Sunday, April 21, 2013

Hard Rock...No Cafe

My time in Alice Springs is drawing to a close, so we decided I couldn't leave without going to the iconic Uluru (aka Ayers Rock).  It is about 4-1/2 hour drive from Alice, but on excellent roads with virtually no traffic, it was an easy drive.

There are very few places to stop along the way, but Curtin Springs had our sought after coffee.
Roger bought a cup of coffee at this shop from a waitress that comes from Fort McMurray!
Laughed at the signs that indicate "Sheilas" and "Blokes"
Mount Conner is 100 kms from Uluru and we thought resembled Tabletop Mountain in Cape Town.

We stayed at Sails in the Desert, a beautiful resort in the very small village where all accomodation, shops and a couple of restaurants are located.  It was surprising there were so few places to go, and we kept saying, "Is this it?  One of the shops sold T-shirts stating, "Hard cafe" and we began to see what it meant.
Our terrace
Cold beer and a delicious lunch at the hotel
It was recommended that we head to the Cultural Center near the Rock, so we went there around 5 p.m. before going to the sunset viewing area.  The place was a ghost town with only one art studio open and an empty Cultural Center.  However, the center was really well done, and explains the Anangu culture.

Sunset and sunrise are the two prime times to photograph the Rock, so we headed to one of the viewing areas to capture the changing colors.  People had already started setting up their lawn chairs and Eskie and we noticed most people were wearing fly nets because the flies were the most tenacious ones we've ever experienced.  They are not satisfied to buzz.  No -- these go in your ears...up your nose and behind your glasses!  Abandoning all thoughts of what it made us look like, we put ours on too.

These pictures were taken over a 30 minute period and reflects the extreme changes in color.

The next morning, we took a helicopter ride at sunrise to see the rock and Kata Tjuta from the air.  We couldn't have picked a more beautiful morning.

Having another pinch myself moment!

We then flew over Kata Tjuta which are about 30 kms from Uluru and shaped very differently.

By the time we had breakfast and checked out of the hotel, it was already in the mid 30s as we returned to the Rock to see it up close.  From afar, it seems to be just a huge rock, but once we started walking on the path system we could see the many caves, ridges, and coloring created over the last several million years.

Mutijulu waterhole 

Holes in the rock face
Cave paintings

There is a climbing track up Uluru however the Aboriginals view it as sacred and so the practice is discouraged. Our helicopter pilot says there is a push to ban climbers altogether.  In the meantime, the climb is often closed due to heat and wind, which is was when we were there.  Several people have died doing the climb; my friend, Betty Belanger did it 32 years ago which is pretty impressive.  I was relieved it was closed so I didn't have to wrestle with my body or conscience over whether to climb or not.
Climbing track up Uluru
The fly nets may not have been a fashion statement -- but saved our sanity over the flies
Some sections of Uluru resembled a skateboard track with its smooth, curved walls
When it rains, the waterwalls are supposed to be spectacular.  You can see the change in color caused by the rain.
While Uluru is spectacular, photographers, artists and geologists would probably get more out of a visit there.  We left adding it to the list of places we're glad we've seen, but feeling one visit is enough.  Kind of like: been there..done that...didn't buy the T-shirt.

As we drove home, Roger said, "You've got to hand it to the Aussies.  They've made a huge business out of a rock."  Good on you!

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