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Deep in the "Red Center": Uluru, Kata Tjuta, Kings Canyon, Alice Springs. Yes, yes, yeeeees, we made it to Uluru (Ayers Rock)!
After Kakadu we headed down south, passing again through familiar places for me – Mataranka Hot Springs, Daly Waters (the outback entertainment show was not on this time), Tennant Creek. Again going through the nothingness of Australian outback: flat bush lands in every direction, lifeless semi-desert all around. And fucking flies!
Only after Tennant Creek we entered a new territory for me – Devil’s Marbles, then looong stretch of nothing again and then Alice Springs.
Wow, Alice Springs! I remember always looking at this oddly situated town smack in the middle of Australia, in proper middle of nowhere, and suddenly, here I was in Alice Springs, that crazy dot on the map. The town itself is dull, I imagined it somewhat more weird, more cowboy-like, more whatever. We didn’t stay there for the night and continued toward Uluru, which lies 500km away from Alice Springs, in middle of even bigger middle of nowhere than Alice Springs.
Driving at night in the outback is highly non-recommended, because crazy kangaroos jump out of nowhere to commit epic suicides, wrecking people’s cars by their last great acts of self-sacrifice. We only so-so missed one when we were coming to Daly Waters. So this evening, it was already dark and we were just waiting to arrive to the next designated rest area to park our campervan, pitch the tents and go to sleep. Since we left Darwin, we were always sleeping in the rest areas where overnight camping was permitted (and in Kakadu NP in campgrounds), which means you save big on accommodation. Finally, long time after sunset, in dark night we arrived to Mt. Ebenezer where our map showed a roadhouse and a free campground. In the outback, there are very few settlements, and the only pieces of civilization are these roadhouses, places where you can buy petrol and some elementary food. They are isolated like islands in the ocean. No village, no nothing, just roadhouse with its shop, restaurant and petrol. As we arrived to Mt. Ebenezer things got bit spooky. The roadhouse seemed abandoned, sealed by a circle of a tape, that kind of tape that police puts in “Crime scene” places (although this tape didn’t have any writing on it), but at the same time we could see that the roadhouse is actually stocked with drinks and food. Next to the roadhouse surrounded by the tape was an area apparently used for camping, but there was no one there, the toilets where all locked, abandoned. Next to the campground was a little house, more of a shack: doors open, dishes there were washed and put outside for drying, but obviously weeks or months ago, as they were covered by sand and dust. But the chain at the entrance to the camping area was open and there was no sign saying “closed”. The place looked downright spooky and I have to say I didn’t like it all and suggested to move somewhere else, but the rest of the group thought it was OK and so we stayed. We cooked dinner and went to sleep. I took my Swiss pocket knife and put in next to me in the tent, because I had a very weird feeling from that place. It looked like a perfect place for American horror B movie about stupid backpackers who got fucked, killed, cooked and eaten by some mutant retarded community in the middle of nowhere. Few hours later, exactly at 00:17 me and Irene woke up because a car was parking 3 meters from our tent. Light and voices. And suddenly this abandoned place was not so abandoned at all. We were inside the tent and we couldn’t see anything but we could hear, and this is what we heard: “Hahaha, now they will get stuck here FOREVER! Hoooooo. Once you get to Mt. Ebenezer you will NEVER GET BACK!!!” and evil laughter followed. Me and Irene almost pooped our pants and were waiting what would follow, me with my funny knife in my hand. I was already imagining scenes from “Desert has eyes” and other similar horror movies and I could see us getting tied up by some local monster idiots and then being slowly tortured and killed one by one. Luckily the voices sounded like belonging to drank party people, rather than to some mutants and so when the voices went out in few minutes, going to sleep in the adjacent bungalows that we thought were abandoned, we went back to sleep. Anyway it was not good time to wake others and move elsewhere. In the morning there was no one around, but the entrance/exit was chained. This was obviously what they were talking about when making those jokes about “now they will get stuck here forever”, but in reality the chain was not locked, so we just took it off and disappeared before breakfast. Surprisingly, Lucie and Franziska who were sleeping in the campervan did not hear those voices during the night, so they didn’t even know that someone was there during the night. Only me and Irene, and Brice who was sleeping in another tent heard them.
