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Many Adventures of a Nomadic Poet A young poet with Asperger's makes travel his passion, and away he goes...

Uluru, and Kata Tjuta

AUSTRALIA | Saturday, 20 January 2007 | Views [1365]

            Today was my 12th day in this beautiful land and I woke up in a swag roll. I actually had woken up at like 3:30 (or something like that; I don’t have a watch) and thought it rained because my pack was saturated with dew. I fell back asleep and woke up at 5:30 just as the sun was coming up. I rolled up my swag roll and had breakfast out in the bush. I ate Weet-Bix and some peanut butter toast. I also had some good ol’ billy tea. It was a beautiful morning and I was excited about the journey ahead. We loaded up the swags and all our stuff, and today was only a short drive: 200 km compared to 800 km yesterday. We went back to Curtin Springs and washed up. I grabbed a Red Bull at the store and we had a few minutes. After that we were on our way to Kata Tjuta, which in English is called ‘the Olgas.” About halfway there, we got our first glimpse of Uluru. I was really happy, and the sky was so clear. It’s the perfect day to see these spectacular rock formations. We drove past Uluru and headed in the direction of Kata Tjuta. If we drove 240 km more, we could be at the Western Australia border. It’s a great feeling being in one of the remotest sections of the planet. After the long drive, we arrived at the majestic Kata Tjuta. It is so spectacular! We all got our water bottles and Leith led the way. I learned that “Kata Tjuta” comes from an Aborigine word meaning “many heads,” and there are a total of 28 domes. On the way here, Leith told us that “the Olgas” look like Homer Simpson lying on his back. I’m not sure about that though because I haven’t seen the Simpson’s enough. The Olgas get their name because the explorer Sir Ernest Giles really loved Duchess Olga of Luxembourg (even though he never met her), and he named the rocks after her. After we got out, Leith pointed out the Petermann Ranges in the distance and told us that they were over 10 km high 500,000,000 years ago and perhaps the highest mountain range ever. Mt. Everest isn’t even 9 km high. We began our trek through Kata Tjuta, and Leith told us that we’re not allowed to climb the domes because they are sacred to the Aborigines, although they are perfect for climbing because they are sandstone. The desertscape here is even better than in Arizona. We kept hiking and I could not help myself from taking a lot of pictures. I’ve almost filled up one of my memory cards and I’m only a little more than halfway through my 2nd trip Down Under. Then we rested for a few minutes, and then had a choice of a short route or a long route. I chose the long route because I wanted to see more. For awhile I walked with Julia and her boyfriend, but I lagged behind because I kept snapping pictures. I never realized how much I liked hiking until I went glacier hiking (tramping) in New Zealand. Carrying my water bottle and camera, I hiked like I was on a walkabout for over an hour, all while admiring the many domes of Kata Tjuta and feeling like I was on another planet. I walked with Laura, this girl from Texas, for awhile. At one point, I made a B-line for the top of one of the domes, but I didn’t go too far up. Laura kind of picked on me because we can’t climb the domes. The domes of Kata Tjuta are some of the most beautiful rock formations I’ll probably ever see. I hiked up between two large domes and met the rest of the team. The area I was hiking through is called the Valley of the Winds, and I reckon it’s very windy! But, it kept us cool on our hike. As we all relaxed at the 2nd lookout, we ate fruit cake (as an energy food) and enjoyed the beauty of Kata Tjuta. The rock formations are breathtaking! After about a half hour of relaxation, we continued. Leith told us that the area we were walking through was once used as a training ground for Aboriginal men. There was one ritual where Aboriginal men would cut open their chest and put hot coals in the wound and allow skin to grow over it as a show of manhood. That sounds extremely painful! As we continued back, I couldn’t take my eyes off the domes. The hike in all lasted about 3 hours. I’ve done so much walking on this trip: far more than I’m used to. I miss my bike! It would be cool to ride my bike around the Outback, but I’m not sure if I could handle it. Biking around New Zealand sounds more plausible. We all piled back into the bus and it was time for lunch. We drove for about 5 minutes to the lunch area, which had a great view of Kata Tjuta. There I was able to nail the perfect postcard shot of the Olgas. For lunch, I ate chicken, corn, and pineapple in a tortilla. It’s an interesting combination, but it was very good. On our tour we’ve had to carry everything and wash all our own dishes, just like the swaggies did it. After about a half hour, we were on the road again. Our next stop was the Aboriginal Cultural Center. Leith told us that he doesn’t find it all that interesting, but his boss would get upset if we passed it up. We began driving closer to Uluru, and I was very happy because I had fulfilled another of my 100 travel goals. A short while from the culture center, Leith let us jump out and get a photo of the Rock. I’ve been to all these places now and I get to show it off to all my friends. Nancy has been to the Red Centre, and she said she loved it. Well, I love it too! A short while after the photo stop, we got to the culture center. The culture center