Now we understand the hype around The Rock

Friday, October 11, 2013
Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, Northern Territory, Australia
High on our list was to hit up Ayers Rock. We weren't sure if this was just touristy hype or if indeed it was worth the journey.  Regardless, along with Sydney, diving the Great Barrier Reef, and seeing kangaroos, this was something we all wanted to see.  Kangaroos, I might add, either are extinct or don’t care for us.  Like foreigners expecting every Texan to have a gun, I expected kangaroos to be a constant.  We have yet to see one.

We arrive at the airport right at sunrise, fill up and take off right after first light .  It’s amazing how many flies and little bugs manage to be in the aircraft after having the doors open for only a couple minutes.  Caroline reminds us that there are lots of critters crawling around in the back seat ;-).  It’s barren countryside and yet very pretty.  The earth is considerably redder than I anticipated.  It’s really pretty desert. 

About 70 miles from Ayers Rock / Uluru we start to make it out on the horizon.  There’s one other mesa from Kings Canyon en route, but aside from that it really is just protruding from the middle of flatlands.  It’s also a majestic red even with with the sun already so high.  I anticipated it just being washed out in the midday sun, but that wasn’t the case.  Cameras were of course rolling as we passed The Rock (as it’s known on the flight charts) and landed at the nearby airport.  This was going to be when we rejoined the rest of the group, but we were the first ones to arrive since they were coming in from Cairns

After a wait for a non-existent shuttle, we rented a car.  This proved to be a great idea since there are no taxis and seemingly no other way to get around.  All the hotels are in the same general area connected by a circular drive.  Johannes dropped us off at our Pioneer Lodge and we got settled in. 

Breakfast/Lunch, beer, and coffee consumed, off we went to walk around The Rock.  The closer we got, the more impressive the sight became.  It really was in the middle of nowhere jutting out of the flatlands and understandable why it was (is) considered a spiritual place.  After perusing the cultural centre we started off for the walk.  Johannes decided to save it for tomorrow, so we were on our own.  The first thing we noticed, aside from the grandeur and scale of The Rock, was the flies.  Oh wow!  They were everywhere and just like the airport in Coober Pedy were seemingly obsessed with our eyes, ears, and noses.  It didn’t take long for me to take off my shirt and drape it around my face in an effort to keep them at bay .  It surely looked ridiculous, but it did the trick as now only about 25%25 made it in to my eyes and the rest had to settle for my shoulders and back.  Poor Caroline didn’t have the option so had to fight them for the whole walk. 

Aside from the pesky flies it was such a delightful walk.  With all the various angles and in seeing it in different lighting as we walked around it, we were continually surprised.  We also only encountered other tourists at the main parking areas and more popular walks.  It really was amazing that no more people were doing the Base Walk.  We were also pleased that it was too windy to even consider hiking up to the top of The Rock.  The indigenous consider it a sacred place so frown on climbing it.  For that reason we wouldn’t have done it (although it looked fun!), but because of high winds at the top access to the climb was closed anyway. 

Walking around The Rock was also a great last activity to do with Caroline before she would have to leave the following morning .  We spent most of the walk talking and laughing with both of us really enjoying the day (again, sans the flies). 

Johannes picks us up (oh hail the rental car!) along and has a couple of the ladies from the group along too in order to see the sunset from the designated vantage point.  We take some of the obligatory sunset images and then admit defeat to the flies and set off back in the car to the hotels. 

It’s hard to believe that we flew from Melbourne to Coober Pedy to Ayers Rock in the span of just a couple days.  What a crazy difference between all the impressions.  Ayers Rock was really a highlight.  Over dinner at the hotel we can’t help but talk about all the fantastic places we’ve seen on these couple weeks in Australia. 

The following morning there’s a group meeting amongs the pilot crews to discuss how best to tackle potential landing and parking difficulties in Myanmar .  My mind is more on Caroline leaving but here we were back in the mix of planning the adventure.  It’s fun to see everyone else from the group again over breakfast though.  After the meeting I drive Caroline to the airport (note again: rental car is mandatory in Uluru!).  It’s sad to see her go.

The rest of the group uses the lone rental car to get back and forth to The Rock because by the time they showed up all the rental cars at the airport were gone.  Never have so many adults (8) been packed in to so small a car ;-). I spend the rest of the day catching up on work, laundry, and other odds & ends at the hotel before joining the group again for dinner.

Routing from YCBP to YAYE: VFR 
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