, it featured lots of freaky locals including a screechy fat woman playing pool....the bottlos shut early here so no late night wine box shenanigans tonight. However we did still get in after midnight and manage to wake a few people up. We slept in a bunkhouse/hospital ward in a hill which held about 40 people, don't think it was full tho. Had to rent a sleeping bag from the tour company as no linen supplied, $15 for the privilege - and no pillows so the nights sleep wasn't great.
Up at 4.30am this morning which is not only obscene but against my religion. Didn't feel too bad considering having 4 hours poor sleep. This was so we could go and watch the sunrise, though we seemed to be standing around for hours in the freezing cold waiting for it to appear....quite pretty in the end but not spectacular. Tried to sleep on the bus but Vick played loud heavy metal as a revenge tactic for people waking others up last night...evil bint. We stopped off at various roadhouses on the way up to Alice, expensive in the middle of nowhere - it was about $300 for an ice cream....ish.
We played a few games on the bus to past the time and boredom, including Post It Note Who Am I, and Band & Film A-Z. We stopped at the NT/SA bored for various pics, the Germans broke off into their own gang clearly displaying their contempt, we didn't care. We were forced into a group photo with everyone tho....we were also joined by a cast of a gazillion flies (that's a lot), they're a delightful part of the outback that we all enjoyed. After lunch - where I had solids this time - where everyone except our gang changed onto the tour which goes straigh to the Rock....which was great, had the bus to ourselves for the rest of the afternoon.
Vick inspired confidence in the safety of Alice Springs by warning the women not to walk around on their own in the evening, even in small groups! Yay! Brett, Daz & Ian English were also staying at the same hostel as me - Alice's Secret. Went out for drinks again in the evening, was supposed to be the whole gang but Jayde, Laura and Ian Irish didn't make. Started in Bojangles which is a bar that broadcasts live on the web and radio every night. Next was Melankas which is a bar/hostel/restaurant/venue/everything it would appear. Pretty quite tho and by 11 I was knackered so headed back to the hostel - made it back alive.
Checked out this morning leaving some stuff behind so I didn't have to take all my shite on tour. Spent a couple of hours in town getting some stuff for the 3.5 day tour, nothing special about Alice really, single interesting fact; it has a river running through it which dry 95% of the year. Picked up just after 12, 3 of the tour party were delayed on the train so we killed some time by visiting a place called Simpson's Gap, more rocks and another dry river bed, very prettty...tour guide Stuart is a cool bloke, funny and interesting, much better than blondie on the last one. We finally got the late ones just before 3pm...we should have been 2 hours down the road by now which means we miss the first sunset at the Rock :O(
Just bounced between roadhouses down to the campsite which is at the the Ayers Rock Resort a few km from the Rock itself. Arrived at camp in the dark, surprised that it was like a camping holiday camp, other tour groups were around, thought we'd be in the middle of nowhere on our own. Stu started dinner and we put out our swags..no tents, just sleeping in a kind of potato sack on the sand, was slightly disturbed at the prospect of crawling things getting into the swag. Facilities better than I thought tho with proper showers and loos. Dinner was very good; steak and sausages done on the BBQ with salad tho it would seem many of the group work on a 'every man for himself' basis when it comes to food.
Did the chatting round the campfire thing; people of note so far; Rachel and Maggz - two Irish girls to-be-sure, JJ - pierced German guy, Ian - English bloke 21 going on 16, Paula and Jane - over 40s women doing the round the world thing, and Stu the Driver - 30s I think, been out this way for years and knows a hell of a lot about Aboriginal culture. Wasn't very tired so was up too late really going to bed just before midnight.
No concept of days now so had no idea it was Friday the 13th, nothing bad happened tho. Up at half 5, Stu woke everyone by kicking the bottom of the swag, this would be the wake up call for the next few days. Swag was ok, but woke up with sweaty legs in the middle of the night, way too hot - tho the morning was bloody freezing. On the road at 6.30am to go see the sunrise at a lookout where you could see The Olgas and the Rock in the distance. Started our first hike through the Olgas at 7.30 - ridiculous time of the day to be climbing hills and stuff....but nice and cool so better than doing it in the afternoon. This was a 7.2km trek through the hills and the 'Valley of the Winds'....had another 'at one with nature' moment half way round.
We finished about 11am and drove back to have lunch at camp; cold meat sangers. The vultures seemed to get through everything within about 10 minutes, appear to be a few with no consideration of others....this would be a theme at each meal time. Stu gave us a choice for the afternoon, stay at camp and chill or go to climb the Rock. Way too hot to go climbing so about 7 of us stayed at the camp; Isreali couple, Sylvia - German woman, JJ, David & Jacqui - 30 something English couple, and two Swedish girls stayed back, the rest going to the Rock. We all relaxed by the pool (yes the outback campsite had a pool, tho it was bloody freezing) and waited for them to return.
