November 7, 2007: The Great Outback Adventure

grab a seat and some snacks….its a long one and without all the details….

Early last Sunday morning, Dylan was kind enough to get up and drive Kathryn, Ryan, and myself to the airport. Turns out I forgot my passport but the good news is that it was a domestic flight and my id wasn’t even checked once. We made it on time, no hassles, and awaited our departure. Did I mention that Ryan had to outdo me in the what I forgot game….yeah, he didn’t bring his wallet. It worked out though, I was his sugar mama for the next five days and we sorted it when I got back.

I pretty much slept the whole flight which was good because I was exhausted but they did show the newest harry potter so I guess if I was awake that would have been cool. In any case, we finally arrived in Alice Springs no problems. Kathryn got her larger backpack that she checked and after a bit of wandering and debate over what could be considered a checkered shirt we found our lift to the hostel. Funny story, turns out it was also our guide for the tour we were leaving on the next day. Should have clued in then Alice Springs is a REALLY small town. There was also a really long pause when we asked what we should do for the day in town. It was finally suggested that we go up Anzac hill for sunset, also the only answer we got from anyone all day. That and go to the kangaroo rescue place but we were being poor and didn’t want to pay while we’ve already had a chance to hang out with some. We dropped our stuff off at the hostel called Malenka’s (cool I know) and then went to search for some grub. We decided we would make our own dinner and spend a smidge more on lunch. It was totally worth it and delicious. I was real excited because I got Ryan to order something with roo meat…..a kangaroo burrito. Yeah. We walked around town at least four times. It was cute though. It was really interesting to see such a large population of aboriginals and their cultural influences. We also succumbed to some free internet to pass the time. Finally after picking up groceries we made our way to anzac hill. It actually was really pretty and looked like the place to be. Ironically I recognized this guy from our flight who later recognized me. There was a small group doing a historical type film for japan. Going out there for the sunset was actually a really great way to pass the time and we were pretty tired by the time we got back to our room. Knowing we had to meet the group at 6:15 the next morning we had dinner, chatted, and called it a night.

I really was absolutely exhausted with the last week of classes and then getting up early for the zoo, Gympie, and the flight. Basically that means that the 5 ½ hour rive to uluru was spent mostly asleep. We had rest stops and things like that but pretty much we slept. We finally made it to our campsite where we had some lunch. Our first stop of the actual tour was the aboriginal cultural center as park of the national park. On our drive in we noticed that the sign at the entrance said that Uluru (Ayer’s Rock) was open for climbing. It had been closed earlier as it is most days because the aboriginals don’t want tourists climbing. I didn’t want to climb as they consider the rock sacred but I was thinking about it the whole time we were at the cultural center and finally said something to Ryan. Turns out he was going through similar contemplation. I decided at the end of our activity I would ask our tour guide if it was too late to climb and that would give us our answer. Turns out when we made it to the rock it was still open. So I drugged up, we filled up our water bottles, and started up. And I mean up. The rock is 348 m above the ground and reaches over 7km below. The cool part is that it is all one rock, but that also makes it really slippery. Enough that our guide said “don’t slip, if you slip you die”. A couple other guys decided to head up for the top as well while the majority of the group did the usual base walk. Speaking of which our group was so fun. It was 21 of us, mostly Dutch, with a couple English Japanese and Canadians. It was a real dynamic group and a complete blast. Apparently a lot of Americans don’t make it to the outback, but that was fine with me. But back to the rock….we were so psyched and about two minutes later were like, what did we get ourselves into. We had to use a chain link they have set up to get up the steepest part at the beginning. We finally made it to what we thought was nearly the top only to find out we were maybe halfway. At least by this time my chest had stopped burning and the rock was no longer on as steep an incline. However, there was no more chain link and there were definitely some times we were searching for any protrusions in the rock to climb up on. It was hard but totally worth it. Of course we had to take our pictures and make it look like a complete breeze. We also made some friends at the top that go to wake forest. I basically wanted their facebook for the shear fact of being able to write that we met at the top of uluru. After running around the top with our cameras, Ryan and I began our descent because we thought everyone would be waiting for us. Turns out we made really good time and beat the base walk crew by almost 45 minutes. The time for recuperation was good though as my leg was shaking uncontrollably by the time we made it back to the bus. When everyone got back we headed to a location for sunset. It was still a bit off but getting there early got us a good spot and we started dinner. It was pretty funny because we all were trying to take photos every two seconds because it seemed like the colors were changing so quickly. Obviously the amount I took weren’t necessary, but you really could see the color changes.

