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Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Monday Sept 23
Another 500 KM of dry shrub land and we actually made it to the heart of the continent: Uluru. The campground is part of a low village of hotels, store, restaurants and visitors centre that, more or less, blends into the surroundings. At least it is nowhere very obtrusive. At sunset we drove 25 KM into the park to a viewing spot where we parked, along with many others and had a perfect, unobstructed view of the big rock as it changed colors in the setting sun.
Was it worth driving thousands of miles for?
It certainly stirred my heart, both as the icon it is and for its stark, natural beauty. Tomorrow... we rise well before the sun to be there as it comes over the horizon.

Tuesday Sept 24
The people right next to us watching the sun set on Uluru, turned out to be a wonderful couple (a teacher!) from Perth, on a year long trek around Australia. When we got back to the campground it turned out they were our neighbors there too. Destiny. We so enjoyed visiting with them and picking their brain both for spots to see on our trip and for information on Perth.
At 6 AM we drove to Uluru only to discover that we didn’t have enough gas in our tank to drive all the way to the sun rise viewpoint. So we didn’t join those crowds but got an early start on our hike around the base. A 10 KM loop that skirts the big orange mountain. It was still nice and cool but we did have to cover our heads with fly nets. Kees looked like a walking raisin bread with all the flies who hitched a ride on his head and shoulders. They didn’t seem to like me as much. Fine.
Our hike was great and interesting. In my head I could hear the didgeridoos of native people.... I think we did hear dingos singing in the distance.
A visit to the aboriginal culture center taught us more about a very recent way of life. People not much older than us, who remember seeing the fist white person. So much has changed in their life time. And not all for the better. Imagine living a peaceful life, living off the land, learning from your elders. And then having that entire rug pulled out from underneath you. They could not practise their way of living, eating, dancing, celebrating, even speaking. It’s hard to understand that fair skinned children were taken from their families to  be raised by white families. Not ‘just’ put in boarding schools but stolen from their families. People our age remember their mothers hiding them when government officials came to their village. What possessed white people to act that way? Slavery, prohibiting other cultures from speaking their own language, taking everything.... The mind boggles at how some people acted. Hopefully in the past tense. There’s a movement on now called “Bring Them Home” trying to locate those ‘children’ to put them back in touch with their families.
Australia’s aboriginal people have beautiful faces, as if carved from mahogany. Broad noses, very curly hair. Women were painting their famous dot stories outside the visitors centre. Inside was information on how the National Park is jointly run by locals and white people. If an elder has passed away, their photo is covered up and their name cannot be mentioned anymore. We were struck by how many similarities there are to Canada’s Inuit people: the sounds of drumming and chanting, the way the words look.
Everywhere signs ask you not to climb Uluru because it is a sacred site and the aboriginal people don’t want you to climb it. Yet we saw a long line of people clambering up... Why?! I asked a ranger why they don’t simply prohibit it. The reply was that government is afraid that less people will come (and leave their money). If you plan to visit Uluru, please don’t climb! It’s kind of like a horde of jolly people entering the Anglican church to have a picnic on the alter.

The rest of the day, we swam in the pool, had showers, took a nap, did laundry and cooked a nice grilled chicken dinner.

Wed Sept 25

Up again at 5:45 AM to quickly drive to the Kata Tjuta range to see the sun rise. These mountains are 50 KM from Uluru, of the same stone but more broken into individual shapes. Nice too. But I was disappointed by how many people are here. Whole bus loads show up and crowd onto the viewing platforms. We couldn’t even get close enough to see Uluru in the distance.  The other disappointment is that you are not allowed to take photos anywhere: around the mountains, in and near the visitor centre, etc. etc.
We started on the hike around Kata Tjuta but it was a clamber over boulders, and too many people. So, after a final farewell to the big rock, we headed back to Alice Springs. The park gave us a fond farewell by having a herd of feral camels roam in plain view!
37ΓΈ C in Alice Springs.

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