The Red Centre

At some point during the night we reaffirmed that dorm rooms are the worst.  Our roommate, we would later learn named Josh, stumbled in at 11.30 and proceeded to exit and re-enter the room several times, turning the lights on and off and slamming the door each time.  Lynn had wisely chosen to sleep with both earplugs and eye covers so she was blissfully unaware of Josh’ Triumphal Entry.  Eventually he passed out (in what we would later learn was the wrong bed) and I fell back asleep only to wake up a few hours later to the sound of the A/C fan losing a bearing and being quite vocal about it.  I blindly turned it to a different setting where it didn’t protest as much and went back to sleep.  I finally woke up for good at 3.55 am, apparently ready to take on the day after my exceedingly excellent sleep.  I waited an hour to wake up Lynn and we packed up and left, much kinder to Josh than he had been to us, headed off to catch the sunrise on Uluru.

We were a bit behind schedule and had to head clear across the park to the sunrise viewing area but Lynn made up time in the car and we caught some excellent colors on the rock as we circled it on our way.  We made it to the viewing area just in time and after a less than amazing start, we did eventually see the rock turn bright orange as the sun came up above some clouds on the horizon.  We also managed to spot who we believe might be a time travelling Mark Twain who would continue to fascinate me for the rest of the day every time we crossed paths, which would be a lot.

There it goes, getting all orange again. Though we both agreed the sunset the night before was more spectacular. I mean come on, there was a rainbow!
There it goes, getting all orange again. Though we both agreed the sunset the night before was more spectacular. I mean come on, there was a rainbow!
We didn't capture him on the first sighting but this is the second. It kind of looks like a Big Foot picture.
We didn’t capture him on the first sighting but this is the second. It kind of looks like a Big Foot picture.
The third sighting! In this one you can really see his Mark Twaininess.
The third sighting! In this one you can really see his Mark Twaininess.
Uh oh. I think they might be on to me.
Uh oh. I think they might be on to us.

After sunrise we moved the car to a park closer to the rock (coincidentally the one where you start the trek to the top – but it was again closed for “safety”), filled up our waters, made some sandwiches for the day and started off on a 9.6 km walk around the base of Uluru.  It is in fact a very large rock.  We enjoyed the coolness of the morning and could feel it emanating off the rock the same way it feels in a parking garage in the middle of summer.

As we made our way around, we appreciated the many faces of Uluru and kept trying to pick a favorite before deciding that they were all impressive in different ways.  The sheer size of the thing kept us in awe for the full 3 hours of the walk, especially when standing at the base of a vertical cliff lookin up, or when there were gum trees available for comparison.  Along the way we had a debate about the Anangu Laws which discourage pictures of certain areas as well as climbing the rock itself.  We both spent a fair bit of time struggling to come up with an analogy in western culture for someone climbing their sacred rock and eventually gave up.  If anyone out there has a good one please let us know.

A map of our trail around Uluru.
A map of our trail around Uluru.
This is what it looks like up close. The rock itself is a bluish gray from the eroded granite that was compressed into sandstone. The red comes from the oxidization as the rock is exposed to water.
This is what it looks like up close. The rock itself is a bluish gray from the eroded granite that was compressed into sandstone. The red comes from the oxidization as the rock is exposed to water.
The colors were really remarkable.
The colors were really remarkable.
This part of it looked like Jabba the Hutt. We never saw a Princess Leia or frozen Han Solo though.
This part of it looked like Jabba the Hutt. We never saw a Princess Leia or frozen Han Solo though.

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Handstand contest on a world famous landmark!
Handstand contest on a world famous landmark!

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By 11 am they close the trail due to heat. Luckily we started our walk bright and early while it was still cool(ish).
By 11 am they close the trail due to heat. Luckily we started our walk bright and early while it was still cool(ish).
Parts of Uluru had very interesting details. In the bottom left it looks like it's melting and the top right looks like its brain is showing.
Parts of Uluru had very interesting details. In the bottom left it looks like it’s melting and the top right looks like its brain is showing.
There were flies everywhere.
There were flies everywhere.
It was awful.
It was awful.

We ended our walk with another spotting of time travelling Mark Twain in a portion of the rock that looks like the curl of the waves we had seen along the Great Ocean Road.  I awkwardly took some pictures of him for posterity before we headed back to the car and ate our sandwiches.

It was now 9.30 and we had one walk left to do in the Uluru portion of the park before we had done them all.  Our plan was to finish early before the sun was at its fullest since the temperature was forecast to be 104 F today.  With plenty of time to complete what the park guide called an hour walk we headed over to the Dune Hike.

By 9.30 it was already 39 C (102 F). It gets hot in the desert.
By 9.30 it was already 39 C (102 F). It gets hot in the desert. Though our car was sitting in the sun so its probably a bit cooler than this outside.

