Uluru, Kata Tjutas and Kings Canyon trip
I decided soon after arriving in Australia that as I was only ever going to visit once, I had better make the most of it. Although it was a bit out of the way, I knew I had to visit Uluru (Ayer's Rock) and try to learn more about Aboriginal culture. After debating the options, I decided to take a 3 day trip. On day one we visited Kings Canyon and took a pretty hot walk around in the heat of the day. It was stunningly beautiful and it was very interesting to learn about the Mulga tree - toxic but a multitude of uses for tools. Also the Corkwood tree which can be used to soothe teething babies. My favourite was the Ghost Gum tree which has sunscreen in it! We also saw some amazing rock formations, lots of lizards and some pygmy koalas !!(don't ask, it is like the drop-bears, a bit of warped Aussie humour!) That night we drove towards our camp spot but we were so tired and hungry we didn't make it and stopped early by the side of the road. We soon discovered we were in an ocean of ants as we tried to eat without being bitten. I think I took some with me when I went to bed in my swag and so hopped around for ages trying to find a spot with no ants and ended up making everyone laugh and sleeping on the table. An early start and onwards to Uluru and Kata Tjutas National Park. After driving past a big mountain (fooluru) we finally glimpse the red rock in the distance. It seemed to keep moving as we got closer and we are left in anticipation a while longer as we take a brief detour to the Olgas (Kata Tjutas) and the Valley of the Winds. I soon realise that this trip is very tight on time and also as we walk out to the panoramic view no one else is interested in quiet contemplation, just rushing around, photographing and chatting. This is fine but I feel like I need some time and space so I manage to get left alone at one spot for a while. I try to feel and understand the place and the history and get all poetic. I also realised that I should be thankful to the indigineous owners or Anangu, as they prefer to be known. I write a thankyou note and a poem which I later passed on to one of the local elders via the cultural centre. After lunch and a swim we take a trip to the cultural centre. It is very interesting to learn more about the local culture and how the fate of Uluru as a tourist attraction has been reconciled. We learn more about the symbols in the artwork and their meaning and also about some of the mens and womens tools used. Our last mission for the day was to watch the sunset at Uluru. I anticipate the worst and am quite well pleased. Hundreds of tourist buses and cameras and people chatting and sipping champagne. I get quite angry as no one seems to be understanding anything about this place. The view is beautiful though and I enjoy it enough. I think sunset watching can be a bit cheesy anyway! I am excited about tomorrow when we get closer. An early rise in the dark so we can watch the sun rise from behind Uluru. It is very beautiful and thankfully less tourists. We then go to walk the base walk. We arrive at 7am and I am saddened to see the thousands of 'ants on shit' as the Anangu call them! climbing the rock. It is disrespectful to the Anangu who ask people not to walk as it is only for men during certain spiritual ceremonies. I manage to walk the pleasant 9km base walk alone. The weather is not too hot (although by 9.30am when I finish thay have closed the climb as it is already 36 degrees c!) I am surprised by the number of trees and vegetation nearby and think it must have been a pretty good place to have lived. I am intrigued by all the closed off and non-photographable sacred sites, but I will never know what they are about. Then our trip is all but over. Back on the bus and back to Alice Springs. Time goes quickly, partly as we are forced to play some silly games, do a quiz about what we learned (which was quite a lot it seems!) and also to sing a song from our country. For some reason me and three others from the UK end up singing Vera Lynn's 'We'll meet again' A brief stop at the camel farm and another collapse in Alice Springs.