There was no phone signal there (the phone signal is almost nowhere in the outback), and so it was only few days later that I googled that place and found out the scary truth: the place was closed because local Aborigines attempted to kill an owner the roadhouse. They were chasing him with spears and he had to hide and escape through bathroom window, and since then, couple of months ago, the place was shut down. So indeed, the eerie feeling the place emanated was true, someone tried to kill someone here. Nice.
Just before going to Uluru we made a detour to Kings Canyon, “not far away” from Uluru (just 300km, that’s next door by Australian standards). Kings Canyon is oddly situated canyon in the middle of petrified sand dunes which was carved out by occasional stream during occasional rain. Welcome to Australia’s very own version of Arizona. The orange sand dunes turned into rocks and weathered by erosion of millions of years were formed into hundreds of domes creating spectacular scenery. The only problem of the beautiful 5 hour hike we did was the same problem of the whole outback – millions of flies. Luckily by now we “outsmarted” them by buying fly nets in Alice Springs. Very ridiculously looking but extremely useful piece of fashion to put on your head to prevent the little devils of the desert from sneaking into your eyes, ears, nose and mouth.
Next day we arrived to Uluru, one of world’s greatest natural monuments, in the west better known as Ayers Rock. Being situated right in the middle of Australian continent, surrounded by endless desert of all sides, decades ago this must had been one of least accessible places on the planet, but now there is a nice sealed road leading there, and few kilometers from the rock is Ayers Rock Resort, tourist settlement with a campground, few hotels, petrol station, shops and all other amenities for us the tourists.
There are actually two rocks over here. Uluru (Ayers Rock) and Kata Tjuta (Olgas). Uluru is a giant sandstone monolith, Olgas are made of granite and are more spectacularly shaped as beautiful wind-swept domes. We went to check out Olgas first and did a walk there. Very beautiful, totally awesome! I’m not going to write too much about it, because there’s no point. The photos will be much better description of the place, but naturally, they can never fully capture the splendor of the place like this.
Next day we went to see his majesty Ayers Rock itself. Again, I will be short on words as it would be futile even to try to capture that beauty. All I can say, that don’t believe if someone tells you that “it’s just a rock”. Yes, it is just a rock, but its beauty is touching. Peeping out of Australia’s endless flatness, blazing red against the blue sky, shaped into sexy curves like a fine guitar, it shines in the desert with all its majesty. We walked around the whole rock (11 kms), but we did not climb it. It is possible to climb it and tens, maybe hundreds of people do so every day, but there are signs all over the place that the traditional owners aka the Aborigines ask you not to do so, because for them it’s a sacred place and climbing it is very disrespectful. I was fighting with myself a lot when deciding whether to climb or not. I was very determined to respect the Aboriginal traditions and not climb it, but on the other side, the place (in the area where the climb to the top started) looked more like an amusement park than like a sacred place. There was not a single Aborigine around, not one, just white rangers and white tourists. The government put there those fancy sings saying “please do not climb” but at the same time there were ropes to help you to climb it (it would be impossible to climb it without those ropes). I found it highly hypocritical. Now, in 2013 this place is anything but sacred. Land stolen by white people, prime tourist attraction, but boldly speaking about rights of traditional owners, who are left to their alcoholism in towns far away, unable to find meaningful life in the modern society. At the end I decided not to climb. Not so much out of pure respect for Aboriginal traditions (at the end it’s a rock created by nature, not a sacred object created by man…) as there was no any Aborigine anywhere around so no one would really mind, and 100 people were climbing it in that very moment anyway, but simply because I decided to practice “you can’t always get what you want” attitude. It was not right to climb it, but I really wanted to, and so I decided to do what was right and not what I wanted to do. Sigh.
Other members of or group didn’t climb either. The girls didn’t even consider it, and Brice who had wanted to do it got so drunk the day before that he simply couldn’t climb it due to massive hangover.
We saw sunrise over Uluru, we did the walk around Uluru in the daytime, and we saw sunset over Uluru.
Uluru – check.
|MARCEL STRBAK | www.strbak.com | www.facebook.com/marcel.strbak|