Saturday, April 23, 2011

Post Twenty Five: Beginnings

April 8th, 5:30pm: First Journal Excerpt (please note that this is a bit edited, not exactly the original journal entry IHRTLUHC) 

"So it begins. I moved totally and completely out of my room at DLC since according to their stupid policy one has to pay extra to stay over break. Supposedly they need the space for paying conference guests...psh...I wonder what the conference guests will think of the cockroach that is still stuck to my wall."

I flew out to Alice Springs at 6:05am on the morning of the 9th. It was super hot there, and very dry, upon exiting the aircraft my hair instantly stood on end from the dryness. I was not impressed with the backpackers I stayed at (Toddy's), although the people employed there turned out to be the most friendly in my hostel experiences. Since I arrived at 2 in the afternoon I had some time to explore the town, not needed, Alice Springs is absolutely void of anything to do, it is more of just a jumping off point for tours out to the Red Center (Uluru etc.) I stayed at Toddy's only for the night, meeting Corelie, a Swiss student who was also from Macquarie and was going on the same trip that I was the next day!! Fancy that, we had not met prior to bunking in the room!
The first of many 'look, my face!' pictures

The next morning was when things really got started. Leaving the hostel at 5am, we picked up the rest of our group at another hotel. There were only eight of us and our guide on the trip, this turned out to be a real blessing because it meant that our group could get places faster, ask questions more freely, get to know each other well, and bond quite quickly (most of the other tours had at least 20 people if not more). We drove out of AS as the sun was rising over the outback, it was quite beautiful but this was just the beginning! the four hour trip took us farther and farther from everywhere. Along the way, Corelie and I measured the prices of everything by comparing the price of a container of Tim Tams at all of our various stops (the prices rose from $4 in AS, to $6.95 by the time we reached Ayers Rock).

We stopped here for firewood. Note: this was not the road we took, just an offshoot from the paved one we were actually on.
 We arrived at our campsite and ate a quick lunch before heading out to Kata Tjuta for a hike. KJ is much like Uluru, except it is a lot of big rocks, not just one giant one. Here, our guide Bron explained how KJ and Uluru were formed.

"When Australia was squeezed from West and East by techtonic plate movement, it created mountains tall enough to have ice on top. The ice melted and huge chunks of rock fell off into the sea that covered this part of Australia, then they were covered by earth as the seas dried. Then Australia was squeezed again from North and South and these rocks were pushed to the surface a little, exposing them again to the upper world (scientists believe Uluru is a massive rock that extends down into the earth much farther, what we see is just a small bit of it). So basically, KJ and Uluru are Giant earth pimples." -Ariana Flood, Journal entry April 10th 2011.
The Kata Tjuta (Aboriginal name) or Olgas (Settler name)

Sunset over KJ
The Hike was enjoyable, I was constantly reminded of sleeping cattle as we walked among the huge red rocks just resting out in the middle of nowhere. We then finished this first day with a spectacular sunset over the Olgas (Kata Tjuta) before returning to camp for some Kangaroo for dinner and a celestial starshow that was unlike anything I have, or ever will see again I imagine. The stars were so numerous that one actually had to look away from the milky way because it was too bright! We got to sleep in swags (basically a mattress inside a sleeping bag) out in the open under these stars, and I had the pleasure of waking a few times and just having to look up to be awed again.

Yes, I was awake this early, and no the sunrise was not any more beautiful than the sunset
Day 2 we headed out to Uluru itself at 5am to see the sun rise on the Rock and then to circumnavigate the base of it. I was struck by the spiritual feel of the Rock. It really was special, I was not expecting it to be so interesting, I mean, it is just a rock in the ground...but there is something about it that just takes your breath away. Perhaps it is that every single step of the way the rock changes as the light, or your position shifts, perhaps it is the absolute silence other than the morning rustle of wind that almost is music unto itself, or maybe there is something more. Regardless, Uluru was even more amazing than I had imagined. 
truffula grass?

part of Uluru
After our walk we got to learn some about the Aboriginal culture and beliefs surrounding it, in particular one story about a Dingo God who massacred a group of Indigenous women, so violent he left his mark on the rock itself in the form of a massive pawprint.

The pawprint on the left, a faceless and armless woman on the right. See it?
We then headed in our bus for our 6 hour drive over to Kings Canyon (it takes a while to get anywhere out there), our last stop of the tour. Along the way was more outback, outback, outback. I was reminded of my out West trip in the U.S. when a certain person in the car kept commenting on all the "sagebrush and juniper", only out here it is something like "deathplant and buffo grass". 

In the swag

Kings Canyon was also quite amazing. Though apparently it is rusting. that is where the red color comes from. Kings canyon is like the Badlands, the paths were marked, but mostly we were just walking along the rocks and along the canyon. At one point one could shout and actually hear the full echo, it was really cool. Also, since our tour group was so small we were able to move quickly and finished the walk in only 3 hours with plenty of time to stop and take pictures, we just didn't have to wait for people to catch up or rest etc. We finished with the canyon at 10am, just before the thousands of flies started coming out, and departed from the Red Center taking our 6 hour trip back to Alice Springs. 
According to Aboriginal legend, these are all warrior men who were turned to stone in case they were needed later

two anecdotes of AS before my departure

"Getting ready to leave Toddy's I was greated by a young police officer who asked if I had found anything missing (sort of an odd question, how does one find something if it is missing...). Apparently the person a couple doors down had been burglurized in the middile of the night as a couple of locals had opened her door and stolen her backpack. We had been warned that AS was not a friendly place after dark, but this truly brought it to reality........Unrelatedly, later, while I was waiting for the shuttle for the airport, I was approached by a couple of young men who asked to use my toilet. I laughed and told them it was not MY toilet and as far as I was concerned they could go ahead. whilst one of them left, the other sat with me and introduced himself as Guy from Israel. He and Yanni (the other) had been out in the desert doing a reptile survey for the past week. Yanni joined us again and Guy treated us all to Paul's local iced coffee which Guy insisted was the best in Australia (pretty good though more milk than coffee). We chatted for about a half hour and I was invited to share a taxi to the airport with them after lunch, but since I had already paid for the shuttle I declined promising to meet up with them upon their arrival at the airport instead. I did end up finding them again while we waited for our respective flights and they sang for me a song they were planning to put up on Youtube, entitled "the crayfish funnyfarm song" to the tune of Yellow Submarine. Someday perhaps I will be able to find this video and these two awesome guys again." -Ariana Flood, Journal Entry April 13th 2011
Doing homework at the airport and drying out my shoes after washing them

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