The Outback!

Australia, RTW: 2007-2008 — By on April 2, 2008 5:10 AM

Alice Springs is located in the center of the country and is part of the Northern Territory. I was able to see all of Alice Springs in one day. I can’t believe Jenny has lived in Alice for 5 weeks; I would have died of boredom! Alice Springs is literally in the middle of the nowhere. Alice Springs is the closest “big city” to the main attractions. The Outback is exactly what I imagine it to be… vast areas of emptiness, very dry, dusty, and hot desert.

Jenny and I took “The Rock Tour”, which was a 3-day/2 night guided camping, trip through the Outback. There were 21 of us on the tour and we covered 1000 miles over the course of the trip. Our tour guide, Dom, was great fun and I was very impressed with his knowledge of the geology and culture of the area. Over the three days on the bus, Dom stopped on the side of the road and removed 12 dead kangaroo. I slouched in my seat when he questioned why anyone would hit a kangaroo and leave it in the road. He explained that he always stops when he sees a dead roo to check for a live joey in the pouch and also to remove the dead body from the road to prevent the killing of eagles as they feed on the dead roo. I hope to never hit a kangaroo with my car again, but if I do I will be sure to check for a little joey!

We picked a good time to camp in the Outback in regards to weather. Lauren went back in December and it was unbearably hot, but we had warm weather during the day and cool nights. I can’t imagine any place worse to be if your car were to break down. It is possible no one would come your way for days! If the heat didn’t kill you then something very poisonous probably would!

DAY 1: The tour bus picked us up at 6 am and we rode for 6 hours to the main attraction in the Outback…Uluru, also referred to as Ayers Rock. Uluru is a large sandstone rock formation that gets its glory by standing alone in a boundless emptiness. Standing 1,150 feet high, a mile and a half long, five and a half miles around. From a distance, Uluru looks smooth and featureless, but up close its face is pitted with holes, valleys and caves. Uluru is sacred to the Aboriginal people of the area.

We had the option of climbing the rock or walking around the entire base of the rock. The local Anangu do not climb Uluru because of its great spiritual significance. They request that visitors do not climb the rock, partly due to the path crossing a sacred traditional Dreamtime track, and also due to a sense of responsibility for the safety of visitors to their land. It is rumored to be bad luck to climb Uluru and 87 people have died attempting the very steep climb. Jenny and I decided to stick to the base walk instead of doing the climb. We saw the Mala Walk, Mutijulu Waterhole and Aboriginal Cave Paintings.

The flies in the Outback have to be the most annoying flies in the world! Flies at home do not behave like these flies do! They are obsessed with your face and for some reason the flies loved to go into my right nostril and left ear! I would suggest buying a mesh cover to wear over your head in the outback!

We had dinner as we watched the Sunset over Uluru. In the right conditions, the rock is known to change colors throughout the sunset. We saw the rock glow a beautiful red as the sun briefly came out from behind the clouds. It is hard not to stare at Ayers Rock, as it is mesmerizing to see such a large formation in the middle of the desert with nothing else around it for miles!

Day 2: Dom wakened us at 5 am to see the sunrise over Uluru. It was gorgeous sight and well worth waking up while still dark and cold! After breakfast we drove to Kata Tjuta National Park and we hiked 8 km through the Valley of the Winds. Kata Tjuta is a group of large domed rock formations.

The geological history of the area is amazing to me. The evolution of Uluru and Kata Tjuta is explained differently by Anangu and the scientific community. According to Anangu, there was nothing on the earth until their ancestors, in the forms of people, plants and animals, traveled widely across the land and formed the world as we know it today. Some of the creation stories are public stories while others, according to traditional law, are restricted to certain people.

We were told the scientific explanation for the geology of the area. I can not remember everything I was told on tour, so I did a little research on the Australian Governments Environmental website as detailed below:

Uluru and Kata Tjuta lie near the southern margin of an area geologists call the Amadeus Basin. This depression in the Earth’s crust formed about 900 million years ago, and received layer upon layer of sediment over several hundred million years. This stopped when the Amadeus Basin became a shallow sea. The older sediments in the Amadeus Basin were crumpled and buckled about 550 million years ago, and mountain ranges were uplifted. These bare mountains eroded easily as huge amounts of sediment washed away when it rained and formed alluvial fans adjacent to the ranges. It is the remains of at least two of these alluvial fans that are seen today as Uluru and Kata Tjuta. About 400 million years ago, the sea had disappeared and the whole of Central Australia began to be subjected to massive forces. Some rocks folded and tilted raising the region above sea level. The horizontal layers of the Uluru were folded and turned nearly 90 degrees to their present position. This evidence is easily seen in the vertical lines that run along the rock. It’s amazing to think this huge rock use to stand vertically and collapsed on its side! A large portion of Uluru is still underground.

After our hike we spent a few hours at the Aboriginal Cultural Center. I really wanted to buy an aboriginal painting but they were too expensive!

We drove 4 hours Curtin Springs, where set up our bush camp for the night. Along the way we stopped on the side of the road and had to search for firewood. Thankfully there were no snakes in sight. We cooked our dinner over the campfire. We again slept outside on the ground in our swags with millions of stars above our heads! It was really cool to sleep outside both nights! We were warned there were dingo in the area but that they would not eat our babies, but they would steal our shoes in the middle of the night, so we had to sleep with them inside our swags.

I learned that we cannot see the North Star in Australia, instead we see the Southern Cross. Also, the constellation Orion’s Belt is flipped 180 degrees. The belt and sword of Orion are sometimes called the Saucepan, because the stars of Orion’s belt and sword resemble this kitchen utensil as seen from the Southern Hemisphere. I don’t think I have ever seen so many stars so clearly as I did both nights sleeping in the Outback!

Day 3: Up at 5 am again and we headed Kings Canyon where we did another 3-hour hike through the sandstone domes of the Lost City. This hike was my favorite of the three hikes we did over the weekend. It was the most challenging and perhaps the most beautiful. We hiked through rocky terrain down to the “Garden of Eden”. I realized I enjoy hiking so much more when I am in good shape like I am at the moment!

The canyon was formed due to a large earthquake many years ago. Our guide explained that a canyon is formed by an earthquake while gorges are formed by rivers. So in theory, the Grand Canyon, which was carved out by the Colorado River isn’t really a canyon at all and should be called the Grand Gorge! I am not sure if this is actually true but this is what Dom believes to be true.

Our drive back to Alice Springs was 6 more hours on the bus! We stopped at a Camel Farm where Jenny and I rode a large camel! It was a very bumpy ride especially when the camel started trotting! Jenny thought I was for sure going to fall off! I also got to see a dingo, which looked just like a normal dog. Perhaps the sweetest thing I have ever seen was my first joey…a baby kangaroo! She was so adorable and I wanted to take her back with me!

When we got back to Alice the tour group all met for dinner and drinks at a local pub. I really enjoyed the tour and felt I saw so much in my 3 days in the Outback! I always have such a fun time with Jenny and I was sad to say goodbye to her again. Jenny has decided she is heading back to England soon as she may decide to enlist in the Royal Air Force! I can actually see Jenny in uniform and wish her all the best!

I am currently hanging out in Adelaide, located in South Australia. I haven’t done too much the first few days here as it has been raining and I am feeling really lazy! Danny is flying here from Sydney on Friday and we will be driving from Adelaide to Melbourne along the Great Ocean Road! We plan to camp on the beautiful beaches along the way!

To see all of my photos from The Outback CLICK HERE

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