If you read my last blog you will realise I was now on my way to Alice Springs on a 22 hour bus with no IPod I had foolishly borrowed a girl going to France for four months and no book, as I had finished my last. However due a poor night's sleep I was able to sleep most of the way. On the way we had several stops, first at Adelaide River which had taxidermy of the water buffalo which starred in Crocodile Dundee, Katherine and Katherine Gorge. At Katherine Gorge we went on a walk around to a lookout where our tour guide Keith kept stopping and telling us about trees, I'm not sure if it was because I was tired, it was baking hot or I just didn't give a s*** about trees but Keith talks and bad jokes were doing my head in. After the hours walk I caught sight of Bernard and Helen but they were too far in the distance to talk to and then I briefly ran into the Dane Christian and Signe. I still couldn't put my finger on who she looked like. Anyway they went there way on their tour and we went swimming, we thought we'd see each other again there where we would catch up proper but we unfortunately that didn't happen. The next stop of our tour was a quirky pub in Daly Waters. At this pub everyone seems to leave something bra's, knickers, passports, money, passport photos, number plates you name it it's there, even a toy Buzz Lightyear. I didn't leave anything, though I wish I had given them one of my odd socks. We had dinner there and a few beers and then we were off to drive through the night to Alice Springs.
We arrived at Alice Springs at 8am and I checked into the hostel Haven straight away, it was a nice hostel. I then made my way to the Sunday markets, which were only held every two weeks, they were ok but small and again I expected more of a market. I did however get a mega Chilli Cheese hotdog for a bargain $6! I then made my way to the Reptile Centre which again was a little disappointing. The centre was pretty small and although there was a nice range of snakes and lizards and a croc called Terry. The $16 entry fee didn't really justify the content. Every night at the hostel I was staying at (Haven) they did a $5 BBQ so I decided to on this as a cheap and easy dinner. And although the food was good and you got plenty for your money, it was a near 60 minute wait before I got any food.
The next day after a healthy lie in I decided to partake on the Alice Springs Heritage walk, after a moment of confusion and getting a bit lost I soon found my way back on track and stopped by Flynn's Church, Adelaide House, The Residency, Anzac Hill, Old Stuart Town Goal, Old Hartley Street School, Stuart Memorial, Royal Flying Doctor Service and National Pioneer Women's Hall of Fame. After this is was definitely time to cool down with a beer, so I made my way to a couple of pubs I heard good things about Bojangles and Sporties. I also wanted to visit Montees but it looked like that was closed on Mondays. The rest of the day comprised of chilling out and then having the BBQ again that night, thankfully it was much quicker than the night before. I then retired to bed as I was getting picked up early the next day for the Uluru / Ayer's Rock 3 day, 2 night tour.
The next morning I was picked up at 6.05 am for the three day tour, my hostel was the first pick up and we made our way around to pick up another 14 people who would join me on this adventure. Once everyone was picked up I was feeling pessimistic about the next three days, I didn't think that this tour would ever be able to compete with the last tour I did in terms of people and places. It must have been my grumpy mood in the morning as I was well and truly wrong. In fact I might have had some of the best three days in my 18 months traveling so far, and met some great people. So let me introduce you to my tour group. Firstly we have the tour guide Sean, he was a good tour guide, great info, jokes and knowledge, and he also had a love for the big statues of Australia and went to see over 100 of them in 93 days on a trike with his wife and two kids. He also had a cracking beard and a whip he let the few of us who wanted us have a go at trying to crack it at the end of the tour. Then we had the co-driver Jon. Jon was not the actual co-driver, he just got the name because he was sat closest to Sean so he was often the but of his and most other peoples jokes, though the 29 year old American made it easy for everyone with his passion for Thorny Devils, Photography, chatting up a French girl from the other group, having random disappearing acts and always being the last on the bus. He had been in Australia around 9 months and had seen a fair bit of it, a point he liked to tell everyone at any given opportunity. Next we had a Swiss girl called Sabrina, unfortunately I didn't get to know Sabrina too well, but she seemed very sporty and athletic which she proved when she climbed up and down Ayer's rock in under two hours. She may also have been a lesbian. It wouldn't surprise me not that it matters. Next up was the old duo of Derek and Gwen. Derek reminded me a lot of Paul Daniels, he always had a bad dad joke up his sleeve, and Gwen loved flirting with the younger guys. They were quite the double act an often had us all laughing with their banter. Up Next we had the Swiss trio of George, Sylvia and Andrea. George and Sylvia were pretty old too and was with their daughter Andre who didn't speak a word of the queens, which I thought must have been really difficult for her. They were probably the quietest of the group. Jo from Grimsby was next, she was over in Australia visiting her daughter who had just got sponsorship in Darwin. Her daughter then surprised her with a trip down to Ayer's rock, King's Canyon, then up to Cairns and down the East Coast doing various activities. It also turned out that since Darwin me and Jo had been several of the same places sometimes just mere inches away without ever realising. The youngest on our tour was 23-year old Elly from Preston; she had only just recently got to Australia maybe been in the country only 2-3 weeks and was staying for the year holiday visa. She was a nice girl and the first friend I made on tour. Our next representative Kristie came from the Netherlands, she was also 29 and was on a 7 week travel tour. She sat behind me and we often discussed festivals, sport, and travelling while everyone else slept. We also had two German's on our bus, a couple, Robin and Anna, you may know I have been taking a real dislike to Germans lately while traveling but Robin and Anna were really nice and I was on their quiz team on the ride home, which I still maintain we were cheated out of. The last two were also fresh off the boat and recently in Oz. These were Laura and Rachel from Southampton. At 25 and 24 they looked a lot younger in fact when I first saw them get on I thought they were Gwen and Dereks daughters. They were a fine double act and lots of fun. Laura perhaps more sensible and being not one to mess with, perfectly conjoining with Rachel's dippyness. I perhaps grew closest to Rachel throughout the whole trip, maybe because she was blonde and beautiful which are always good traits, but you couldn't help admire her, she was fun, laughed at all my bad jokes and you couldn't help but smile while she was around. They were only to be in Australia a month, but Rachel clearly wanted to stay longer, so I made it my task to try and convince her to stay.
