Thursday, June 29, 2006

Australia's Red Center

Tracie and I rode the Train all the way to Alice Springs. It took three days. We rented a Toyota 4wd to drive to Ayer's Rock.

Alice Springs is a decent sized town, but it feels a little smaller than it really is. It is bordered on the South side by a long ridge. The train comes through a gap in the ridge that also contains a dry river bed.

While we were walking around, we saw an elderly aborigninal couple in an argument. The man turned his back and started walking away. The woman wasn't done fighting though and so she picked up a rock and hit the man in the back of the head with it. Now, to get a good idea of the size of the rock, imagine the size of rock that would be most appropriate for killing someone. It was definitely a two hander.

The sound it made could only be describe as sickening. Like the thud of someone slipping and falling flat on their back without catching themselves even a little. It was a hard hit, really hard. I'm surprised the guy didn't go down.

The next morning we picked up the truck from the rental place and headed out to see Ayers rock. The ride out is interesting, but after 200km you've pretty much seen it all. There are lots of road killed kangaroos, and more road killed cattle than I have ever seen in my life.

When you hit something in this region it is considered good form to drag it off the road. Hugh wedge tailed eagles like to eat the roadkill and because they have no predators, they feel comfortable not giving up their prize to vehicles driving past, and get killed themselves. Hitting a wedge tailed eagle would be almost as bad as hitting a kangaroo, the eagles have a wingspan approaching six feet at least. They are huge!

We saw four cars owned by aborigine's broken down at various points along the road. I felt a little bit guilty about not stopping for them considering the fact that we were literally in the middle of know where, with the nearest civilization 100km or more away. I blamed it on a combination of being taught my whole life that only muderers hitch hike and the recent release of the movie Wolf Creek in which a group of British backpackers are brutally murdered by a hitch hiker. Which just goes to prove that all hitch hikers are mass murderers, and that's ignoring the fact that the movie was based on a true story.

Maybe I'm just justifying not stopping for them. The truck was packed to the brim anyway and we probably couldn't have fit them anyway.

About 3/4 of the way there, there is a mesa that is often mistaken for Ayer's Rock mainly by people who are driving there from Alice Springs and are very excited about the whole thing. Really they don't look anything alike.

When we arrived at the park gate we were shocked to find out that there is a $25 fee per adult to get into the park. I figure that's a little steep but when you travel thousands of miles to see the place you pay through the nose. I really can't see what the money is used for in terms of facilities.

We looked around until just before sun set and then when to the sunset lookout point to take the cliche photo. It really does look amazing, although I get the feeling that the non-photographers don't really understand the whole sunset thing, especially here where they make such a big deal about the changing colours. Thousands upon thousands of pictures must be taken at sunset every single day.

The same thing happens at sunrise, which is when this photo was taken. The thousands of tourists stand there watching the rock, waiting for the sun to come up, not sure if it is the right moment for a photo or not. Finally the 20 or 30 buses signal that it is time to move on.

We walked around the base of the rock that morning. It is approximately a 10km walk. You really get a different impression of the sheer size and what it actually looks like when you are there in person.

That afternoon, we went to see the Olgas which are just great and well worth the extra drive. We must have arrived at the perfect time because relatively speaking there weren't many people there. I get the feeling that because of how things are advertised the Olgas and King's Canyon get unfairly neglected for how great they both are.

I really liked this trip with Tracie we had a lot of time to ourselves and a good chance to visit and see interesting things together. This little trip was the highlight of my entire time in Australia.

-Gary Milner

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