Smiling at Uluru
After a delightful day in Adelaide with the family itâ€™s time already to make for Alice Springs, that town in the middle of nowhere, ages away from anything else. Surrounded by outback, Alice Springs is a base for tours to the beating heart of Australia, Uluru, and other attractions â€˜in the neighbourhoodâ€™ (meaning up to six hours in the car), Kata Tjuta and Kingâ€™s Canyon. Originally I planned to go here in my first four months in Australia but I lacked time and money. Iâ€™m happy to see it now as you canâ€™t really go to Australia twice and not see anything other the coast and the bush. It would be a shame, as the outback is pretty awesome.
Itâ€™s cold in Alice Springs when we arrive.
While in the desert, itâ€™s still winter and the cold wind cools down everything the sun managed to warm up. Out of the blowing winds itâ€™s lovely though. Red sands, big mountain ranges and dust are everywhere. After a short day in a resort we get up before the crack of dawn to go on an outback tour taking us to all the hotties of southern Northern Territory. We pick up a Belgian-Dutch family and head for nothingness. The two families stay on their own side of the bus during the ride, but late at the campfire we do some bonding. The stories are pretty similar; the familyâ€™s coming over to Australia to pick up their child, is their case their youngest daughter Laura, who did a high school program near Perth. While they were at it they decided to travel the country for a bit. I find myself talking with their eldest daughter Suzanne a lot, who studied in Peru for a year. Sheâ€™s got some great stories and I canâ€™t wait to do something similar myself.
Ape in Kata Tjuta
Great skies above Kata Tjuta
To my horror I notice I havenâ€™t got my camera with me. Did I lose it somewhere in Alice, or is it in my bag back at the hotel? My fear gets bigger as I realize I havenâ€™t stored any photos on CD since Bangkok, more than a month ago. Northern Thailand, Laos, the Thai islands, Malaysia and Singapore, gone? Please tell me this isnâ€™t true. I figure my camera mustâ€™ve slipped from my pocket while taking a cab in Alice and the next couple of days after the tour we try everything to get it back; calling cabbies, report is missing and putting up a reward; it doesnâ€™t lead to anything.
Gone with the wind, Iâ€™m afraid. At least I stored the most important photos until Phuket on TravBuddy, but after that I havenâ€™t got any pictures. Ouch, cry, sigh.
That afternoon we drive to Kata Tjuta, the rock formation near Uluru. Slightly less famous but in my opinion better than Uluru, albeit a bit less special. Kata Tjuta consists of different rocks and boulders (so not a monolith as Uluru) with valleys and passageways in between them; they make for a stunning walk. We walk and talk our way up to the lookout point before we return to drive to Uluru; itâ€™s time for the sun to set. Unfortunately is cloudy and shitty weather, so instead of the famous Uluru colour scheme we get a dull grey rock that only becomes greyer the longer you look at it. Not worth the digital photograph. The champagne makes up for it though! That night we sleep in tents at the camp; itâ€™s freezing, but after the help of some beers and a campfire I fall asleep, content.
** EXCLUSIVE ** BEHIND THE SCENES
We get woken up before dawn, once again. This better not become a habit. Weâ€™re taken to Uluru, this time for sunrise. While there are easily a couple of hundred people out there, itâ€™s pretty apesome nonetheless. We take a score of photos, pose here and there and enjoy the colour changing rock like we never enjoyed a colour changing rock before. Some people, when talking about Uluru told me not to go there, as it is just a rock, and always will be just a rock. True in a way, itâ€™s just a rock; but itâ€™s still a rock that you just have to see. We walk around it which takes us almost two hours. I wouldâ€™ve liked to climb it, but unfortunately for me the climb has been closed due to strong winds.
We load up the bus once again and set out for our second camp, near Kings Canyon.
On the way there we collect firewood at the side of the road for the campfire that night. Another nightly campfire and travel story (and beer) session, loving it. In the morning we ride to the canyon I when weâ€™re all unloaded I suddenly have the need to get away from everything and everyone. Although the general atmosphere is pretty good, suddenly I have to put up with all the irritations and stupid fights that come with a family of six. I donâ€™t need this shit. Iâ€™m someone who really appreciates his alone time and itâ€™s just too much now. Iâ€™ve been travelling solo for eight months and now I have to put up with five other people with all different ages and different states of fitness? Itâ€™s driving me mad. I take off and climb the canyon on my own to enjoy some alone time, then wait at the top for the other to catch up with me.
Uluru - arty, no?
The canyon is nice enough, although I wouldnâ€™t say a must if youâ€™ve seen Uluru and Kata Tjuta.
The walk takes us a couple of hours, the bus ride back to Alice an eternity. The landscape is boring and fascinating at the same time, but most of us use the drive to catch up on some sleep. Back in Alice we enjoy a group meal with the two Dutch families and our two guides. The restaurant has an 800 gram steak on the menu, for which you get a certificate if you finish it completely. My eyes find my brothers eyes and we both nod. That certificate is ours. Daniel finishes his before I finish mine, and somehow he finds room for his fries and half a desert as well. Itâ€™s incredible. We say goodbye to the other family and leave the restaurant satisfied. Quite an understatement, that last one.
Ape at Kings Canyon
Iâ€™m flying to Darwin a day later than the rest of the family because there was some miscommunication about the flight dates.
I join them to the airport, make my way back and search out a hostel. That task turns out harder than I thought; most hostels are full and it takes me a while to find a bed. I get lucky at Toddyâ€™s backpackers where I get their last bed available. Toddyâ€™s a bit of a boring hostel but to be honest, after an outback tour Iâ€™m donâ€™t have the energy to party anyways. What I want is internet and an early night. That last one turns out to be a bit of a problem as itâ€™s freezing outside and I donâ€™t have a blanket. It takes the personnel ages and ages to get me a blanket, and when they do get me one theyâ€™re pretty fucking rude about it as well. Itâ€™s not that strange to ask for a blanket when itâ€™s minus five outside now is it? Why would you give your guests a single sheet in the winter desert? Not a place Iâ€™d recommend, Toddyâ€™s.
Diandra and me at Uluru