Great Aussie Adventure, Part 3
I recently visited the Land of Oz, otherwise known as Australia. I took a gazillion photos on this trip of a lifetime, so I'm breaking them down into four parts. This is my Great Aussie Adventure, Part 3. (Click the images to see larger versions.)
After visiting the rainforest and Great Barrier Reef in Cairns, we flew to Uluru. My travel companion Nancy and I took advice from my friend Narelle Todd, book business and marketing consultant extraordinaire, and booked a touring company package to see (and hike) the Very Big Rocks. These have been sacred to the Australian indigenous peoples for upwards of 70,000(!) years, but their official geographic names were given by the European explorers who “discovered” them in the 1800s. That's changing, slowly, as Australia acknowledges the original owners of the land and the Ananu names and traditions for these geologic wonders.
Central Australia, a.k.a. the Red Centre, has hellfire hot high temperatures in the long summer and uncomfortably low temperatures in the shorter winter. We were there in Australian fall, so our weather was a happy medium and great for being outdoors. We did a lot of hiking.
The Great Aussie Outback
Australians use the “outback” to mean the largely uninhabited areas in the middle of Australia. With scarce water and resources, the land simply can't support populations of very many animals, including humans.
Unfortunately, one non-native species has done and continues to do a lot of ecological damage: camels. They (and their Afghan handlers) were imported to help create the nation's telegraph communications system. After the job was done, the government ordered the camels to be killed. The handlers were understandably horrified and instead drove the camels away from settlements and let them loose. The camels didn't die, they thrived. As of 2023, there are now probably a million or more feral camels roaming the outback. They knock over trees, eat almost anything, and damage waterholes beyond repair. Despite culling efforts and management plans, they're still a problem that needs to be fixed.
On to happier topics. Our first full day in the Uluru (Ayers Rock) area started with a sunrise viewing of Kata Tjuta, one of the three major rock formations in the area. Its European name was Mount Olga, named after a German queen who funded the exploration expedition that found it. The park has helpfully built a viewing platform that lets tourists like us take beautiful photos (when the weather cooperates), but it does mean you have to get up well before dawn to get there in time). We later went on a ranger-guided hike in Kata Tjuta's Valley of the Winds. I took the shorter route, while Nancy bravely took the longer hike to a spectacular lookout.
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Our home base in Uluru was the Ayers Rock Resort, a cluster of five or six hotels with extra restaurants and stores. We tried most of the eateries and did our tourist duty by visiting all the stores. We went back more than once to the art gallery that featured indigenous artwork, including some big enough for a corporate lobby. Alas, we couldn't figure out how to fit our favorite pieces into our luggage. 🙀
Adventure Hikes in Aussie Land
Hiking is the thing to do in and around Kata Tjuta Park. Some people rent Jeeps and drive themselves, and some tours offer Segways. I refuse to get behind the wheel of any vehicle in Australia because I'd be a menace the second I forgot to drive on the left side of the road. I've also never learned to ride a Segway, so it was five days of walking for Nancy and me.
Next post: Sydney