Our group consisted of about 15 people from 8 different countries. There were also 4 Aussies in the group, which our tour guide commented was the most Aussies she'd had in a group, ever. Our chariot awaited.
First day, first stop- arguably the best thing. Camels! Camels were imported to Australia with the idea that since they were used in the desert they would take to the Outback and be very helpful for those long treks across the interior. They were correct. There are several thousand wild camels now roaming the Outback. We saw a couple from the road once, but seeing as how huge Central Australia is, and that there are only about 4 roads it's not surprising we didn't see more.
The tour guide asked us if anyone wanted to ride a camel. Um, yes? Obviously. The three of us were the first in line. We kind of love camels. These two were named Earl and Duke. Look how ornery they are!
While you marvel at how we are such natural camel riders, here are a few fun camel facts. You are going to be a hit at your next party or when the camel category comes up at Trivia night. A camel pregnancy lasts 13 months, and a baby camel is considered full grown at around age 8. They can get up to speeds of 65 kph, can carry up to 400 kilos for 8 hours a day, and can go for over a week at a time without water. Not bad, Camel, not bad.
They also had a dingo. He didn't seem very wild, which is good, since we like not having our faces eaten off.
Olivia does a great job of hiding it in this picture, but she's actually terrified. As soon as the picture snapped she high-tailed it away from the dingo as fast as she could. She needn't have worried though, it didn't seem too interested in getting anyone that day.
Cuteness alert! Baby camel! Awww, he's adorable.
After our camely interlude it was on to the main event- Ayer's Rock! Alice Springs is about 400 kilometers away, so it was a bit of a drive, but it went pretty fast. Strangely, there is just not much traffic on the roads. Now, Ayer's Rock was named by a British explorer in the 1800's. In the last thirty years or so there has begun to be a real push to return Aboriginal places to their Aboriginal names. It is once-again, now Uluru, as it has been called for thousands of years. It is beautiful and majestic. We did about half the base-walk around it, about 8 kilometers. It's not a very intense hike, thankfully in the 40+ degree weather, and was pretty flat. The views of the rock are amazing though.
In this picture note the white discoloration going up the side of the rock. There is a small chain that runs to the top, and is used for climbers. Climbing the rock has been a mainstay of tourism here since the site was opened up. However, Aboriginals find this deeply disrespectful as Uluru is a religious site for them. It would be roughly similar to climbing up the side of Notre Dame or chipping off a piece of Michelangelo's painting in the Sistine Chapel.
This is really interesting about Australia. Climbing the rock is not forbidden, but it is actively discouraged. As in, next to the climbing path, there is a giant sign telling everyone all the reasons they should not. Also, on days where it is too hot or windy, the climb is closed. Several people have died over the years, and it's probably closed about 8 months out of the year.
Here are a few shots we took as we hiked.
Obligatory tourist shot.We were there! Looking exceptionally white.
Good thing Laurel was there, or it might have tipped to the side a little bit.
This is really cool. Uluru changes color all day, depending on how the light hits it. Look at the color of Uluru in the picture above, and now look at it below as the sun starts to set, and the light is really hitting the face of the rock directly. The color really starts to darken in the next picture as the sun is setting.
Now, when we say this was a camping trip, we mean this was a full-on camping trip. We got a sleeping bag and a swag under the stars. That's it. Thankfully, it didn't rain. What is a swag you ask? Its a big canvas, zip-up bag that your sleeping bag goes inside. It keeps warmth in, and water and critters out. It also has a flap that you can fold up over your head and face if you want. We were pretty legitimate bushmen on this trip.
After laying down, Laurel and Olivia both decided that there was way too much nature around, and something needed to be done about the threat of bugs in the night. Look how happy Laurel is knowing that the fly nets would ensure no rogue bugs on the face. In the background, Greg is clearly unconcerned. And passed out.
Busy first day. Next up tomorrow- the Olgas! Stay tuned to find out what their real names is! Oooooo, cliffhanger.