Alice Springs and Uluru
The red centre was the final stop on our world tour and is home to one of the most famous views - Uluru (aka Ayers Rock). The base to explore Uluru is Alice Springs and we spent a few days taking in this lovely place in the middle of Australia.
On our first day we decided to visit the reason for Alice Springs' existence - the telegraph station. We were expecting just a little look round, but struck the jackpot in tour guide Alec. Alec was actually brought up in the telegraph station and his great grandfather was one of the founding members (his mother was aboriginal). He knew the history of the whole town intimately and was just so lovely. We felt compelled to buy his book, which he even signed. A true star.
Incidentally, did you know that he named the springs Alice after the bosses wife? Apparently she never visited the town because she was terrified of camels. True. Well maybe.
We were scratching our heads one afternoon about what things we still hadn't experienced in Australia, when we saw a free didgeridoo lesson was starting in an hour. We grabbed out thongs- erm flip flops I mean, it's been a long time - and grabbed ourselves a didgeridoo for the lesson. The instructor told us to just blow out our lips like a baby would do and make some noise - turns out Gem is a natural - who'd have thought ;) Then he tried some weird breathing technique and we all kinda lost the knack. There were some inspired and entertaining sounds produced. We left after the lesson, without purchasing a didgeridoo, we thought we couldn't inflict that noise on family and neighbours.
All didgeridood up, we went to see the Flying Doctors. Not quite as exciting as the old tv prgramme, but pretty interesting and impressive. We saw the opeartion room, and were apparently witnessing the first day in 50 years where no planes had to be sent out. Cool. This organisation means that noone in Oz is more than an hour from help, which made us feel better considering we had been out in the middle of nowhere for quite a bit inthe last few weeks.
With only a few days left of our year's adventure, we finally got around to the big one: the rock. Being somewhat short on time we booked ourselves on a day trip (only 1000k round trip, no problem!) and off we went for some Red Centre action.... the Red Centre was, well, pretty green to be honest. The rain that had been following us around had got ahead of us and seen lots of vegetation spring up. We started to worry about the photos.. we needn't have. The first thing we saw on the trip was a massive monolith called Mt Connor. Now apparently it's happened more than once that people would drive up to this, think it was Uluru and go off home. We can't quite believe that, but it was pretty impressive from a distance.
We soon (well maybe 2 hours later) saw the big rock looming on the horizon, but this was just a teaser, as first we were off in the opposite direction to Kata Tjuta - or the Olgas. Kata Tjuta we really loved, they just stick out of the ground in much the same way as Uluru and Mt Connor do, but they're a bit cooler looking, being all round and stuff. We had a little walk among them, which was really good. The colour was amazing. We'll spare you the geology lesson we got though on the difference between the rock types of the 3 monoliths, Gem was interested, but she was about the only one!
Then onto the main event. Well almost... we had the award winning visitor's centre to see first! Before you get in you get warned that your camera will be taken off you if you use it in the visitor's centre because the building is copyrighted. Really. Apart from that though it was pretty interesting, if not quite so good as the ones in Kakadu. We didn't stay long and got back in the bus for our guided walk around the rim of Uluru. We dropped off some people who wanted to climb (we decided to respect the wishes of the indigenous groups and not risk life and limb to spend a load of energy climbing the only thing to see for miles on a hot day.) and started around.
Lots of parts of the rock are sacred to the indigenous peoples, and even more have creation stories explaining how they came to be. Because of this the rim walk was actually really interesting and quite fun as well as being beautiful. We spent a good couple of hours on the walk and then headed off to meet the climbers and get to our dinner spot ready for sunset. All the tours dine in the same spot so there was quite a buzz about the place, and our tour got a really good spot to eat in and to take photos of the sunset. The photos explain all this better than we would, though as we've said so many times before they can't do the real thing justice.
Once the sun went down it was back off to Alice, and ready for our flight back to Sydney the next day. We had a lovely couple of days in Sydney before leaving, spent mainly eating, drinking and taking photos of the harbour as you'd expect! We've snuck in one picture though, the view from our room... not bad for a hostel eh??
You may have worked out that we're writing this from sunny Blighty, and that we just about managed to cope with the 25 hours of travelling home, and even the unexpectedly psychadelic Abu Dhabi airport! It's lovely to be back, but we are missing the frequency of pub visits we'd been used to... any offers?
Thanks for going through all this with us, and for all your messages which kept us going like you wouldn't believe. Finally all donations towards Gem and Lobs Big Adventure Part 2 gratefully received! (Failing that, any jobs going?!)
Lisa and Gem