Tuesday, April 28, 2009
Alice Springs and Uluru (Ayer's Rock)
Drat! I have to remind myself to load these pictures in reverse order, because I did it again! Then again, Jesus said something like the last shall be first, and the first shall be last, right? Maybe the Blogger folks had that in mind when then wrote this software?
Anyways... after the retreat ended in Sevenhill, the lot of us headed down to Adelaide for two days, and then eight of us flew to Alice Springs in the Northern Territory of Central Australia. Alice Springs is the jumping off point for visitors to the most iconic place in Australia, after the Sydney Opera House. Formerly called Ayer's Rock after a fairly obscure and less than consequential politician, Uluru is a massive sandstone monolith that rises out of the desert. It is considered a sacred site, along with the neighboring Kata Tjuta (Olgas) mountains where the local Aboriginal tribes celebrated ritual ceremonies and conducted their initiation rites for both men and women. For more information about this fascinating World Heritage Site, you might check out the Wiki at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ayer%27s_Rock
We arrived in Alice and spent our first night at a wonderful campsite/retreat just outside of town. David and Sue Woods founded the Campfire in the Heart as a place for visitors to have a less conventional and more culturally sensitive experience of this amazing region. More about David and Sue and their lovely center in the next blog... including our some of our minor misadventures and the way these led to rather wonderful spontaneous fun!
On the second day, we began at 5:45 am as Chris, our guide from Wayoutback tours picked us up in a 4WD bus. We joined a very congenial family from Singapore making it a group of 15. The first stop was a camel farm where a few of us took the opportunity for an early morning ride. Believe it our not, camels from Afghanistan were introduced to the Australian outback during the 19th century because they were much better adapted to the terrain than horses. Today, thousands of wild camels roam the outback-- in fact, we had one browsing through our camp the second night. As it bent down to sniff the father of the family from Singapore, apparently at first he mistook the camel's warm breath for his wife's (yikes!). I got that story second hand, so I cannot guarantee its veracity. In any case, the bottom picture captures a bit of the fun I had riding the camel.
This next picture is of Uluru just before sunrise on the second morning of our bushwalk... splendid even in the rain. There is a whole story about being at Uluru at night during a thunderstorm, experiencing the effect of thousands of gallons of rain streaming down the rock, cascading in windy warm sheets, illuminated intermittently by lightning. But as is often the case, the most memorable and fantastic experiences are the ones that could not be captured in photographs. So, this is a picture of the day after that storm, just five minutes before the sunrise.
The first picture in this series is Uluru at sunrise, with water droplets on my lens. A nice effect. There was a rainbow at the same time, so you can imagine that this was one sunrise worth waking at 4:30 am.
Not much to say here except that it seems that we have an interesting variety of headgear!
And the camel... look at those chompers!
I have enough pictures of those first few days that I might just post a few rounds of pictures and let them speak for themselves.