After a shower back at the campsite we had a lovely swag demo and set ours up. Ryan and I went to the top of this hill to have a look at the stars before we finally called it a night. They were so many and we encountered a very squeaky bat during the adventure.

That was rock tour day one.

Day two we got up at 4:30 to pack up our swags and hope on the bus for a drive to see the sunrise over kata tjuta and uluru. It was chilly and windy but at least it wasn’t 40 degrees. It was also a bit hazy so it was hard to see uluru but then again, its not like we were short on pictures. We waited and waited and finally the sun came up. It was brilliant. Like something from a movie really. Everyone seemed pretty impatient and went back to the bus pretty early. Ryan and I were like, um people the whole coloring and lighting on kata tjuta is about to change….that’s the cool part. It was pretty neat to see and while we could have stayed a lot longer, we eventually headed back to the bus to have breakfast with the group. Then the drive to kata tjuta itself. Here we did a hike through the valley of the winds. Definitely a highlight for me. It was beautiful, not too hot, and the lighting was great. It was a decent hike but nothing quite like uluru so it was a relief on the body, comparatively anyway. Even though we did a pee stop before, Kathryn and I already had to go after the entrance walk due to constant hydration. So yes, we found the most concealed area we could in the valley of the winds and pulled a good old plastonian road trip move. Let’s just say I watered the outback and if we hadn’t gone then, I think we would have peed our pants. But enough about excretion….

I really enjoyed the hike and there were some stories along the way. The aboriginals believe that the 32 ‘hills’ are their ancestors watching over. You could actually see the markings they saw as skulls. There is also a medicine man looking towards uluru, and not so aboriginal….an elephant. A sunrise, breakfast, some driving, and a 3 hour hike later, it was about 10 am. By then it was back on the bus and a long drive to king’s canyon. Did I mention the whole trip was about 1,500 km of driving?

About an hour into the drive we all sort of woke up from our dozes noticing that the bus was really hot and Ryan the tour guide was looking oddly at the dash board. Conclusion 1, the a-con wasn’t working. Ryan claimed everything was fine but we knew something seemed fishy. A little bit later he was like, you might want to open the windows. A little after that we find a random rest stop (not the good one with toilets like we were supposed to be at leading to another watering session) and Ryan tells us lunch is going to be a little bit early. Mind you no one is really panicking but we were joking around about our broken bus as we had lunch in the middle of no where. Even the water said “may not be suitable for drinking”. Ryan said that the bus was just over heating and that it just needed a bit of time. Sounded good to us, until we got back and there was still no a-con in the midday desert heat. When we made it to curtain springs again, our bus of sweaty tourists stopped for an “extended rest” as we all saw Ryan make a phone call. It was alright because all we had to do that day was get to King’s Canyon so we just hung out and played with the friendly emu. Turns out it was a new engine and something in the wiring wasn’t done tightly enough and we were good to go in no time. We finally made it to the cattle ranch we were staying at as it began to rain….yes I said rain. I helped with dinner to occupy myself and we settled in for the night. Oh, I almost forgot, we made a stop earlier to collect mulgar wood which is poisonous to be used for a bonfire later. Figure that one out. So yes, after night fall we decided to play some games. That is after the showers stopped. Turns out there is a fabulous Australian game known as the box game that we used to get the evening rolling. You have to have both feet on the ground and nothing else and pick up a box off the ground with your teeth. Each round you rip the sides down until its just a flat piece of cardboard on the ground. If you can’t do it your out, and the last round is based on time. Turns out its ridiculous but an absolute blast. I had to forfeit when my hip started to hurt but it was cool because I brought my own sleeping bag. They were using it as a prize because apparently something happened and the rentals were one short. Oops. The Japanese kids were crazy, this one kid was too fast to even get a picture and the final round was done in 3 seconds. After that we also played the game where you pass an apple around from under you neck, some people tried the human caterpillar, and we ended it with telephone. That was pretty hilarious considering the accents and various levels of English. At last it was bed time.