They regailed us with tales of how fantastic the climb was, kinda felt I'd missed out a bit. Then we all hopped on the bus to go see sunrise at the Rock, as you'd expect loads of tourist buses pull up and spew out their contents. The fancy tours had wine and champagne for their guests, we had crackers and dips, but no drink. Sunset was beautiful, the rock was bright red, then turned a chocolate colour, bizzarely it then got brighter again after the sun had dipped below the horizon, before going dark again....spooky!
Stopped at Ayers Rock Resort for alcohol, very painful buying alcohol - only one 6 pack allowed per day to prevent people buying loads of beer and selling it to the local Abos. And despite selling cider they don't sell it in packs so didn't get anything, barwoman was a thoroughly miserable cow too. Dinner was chicken stir fry, very good. Did the chatting round the fire thing again and, despite the early start, everyone was up pretty late.
Sunrise at the Rock this morning, not as lovely as sunset, but some great colours on the clouds in the sky. Then we headed to the start of the 9km walk around the Rock base, kept thinking that I'd really like to climb it. Weather was perfect, cool and a breeze. In the end a few others decided to go so we went up while the rest did the base walk. Went to some super-skanky loos before heading up, vomit inducing smell so breathing through the nose was out of the question. We started heading up at 8am and had 2 hours before being picked up by Stu. Now you may have heard that you're not supposed to climb it, well to be precise the Aborigines ask you not to climb because if you get hurt or die on the climb they say the feel that pain too, but if you go up and you're ok it doesn't matter, there's not actually any issue with touching or going on the Rock....so I decided to do it on that basis.
First part is very steep and there's a chain you need to use to help haul yourself up, calves start to ache pretty quick. Did have 2nd thoughts half way up the chain, but encouraged on and once you get past the chain it gets much easier. In the end took about 50 mins to get to the summit and the views all the way were amazing. Coming back down was ok, but had to come down backwards on part of the chain coz it was way too sleep and thought end up sliding to my doom. So glad I did it, and not hurt or dead so everyone's happy :O) We even beat some of the base walkers.
I cooked up the burgers for lunch having revealed my past McDonalds experience, lunch was obviously delicious. A lazy arse German called Dirk decided to bugger off and have a swim whilst everyone helped with lunch or breaking camp, he was punished with washing up duty for the rest of the day. Drove to Kings Creek Station which is our stop for the night arriving just before dusk. A smaller camp but had a bigger fire pit so very cosy, no tents again but used to the swag now.....sleeping under the stars is kinda cool and the stars you can see here are amazing. Spag Bol for dinner, even Stu getting frustrated with some people's greediness, no seconds left for some including me, luckily was quite full.
Had some cider to enjoy this evening and got Stu to buy some marshmallows so we could toast them over the fire, never done that before but they were gorgoeous, they melt in the middle and they're all warm....my name is Paul and I'm addicted to toasted marshmallows. Swag wasn't as comfortable as the last couple of nights, bit smaller, chatted to the Irish lasses before bed, had a good laugh with them over the last couple of days.
5am start to break camp and get over to Kings Canyon for the 7.2km hike - couldn't be arsed to shower. Bit of a breeze this morning so bloody freezing.....I'm in the middle of a desert for goodness sake! Started the hike about 7am as the sun was rising, it starts on Heart Attack Hill - so named for obvious reasons - but then flattens out to a nice stroll around the rim of the canyon. Took is about 3 hours but it was a very relaxed stroll. Getting on well with Stu with mutual piss taking a general theme. Rachel and Jacqui the only ones who didn't do the hike coz of injuries so they did the slackers stroll around the bottom.
Jumped on the bus to drive a couple of hours to have lunch at some middle of nowhere roadhouse on the Stuart Highway. Tensions rising over the food thing, luckily it's the last meal together. If this was Big Brother there could well have been a murder or two by now, you can understand how people go bonkers on these realty shows, bad enough being on a 3 day tour with people who annoy you. Rest of the afternoon was a roadhouse hop all the way back to Alice.
Bit of a queue for the one washing machine at Alice's Secret but managed to get it all done and dusted before heading out to meet everyone for an end of tour dinner at Toddy's Backpackers....luckily it was all you could eat so no food issues. During the day I'd organised a collection to get a bottle of rum for Stu for being such a decent bloke and tour guide to gave him that before the meal. Rest of the night was drinking at Bojangles where most people got rat arsed and had a bloody good time. Got the Irish contact numbers and will hook up with them in Cairns possible. Bloody good tour, bloody good week...next stop Darwin.