Uluru & Alice Springs

We haven’t had much access to the internet lately, so I’m going to have to make up for lost time.  This is our last day here in Sydney.  Tomorrow afternoon we leave on Qantas for L.A.  Neither of us are looking forward to the flight, but we’re both ready to go home.  We’re just hoping all the snow has melted by the time we get there.

After the Great Barrier Reef, we finally made it to Ayers Rock (the Aboriginal name for it is Uluru).  We had to wait for hours at the Cairns airport because of a big storm caused by Cyclone Olga.  When we landed at Ayers Rock, we were in a completely different world.  The earth was really red (full of sandy iron oxide), the air was hot, dry, and full of little black flies!  I liked the heat and the dryness, but not the flies!  We had all been warned to purchase these dumb fly nets that you had to fit either over or under your hats.

At the airport, we were also met by our new bus driver, “Dingo Jack.”  (His name was really David, but he said no one ever calls him that except his wife and only if she’s mad at him.)  He was quite a character and was a “True Blue” Aussie (that’s a song).  He had been born and raised in the Outback and had some pretty good stories to tell, complete with all the animal sounds to go along with them.

We stayed at the Sails in the Desert Resort, which was pretty nice, except there were big black beetles and ants all over the place.  Staying there just the one night was plenty.  The actual Ayers Rock (Uluru), however, was really beautiful.  It’s a huge sandstone rock that had been forced up out of the earth & toppled over millions of years ago, so that it’s horizontal sandstone layers were now running vertically.  Our tour guide had arranged for us to have snacks and champagne at a viewing area at dusk so we could watch the sun set across Uluru.  Though Uluru was beautiful any time of day, I didn’t really see what the big deal was with the sunset.  She had said it was a “subtle” change, and I guess it was, because I didn’t see a thing.  Oh well!

The next day we had to get up really early again (it was always rush, rush, rush while we were on the land tour) and board the bus for a 5 hour drive to Alice Springs.  We stopped at a few places along the way, such as a “camel station” (they raise camels for food and for selling to places such as Saudi Arabia for camel racing) and a “roadhouse” for lunch.  Both places were out in the middle of nowhere in the Outback.  The camel station did have a few other animals besides the camels, such as a cute little dingo tied up and sleeping under a big overhanging rock for shade.  There were also some kangaroos and some pretty birds in cages.  (I asked Dingo Jack if the dingo was ever allowed to go loose, and he said it was at nights, when there would be no danger of it biting the tourists.)

Alice Springs was another weird place.  It had some big, interesting, rocky red cliffs on the edges of the town and some interesting trees and plants around, but it was another place that was out in the middle of nowhere.  It was, however, the home of the Royal Flying Doctor Service of Australia.  The service, which was established in 1928, provides medical services to isolated areas all around Australia’s Outback.  Whenever there are emergencies (and they average 4-6 per day, I think the lady said), a plane with a doctor and nurses is dispatched to go help the person and/or take them to the nearest hospital.  As we were touring the visitor’s center, we discovered that an inventor named Alfred Traeger had invented some special pedal radios which they had used back in the early days in order to receive and transmit info. about the medical emergencies.  Mr. Traeger was very famous in that area, apparently, as there were several places and things named for him around there.  (On the way out of town, we even drove down “Traeger Street!”)

Also in Alice Springs, we toured around the Alice Springs Desert Park, which was a good place for learning about all kinds of desert plants and trees and “more than 400 desert-dwelling animals.”  We didn’t have time to see everything, but we did walk through a couple large bird aviaries, the kangaroo pen, and the nocturnal animal building.  It was dark, so you had to look carefully, but we did see quite a few interesting animals inside.  The main one I wanted to see–the Quoll–was sleeping under a log while we were there, so I was disappointed that he didn’t show himself.  (Quolls are something like Tasmanian Devils, only they’re light brown or yellowish-brown with white spots all over them, including on their long tails.)

After that, we had to get to the Alice Springs Airport, where we boarded a plane back to Sydney.