Day three of the tour we got to sleep in a little and got up at 5:30. After packing up our stuff and having a bite to eat, we drove to king’s canyon for another 3 hour hike, also known as heart attack hill. Luckily it was still rainy and cool and the steepest part is at the beginning. It was cool too, but I had a little less fun on this one. There is an area known as the garden of eden because its sort of like this blooming oasis. However, there is a steep climb down and a steep climb back out to get there. Let’s just say my hip wasn’t agreeing with me and I was actually considering not going down. But of course I’m never going to get that experience back so I went. Ryan and I did a lot of exploring and it was worth seeing but I was definitely right, I was dead by the time I got out of there. The last 2 km I had to go ahead of the group to be done as soon as possible. It was definitely a great experience and awesome to see, but it was also the final straw for me. Not too long after the group found me at the bus icing, and it we commenced the epic journey back to Alice Springs. It was a pretty long drive so we all couldn’t sleep the whole time. Geert (one of the Dutch guys who is hilarious) put on his ipod so we could get a feel for some happy hardcore. We tossed around a balloon for a while too. I also managed to get a really gross video of Ryan (the guide) scooping up a dead kangaroo off the road. If you get them off it helps keep the eagles and other animals that would eat the remains from getting hit too. We also saw a little baby dingo running around with his mum along the way. We stopped for lunch at a place that had an under the table aboriginal srt shop. I was waiting to check this place out before I bought anything in Alice but I was intrigued by much. After lunch I made up an ipod mix and we started a bit of a sing along in the car while taking some ridiculous photos. Ryan also sent around a video camera that he keeps from all his tours to say what we liked and who we are and stuff. Well, that led into a whole bunch of randomness including a rap that Kathryn and I put together (can’t take credit for the idea though). It was fun for sure. Our last stop was for an optional camel ride. I didn’t want to pay and have done it in dubai so I passed, not to mention I probably wouldn’t have been able to get on the thing as I limped around the premises. It was cool though because they also had baby kangaroos and llamas. As we counted down the kilometers, we finally made it back to Alice Springs.

We were all dropped off at our respective hostels, showered, and met back up for dinner and a drink later on. After swapping contact info and sharing some photos it was a night. I think I was lame and the first to leave but I was exhausted after not really sleeping all day.

Thursday morning we over slept and ran out to the shops to get some artwork. Kaitlyn sent us with money so we got her some stuff, and I succumbed to buying the piece I had seen my first day. I got a generous discount and it was the only piece I really liked that was like $600. I’m excited about it though. Two of the kids from our trip were on our flight to Brisbane as well so we caught a maxi and made it with plenty of time to the airport. I got a random drug test again, because I always do. I couldn’t sleep on the plane so I studied. This time we had to fly to Sydney so it was a long trip. With our two hour layover, I got some cake and we sang happy birthday to Kathryn since we wouldn’t be home in time to go to dinner. It was a good thing we eventually checked our tickets too because Ryan somehow ended up on a different connection then we were…and he missed it. Good for him his actual flight was cancelled so he had to be put on our flight anyway. What are the odds, he could have been in Sydney stranded with no wallet, haha. But yes, we finally made it back to Brisbane in one piece and with all of our belongings where Dylan picked us up and drove us back to the apartment.

Back to reality….study study and more study for finals.

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