It is 11.23 am, we have been up since almost 8 hours, done a 6km rim walk and are now on our way back to the hotel Alice Springs. But this is only the conclusion of our 3-day camping trip around Uluru!
This adventure, also know as my first camping trip, started last Tuesday at way too early. If I remember correctly the alarm went off at 4am and we jumped into the shower and our ready laid clothes. We took some coffee shots and headed down to the reception where we eagerly awaited the arrival of our survival tour guide at 4.30am. After waiting for almost half an hour, a small white bus with something resembling a female appeared and took us with it. Our driver/guide then picked up the rest of the group at several hotels and youth hostels and we started to make the journey from Alice Springs to Uluru, which is about a 4 hour drive.
After several stops, amongst which an Emu farm, we arrived at a campsite. They say campsite, but in fact it was simply a plot of land that gave me the feeling qw had to settle Australia anew. We where dumped there like the convicts by the British: with bread, (warm) water and no AC. Since there were not even chairs around, I sat on the table which was of course covered by red sand and immediately made my new white pants match the environment.
After the driver finally returned (a few minutes had turned into almost an hour), she – thank god! – had some good news: because of an organizational mishap the whole group got an upgrade. We were to enjoy the sunset over Uluru at a better lookout, with sparkling wine and instead of swags get tents to sleep in – at a different campsite. Yeah baby!
With new-found hope we left for mount Uluru. First stop over there was the visitor centre. Quite a disappointment to be honest. It is small, quite uninformative and can best be described as a place for aboriginal painters to sell their art to tourists using the toilets. Oh well, the internet is full of information about the aboriginals, and at least there was a hint of airconditioning at the centre (it was about 45° outside)!
Next we were dropped off at the highlight of our tour: mount Uluru. We were to take a specific track of the base walk on which we would see some aboriginal art work. Our “guide” had to run into town to get snacks for that evening, but would pick us up in 90 minutes at the end of the track. About 10 minutes after she left, the whole group was confused for there were no signs and only a closed path to where the driver/guide had pointed. While mr. Scientist and I talked to some of the other guides to get some help, the rest of the group had simply headed into a different direction that was not closed off. After informing HQ about our conundrum and them not being able to reach our driver/guide, it was decided that another group’s guide would pick us and the rest of our group up at the end of the track most were now taking. We caught up with the rest and informed them. Unfortunately, they told us that three of our people were missing. No idea into what direction. But as they say: keep calm and keep on walking! Which in the burning sun, in the middle of the day, in the desert, without any shade is about just as much fun as it sounds like. We made some nice pictures tough!
After 30 minutes we reached the agreed upon point and the other guide. He had finally gotten a hold of our driver/guide that would arrive in 15-20 minutes. Of course that became twice as long, but at least she had our missing people in the car! This was good news, because now we didn’t have to go search for them and miss the sunset.
We drove off to the sunset lookout point, where several other tours were already set up with their camping tables and plastic champagne glasses. For a moment there it also looked like it would be to clouded (where were these clouds when we needed them in the middle of the day?!) to see the monolith turn proper red, but just in time Helios came through!
Last stop of the day was to be our new campsite, so off to another drive. We arrived in the dark and to cooked dinner, so I immediately liked this place way better than that first one! We got rice with vegetables and chicken, which with some extra pepper and salt almost tasted like actual food. After a promo of how to use the “swag” (an outdoor sleepingbag-bed), mr. Scientist decided to spend the first night on an actual bed in one of the little tent-houses that were also available. By the way: this promo was not done by our own driver/guide but our neighbours. Ours had left again, this time apparently to bring two of our group to the hospital with dehydration. But no worries: it took me two days to remember who they were, so the loss wasn’t too big.
Since we were getting up really early again the next morning, everyone was hitting the showers in the evening. So did we – and I did not even need a bag of quarters to get the shower started! We all had to share our facilities though with local wildlife, that looked almost familiar.
The second day started early, I think 4.45am, but I felt pretty good since we had all gone to bed at 10pm. All apparently except the driver guide, that unexpectedly dumped us to watch the sunrise over Uluru. We later heard this was because she was stressed out and had to cry to her bosses on the phone. Apparently that was a good cry, because when she picked us up again her mood had lightened.
