Sunday, June 1, 2014

Uluru Up Close and Far Away

Our first glimpse of Uluru came as we drove here. It rose off to our left, taunting us to stop for the photo op.

 Then the road turned, and Uluru disappeared. We did not see it again that day despite arriving at the Ayers Rock Resort, the closest lodging to Uluru. We could have seen it, but we did not seek it out since we knew we would be seeing it at sunset the next day and sunrise the day after that. Instead, we expanded our knowledge of Aussie beers and ate pizza.

We had but one mission for the next morning—attend the boomerang and spear throwing class. We threw boomerangs at a workshop in Charlottesville a few years back. David Maurer wrote a feature article about it for the Daily Progress. I ended up featured in the article thanks to the squeal I let out when I finally got the boomerang to return to me. I figured that if I didn’t get to throw a boomerang here that was okay. I wanted to throw a spear, and throw a spear I did. Not very well, mind you, but I threw one.

The spears were rough and not very aerodynamic. I think my farthest throw was about 15 yards. Two ways of throwing a spear were presented, one barehanded and one using something like a launch platform. I only threw barehanded. Your index finger fits in a depression into one end of the spear, and then you launch it over your shoulder. The launch platform (there was a name for it, but I don’t remember) was a bit longer than one foot. The spear sat in it, and you sent your arm forward while holding on to the platform. The people who used this seemed to be throwing farther than those of us who didn’t. The husband also gave it a whirl.

I was pretty dismal at throwing the boomerang, though I did get it to arc back around once.

We learned that there are returning boomerangs and non-returning boomerangs. A returning boomerang would be thrown into a flock of birds or ducks getting them to fly up so that they could be taken down. Because the boomerang returned, the hunter did not have to risk crocodile attack going into the water to retrieve it. The non-returning boomerangs were larger and heavier and were intended to kill something.

After the spears and boomerangs, I retired to the laundry room to work on my previous blog post. The husband went to a didgeridoo class. Because women traditionally do not play the didgeridoo, I figured I was better off not being there and unable to participate. The husband evidently got some notes out of the didgeridoo he tried, something not everyone managed to do.

In the evening, we went to something called the Sounds of Silence dinner. It started with libations and canapes while watching the sun set at Uluru.

The photo above was taken by a young American who works for Boeing in Newcastle. His parents were visiting him, and we really hit it off trading stories. Once the sun was pretty much down, we moved to an outdoor dining room where we combined to make a party of five to sit together. We were joined by an Australian couple and a global family of three—a German wife, a British husband, and their 12-year-old daughter who was born in Germany. The family lived for a time in New Zealand but now live in Melbourne.

Dinner featured Australian specialties such as kangaroo and crocodile accompanied, of course, by some good Australian wines. During the dinner there were various entertainments including some aboriginal dancers and a didgeridoo player. When it was dark, around dessert time, an astronomer showed us various parts of the night sky including the Milky Way (I have never seen that from Charlottesville) and another galaxy and, of course, the Southern Cross. Unintended entertainment was also provided by the dingoes that circled the dining area. Because our table was at one side rather than surrounded by other tables, we got especially up close with one dingo in particular. In terms of how one deals with dingoes, here’s a sign from the hotel’s Laundromat.

The 14-kilometer (9 miles) sunrise hike started quite early or perhaps it only felt that way given the wine consumed the night before. The hike was small—just four of us with the guide. The sunrise was every bit as stunning as the sunsets we’ve seen have been.

One of the most interesting things about being so up close and personal with Uluru was seeing how the colo(u)rs changed as the angle of the sun changed. The following photos were taken at various points throughout the morning with the sun at different angles and from different directions.

The variety of flowering plants was also impressive.

Thirty percent of the rain that falls on Uluru collects in this watering hole.

Rock paintings and petroglyphs aren’t common, but there are a few. I needed the super-zoom on my camera to get the first shot, which is a petroglyph rather than a painting. The tracks shown are those of an emu.

 In terms of wildlife, we didn’t really see any but some birds, unless you count this termite nest.

Climbing Uluru is discouraged, but people still do it anyway.

Right now, about 26 percent of the visitors to Uluru try to climb it. If that figure gets down to 20 percent, they may put an outright ban on climbing. There are real issues with the amount of human waste deposited on top of the rock and leaching down into the water below. The lithium from discarded batteries is also affecting the ecosystem.

Finally, I should offer proof that we were there. Here we are at the end of the walk, tired but none the worse for wear.

And, perhaps more exciting, here we are with our butts on the same bench that held Prince William and Kate’s butts on their recent trip here.

After we returned from the walk, we had time to kill thinking they would clean our room in the meantime. They didn't, but the husband took a dynamite panorama from one of the resort's observation points.

And so, tomorrow we start on the way home. We fly from the Ayers Rock airport to Sydney and, on the day after, from there to Los Angeles, then Atlanta, then home. It will be a long day as we reclaim the one we lost on the way out here. Three weeks was a good length for this trip. We are both ready to head home. Two weeks would not have been enough, but four would have been too many. I hope you have enjoyed reading these posts as much as I have enjoyed writing them as my trip journal of sorts. Until next trip...

1 comment:

Caroline M said...

It's been interesting, thank you for taking the time to share it with us.