I got up at 5 in the morning to get a quick shower before leaving to the Red Center. To get to the bathroom I had to go outside and it was bloody cold. I ran quickly, wearing shorts and a jumper, took the quickest shower ever and ran back to the room. Past six the pick-up bus arrived. It was a usual, big shuttle which I found rather surprising as I thought it would be a van or anything much smaller in size. I loved travelling on a 4WV in Kakadu. It felt much more adventurous than a normal bus. Unfortunately that wasn’t gonna happen this time and I felt quite frustrated about the fact. At last at the beginning because later I just fell asleep because of the early hour. The Red Center’s group average age must’ve been around 35, and among them there were 2 married couples, 1 family with kids who kept talking to themselves (O.o) and some single women in their mid-30s. After a short stopover at an outback grocery store where nobody wanted to buy any alcohol for dinner, I knew I was surrounded by a bunch of bores. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely don’t think buying alcohol on a trip is something obligatory. It’s just that on every single trip in Australia, tour guides ALWAYS do such stopovers for people to be able to buy some booze and even encourage them to do so. When you go on a trip, you usually want to loosen up a bit. Besides, it’s always easier for a group of complete strangers to bond over a cup of beer. Usually, one person from the group asks the others if they want to buy some alcohol together and everyone is like: YES ! Well, not this time. Because the bus was big no one spoke to each other so no wonder the conversation by the fire later in the evening was dull and short-lived. Anyway, while we were driving from Alice to Red Centre I was surprised by all the vegetation in the desert. These days Red Centre is not quite red, it’s actually … green. Because there were no big droughts for a couple of years now and there was more rain than usual during wet seasons, plants covered the outback’s red dirt. While sitting on the bus I saw a huge rock formation and at the beginning thought it was Uluru but later was told it was Mt Conner. We stopped at the lookout to take some photos of it, as well as of the saltwater Lake Amadeus. (with no water in it ;] ). I liked how walking around red sand dunes felt. The sand was incredibly soft and its intensive redness was amazing !
Later in the afternoon we got close enough to Uluru to actually see it. It looked as great as it does on postcards. We drove through the town/resort of Yulara where for 750 or 1000 $ one can appreciate the Red Center’s luxurious side, staying within a 15 minute walking distance from Uluru. Yulara also has the second most expensive backpackers in the World with beds from 60$ a night for the lowest standard (apparently the most expensive one can be found in New York). We went to Cultural Center to find about the significance of Uluru for the Aborigines and read dozens of plaquettes asking tourists not to climb the Rock because of its spiritual significance. I don’t have to tell you how insignificant that was for most visitors who decide to climb it anyway. We went to an art gallery, mainly to look at the Aboriginal paintings. At least in my case buying anything was I’m afraid out of the question considering how expensive everything ‘aboriginal’ is in Australia. After lunch we finally reached the Rock and there’s one thing that one wouldn’t expect after seeing it on hundreds of pictures. It’s enormous ! I mean, I knew it was big but only after seeing it on my own eyes it occurred to me how huge it was. The walk around the base itself is more than 10 kilometers long and once I got close to the Rock it was impossible to see more than just a small part of the wall. Uluru, the biggest monolith in the world, almost 350 meters in height, is purely amazing. Like a lot of other rock formations in the outback, it’s located in the middle of nowhere which makes the impression of it even bigger. Everything around you is flat and desert-like and then you have something as big as Ayers Rock rising above the scenery ! It’s a true wonder and seeing it one’s own eyes is a true revelation. I did half of the base walk on my own which took me more than an hour and reached the infamous climbing site where I found some tombstone-like objects on the wall commemorating people who died trying to climb the Rock. There were just a couple of them. I don’t know what the selection was based on but if every person who died at Uluru would have their own tombstone, that would take a lot of space. Something about 35 people died trying to climb the rock and hundreds after finishing the climb due to heart attack or heat stroke. I really don’t understand people who decide to take the challenge after having read the messages left by the families as well as the Aboriginal owners who politely ask not to climb Uluru. That day, as usual I guess, there were many ‘brave’ people carelessly climbing the rock. Well, they say ignorance is bliss. I’ll remember one of the ‘tombstones’ on the Rock remembering a man whose lifelong ambition was to climb Uluru. Some dreams are larger than life and it takes a great sacrifice to fulfill them. Sometimes even the ultimate sacrifice – one’s life. I’m not in a position to judge whether this is stupid or beautiful but perhaps it’s both.
As the Sun was about to set we drove a few kilometers away from the Rock and stopped at the lookout to watch the sunset. The tour guide prepared some snacks which were immediately acquired by a duet of Austrian girls who wouldn’t let other people get close to the food, not moving away for an inch from the small table. After deciding to let go, the vultures moved to the corner and stared at other people with disgust. I thought Austrians led lives on a reasonably good level but it seems like they might be having problems with famine out there.
After the Sun started to set the spectacle of lights began. With every passing minute Uluru would miraculously change its color and look different. It was spectacular and if you kept taking pictures every couple of minutes, the Rock would look totally different on each one of them. It was really beautiful.
After it got dark we drove to the camping site. The day was really sunny but the wind was strong and it was quite chilly. However, immediately after the Sun hid under the horizon it got really cold. Shortly after, I already had 5 (!) layers of clothes on me. We ate some chicken stir-fry and I waited for the sky to shine with thousands of stars. Unfortunately, thanks to my dumbness, I didn’t notice the full Moon which made me unable to see all the constellations. There were still many stars in the sky but not as many as in Kakadu. In that situation the only thing to do was to jump into my swag. I’ve never slept in a swag before, hell I’ve never even heard of it before coming to Australia. I had some doubts about sleeping outside in something looking like a covered mattress in a temperature close to zero. It was a little uncomfortable and it was hard to make any movements inside. It didn’t feel like it was exceptionally warm inside but it wasn’t cold either. I found some holes above my head a bit frustrating but decided not to give a damn. It was an interesting and a definitely unique experience and to be honest I can’t imagine sleeping in a different place while travelling in the outback. In my head I still had a picture of me freezing to death at night but I fell asleep rather quickly and my pessimistic scenario didn’t come true.
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