We went to Kata Tjuta to do a bushwalk. It was all very pretty and we enjoyed ourselves a lot!
After that we made a coffee stop and headed to camp for a BBQ and swim (because it was again too hot an afternoon to handle). Very refreshing and good meat!
The busride to our new campsite at King’s Canyon was long (did I mention the AC of the bus was more present in name than actual reality?) but still wet from the pool and with a wet towel to keep me cool, I slept and could totally handle it. Until we had to stop at the side of the road because our bus had not been able to take a swim and seemed to be overheated.. I can tell you: pirates do not like to be stranded in the middle of the desert when all the rum is gone! After a while the car, obviously reluctantly, started again and off we were. Only to be stopped by a herd of wild camels (fun fact: Australia actually exports camels to Saudi-Arabia!).
At camp I tried to participate in the camping stuff and demolished some veggies with a knife that was about as sharp as my razor after using it three months too long. So when cutting didn’t work I tried to hack skin off the carrots. I can proudly say that more turned up in the sauce than in the trash! After that I decided it was enough, and mr. Scientist and I laid out our stuff for the next day and hit our e-reader. Dinner was great: kangaroo-bolognese! Not as good as crocodile, but definitely tasteful. Although I think I was the only one that went for a refill…
While I was finishing my roo, the others had all showered and started to move beds around the campsite. By that time different guides had come and told different stories about whether it was safer to sleep in beds in tents on the next plot or under the stars on ours, our crewmates decided to combine the best of both worlds. Mr. Scientist and I decided to not walk in their way and hit the showers. Here again, the ladies room looked more like the insect house of any given zoo than my shower at home. On our way back I even spotted a scorpion on the road! Back at the campsite, all beds and people were gone.
It turned out that the beds were not to be moved, so everyone decided to sleep in the beds on the other campsite. Since I had mentally prepared myself for sleeping on the ground in the deadly desert for months, mr. Scientist and I went back to our own plot of land (which we now had all to ourselves – in human terms anyways) and like the original settlers sleep under the stars. The sky was amazing!!
The whole sky was full of stars and some even started falling. I think I saw 10 falling stars, one of them even with a double trail. After a long time I was finally able to sleep, but unfortunately the little scorpion and warnings about the snakes and dingoes had gotten under my skin, so I woke up in a shock several times that night at noises that were at most the wind. It gave me a good chance though to have a good look at the milky way that by that time had become very visible.
This brings us to this morning. Glad not to have been eaten by giant spiders, I got up to try and get some coffee (an experiment that had failed the morning before). I obtained a tin device that is loosely based on a cup, got brewing instructions from a fellow crewmate, even made some boiling black water for mr. Scientist and then… no milk! Sooo close… I headed over to Eriks klein insectenboek to get dressed and brush my teeth, when upon returning someone had made the milk reappear and all was well (especially because I had brought my own salami to have proper breakfast instead of toast with jam).
Precisely in time mr. Scientist and I threw our bag in the trolley and took our seats, when we heard that we were the only ones that were ready and we would start our walk first and then come back to pick everything up. Shameful parenting on the parts of those other people’s parents…
We arrived at King’s Canyon before sunset and were actually the first group there. The first part consisted of a steep stairway up, but since 90% of our group is made up of people living in Alpine countries, everyone jumped up those stairs like professional mountain goats. We enjoyed sunrise on top and walked on. Just beautiful and my favorite part of this trip! The garden of Eden was not as exciting as I expected from reading about it, but what pirate choses Eden over Tortuga anyways?!
At some point during the walk I was minding my own business, looking around and taking some photos when a kangaroo just jumped out of nowhere. Flabbergasted about this unexpected photobombing I just yelled, “hey, a kangaroo” in dismay instead of just making the photo. So sorry, no photo of this mountain kangaroo.
We finished the tour quicker than any other group before. Personally I think this was because all the girls had to go to the bathroom and were all too reluctant to do it in the bushes.
We were back at the camp at 10am, got our stuff, met a 1 meter long goanna at – you guessed it! – “ladies toilets” and are now on our way back to the 21st century (aka a five star resort in Alice Springs) where I will post this blog for you guys.
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