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Jumping the rock
Everyone seemed to enjoy their nights sleep in Alice Springs. The Hostel was really comfortable and the rooms were big ans spacious, so after 3 days camping, we all managed to get some washing done and with a lie in beyond 5am, we all had a full nights sleep.
Just about 10am, everyone began to congregate in the reception with bags and to await the bus and Rick, who had popped into town to get supplies for the next few days.
When he turned up, we loaded all the bags into the bus and set off towards Kings Canyon at just after 11am.
You could tell everyone had had a good nights sleep as there was laughter and joking all around the bus as we drove back onto the Stewart Highway and headed south. Rick joked about tonight dinner which he is cooking – Macademia, chicken and veg for meat-eaters – macademia and veg for the veggies!
After an hour or so we stopped for an early lunch at Stuarts well Roadhouse, where the owner, Jim, allowed us all to use his picnic area and promised us a treat after we had eaten.
Jim's treat, turned out to be a world famous pianist – Namely – Dinky the Dingo.
Dinky the Dingo has been playing the piano and singing (Howling) for years and has appeared on TV and in newspapers al over the world. All the Ozbussers crowded around while Jim told us the history of his family and how he came to own Dinky. Then with a volunteer from the crowd, Dinky slowly climbed onto the piano , after staring out the volunteer face to face. He then started to stamp on the keys and howl as loud as he could. It was really impressive, but also really funny and everyone was crying with laughter. On a serious note though, we all gave to the dinky fund which is a charity collection used towards good causes out here.
It was a really good break from the bus and with the Emu's outside in the yard and the Kangaroo that was sleeping in a small hole in the ground Stuarts well Roadhouse was a great place to spend lunch. We even got to see a bit of the Ashes on TV!!
The afternoon flew by with most people singing along to the music put on by Rick to keep us amused. Bohemian rhapsody went down especially well!!
When we arrived at our overnight we were all pleasantly surprised to see 5 star tents!! We had 20 tents between 30 of us so a lot of people had one to them selves, but me and Michele decided to share as normal. Each tent had a proper bed with a quilt, electricity with a bedside light and wooden flooring. It really was luxury compared to the last tents we stayed in.
After settling in we all had dinner cooked by Rick and his helpers and then enjoyed a quiet night. The best part of which was just looking at the millions of stars in the clear night sky. It is stunning down here, when you get away from the towns and street lights, that you can see so many more stars than you can imagine. It really is amazing.
Kenneth took advantage of the dark and took a few strange pictures of Lisa and Lana. By opening his shutter on his camera for 30 seconds and flashing lights at them he managed to create some really cool photos. We also noticed that some people in our tents didn’t realise that a silhouette of what they were doing in the tents, showed up really clearly when they had their bedside lights on. No names will be mentioned, but it was funny to watch!
After a good nights sleep we were all up and getting ready just after 6am. I had some breakfast and took on my usual task of loading the bags onto the bus with help from Mark and Chris. This morning it was Frankie s turn to leave something in her bag, but she managed to crawl into the depths of the bus to retrieve it.
We set off just after 7am and reached our first destination of the day soon after – Kings Canyon.
This is yet another spectacular place. All around are massive red rock cliffs and more strange rock formations. For someone like me, who loves to climb and explore, this place was just heaven.
The group set off up 'Cardiac Hill', (Not the first Cardiac Hill I have ever climbed!) and reached the top of the hill after a quick 15 minute climb. Then we set off as a group to explore the area. The usual suspects (Me, Michele, Liv and Jennifer Parsonage ) were the first to split from the group and started to explore on our own, clambering up cliffs and jumping between rocks.
Every-time we took a photo of a spectacular rock or a big drop, we turned a corner and saw an even better view of a more dangerous looking edge to sit on and pose for photos.
We spent a good 3 hours wandering around the Kings Canyon and saw some spectacular views. The best was an overhang, where you could, very carefully, walk down to the cliff edge, hang your legs over the side and wait for the photos' to be taken. Me, Donna, Jennifer Parsonage and also Kenneth and Liv did this together and will no doubt have new facebook profile pictures very soon!!
After the cliffs, we descended into what is known as 'The Garden of Eden'. This is a long thin canyon, that had a pool at one end and a small stream that runs through the canyon, past palm trees and small sandy beaches until it opens out at the end to a larger cooler pool.
I had already had a swim in the first pool. Whilst Lisa had come down to cool her feet and take some photos. We were then told by Rick that the proper pool was at the end, so we made our way along the canyon and me, Rick and Kenneth all had a swim in the larger pool, whilst the rest of the group watched and enjoyed some snacks and a water stop.
We then made our way back up and out of the canyon before the walk back along the canyon's rim back to the car park and the bus. On the way there was time for one final photo, when a load of us crawled to the edge of the cliff and lay there on the edge whilst Rick took photos with all our cameras.
