Saturday, May 06, 2006

Rocking Around Some Rocks

Greetings from Alice Springs, Northern Territory, Australia. Visiting the dead centre of the country for the first time. Just finished a slightly serious hike .. well 62kms at least .. through desert like country .. over a few mountains .. 3 nights sleeping under the stars .. by myself .. but more on that later (or when I can fix up a story on it). Anyway so as to what I have being doing before that.

It started off with the flight to Yulara, the resort town near Uluru (Ayres Rock). Using the Qantas quick check-in I tried to work out what side I should sit on to get a view from the air of the big rock. Of course I chose wrongly and managed to get views of the red-herring of Mt Conner. So as we came into land I was wistfully looking out the window at the flat expanses before I thought I would take a gander across the plane through the other windows. And there it was. A huge bloody big rock. They say you remember the first time you see it. And I will vouch for that. It filled up that little port hole and the one next to it. Hah I was impressed and was eager to get out to it.

Shuttle bus to backpackers. Check-in. Transport to the national park arranged. With-in an hour of landing I was heading out there with some French tourists interspersing their words with "magnific" as we gazed at the sight before us.

And so I got dropped at the base of the climb. And my moment of should I or should I not climb came. After reading the sign and seeing plenty of others go up. I hesitated, re-read the plea from the Aborigines, my leftie side fighting my adventurous side, and then I decided bugger it, I am going up, if it is not illegal .. I want to do it. I also figure if they really don't want people to climb it, why don't they just close the thing off. And I think they should .. not just for their spiritual reason, but because of the damage climbers are doing .. there is a well worn path up there now and you can spot it from a mile away. Besides I don't mind if they close it off now .. because I got to the top.

The climb is surprisingly hard. And I can see why people have died. The first steep ascent with the chain is something else. A trip and a stumble and you would end up at the bottom as a sack of crushed bone and tenderised meat. I took it easy although not as easy as some and I was soon overtaking some climbing. After the chain section the walk was quite easy although the upward does take it out of you. When I got to the top I had the whole place to myself for 20 minutes. I checked to see if my phone had mobile coverage and was surprise to see it did. And so I made a couple of calls to say I was standing on top of Ayres Rock .. a slightly surreal experience.

After the pics and phone calls down I carefully went. Which as usual I think is harder than going up. The old knees don't like this one bit. But I made it without become a broken sack. I kept checking my watch. I had until 5:40 before I was going to be picked up for the sunset viewing. That meant I had just over two and half hours to walk around the base. They say it takes 3-4 hours for the 9.4km distance. So I was off, there was no time to spare.

The base walk got made with half an hour to spare and the shuttle bus arrived and I was off to see the famed sunset .. with the rest of the country it seems. There is this huge car park filled with campervans and cars .. and then there is a completely separate park just for the tour buses. Bloody hell. As to the sunset .. hmm nice, apart from all the idiots I had to share it with. Do I sound cynical in my old age.

Next day I was off to the only other real attraction for miles around. Kata Tjuta or The Olgas. It was an early rise to get picked up at 6:15. Their theory is that the early you get going the better to wander around the Valley of the Winds walk before the hoards. Good point and as it turned out it was a great one. I walked with a couple from the US and I got them excited when we crept up on a couple of little bush roos having their brekkie.

Kata Tjuta

After that was completed I tried to stitch up a tour to get myself to Kings Canyon. As it seems to be the only way possible to get there. All the tour buses come from Alice in a circuit and see that first and then the rock, etc and then head back. So I was out of luck. Next choice was to jump on a Greyhound to Alice. Which I did. And where I still am. Kings C will have to wait. I am hanging here and seeing the sights now until my train arrives on Monday to take me north.

Now for that other story.

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