So now you know the people I spent the tour with, let me tell you about the tour. The first day we firstly made our way to a Camel farm, where you could ride a camel if you liked. They also had various other animals there such as Galahs, Emus and Kangaroos. We then made our way to Ayer's Rock or most traditionally know by it's Aboriginal name Uluru, something Rachel struggled pronouncing all tour calling it various things like aleroo, ullaree all sorts. A couple of people went and climbed the rock, as I said Sabrina did it effortlessly while the rest of us made our way around the base to a watering hole and learning stories about the rock. After a few hours in the cultural centre we then made our way to a spot to watch the sunset over the rock and Khata Tjuna. That night after kangaroo mince pasta we got to sleep in a swag under the stars which I loved. It was amazing, apart from when we were awoke at 4am so we could go and watch the sunrise. After watching the sunrise we made our way to Khata Tjuna and did a 7km trek around and through the attraction. The main story of this was the strange disappearance of my bottle lid. We stopped to fill up water and it disappeared, as Sean was telling us about theories of how Khata Tjuna was made I was still in deep search for my bottle lid. I gave up, it was nowhere to be seen, I faced facts that I would have to make do with this hindrance for the rest of the day. Walking out of the rest area though Rachel spotted it lay on the floor, right at the other end. How it got there nobody knows, it was a mystery. My theory is one of the girls took it as a practical joke seemed unlikely though, or maybe the bird moved it. Still I was happy I had my lid back. After a sport of lunch (a typical Aussie bbq) we had a dip in the pool and then made our way to our next camp. Where Elly, Laura, Rachel and myself played trumps and I had a few beers which didn't help my competiveness. Only four of us stayed out in swags that night, Jo, Jon, Sabrina and myself, although Jon and Sabrina made their way into a tent in the middle of the night. But the night will be remembered for Jon thinking he spotted a UFO. We were all just about to fall asleep when Jon woke us saying guys look what's that in the sky, we were all confused, I said is it a helicopter which was quickly ruled out as was satellite and aeroplane. Sabrina then got the answer, it was just a star, and the clouds moving had created an optical illusion which made it seem the stars were moving. The next day we had another 4am start so we could make our way to King's Canyon. It was another 6-7km walk which started with a steep climb known as heart attack hill. It wasn't so bad though as we trekked up around, to the Garden of Eden and then back. I couldn't believe in the last two days I had done two 6-7km treks before 10am. Willingly. After this we made a brief spot at a look out to see Mt Connor and also saw a salt lake opposite and then it was time to head back to Alice Springs. It would be gutting to say by to all these lovely people but we had arranged a dinner at Monte's that night. The night was a blast, I had a go with Gwen and Derek's video camera interviewing everyone about the tour, I accidently ate Rachel's burger meaning she would have to wait later than everyone else for hers. I felt pretty bad. And after a few drinks I became Generous Gary and brought 8 tequilas, several drinks in a round costing a whopping $95. We were left with just myself, Laura and Rachel at the end. I was eager to carry the night on, as was Rachel. Laura though spoiled my plan of getting my best chat up lines out as she was understandably tired from the days events and they decided to head home together as it was would be the safest option. Still I had added Rachel on good old Facebook so I could still try and convince her to stay.
The next day Kristie, Sabrina, Elly, Jo, Laura, Rachel and I met for breakfast / lunch, this would be the last time I would potentially see Laura and Rachel as they were flying to Cairns later that day. I was gutted I've said it before and I will say it again this is the worst thing about travelling meeting great people spending a great few days together and then having to say goodbye. It is depressing. Like I said though I was still hopeful of convincing Rachel to stay. After breakfast we made use of the hostel swimming pool facilities and then that night the rest of us went to Annie's Place for dinner. I strolled into Annie's Place and was met surprisingly by a familiar face, it was bloody Naked Luke who I use to work at the Banana Farms with us up at Innisfail. He had been in Alice for seven months, been sponsored and was loving life. It was nice to see him with more clothes on and he said he gets naked far less now. Though he did say it would be rude not to at house parties. After we caught up I went to re-join my group and we had a few beers and food before returning for the night as we all had to be up early some heading Darwin, some Cairns and myself to Coober Pedy.
We all gathered in the morning each awaiting our tours to pick us up from the hostel. I was the first to be picked up so said goodbye to the rest of the gang and got on the bus. I was deflated to say the least. I'd spent a lot of my west coast and central Aus trip moaning I hadn't been making friends and then I make some really good ones and we get split up after just a few days. Something's just aren't fair sometimes but it was time to keep my chin up and head to Coober Pedy.
So until next time, stay safe and take care