Once back at the bus we loaded up and headed 30 minutes down the road to a ranger station where we unloaded the food from the bus and had a spot of well deserved lunch. As we had lunch a small Jack Russell Terrier appeared from nowhere, looking for scraps of food. Unbeknown to the poor dog though, his owners obviously knew what he got up to during the day, as on his back they had written – 'Don’t feed me!', I wondered if the dog knew about this trick and had ever tried to remove the word 'Don’t'.
After lunch we clambered back onto the bus and as Rick set off a quietness descended. Everyone was quite tired after a busy morning and a good bit of scran for lunch and soon everyone was sleeping or at least trying to. Nearly 2 hours later and we were woken up by Rick jamming the brakes on and pulling to the side of the road again. It was a toilet stop, but a few miles across what was now a red desert landscape he pointed out Mount Connor. This is a large rock structure similar in dimension to Ayers Rock, but it if almost flat on top. Rick explained that it is often mistaken for Ayers Rock itself and probably would be as well known if it had the tourist infrastructure around it, that Ayers Rock has. He also told us to have a quick walk up the opposite sand dune and when we did we were surprised to see a large dried up salt lake over the hill.
As we were there, taking pictures, chatting and waiting for the 'long drop' toilet, we noticed 3 or 4 more coaches and bus' passing by or stopping to take in the view. That’s pretty much all the human life that you see out here in the outback. There is the odd roadhouse, selling fuel, food, grog and accommodation and then there is the road. In-between is rock, sand, desert, bush a few bits of wildlife and then the big big sky looking down on it all. Its stunning place to drive through, but it is unbelievable how remote you feel when you are here.
Just as I type we see Ayers Rock appearing in front of us! WOW! Its is stunning. I will write more later about it, but WOW!!! It is really stunning!!!
After arriving and settling into out little camp – Me Michele, Awal and Matt are sharing for 2 nights – We got a beer and sat around waiting for sunset. A few of the group decided to wander the 20minutes or so down to have a look around the resort itself, whilst me, Liv, Michele and Kenneth took a walk out into the desert to have a look at Uluru as the sun went down. We didn’t know where we were going but saw a few people riding camels and decided to follow them to the top of a small hill. It still wasn’t a great view, so we continued up a track until we found a sign saying we could go no further. We took the sign as an omen, as it gave a great view and also gave us something to jump off for the obligatory 'jump', photo. The photos turned out just great and we took a few group photos, once we managed to get our timers working on our cameras and then took a slow walk back to the camp in time for dinner. When we got back the fire was lit and so we sat around the camp-fire drinking grog and waiting for dinner to be finished!
Dinner was really good again. Camel sausages, beef, kangaroo and lots of salads and sauces to add more flavour. Later in the evening after dinner, Michele was taken into the girls toilets by a load of the lasses and appeared a few minutes later with straightened hair and wearing a bikini – He seemed to love the attention and enjoyed pouting for the cameras. We sat around the fire for a while chatting and throwing larger and larger chunks of firewood onto the flames until we had a really good fire going.
All too soon it was time for bed – We are due up at 4am and then leaving for 4.45 to go and see Ayers rock for sunrise.
In the morning we were mostly up on time. Rick had been up a few minutes already and put the water boiler on so that we could grab a tea or coffee before setting off to see Ayers Rock.
We set off on time and 20 minutes later were arriving at the special viewing platform that has been built to watch the sunrise.
It was a chilly morning and everyone had fleeces or blankets on, but that didn’t detract from the enjoyment and the excitement in the air. We grabbed a good position on the platform, and watched as the sun came close and the darkness gradually turned into sunlight. Every couple of minutes I took a photo of the rock and you could see the changing colours distinctly. It was a beautiful morning and as the sun actually rose above the horizon, the rock was bathed in a deep red glow, with deep dark shadows all around. It really was spectacular and a great sight and well worth getting out of bed early for. It was time to get another 'jump', photo so I handed my camera to Jennifer Parsonage and after a couple of aborted attempts. We managed to get a really good shot jumping the rock – much to the amusement of some of the tourists who stood watching.
Back on the bus we had a little wait whilst Liv and Michele finished taking their pictures, then it was back to the camp and a bit of breakfast. We had to laugh when we got back as Awal, who had stayed in bed, had been locked into the cabin by one of us – we couldn’t remember who was last one out – but Awal had been locked in for two hours and had missed the sunrise!! Sorry mate!
