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Picnic at Ayers Rock

23 and 24 March 2010

As I mentioned, I managed to get a good night’s sleep in my swag under the stars and even managed a trip to the dunny in the middle of the night without running into any dangerous animals. We went for a hike around Kata Tjuta which is near Uluru before having a look around the Aboriginal Cultural Centre. The ACC is a tourist rip off and whilst the paintings are lovely, they sell for around the £800 mark. I am curious about how much the artists actually make from having their paintings brought by galleries and why there aren’t more traditional galleries set up by the community itself.

We get our first taste of the rock with a small walk around it to have a look at some rock paintings before setting up to have dinner and a beer whilst watching the sunset and the changing colours on the rock. This turns out to be a bit of an odd experience as bus loads of tourists turn up to do the same thing and it becomes a bit too much of a circus experience for me. A group of Koreans next to us have the expensive ‘sunset champagne experience’ but they only manage to stay for 20 minutes. Maybe that’s because drinking champagne whilst trying to swot the flies away from your face isn’t quite what they had in mind.

After sunset, we headed back to the camp site and to have a well- deserved shower, some chat around the campfire and then off to sleep in my swag, which I have become quite attached to.

Another early start the next day to catch the sunrise and our tour leader manages to set us up somewhere away from the madding crowds. Sunrise is not as spectacular as the sunset but still, it is nice to have had both experiences. The flies are starting to gather and we head off the Uluru for either the choice of a 9.8 km base walk or a climb. Contrary to popular belief, you can still climb the rock but the Anangu prefer that you don’t out of respect for their law and culture. This seems fair enough to me and when you see the 60 degree climb with only a flimsy rail to assist you, you’d have to be bonkers to attempt it. Our guide tells that at least 80 people have died from losing their balance and the Anangu traditionally have a duty to safeguard visitors to the land and feel a great sadness when a person dies or is hurt.

As it turns out, the climb is closed due to high winds (yesterday it was closed due to the temperature being above 36 degrees c) and this helps in the decision making process (not that I was contemplating climbing it anyway!)

The rock is a monolith and apparently they reckon that it goes on for miles under the earth’s surface and has actually been turned on its side due to tectonic plate movement millions of years ago. I am very impressed with it and I didn’t expect it to have as many ‘holes’ in it mainly caused by wind erosion.

We head back to Alice via the Camel Farm (yes, there are loads of camels in the outback but now they are causing havoc by munching everything so they have had to cull a lot them). Having just been to the Middle East, I’ve seen my fair share of camels and luckily no one else in the group seems particularly interested in hanging around the farm.

Some of us are staying at Annie’s and we share a room, which makes life easier. Two of the girls were bitten by bedbugs the last time they stayed there and I am paranoid about being bitten and instantly develop psychosomatic itching! Fortunately, it is only psychosomatic and we all head out for a pleasant evening.

Alice has a big problem with drunk Aboriginals (this is a little biased as to me there seems to be an equal problem with drunken backpackers and local Aussies) and we are advised not to walk around at night alone or take a taxi. We pass a number of them on the way back to the and both sets of groups exchange ‘hellos’ and I do not find them menacing or aggressive in the slightest.

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