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Mar 2nd – Mar 5th The Outback – The Final Frontier

Thursday, March 6th, 2008


Originally uploaded by roupiesontour

It was with some excitement that we landed al the way out in the middle of nowhere. You don’t really know what to expect, except heat and desert of course. The reality is a little bit different. Luckily we had been booked to fly into Ayers Rock Airport – short note for anyone travelling here – Alice Springs is over 400km away. There are free buses that pick you up and take you into the small Ayers Rock Resort. The “resort” consists of a small set of shops, about 4 hotels and a campground. The YHA (which we had booked) is called The Outback Pioneer Hotel & Lodge and is also a hotel, there are no YHA signs anywhere. We were all pleasantly surprised to find our room had a mini bar, tv and bathroom – certainly the poshest YHA I had ever seen. We got a phone call a couple of hours after arriving to say that they had put us in the wrong room and for the small fee of $130 per night we could stay there or move. The 4 bed dorm room we were moved to was much more of what we had been expecting. It had air conditioning though so can’t really complain. Josh also swiped most of the freebies from the room so we have lots of new body products to smell.

There is a free shuttle that runs every 20 mins to take you into the small town and supermarket. The food is of course more expensive but compared to the $46 pp for a meal at the restaurant it is still cheaper. We stocked up on provisions and spent the rest of the day looking into trips. Again – extortionate for the 3 of us so it looks like I will be hiring a car as the most economical way to get around.

Day 2 – it feels hotter today – apparently it’s 36 degrees. Only 1 car firm has any cars left and we have to get it from the airport – at least the bus there is free. We have it for 24 hours so it’s straight in and off we go to Uluru to see it up close. All adults have to pay a $25 fee to enter the park but this lasts 3 days and under 26’s are free. It’s only after we pay that we find 2 old passes in the passenger door with 2 days still on them!

How can you describe the national park? The earth is red and everything gets covered in red dust which is kind if cool. There are flies everywhere and fashion has taken a back step as even O is wearing her hat and netting over her face. The scenery is surprising – I was expecting arid desert but the earth is covered in trees, not very tall about 5 or 6 meters high and interspersed quite widely. There are lots of bush shrubs and camel coloured swishy swashy grass makes the sound of the wind more rhythmical. The heat radiates off the ground and you long for the shade as soon as you step out of it.

Uluru up close is majestic. No picture can do justice to the sheer size of it – 9.4km round and over 380 meters high – The Eiffel Tower is 300m. The nooks and crannies of the rock look so different up close and some of the rock even looked like tree bark. We set off to walk round it (I gave the kids the option of staying at the resort but they both wanted to come). Needless to say with 2 teenagers and the heat of late afternoon one of them was soon complaining, stomping and doing the Aussie salute in a very bad mood so we gave up about a third of the way round and after finally reaching the car did the rest in the comfort of an air-conditioned cab.

We parked at the sunset viewing area to watch the sun slowly set and the rock change colour from red to brown as the night descended. The silence of this place is beautiful and apart from some German tourists who kept taking pictures and texting (with silly mooing noises) it was amazing to just listen to the breezes and take it all in.

Day 3 – I was supposed to get up this morning and drive out to the sunrise viewing area but sleep called trumps and we had a lay in instead. After a late start we set off for the Olgas or Kata Tjuta as they are now called. No walking around these massive stones, you can walk through 2 of them, Walpa Gorge. It makes you feel incredibly small looking up at the huge rocks on either side of you. The path is also rocky and you feel a bit like walking on the moon, how does the song go “I hope my legs don’t break – walking on the moon”, a few slips and it was back in one piece.

Time to get the car back and try to re-pack once again. We seem to have got a lot of extra weight although I don’t know where from – it’s a mystery. After having dined on unexciting food for the past couple of days we treat ourselves to the outdoor BBQ. You choose your meat and cook it yourself. The choices were v Aussie, Crocodile, Emu, Kangaroo, Barramundi or the usual sausages and chicken. I couldn’t face Kangaroo so was boring and went for chicken. It was so hot cooking but made you feel like you had earned your dinner. A live act played guitar and didgeridoo to songs like Imagine and Sail Away – a bit depressing but you get talking to everyone. There are so many people staying here, I don’t know where they all fit. You get the Japanese, complete with gloves, long sleeves and white dust masks, Germans with Crocodile Dundee hats and the Brits with luminescent skin and beer in hand. It’s quite a slice of life.

And I went up to the lookout to see if we could see Uluru in the dark – no is the answer! The stars were out so we used our glow in the dark star chart (fantastic) to see if we could work out some constellations. We saw Orion, the rest we could not make head or tail of. O went back to the room as she was tired so I grabbed a cushion and went back up – there was no-one there this time so had a wonderful half hour just lying down and looking up in complete peace. Quite randomly on the i-pod came the “The Sounds Of Silence” and “The Tourist” by Radiohead – very fitting. The world looks such a huge place under such a sky and to make it complete I actually saw a shooting star, it was very quick but I made a wish.

Feb 29th – Finding Nemo

Saturday, March 1st, 2008


Originally uploaded by roupiesontour

Why do most people come to Cairns? It’s not because of the beaches – there are only mud flats – it’s for the accessibility to the Great Barrier Reef. The trips range in value from $200 for a day trip to the one we found for $60 an adult. Compass has a reputation for being on the oldest boat but the crew we had all day made sure we had such a laugh you didn’t miss air conditioning (who needs it on a boat when you are moving) and hot water showers.

It takes a couple of hours to reach the outer reef, through surprisingly murky waters and lots of islands. We had 2 different site visits and from the moment that you enter the water, which had thankfully changed colour to a clear turquoise, it’s like a different world. The coral is technicolour and the reef is very shallow so you see so much. There are over 600 varieties of fish and we saw so many – angel fish, Nemo, big ones, green and turquoise ones just sooo many. To actually watch the coral moving and the fish dart in and out was amazing. You don’t really need to swim far you just glide and watch as the world beneath you unfolds.

O and I also ticked another on the Top 10 things to do list – we had an introductory scuba dive. We could not persuade Josh who was more than happy to keep on snorkelling. I was really nervous but there were only 4 in our group and the instructor was very patient. Breathing was the first issue – your brain takes a minute to adjust to it but then it was OK. The ears were something else – each time you go down you have to equalise the pressure by blowing them out – mine would not go and it took about 10 minutes to get used to it and make my ears work properly but by then we were swimming by ourselves. You really get a different perspective and we touched the giant clams so they shut and finally found Nemo! If I ever get the money I would love to learn properly as there is so much more freedom with it, but alas it was over before we knew it and off to the other reef site.

The other site was near to a nesting turtles site but still for poor O there were no turtles to be seen. We did see a couple of reef sharks which was quite exciting. It did not help that some bloke behind me thought it would be funny to grab my foot – I nearly jumped a mile out of the water. It was a shame when we got called back into the boat but a glass of wine helped!

All in all it was a great day and it has to be the best snorkelling to date – we saw so much and the colours were fabulous.