After a good breakfast and a quick turnaround, we headed straight towards the rock, where some of us were taking a walk around it and others like me, were hoping to climb it. There are stories that the aborigines don’t like people to climb the rock, but as long as you are respectful to it and try not to get injured or killed, they really don’t mind. If you DO get killed they have to close the rock for a week and perform ceremonies to ward off the evil spirits, so they really don’t want anyone who cannot manage it to climb it in the first place. It turned out that we didn’t have any decision to make about climbing it though as due to high winds and the fact that it is now summertime and too hot during the day, the climb was closed! :-( It meant that we all have to do the walk around the rock and come back another day, next year I hope, to attempt the climb.
The walk itself should take 3 ½ hours. But because we were running late, Rick gave us 2 ½ to get around. It wasn’t a major problem as we set off at a good pace, stopping infrequently to take photos where we were allowed. There are lots of sacred areas where photos are not allowed and its sometimes hard to tell where you can and cant take them. The usual gang found themselves together – Kenneth, Michele, Liv, me and Jennifer Parsonage enjoyed a good couple of hours exploring the route around the rock, but after wanting to climb the thing I have to say I was a little disappointed to be doing a flat walk. It is an awe inspiring sight, but not what I wanted to do!
We met back with Rick and the bus just short of the car park and then had a short break in the visitor centre before heading once again back to camp for lunch.
We were pleasantly surprised when we got back to see that Lana and a couple of helpers had prepared all the salad and food for lunch, so we quickly tucked into restore our depleted energy form the long walk and early morning.
We were due to leave again at 2pm to go to Olgas (Kata Tjuta), which means 'Many heads'. It is a series of massive shaped stones which rise up from the desert plateau, high into the sky. A lot of people say it is even more spectacular than Uluru itself. We had an hour before we were due to leave, so I took a quick wander down to find the pool here on the camp-site. I was lucky to see a few people splashing around and jumped into a freezing cold pool, which was absolutely lovely on this hot hot day. The people around the pool were on another trip and told me a bit about where they were going, before asking the football scores!!
I had to leave to get back for the 2pm departure time, but when I got back it had been delayed till 3pm, so together with Lana, Kenneth, Bev, Mills, Jennifer Parsonage, Linda, Lisa and Michele, I returned for another hour at the pool to cool down. Michele felt the water and immediately left saying it was too cold, but the rest of us all took a cooling dip and loved every minute of it. At one point I was lying in the 35deg sunshine and everyone was silently enjoying the weather, when I said ' Its snowing at home you know!', haahaa! Everyone laughed when they thought of the shitty weather going on right now in the UK, but we didn’t have any sympathy.
After messing about in the pool for an hour, it was getting time to return and get back onto the bus to go to The Olgas. We got changed and were told to take a cup each, because we were off to see the sunset again after the afternoon out and this time we were going to celebrate in style with sparkly wine!!
The Olga’s were also spectacular. We stopped on the way at a viewpoint where we could take a shop of the complete range of the Olga’s I was given a camera by Bev and Badboy too, so that I could take his photo! I managed to get a good pic of him flying past the mountain before we got back on the bus and stopped at a short walk. The walk took us deep into the heart of the Olga’s down and through a beautiful canyon, surrounded by sheer cliffs on both sides that must be 150metres high. The dark red of the rocks and the blue of the sky gelled beautifully with the green of the grass and the trees that grew abundantly in the lush valley. It was a pretty easy walk and we all enjoyed the lovely sunshine and the stunning scenery. At the end is a viewing platform where we stopped for a while and took in the view whilst chatting once again. Its amazing how much we all talk to each other on this trip!! I wandered back chatting with big Rick about nicknames, (We are both Ricks, with a silent P! haahaa) buses, and what we are all going to do when we hit Sydney at the weekend.
It was then back onto the bus and off to see Uluru by sunset with drinkies!
When we got to the Uluru sunset viewpoint, there was already a few bus's there all set up with posh picnic tables with champagne glasses and good food laid out, Bev spotted an empty table and moved faster than we have ever seen to secure it for us! The Rick pulled out the big guns – Fook the posh glasses and posh nosh., For us on Ozbus it was plastic teacups with sparkly wine and multi packs of biscuits. I tell you what – out of all the groups there who had no doubt paid loads of money for their experience, we were the happiest and were having the most fun. None of this arty farty bullshit – give us some cheap plonk, good friends and some bickies and we will have a great time. Add in some of the most stunning vistas you will see anywhere on earth, the stunning multi coloured sky and Rick – Rickodile Dundee – the ace tour guide, who everyone loves and you don’t need anything else.
We took photos of each other and Rick took everyone’s cameras and got loads of the group with Australian and English flags, then we git Rick to stand on the table whilst we bowed to his knowledge and we took more photos – all fuelled by the cheap plonk that went down so well in unwashed cheap plastic tea stained cups!! It was a great end to yet another fantastic day – now its home for some dinner and tomorrow we head towards the Opal mine in Cooper Pedy.