The hike itself was quite difficult, over loose red sand through the dunes on the outside of the dessert (you can remember the spelling because you always want more dessert right – that’s a terrible joke I have with Lynn).  It was slow going across the sand but it gave us ample time to look for wildlife and Lynn to show off her tracking skills as she managed to spot two snake tracks across the path.  We reached the end much faster than expected though, and a little disappointed, headed back to the car.  We finished in 30 minutes and figured that the hour guideline must be for the tourists who haven’t been walking ten miles a day for the past three months.

Done with the day’s planned activities and the temperature breaking 95, we headed back for naps.  The mysterious Josh was gone again and we slept for two hours before waking up and deciding it was lunch time.  We hit the local grocery store and stocked up on tuna and crackers, carrots and hummus, and kangaroo skewers for dinner.

A nice, cheap lunch of tuna, crackers, carrots, and hummus.
A nice, cheap lunch of tuna, crackers, carrots, and hummus.

After lunch we headed over to the pool where we spent the afternoon reading.  Lynn is now proudly 58% through her book about the settling of Australia and she is quite certain it is the longest book she has ever read.  Every so often a thunderstorm would blow over and we even had another sighting of time travelling Mark Twain!

Lynn chillin' out maxin', relaxin' all cool, just doing some readin' outside by the pool.
Lynn chillin’ out maxin’, relaxin’ all cool, just doing some readin’ outside by the pool.

Eventually we decided a walk was in order and we headed off to check out the other three hotels in the Ayer’s Rock Resort (There are only four hotels available anywhere near Uluru and they are all part of this resort complex.  Well technically five, but one is luxury tents for $1200 a night per person so we don’t count that one.)  We managed to get inside the first one, the Sails in the Desert, just as another storm blew over and we enjoyed listening to the rain on the canvas ceiling from the safety of the lobby.

A Christmas Tree made out of dessert wood in a hotel lobby. It's very odd to be in such hot weather around Christmas time.
A Christmas Tree made out of dessert wood in a hotel lobby. It’s very odd to be in such hot weather around Christmas time.

After the storm was over we went outside and were hit with a wall of eucalyptus smell.  We had noticed that when it rains in the desert here, immediately afterwards there is an olfactory barrage as the plants and dirt are stirred up.  We have both decided we like the smell of eucalyptus so we don’t mind one bit.

We continued on to the grocery store, where the high price of ice cream put a damper on the next phase of our plans, before finishing our walk through the hotels and heading back home.  There was a crowd starting to gather at the hotel bar, so we decided to join them for a pint of ale and had a great conversation about politics, personal freedom, and Lynn’s strong beliefs about how the American education system is failing the youths of today (maybe that explains their rowdiness in hostels).

Bellies empty, we headed to the kitchen to prepare our kangaroo and made a stir fry of it and some mushrooms with a side salad.  It wasn’t great.  We both decided we’re not huge fans of kangaroo and drowned it in Sweet Thai Chili Sauce to make it palatable.  It’s gamey but in a different, worse way, than lamb which I also don’t really like to begin with.  Thankfully it wasn’t dry and tough like the last time I had it, which is apparently easy to do because there is very little fat in it.

Kangaroo and mushroom stir fry. Neither of us really cared for the kangaroo.
Kangaroo and mushroom stir fry. Neither of us really cared for the kangaroo.

After dinner we relaxed in the bar area and Lynn read the news while I examined our pictures and documented the days activated.

Daily Walking Miles: 13 miles

Fun Facts:

  • There are flies literally everywhere. They don’t bite or anything but they are super annoying and have an affinity for going in your ears and up your nose.  The traditional way of keeping the flies at bay was to wear a dead fish on your head and as the fish oil would drip down your head throughout the day it would keep the flies away.  We chose the more sanitary method of handkerchiefs over our heads.
  • You have to present a room key for any hotel to purchase alcohol here. Apparently it was part of the deal that was reached when the Anangu people allowed the hotels to be built because they don’t want their own people able to drink.
  • We have started a new twitter account, @unimpressedDnL, where we sarcastically are unimpressed by the amazing things we see on our trip. It amuses both of us a lot to channel the people that make up a lot of our Facebook feeds.

3 thoughts on “The Red Centre

  1. Loving your tales!!! A few random comments. Might Stonehenge be the equivalent ‘sacred rock without climbers’? Although Trevor did climb it as a kid. No longer allowed. Agree with your comment on the American school system failing our children (and the future of our country). Now I know why the Australians wear the hats with corks hanging off them. Perhaps you should purchase some to keep the flies at bay. Good on you Lynn for continuing with the book on Australia. I did the same with our visit to France, and never finished.

    1. Thank you for reading! I like the Stonehenge example. That seems very similar to Uluru. Doug mentioned the hats with corks too, but we actually have not seen any since being here.

  2. Closest comparison I can think of is a chalice or holy grail. You are supposed to climb rocks and you are supposed to drink from cups but when something is so closely tied a religious core tenant it is revered but not used. Stonehenge is another good one that someone brought up in another comment but you are not allowed to walk there only because of the volume of visitors and the impact on the site, not for sacred respect.

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