Uluru and a whole lot more…
4/12/11 - 4/15/11
After 5 weeks in the car, we were happy to turn in our keys and fly to Sydney for a stay with one of Marin’s besties, Sarah. More to come on our amazing times in Manly with Sarah and her lovely life in our next entry.
Right smack in the middle of our 2 week Sydney stint, we flew to Alice Springs in central Australia. We spent 2 nights and 3 days on a camping tour through the highlights of the Red Center, namely Uluru/Ayer’s Rock, Kata Tjuta/The Olgas, and Kings Canyon. I have given the Aboriginal name and the White Australian name for both. There has been quite a bit of unrest as to whom this land actually belongs. I will spare you our views on the politics of it all here but if anyone wants to have a conversation about it in person at a later date, Nikki would be more than willing to share her very strong views on this topic. And Marin would be happy to give the moderate, “well I can see it from both ways” perspective. ☺
The Red Center earned its name because it is a desert comprised of red sand as a result of the large red rock formations scattered throughout. Until recently, the Northern Territory experienced very little rain and remained an arid environment. However, over the past 5 years there has been a tremendous amount of rainfall (bring on the ice age!). This has led to lush green vegetation sprinkled throughout the red rock and sand with a clear blue sky behind it all. The result is one of the most beautiful scenes that we’ve ever experienced…truly unparalleled! Marin was so inspired by this natural beauty that she snapped a good 500 photos – lots of photos of rocks here. This was a good spot to play with the infinite number of settings on her camera, so some still need to be photoshopped.
Cool salt lake:
Our tour involved us and 12 other backpackers being shuttled around the Outback in an old school bus by one of the cutest Aussie tour guides you can imagine, Ryan. He had the dimples, the accent, and the kind-hearted, gentle nature.
Needless to say we were in love with him from the get go. Here is our Ryan photoshoot:
We enjoyed not having to do the driving ourselves as we covered roughly 1500K in 3 days. We sat in the back of the van and slept, ate ice cream, read, enjoyed the beautiful desert scenery (even a few wild camels ran by), and watched Sex and City DVDs on our laptop- thanks for the loaners Sarah :-)!
Our eclectic traveling crew was pretty comical, including a few Brits, another lesbian couple (they were Aussies and so we loved them), an older couple (they were older than us and so we loved them, too), a German, a gal from Holland (we lovingly called her Dutchie), two Canadians and an Asian couple. Pretty much the United Nations. All in all, a good mix and everyone got along! Nobody bothered to learn each other’s names so we just referred to each other by country name. We were “Team America.” Here’s the group and some pictures of the camping scene – note Nikki holding court per usual:
We all got cozy quite quickly as we slept outside in neat contraptions called swags. Yes, there were many jokes made about enjoying a Swag Shag…haha! A swag is basically a suped-up sleeping bag. There were not any hot rims attached, but there was quite a bit of padding, a waterproof outer shell, and a pillow. Nikki was thrilled to find the pillow- camping is a million times better with a pillow! No tents were involved, which was awesome because it allowed us to see the millions of stars stretched across the long sky. We had fun trying to make sense of the constellations in the Southern Hemisphere.
Nighttime camping pic by the fire:
Although this may sound torturous to some, we awoke each morning at 4:30 am, so as to experience the sunrise over one of the many beautiful rocks that we visited. We also wanted to avoid this:
We also caught the sun set each evening around some more gorgeous rocks. It was def worth missing some sleep to see these amazing views! Take a look at some pics of sunrises and sunsets throughout the trip:
We hiked each day for a few hours. The first day’s hike was around the base of Uluru, the quintessential Australian postcard photo. It is the largest monolith in the world and it is amazing in person! Although we did spend quite a bit of time swatting the famous Australian flies out of our eyes, noses, and mouths. Check out the flies on this guy's back -- an average amount:
The Aboriginal people ask that you not climb the rock as it is considered to be sacred, so we opted for the base walk – it is 9 kilometers around the entire rock!
Some people ignored the whole sacred bit. They will now be cursed:
The second day’s hike was through Kata Tjuta. We went on a walk there called the Valley of the Winds Walk. The name is appropriate in that the various red rock formations create lovely wind tunnels. Quite a few people on our tour thought this spot was the most beautiful of them all. To Marin’s delight, we also spotted a few Kangaroos along the way.
The final day’s walk was around the rim of King’s Canyon. Nikki fell in love with this spot when we watched the sunrise over the canyon. It was spectacular! Ryan, our cute guide, pointed out various plants and trees used for homeopathic remedies by the Aboriginal people along the way. Marin continued to fumble with her camera and lag meters and meters behind the group.
On the way back to Alice Springs we stopped at a Camel Farm to ride some camels. We chose not to ride them because we weren’t happy with the small pens in which they were living. However, it was neat to see them up close and Marin snapped some great pics-see:
Other highlights of the trip were collecting firewood in the 110-degree, fly swarming heat (this was more of a lowlight), and making Nikki pose as the company’s logo:
Exhausted and amazed by our time in the Outback, we headed back to the city for some more QT with Sarah and Sydney.
Up next: Sydney and all its splendor, Manly, and Coogee, Nikki’s study abroad paradise from 10 years ago.
Also, in real time, we are in Thailand right now and it is awesome! The goal is to get a few entries out in the next couple of days as we lie by the sea and sip rum punch, so that you all can see how amazing Thailand has been too! Xoxo Nikki and Marin