We woke up bright and early (5 am) and got our duffle bags packed for the
three-day camping trip that lay ahead. Once at the hotel desk, we
waited for the tour bus. The driver, Marty, seemed too awake for
our current frame of mind - he apparently got up at 3. We stashed
our bags, got on board and picked up the rest of the crew. Quite
a variety of people: one from Adelaide and Sydney, one from North Carolina
,one from New Zealand, four from Holland, a couple from Ireland, one from
Sweden, two from New Caledonia, and four from Germany.
Our first stop was a camel farm. The proprietor, a bearded guy
named Noel, owned the place and was in many photos posted on the walls,
but was not there. We rode a dromedary camel named Mercury.
Once we were in the dual saddle, the camel stood up quickly on all fours.
The reins went through a hole in its nose because bits are illegal.
Camels raised here were sold to places around the world for several thousand
dollars. Once we got back to the bus, Marty played a tape narrated
by Noel that listed many camel facts, gave a history of camel riders that
were also mass murderers of Aborigines, and described the problems that
face Aborigines today - along with some proposed "solutions." A very
We drove on to a scenic overlook of Atila (Mt. Connor), which even from
30 km away looked impressive. It is 300m tall and is much wider than
Uluru, but is currently only accessable via helicopter. We also stopped
at a roadhouse that featured an Aboriginal art gallery. All the paintings
depicted how women gathered food.
The bus pulled up to our campsite. The previous busful of campers were clearing out quickly - they were running late. The campsite consisted of several square-based tents gathered around a firepit, with a covered area for eating. We chose a tent and went inside. It had two cots, each with a sleeping bag. After dumping our stuff, we prepared a lunch of sandwiches and salads. Then we took off.
We arrived at Uluru (Ayer's Rock). This area, originally taken away
from the Aboriginees, was returned to them in 1985. They now run
the place; the profits are shared among all local tribes. Uluru is
a large red chunk of sandstone that is millions of years old and has various
parts of it worn away or broken off, resulting in interesting holes and
shapes. The Aboriginees have stories associated with each of these
features. Hence, this is a holy place. Some tourists climb
up the rock, but it is discouraged.
Marty took us to a small pond against the rock and told us some of the
stories. Then we split up into two groups: walkers and climbers.
We went with the walkers, who hiked around the base of Uluru and studied
the markings and texture of the rock. Some areas were off-limits
to tourists and weren't to be photographed due to their religious significance.
Many flies kept us company as we walked around Uluru; we often stopped
to brush several of them off each other's backs.
After everyone met up, we were taken to a lookout point just before
sunset. We took a path beyond other tourists until we reached a point
where we could see both Uluru and Kata Tjuta (the Olgas). The setting
sun turned the red rock into gold, with its many crevaces filled with light
from below. Clouds diminished the effect somewhat, but the result
was still breathtaking.
Finally, we returned to the campsite. Marty prepared our supper of grilled meat and sausages. At an earlier stop, everone had picked up beer and other drinks. Everyone spent the evening socializing.
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