Friday, 6 December 2013

The Red Centre Adventure begins!

So we were up, packed, luggage stored and breakfast eaten by 5.45am! We met our tour leader Chris, whose main mission for this tour was to treat us like best mates rather than a tour leader, which he definitely succeeded in! We also had Luke, who was training to start leading his own tour groups. Chris had been away from tours since 2008 and we were his first group back in the game so we knew this was going to be good!

We boarded our little bus for the weekend and stationed ourselves up back, each with our own seat of course - which would basically become our home for 3 days. There were 14 in the group which was a nice number and we eventually set off after realising two people were on our bus when they shouldn't be. We went to pick up a few others from another hostel, then by 6.30am we were speeding away from Alice Springs deep into Outback Australia, a land of red sand, trees and not very much else. The roads were endless!

It took us an hour to reach our first stop-off at a Camel Farm, where Bex and Andrew had their first Camel was hilarious! It then took us another hour to reach our next stop-off for fuel and snacks, where we took some middle-of-the-road just have to in the outback, where cars are very rarely seen! During this time we'd begun to realise why people warned about the flies! They were everywhere, and I managed to swallow one which got caught in a sharp intake of breath, and also managed to get a thorn in my foot at the same time.

Drama over, we got back on the bus and began a long 2hr stint to our next stop, Curtain Springs. During this time Chris and Luke got everyone on the bus to come up to the front and over the microphone answer questions they'd written on the window screen in board-marker pens, as a getting-to-know-you game. Things like, name, nationality, how long you've been away from home, what you miss, which celebrity you'd like to play night games with, favourite band etc. It was a great ice-breaker and got us all talking to each other. Halfway through we had to have a toilet break in the middle of nowhere behind what little bushes were around, as we'd all been told we needed to keep our fluid up, but our bodies were not used to that much water!

Before long we began to notice a very large mountain in the distance, which many of us thought was Ayers Rock, but it was actually Mt Connor, which apparently some tourists do mistake as Uluru! We stopped for a picture op and Chris told us a little about aboriginal culture and tracks for hunting bush tucker and info about Mt Connor. It was already very very hot and it was only 11.30ish! We got back in the bus and made our way to curtain springs, where we had a toilet break and our last chance to buy some alcohol for our couple of nights camping. We got two boxes of goon with Hayley and Helen to share. Then we were on our final stretch towards Uluru and Kata Tuja National Park!!

When we arrived we took a scenic drive around Uluru (Ayers Rock), it was massive and Chris put on a great soundtrack for the drive round which made us feel all sentimental that we were here, at Ayers Rock! It's just as red as in all the pictures and we weren't allowed to take photos on our drive as some of the areas were sacred sites which you are not allowed to take pictures of. They also say if you do and if you pick anything up and take it away with you from the area, that you'll have a lot of bad luck!

Once we'd done a drive we went to the Cultural centre where you could find out more about the aboriginal stories surrounding Ayers Rock, it's tourism today and how certain things - like climbing it - are very disrespectful. Many of the stories are very protected and are very important to the aboriginal people so we only get told the children's stories. Not many people are lucky enough to know more detailed stories, legends and initiation ceremony details that go on here in the sacred areas. Chris knew a few of these but unfortunately couldn't tell us, because we were not initiated into the community.

Chris then gave us the option to walk either half or the whole way around Ayers Rock. It was now around 2.30/3pm, so heat of the day, but geared up with plenty of water and suncreamed to the max, the whole group decided to do the entire walk, which was around 12km. Chris had to go sign us into our camp ground so he'd meet us at the halfway point in case anyone couldn't continue, Luke came with us. So off we set, and it was a good chance to mingle with everyone. We got chatting to Luke, the two spanish girls, Hayley and Helen - two girls from the UK, Patricia from Poland, and Giovanni from Columbia. Unfortunately two German girls in the group pretty much distanced themselves from the group at the start, there's always some! So we never really got to know them and they became a subject of our banter during our time out here, you'll find out why in due course.

We managed to, amongst the heat, FLIES and picture ops (though you can't take photos of some of the rock as it's protected and you an get a hefty fine, some people have even been deported!), to make it halfway where Chris met us with Oranges and some ointment for helping ward off the flies - they were literally swarming around us! And we all decided to push on til the end as a group. Chris met us a little way down and showed us a watering hole, which is quite a sacred spot to aboriginals. By this point everyone was knackered! We had roughly another 30mins to walk before we reached the end. Some of the group went to look at  some aboriginal art on the rock, but me Bex and Andrew, plus Patricia, the german girls and Hayley, were all busting for the loo and didn't want to duck behind any bushes for fear of what was behind them, so instead we pushed on! Me Bex and Andrew led the way and we managed to make it back within 20mins and sighed of relief when we saw the toilets. It had taken us around 3hrs to walk it! We then just waited for everyone else to finish and then Chris took us on a quick cultural walk before we were headed to the sunset view point. No one had the energy really so he made it quick as we needed to be there for sunset by 7 and it was currently 6pm.

We then got back on the bus and made the short drive to sunset viewing point, where Chris and Luke got out some nibbles and champagne to toast our first day together watching an iconic sunset at Uluru. It is just as pretty as the pictures, and we obviously took tons of photos, including a group one.

Chris then drove us back to camp, where we all helped unload the swags, food and chairs etc, then had a shower before dinner, which was much needed after a long hot dusty day. Chris and Luke had started the BBQ by the time we returned and it smelt amazing! We were having a typical aussie outback BBQ of Kangaroo steaks, Camel burgers, salad and pasta, with our goon we'd bought earlier. The Camel burgers and Kangaroo steaks were actually amazing and I could eat them again! Kangaroo is kind of like a sweet beef steak, so so delish! I was more fond of that than the Camel burgers but both were really yummy! Sorry Roo! Bex had a veggie option of falafels. However this is when the German girls started to annoy us. Even though it had been stated it was for Bex as a veggie, they both decided not to listen and ending up eating most of Bex's falafels, which really angered me and Andrew! We also noticed they didn't help with any food prep or washing up, but always went up for food first and got themselves a refill before some people had even served up their first plate! Patricia was also another big eater - I've never known someone to eat so much! Another thing that annoyed us as well as Hayley and Helen was everytime Chris spoke to us, the german girls decided to chat over him in German so we couldn't hear what he was saying, which is just SO rude! To Chris and the rest of the we never once saw them smile or look like they were enjoying the trip!

It was then time for Chris to give us a demo on how to unroll and re-roll our swags and how to set them up. For those who don't know, swags are covered mattresses with a pillow and sleeping bag inside and are possibly the most comfiest things ever! After that me and Helen were shattered so we went and started getting ready for bed out in the pitch black under the stars. It wasn't long before everyone else followed suit and we all set up our swags in one long line on the sandy grass, kinda cute. The stars were amazing and there was a point in the night that I woke up looking at them and shat myself as I forgot where I was! However, we had a pretty good sleep, but still had to be up at 5.45am, so we only got around 5-6hrs!

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