is very close to Uluru. Inside, we were not allowed to take photos. I saw a video of the Aborigines performing a ceremony. Afterward, I checked out the artwork. I find Aboriginal artwork very interesting. The most interesting thing though, was the “sorry book.” Many people have taken home rocks from around Uluru, and have mailed them back because of all the bad luck they were having after taking a rock home. Some people wrote about family members being diagnosed with cancer and stuff like that. They wrote letters of apology, many not knowing that it is a sacred site. At the shop, I got a few postcards, a Diet Coke, and yoghurt. I talked with the girls at the shop for while and then we were picked up. I found the culture center to be very informative. The next stop on our agenda was our campground at Yulara. We continued to drive though the Red Outback until we reached the campground. Tonight, we were sleeping in swags again. It’s really fun! I ran straight to the showers, because I hadn’t had one in two days. I took a nice long shower and washed up well and dried myself with my shirt because I don’t have a towel. I also washed my socks in the sink and hung them up to dry. Hey, that’s all part of traveling cheap! I ran up to the convenience store to get some snacks. However, I had no cash and there was no ATM. My debit card got declined and I had the girl try it as credit and it worked, but she told me that I had to show and ID with my signature, and my international student ID wasn’t signed. She refused to give me my card and I was really upset because I had to run all the way back to my campsite to get my passport. It was so ridiculous and I should never have to be this upset when I travel. She said I should be thankful, but she was just annoying. I ran back to the campsite and nearly missed our bus. Leith let me jump out with my passport and go get my card. I was really pissed because I paid heaps of money to come to the Red Centre, and that girl wouldn’t have a job if it weren’t for people like me traveling to Uluru and Kata Tjuta. Anyway, I got my card back and we were off to a magical sunset at Ayer’s Rock. As we drove closer to the world’s largest monolith, a very special sense of joy swept over me: I’m at a place that I dreamed of as a young boy. Before sunset, Leith took us on a short walk at the Rock. By the time we were there, I was beginning to see the red color of sunset. It is so beautiful! We saw the point where people begin climbing the Rock, but it is closed at this time of day. We started walking and at our first stop, I placed both of my hands on Uluru. I felt so excited that I finally got to touch Ayer’s Rock. As we continued, Leith showed us Aboriginal rock paintings and this big section of the rock that looks like a wave (similar to another rock located near Broome). I got a picture where it looks like the rock is coming down on me. Then, we saw this area called Mala Puta; a sacred site to Aboriginal women. It is a section of the Rock where we were not allowed to take photos at the request of the Aborigines. We then walked a little further to this small water hole before going back. We had to hurry to catch the sunset, so we made a run for it. Leith started the bus and we all piled in to go see the majestic sunset. It was about a 10-minute drive to the sunset watching area. We got there, and the rock was beginning to change to a very bright red color. I continued snapping picture after picture of the Rock. The sun was getting ready to set, and I could notice the various colors of Uluru. I couldn’t trade anything for this. It didn’t matter how expensive the flight was; it’s all about the experience. At the site, we spent over an hour and I took like 30 pictures while feeling the red sand between my toes. Looking across the plain, even Kata Tjuta looked amazing. After a memorable sunset, it was time to head back. I tried to clean all the dead bugs off the bus windshield, but I only made it worse. I told Leith that I’d clean it good when we got back to the campsite. I’ve had heaps of fun on this tour, and I’ve learned so much. As we headed away from magnificent Uluru, it was getting dark, and I could see the stars like last night. We got back to the campsite at about 7:45 and I wanted to run to the Mobil station before it closed. As we drove in, Leith drove around a roundabout like 8 times, and another bus followed us circling it. When we pulled in, I ran up to the Mobil station and got some Diet Coke and water. I then walked back and apologized to the girl at the store for the incident earlier, but she didn’t seem to be very accepting of it. I don’t care though; I’m not letting it ruin my trip. I went back and almost thought that someone stole my camera battery, but Leith hid it to teach me a lesson that it could have been stolen. While Leith was cooking dinner, I did a good scrubbing of the windshield. That way, we have a clear windshield so we can see the Rock at sunrise. For dinner I had beef stir-fry, and again it was very good. I also had rice. I then did a postcard of Kata Tjuta for Mr. Hanley, and after that I rolled out my swag. Tomorrow I have to get up at 4:45 for a memorable Uluru sunrise. As I lay in my swag, I gazed in silent wonder at the stars imagining what Uluru will look like tomorrow morning. But, one thing I have to say is that I’ll never forget the starry nights of the Australian Outback. I’m going to sleep, but I’ll see you in Alice Springs tomorrow night recapping another adventurous day!

Tags: Adventures

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