Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Outback, round 1.

I am finishing up my six days in the outback as we speak. The harsh desert that fills the majority of Australia has been good to me. Here's a brief overview of a few adventures:

After I flew in to Ayers Rock Airport, I boarded my three-day, two night tour with a collection of strangers. Let's just say the group on my camping tour, where we are hiking and sleeping under the stars, was not what I expected. There was about 5 younger people, plus me, but there was 4 middle-aged to older ladies. They were a hoot, though I'm still not sure if in a good way. One was a Yogic Swami (I'm not sure if there are other types of swamis...), one was the kind of old lady that doesn't really know when to be quiet, one was just super awesome, and one I would describe as posh, talkative, and not afraid/ashamed to say what she was thinking. She would always tell us how beautiful, tasty, wonderful something was in a form of a question- "Isn't that sunset beautiful?", "Isn't that fire lovely?", "Isn't that tea divine?" You get the picture. It made me chuckle the entire trip.

But on this tour we hit the three biggest features in the outback: Uluru (Ayers Rock), Kata Tjuta (the Olgas), and Watarrka (Kings Canyon). Uluru is what everyone thinks about second when they think of Australia (after the Sydney Opera House), but it was by far the least impressive of the three natural formations. It may be the largest monolith in the world (350 meters tall), and it may wonderfully change colors at sunset, but its a big rock nonetheless. And because I thought I would be a good person, I choose to respect the Aboriginal culture and I didn't climb it, which seems to defeat the point of seeing a big rock in my mind. Nevertheless it was super impressive, and I got some wonderful sunrise photos of it.

The Olgas, however were balling. The local Aboriginals believe that they are the heads of the creation spirits, geologists believe it was an enormous monolith that cracked and was worn into lots and lots of giant round rocks (or something...), and I believe that it was simply beautiful. We hiked up in them to the Valley of the Winds- it was perfectly calm. Our guide was just in shock because he says it is usually so windy that they can't even stay at the lookout long. None of the Olgas are as tall as Uluru, but overall they are much much much bigger and encompass a much bigger area.

Kings Canyon might have been the coolest of all of the formations though. It was a giant canyon, open on only one end. It looked pretty standard at first, but then we climbed up on top of the canyon and walked around it. As far as you could see on top of the ridge were domed rocks. It was unlike anything I had ever seen. All of them were a brilliant red color, and they were all about the same size. We walked around them, saw what explores found and called "the garden of eden", saw the canyon from the top (which was far more impressive) and climbed down. Solid tour.

However the best part of the tour was sleeping under the stars. We slept without tents, simply in swags. Swags are like bed rolls- imagine sleeping on a Camp Greenville mattress cut in half (half as thick) inside of a nylon sack. You've got a swag. But the swags weren't the cool part; the stars were. I have never seen so many stars. They were brilliant, shining, and shooting. I didn't bother counting the regular stars, but I saw at least 10 shooting stars in the short time I managed to keep my face outside of my sleeping bag (the desert gets frigid at night). The stars were the highlight of the trip so far, possibly of my entire trip to Australia.

I have more adventures to tell you about, including almost dying. But no one wants to read about me any more so I will write about the past 3 days in a couple of days.

In the meantime, enjoy these memories from my childhood:

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