Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Australia Day 7 - Ayers Rock Camping

As the only Americans we did our best to build good international relations. A couple from The Netherlands at one point offered us candy. Not wanting to be rude we gladly accepted. It was a salty, black licorice candy that is apparently very popular in the Netherlands. It must be an acquired taste. We were able to choke it down without regurgitating.

We also chatted with a brother and sister from Switzerland who were back packers. They were spending 6 months all over Australia and planned to spend another 3+ months in the US and Canada. Of course I'd heard of back packing but never in the context of a job or lifestyle. Very interesting people (but can't say I'd want to switch places with them).

Thankfully we were more than equipped to handle the hiking, so our amateurish hiking attire was not a problem. The day we landed we hiked around the Olgas, watched the sun set behind Ayers Rock  (very beautiful), and ate a delicious dinner back at the campsite (bbq kangaroo is great!).

That night we camped out in style. The tents were basically permanent and had beds, lights, and wood floors. Plus we had a cook in a kitchen to provide breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The restrooms and showers were community, like you'd see in a park back home. Basically this was my idea of camping!

The second day we watched the sun rise over Ayers Rock (also very beautiful) and then hiked around the base of Ayers Rock. After that we rushed off to the airport for our next leg of the vacation (everyone else stayed for 2 or 3 more nights filled with more serious hikes and less luxurious accommodations).

Two things to know about Ayers Rock (aka Uluru) and the Olgas (aka Kata Tjuta). First they are both important and sacred Aboriginal sites and there is some difficulty in balancing preservation of their history and culture and allowing for the huge influx of tourists to see these wonders of nature. Climbing to the top of Ayers Rock is not yet forbidden but it is strongly discouraged. The day we were there it was closed due to high winds so we didn't have to choose between climbing a big rock and insulting an indigenous people.

The other thing is these are both amazing geologic features. They are huge rocks jutting out of the ground in an otherwise flat and baron landscape. To give you some perspective, Ayers Rock is taller than the Eiffel Tower and it's a 9 mile walk around the base! It's said to be the largest single rock in the world! We took a ton of pictures and it was a really neat experience. But there just isn't much more I can say about a bunch of rocks, so I'll end it here.

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