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The trip to Uluru_Kata Tjuta National Park is without question the highlight of every Outback tour. You don't really know what to expect and your feelings about the whole thing are quite mixed - especially after you've been told all the stories about people who've died out there, last case of death only one week ago. Above all, after having seen Uluru on at least a dozen of pictures, I was wondering what it would be like to finally see 'The Rock' with my very own eyes.
I was picked up too early in the morning by a small tour bus - a 500km ride still lying ahead of our travel group. Our guide Dan was probably the best thing that could have happened to us - he managed to organise the tour informative, casual and funny at the same time (funny mainly because of his Aussie slang, his most frequently said sentence being: 'Oook guys, how many spare seats have we got left in the back? 3? Beauuuutiful. Tooo easy.') He constantly reminded us of the importance of sufficient water supply: at least 1l/h to avoid dehydration which is the most common cause of death in the Outback.
After only 15 min out of town we lost radio reception, from then on solely relying on our IPods. We stopped the first time at 9am at an isolated service station - and couldn't believe how hot it already was. The heat is not the only problem out there - in addition you have to struggle with millions of flies buzzing around your head, making a protection net under your hat indispensable. By the time we reached Ayers Rock in the early afternoon, the heat had raised to a temperature of about 40 degrees.
After having visited the Aboriginal Cultural Centre we started the 9km base walk around Uluru. Unfortunately, the rock is significantly less impressive regarded from a close distance, resembling very much an..ordinary albeit massive rock! I thought more than once that this walk was slowly but surely going to kill me, and while I was experiencing this rather unpleasant feeling I kept asking myself why I had actually paid money to walk around a big rock with innumerous flies when it's unbearably hot. After 10 min, the only thing I had in mind was a nice and cold shower. It is pretty hard as well to keep drinking when you're actually not thirsty, should you feel so you're already dehydrated.
However, the feeling when eventually realising you have completed this walk rather compensates for all agonies suffered... A by the way very interesting part of the tour was when Dan informed us about the different explanations for Uluru's existence and appearance, one being the geological one and the other the traditional interpretation of the Aborigines. I most liked their explanation for the many holes on the East side of the rock: according to their legend, two angry birds had thrown spears at a lazy lizard which had stolen their prey, leaving holes in the rock each time they failed to hit the greedy reptile.
What followed then was a truly awesome evening. Watching Uluru changing colours during sunset from a glowing red to a deep purple is simply sensational. I really hadn't expected that much from Uluru - it just IS a rock after all - but despite of the fact that you know about its geological origin, you're still very much tempted to believe in a miracle. Flat desert as far as the eye can see - and then suddenly this massive monolith - it really is breathtaking. (A very nice side effect is that you shortly forget about all the tourists around you) Luckily, we stayed for another 2h after the sun had gone down and enjoyed the sudden silence (we were the only group left) and Uluru illuminated by the unclouded starry sky of the Outback, drinking cold beer and savouring Thai food which Dan had prepared. Can it get any better? Yes. The shower I had back at the camp site was the best I've ever had. Later on, we formed a circle with our swags, and after a short glimpse of the amazing sky I fell asleep.
It was still dark when Dan woke us up the next morning as we didn't want to miss out on the sunrise over Uluru. It really was ridiculous, but suddenly a few people started a quarrel with each other, discussing which spot would be best for the perfect sunrise. Is it better to have the sun in the back so you can watch the reverse change of colour, or more beautiful to see the sun rising behind the rock? In order to make a compromise, Dan drove us to both sides of the rock, with the fabulous result that we saw neither of them properly. After a quick breakfast we made our way to the Olgas where I decided (still dunno why) to do the long 7km walk through the Valley of Winds. Concerning the heat, the flies, the warm water we had to drink ('Ok guys, make sure you top up your water bottles each time you pass a drinking station..' yeah yeah heard this all before) and my craving for a shower, everything was pretty much the same. The landscape was obviously different though and much more rewarding as well. The Aboriginal name for 'The Olgas', 'Kata Tjuta', means 'many heads', and that's exactly what the rocks look like. Everything was more challenging than at the day before, but walking between those 'heads' and passing the 'Valley of Winds' was a fantastic experience.
On our way to Kings Canyon in the late afternoon we spotted two wild camels grazing at the side of the road. It is so hard to believe, but over one million wild camels live in the Australian Outback! In fact, it is the only country in which camels still run wild! They're amazing creatures. Once again we stayed at a campsite, sleeping in swags around a campfire and for those who wanted to try, freshly grilled Kangaroo tail was on offer (I wish this was a joke, I still don't get how people can actually eat this).
When we arrived at Kings Canyon at 7.30 the next morning, it was already 28.5 degrees in the shade (Dan's comment: 'Fantastic! I've never done this walk when it was this cool!') Yeah, sure, toooo easy. This time I decided to choose the shorter option and relaxed most of the time at a water hole in the Kings Canyon Valley with one part of the group, while the other one tried to climb that huge rock formation. Next (warm) shower opportunity: the hostel back in Alice Springs!
To top our trip off, we all met cleaned up for dinner and drinks at 'The Rock Bar' back in town (our gathering eventually turned into a big party as it was St Patrick's Day). What was lying behind us were 3 awesome, memorable but exhausting days. Did we have a good time? Yeeaaaaah. Thumbs up! Tooo easy.