Friday, June 15, 2012

Ayers Rock - Bucket list item

Well after a week of relaxation in Sydney thank you to my hosts Marianne and Brian it was off to Ayers Rock with Marianne's sister Gaille - another item to check off the bucket list. Gaille and I enjoyed a lovely 3 hour business class flight starting with mimosas (champagne and orange juice) and a delicious lunch and then we relaxed in our reclining seats! As we approached ayers rock airport we had an incredible view of the rock and the Olgas from the air.

There is one large resort in ayers rock that is divided into several hotels, apartments, cabins, campground and a town square (not much else is here).

No this is not where we are staying . . . Below is our cabin in the campgrounds - pretty comfy except for the shared washroom and shower facilities down the road. The cabin is $100 a night which is a deal as it is regularly $150 but we got a discount because the TV is broken! There are also lots of warnings about dingos! So we have been keeping a keen eye for a sighting as this is where the dingo took the baby over 30 years ago. Interesting that it has been all over the news that the new coroner's report released this week now acknowledges that indeed a dingo did take the baby.

The resort's town centre has a few restaurants, stores and an IGA. The weather here is about 28 during the day but goes down to the low teens in the evening - thank goodness for the winter coat I purchased in vietnam and left at Marianne's.

Since we arrived in the early afternoon we were able to enjoy the daily aboriginal show put on in the town square.

We booked ourselves on the Sounds of Silence Tour for the evening. We were picked up at 5pm and transported to a private area near ayers rock where we enjoyed a view of ayers rock with the sun setting behind the domes of Kata Tjuta (the Olgas) all while sipping champagne and eating canap├ęs of salmon, kangaroo and crocodile (yes crocodile tastes like chicken). The young man who was working as the bartender was a Canadian from Victoria who went to UVIC - small world. We were entertained by a man playing the haunting sounds on a didgeridoo which is an aboriginal musical instrument.

As the sun settled we were escorted to an area that was set up with white linen tables of eight under the beautiful sun setting sky! When the stars came out it was the most amazing sight - we could see the milky way, the southern cross and even the handle of the big dipper. I do not believe i have ever seen so many stars in the sky, probably because we were really in the outback and as it turned pitch black we feasted on a buffet that included such delicacies as Caesar salad with crocodile, BBQ kangaroo, lamb chops and barramundi not to mention a yummy selection of desserts such as bread pudding. A young astronomer talked to us about the different stars and they set up a telescope so we could view Saturn with its rings. What an incredible night!

Today we decided it would be cheaper to rent a car for a couple of days ($160) rather than pay the shuttle costs $50 return each to Ayers rock (no you cannot bike or walk) besides the fact that they won't let you the rock is 25km from the resort in a large national park area. The car is turning out to be a very good investment - once we picked up the car we immediately headed for ayers rock, drove around the rock and stopped to watch people climbing up the rock as well as a visit to the cultural centre. There is quite a bit of controversy around climbing the rock as the aboriginal people do not want tourist climbing the rock and as of 2018 you will no longer be allowed to climb the rock. The jury is out for us, we may climb a bit of the rock but we are definitely going to walk around the rock tomorrow. Ayers Rock also know as Uluru is a sandstone rock formation 348m above ground with a circumference of 9.4km - however apparently the bulk of the rock is underground. The immense size of the rock is really better appreciated from a distance but even up close one cannot help but be in awe of its grandeur.

Back to the resort for a quick lunch then off to the Olgas to hopefully catch a close up of the sunset. Thank goodness for the car as the shuttle bus to this area costs $80 each. Kata Tjuta (which means many heads) also known as the Olgas are a series of sandstone domes and are just as spectacular as ayers rock itself but less famous. The Olgas are located in the national park but are 50km from Ayers Rock - that gives you an indication of the size of the national park. We first went to the valley of the winds - a 2.2km walk with the most amazing view at the end

We then went to the Walpa gorge walk - 2.6 km into a gorge with domes on either side. It is hard to to put into words how breathtaking the scenery is here - I think the pictures are the best evidence. If this view was not enough as we were walking out of the gorge the sun was setting - I have never seen anything so beautiful! To top it off we were the only people in the gorge and it felt like the sky was putting on a private show just for us!

Me in front of an Olgas dome!

On the way home we stopped at two sights that are recommended for sunset viewing. The first one is where bus tours go and we were very disappointed - although happy knowing we had just seen a more spectacular view from the gorge and it did not cost us the $200 price each for the tour. The second sunset viewing area was much more impressive but hard to beat the view we had from the gorge.

Back at the cabin and off for a communal shower to try and get rid of some of this red dust! Up early tomorrow to watch the sunrise.


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