25 May Big Rock Tour: Sunsets and flies!
At 6am, with a hangover from hell after my St Paddy’s Day shennanigans, I jumped aboard the Adventure Tours Bus. People tend to think that Alice Springs is somehow quite close to the big rock, like how Americans think London is somehow close to Manchester, but in fact it takes several hours on a bus to get there. I immediately went straight to sleep as I usually do on all forms of transport (it’s the gentle rocking motion that sends me to the land of nod), and when I woke up I got the distinct impression that everyone had been looking at me. I always feel quite violated when I realise that people have seen me sleeping with my mouth open, drooling. They look at you as if to say, you lazy bugger, you haven’t been paying attention to anything. It appeared we were at a camel farm. I don’t know whether it’s just me, but on every single trip I ever go on we seem to be taken to a camel farm. They’re gross animals really, but for some reason everyone’s fascinated by them. It appeared I was on a bus with the whole of Japan, and they were the first ones to have a photo with the camels. Now you’re probably thinking, camels aren’t native to Australia, so why the hell would they take you to a camel farm? Well they were brought over in the 1800s because they suited the dry arid climate of the red interior for people to explore. Camel studs were then set up to breed camels, and they were used in the construction of the Overland Telegraph Line. Camels were used to transport goods in the dry areas, but with the introduction of motorised transport in the 1920s, the days of ‘working camels’ were numbered. Large herds of camels were released and they have established ‘free range’ herds in the semi-arid desert of Australia.
On the bus, I was next to this peculiar girl from Japan, who seemed to have purchased a fluffy, furry, toy camel backpack. Apart from that backpack, everything she owned was Hello Kitty. By this time we had all purchased these hilarious fly-nets that you have to wear to protect your face. They’re sort of like net sacks for your head with an army print top and a tie around the bottom. They almost look like something you could suffocate with or perhaps you would wear if beekeeping. What a sight it was to see a bus load of people trying on their fly nets as if they were the latest fashion must-have.
After driving for several hours, just as I was in my comatosed state again, I was woken up with a jolt- there was a screeching of brakes and the bus swerved as it ground to a halt. “What the fuck was that?” Our driver, Aaron, jumped out of the bus and ran down the street. “What the hell is he doing??”. I really did think he had gone mad, he was quite a grumpy soul and we thought he had maybe thought it was time to call it quits and run off. He summoned us to get off the bus. He was crouched down in the road holding something. “It’s a thorny devil” he said “They’re extremely rare.” I don’t know how the hell he spotted it in the middle of the road, it was barely the size of his hand. It had a camouflage body with thorns all over its body. I felt sorry for it as we simultaneously all got our cameras out and started snapping away at this thing we’d never heard of.
It really is quite mesemerising when you first catch a glimpse of the rock. You’re driving along, with nothing ahead of you but road and shrubs, and then suddenly to the left you spot it in the distance, rising from the ground. We weren’t going to the rock though, we were heading to the Olgas first, and everyone hung out the window taking blurry photos in case this was the only glimpse they would ever see of the magical rock. In many ways the Olgas or Kata Tjuta as you are supposed to call them, are more impressive than Uluru. This collection of giant red domes looks so impressive against the bright blue sky. The 36 domes are composed of conglomerate, a sedimentary rock consisting of cobbles and boulders of varying rock types including granite and basalt, cemented by sandstone.
We stopped to do the Valley of The Winds walk which takes around 1 and a half hours round-trip. One thing that will stick in everybody’s minds about the Big Rock trip is the flies. The flies will literally try to drink from your nose and mouth. Don’t even think about eating anything, as you will find yourself eating them. The fly nets work but they’re quite uncomfortable in the heat and they do look rather silly in photos.
All this applies of course, unless you’re me. Everyone was covered in flies, but for some reason they just didn’t seem to like me. I know I should think myself lucky, but in fact I was quite insulted that they didn’t. Am I not tasty enough?? I took my fly net off because I didn’t want to wear it in the heat, and soon realised that I completely repelled the flies. I’ve never been bitten by mosquitoes either- I can walk through whole swarms of them and not get one single bite. Maybe I should be tested so they can invent a new brand of skin repellent.
Don’t expect to be the only one’s watching sunset at Uluru. When we arrived I was quite shocked at the number of people, tour buses and campervans parked up to watch the big event. Champagne glasses were klinking, camera flashes were going off everywhere, and elderly people had even set up their deck chairs and tressle tables. I must say it did take away a little of the speacialness of the event, but it was still a spectacular view and a spectacular sunset. It was awe inspiring to see the colour changes in the rock as the sun set, from a bright orange to a dark red, to a kind of purple colour with the horizon behind it displaying all the colours of the rainbow. We stood and drank our cheap ‘champagne’ from plastic mugs whilst the Germans insisted on ‘making a photo’ with me. You keep taking photos, egged on by everyone else, in the hope that you’ll get the perfect shot. In fact when you look back at them on your digital camera you have a million different photos of the same bloody rock. “But this one’s ever so slightly different” you tell yourself. I must say by the end of the tour I was all rocked-out. After the perfect end to a perfect day, we lay in ‘swags’ or aussie bedrolls under the stars.