Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Carlson Honeymoon! Volume I: Australia, Part IV: Yulara

We got up pretty early the next day, November 12th, so we could catch a ride from Alice Springs to the Ayers Rock Resort in Yulara. Along the way we stopped at a Camel Farm, saw Atila (Mt Conner) and the salt flats, and had ice cream at the Erldunda Road House.

[We usually try to sit in the front because my motion sickness is so bad]

[for an additional cost you can ride camels]

[The Coach - a fancy bus]

[Kangaroos at the Camel Farm - They were too far away so I couldn't feed them]

[An emu]


[The only way to get things into the Outback are on these huge "Road Trains". This one only had three trailers, but they can be up to five trailers long!]

As we traveled along our bus drivers would tell us about the history of the area and the people who live here.

[The second oldest riverbed in the world]

[It's getting pretty RED!]

[I thought this was funny :-P]

We stopped at a small outlook when we were only an hour away from Yulara. Here we could see Atila and the notorious Salt Flats.  

[Atila (Mt Conners)]

[Josh with the salt flats]

[I was really loving the red sand. It reminded me of the Utah desert.]

At about 1:00 PM we rolled into The Ayers Rock Resort in Yulara. We checked into the Voyages Desert Gardens Hotel and ate lunch at the hotels restaurant. 

[Yep! It was hot!]

[The blue dot is Yulara]

After lunch we went on a short walk around the resort and then took a nap before Sounds of Silence dinner.

At 6:00 PM we gathered in the lobby of the hotel. A large coach then took us into the desert where we walked up a sand dune to an outlook "staging area."

Here we watched the sunset over Uluru and Kata Tjuta, enjoyed the music of the Didgeridoo, and ate hors d'oeuvres which consisted of kangaroo, crocodile, and emu. 

After watching the beautiful sunset we were escorted down to an open area where we were seated at a table with a few other couples.

At dinner we had a buffet of authentic Australian foods which included barramundi, kangaroo, bush salads and other amazing food.

We sat with another couple from the US that was our same age, a US couple who were retired, an Australian almost retired couple, and a couple from China who spoke very little English. We usually had great conversations with everyone but once we started talking about the upcoming elections and Capitalism vs Socialism it got a little heated. It was fun to talk with people from other places and to hear their stories.

After dinner and dessert, they turned out all the lights and an astronomer came out and showed us various features in the night sky. We were able to see two other galaxies, the milky way, shooting stars, and a lot of constellations! I've never seen the sky like this! It was so dark and since there were no city lights we were able to see so much! I can't even begin to explain to you how small and insignificant it made me feel (not in a bad way though!).

After gazing at the sky, we were taken back to the hotel.

The next morning (November 13), we were up at 4:00 AM so we could go on our sunrise, 14 kilometer, base hike of Uluru!

We arrived in the dark and started our hike. Our guide, Fiona, took us on a quick walk to her favorite sunrise spot. Here she told us about the Anangu (local Aboriginal) people and their relationship to the area. 

We watched the beautiful sunrise and saw Uluru change colors as the sun got higher.



After sunrise, we continued our walk. Fiona told us that each cave and mark on the monolith was meaningful to the Anangu people. There were some areas that she asked us not to photograph because they were sacred to the locals. I had no problem with this but other people in our group were not as respectful.

[Uluru with the domes of Kata Tjuta in the background]

For the first part of the hike, the trail keeps you away from the base of Uluru. This is due to the vast amount of sacred sites.

We then stopped for breakfast. Fiona gave us bags which had yogurt, cereal, milk, and granola bars in it. We ate our breakfast (saving the granola bars for later) with the group, used the toilet (there is only one facility on the entire hike and it is near the end. So Fiona told us that "every tree is a lavi-tree") and then continued our walk.

During the next part of the hike we were able to be right up against the rock. As the day went on and the temperature rose, it made it nice to have a little bit of shade!

Fiona was a great guide. I tend to ask a lot of questions (the archaeologist in me!) and she had no problem answering them. I even asked her about the geology of the area. She bent down and drew it out as she described the creation of Uluru and Kata Tjuta to us.

As the sun rose and the temperature soared, the wind died down and as a result, the flies swarmed! It was insane! It got to the point where you would either have to wave your arms frantically non-stop or you had to put your fly net on. Thanks to the people we talked to in Alice Springs for the warning! I don't know how people would be able to do this hike without a fly net!

See the blue? That is the natural color of the rock. Most of Uluru is red because the rock has iron in it and it has been oxidized. 

[Rock art]

As we walked on Fiona told us Tjukurpa (dreaming) stories and the creation story about Liru (the poisonous snake) and Kuniya (the python). We also stopped by the Mutitjulu Waterhole.

Towards the end of the walk we stopped at the toilet (the real toilet) and sat in the shade while Fiona told us about the hike to the top of the rock. Metal stakes were hammered into the rock and a chain was put up many years ago. Many people have done the hike to the top but it is not recommended. Uluru is sacred to the Anangu people and they do not want people to climb on it. Plus, 40 people have been killed on the hike while another 200 died as a result of their climb (heart attacks). As a protest someone recently cut part of the chain. Since then the site has been closed and people are not allowed to attempt the climb. The locals were hoping that the government would see this as a sign and close the hike completely but they want to put the chain back up and re-open the hike.


[I completely forgot that I had my fly net on when I tried to eat my granola bar!]

After our break we continued our walk. The last few kilometers were full of caves and stories!

[Kantju Gorge] 

I can not tell you how happy I was that we got up early and did this hike! I don't think I have seen a more glorious sunrise or if I've ever been more mesmerized by a geological feature! I loved learning about the Anangu people and their culture.

By the time we were done it was hot (even though it was only 10:45 AM) and I was ready for a nap and some food!

We went to the hotel restaurant where we got some lunch and a I drank a ton of water. We then took naps and made our way back out to the lobby by 2:30 PM.

At 2:45 PM we were picked up from the hotel by our tour guide Heather. She drove us and our small group to Kata Tjuta.

We did the Gorge Walk, which is a short walk into one of the many gorges of the formation.


During this hike Heather told us about the native plants and animals, how Kata Tjuta is a sacred Aboriginal mens ceremonial site, and the creation of the 36 domes. The hike was short and sweet which was great because being in between those domes was like being in an oven!

After our hike we went back to the resort where we got some delicious kangaroo pizza!

My Fitbit for the day! Not too shabby!