Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Australian Outback Safari - Day 1-2

Our bus...taken later on our trip.
We were picked up from our hotel promptly at 5:45 to start our Outback tour.  Our bus was a fairly new, air-conditioned, 4WD vehicle seating about 15-16 people with a trailer attached to it to carry all of our bags, camping gear and food.  We would be switching campsites every night and making some pretty long drives between sites, so it was nice not to have to sit with our bags everywhere we went.  Our guide was Katie, a perky thing from New Zealand that would prove to be one of the highlights of the trip.  We were only the second people to be picked up and everyone was still pretty sleepy, so it would be much later before we really got to know the rest of our group.

Our first major stop was going to be at Ayers Rock, or Uluru as the indigenous would like for everyone to call it.  A little blurb from the brochure... "Uluru stands an imposing 348 metres above the surrounding desert and has a circumference of 9.4km. It measures 3.6 km long and 2.4 km wide oriented in an east-west direction. Rather like an iceberg, there is more of Uluru under the ground than above it which really brings home the enormity of it. "

I read somewhere that you can actually see it from space.  The biggest rock in the world.  Anyway, it was 3 hours away so we broke up the time with a few stops.  The most memorable being the camel farm.  Jake and I had decided long ago that we wanted to ride one of the many camels in the Outback (until recently, I had no idea they even had camels.  But apparently, they're abundant...left over from WWII days).  We giggled the whole time...Jake would have loved to have done the whole safari on the camel.  It was just a short ride (think pony ride at the fair), but well worth the effort (and $13).

As we drove our first few hours we were all cranning our necks out the window to see what Australia looked like.  The first time one of us spoke, it was Andy.  "This looks exactly like west Texas." 

"I thought it was very similar to Oklahoma myself,"  was my reply.  "hmmmm....."  It reminded me of our 21 day crossing to the Marquesas only to pull up to an island that looked exactly like Mexico (at least from one side).

So we were thrilled to finally arrive at Uluru and see the big red rock, which did not look like west Texas at all.  But before we could see the big rock, we stopped at our campsite to eat lunch, unload and get a little briefing.  That was when we had our first "incident."  We were just about to start to eat when we heard Jake waling.  We looked over and he was hopping around with one of his feet covered in ash.  The kid had stepped in a fire pit, used the night before and covered up in ash.  It wasn't smoldering but I have to say it was the most proper fire pit I have ever seen, complete with bricks around it and I still, for the life of me cannot believe he didn't know what it was (which is what he said).  A long story short, he ended up with first and second degree burns on his little foot.  Andy and I aside from being worried, of course, were just sure this was the end to our very expensive vacation.  With the help of some medical supplies, Dr. Andy fixed him up.  We took the wait and see approach.  After a hard hour or two (a lot of crying and wriggling), the ibuprofin kicked in and the initial shock started to wear off.  Just in time for our tour of Uluru.  We took a fairly short walking tour and learned all about the significance of the rock to the Aborigines, along with some of their creation stories.  At the end, Jake actually liked the stories better than the rock.  We finished up just in time for a sunset viewing, complete with champagne.

One of the blisters on Jake's foot.

Thousands of people come here every year to climb Uluru.
Lots of signs trying to convince people they don't want to
climb the rock.

Our guide, Katie, explaining "the kitchen."
A small cave where women used to do their

I'll explain the goofy hats later.

Our first night was spent sleeping under the stars in a swag.  It's kind of like a zip up sock for your sleeping back, but has a mattress and pillow.  My first thought was that they were a little over rated (highly touted on the website, as well as by the guide and other reviewers online).  It was a little clostraphobic and I thought the bathrooms were too far away for my nightly stroll (but at least we had bathrooms).  I'm feel like a tool saying that I'm spoiled with the night stars out on the ocean, so even that was a bit less dramatic than I was hoping for.  With all of that said, we were still having a good time and extremely thankful that Jake's foot was turning out ok.

Day 2 started way earlier than I would have liked (5:00 am) to view the sunrise over Uluru.  I stayed back at camp looking for a misplaced camera, but Andy said I didn't miss much.  I guess we're a little jaded living on the boat - stars, sunsets, takes a lot to impress this bunch.

We were soon headed off to hike the Olgas, or Kata Tjuta.  This was a pretty lengthy hike.  I was worried about the little guy, but he hung in the full 5.whatever kilometers with barely a wimper.  As a matter of fact, he ran ahead a bit to chat up our guide throughout the hike on varying subjects, but mostly dinosaurs.  She liked kids and whether she new it or not, by appearing interested, she was instigating a weeklong friendship with Mr. Know it All (she later dubbed him her "google").

To be honest, most of the week was hiking, driving and camping so the significance of the various rocks and mountains sort of ran together in my head.  I'll let the pictures do the talking.

If you look really close, you can see a kangaroo in the middle
of the picture.  Jake got to check his "kangaroo" box.

After a few more stops and another long drive, we ended up at our campsite for the night.  This was one of the most remote places we would go.  We saw some dingos (even a baby), some wild camels and horses, and got to try out our first "bush shower."  Apparently, you light a fire to heat up the water and shower in a 3 sided structure while looking out into the wilderness.  We skipped the fire as it wasn't that cool of an evening, but enjoyed the whole outback-ness of it all.  I haven't mentioned the food yet.  While breakfast and lunch were somewhat redundant, the campfire dinners were awesome.  This night was the first night Katie, our guide made the traditional "damper" bread over the fire.  Absolutely delicious (we were lucky enough to get it every night afterwards).

Another "Where's Waldo."  See the baby dingo?

I chose to sleep in the tent at this particular campsite while Andy and Jake stayed in the swags.  Unfortunately, I had to get up in the middle of the night again and make another long trek to the bathroom.  My biggest reason for complaining is because I'm a scaredy cat.  I just new something was going to sting me, bite me, or jump on me (the bathroom was three sided to).  I got back to my tent just in time to hear a pack of dingos start howling.  They howled and howled and got closer and closer.  I've never been so glad to be back in bed.  

A chipper 6:00 am wake up call had us up and moving getting ready for our next day's hike...Kings Canyon.

Some random pictures from some of our various stops between major sites...

Jake took this picture.  Cool little thing on one of our lunch stops.
We're arguing over wether it's a perentie or a goanna.

Funny little Emu.

A salt lake that was way more interesting than I thought
it would be.

Jake gathered some salt for his dinner.

 Hopefully I'm leaving you full of suspense, like your favorite soap opera.  If not, you're probably at least glad that I'm done for the day....only one more post left to wrap up this self proclaimed epic tale...

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