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Brian’s Travel Diary

Sunday, 23 Apr 2006

Location: Uluru, Australia

MapA Trip to Ayers Rock

Hans was coming to town on a moments notice and wanted to escape the fog and rain that is San Francisco this time of year. After careful deliberation Jim, Hans and I decided there is so place better to avoid rain and fog than the desert. The center of Australia is basically all desert which, really has only one thing to see – the giant monolith that is Ayers Rock or Uluru as it was renamed by the Aborigines. Besides, there is no dryer, less foggy place than the desert right? If you look at that map to the right its about half of an inch to the southwest of Alice Springs.

We kinda lucked out in that we got a flight direct from Sydney to Ayers rock, which beats flying into Alice Springs and then driving another five hours from there. But leaving from Sydney had its own issues. Our flight was at 9am which meant we had to be on a train at 4am to get to the airport from Newcastle (about a 3 hour train ride). Our flight was Sunday morning which meant we got to share part of the ride with all of the bar hoppers still calling it Saturday night at 4am. I was kind enough (or dumb enough) to share my water with some dehydrated party go-ers. Even drunk Aussies are still friendly Aussies.

Since we planed this entire trip in about 48 hours we probably weren’t as logistically prepared as we could have been. The first clue was that we had actually planned to put three people in a three man tent for three nights. That doesn’t sound bad unless you have actually tried it, especially when you consider the flatulent behavior of three grown men eating a can of beans and ramen for dinner each night. It gives new meaning to the warning tag suggesting you keep your tent away from open flames. When some of our friends here found out we were all sleeping in the same tent Ayers Rock was aptly renamed Brokeback Rock, which is even funnier when you throw Nordic accents onto it.

Once we were at Ayer’s Rock we found that everything was pretty much controlled by The Resort. It was clearly a one horse town that seemed to be pretty much dedicated to people over 40. You are in the middle of the desert so they pretty much have you by the short ones.

The first night there was interesting. After about 3 hours of the most comfortable sleep you can get sleeping 6 inches from Han’s face we were awoken with very cold rain falling on us. When I was in grade school I learned that the desert is a dry place. In reality it would seem that is not true. So, at 2:30am, if we were playing “geek, dweeb, or spazz” I would have won the spazz award as Jim and I, not really awake, sprinted out of the tent and tried to affix the rain cover. Hans stayed inside the tent and kindly gave us verbal directions from what was a sheltered paradise compared to the conditions Jim and I were enduring with what felt like freezing rain. After “calmly” suggesting to Hans to refrain from speaking through use of profanity and about five laps later around the tent Jim and I got it figured out. By this time puddles had already formed in the tent, but at least I was in my sleeping bag again albeit soaking wet. To Hans’ credit, he was kind enough to pull our sleeping bags to a dry spot. Of course, with a three man tent with three whole men in it, there left no room for our bags, which had to endure the down pour. As I tried to fall back to sleep to the sounds of our German neighbors throwing in the towel and going home (they had no rain fly) I couldn’t help but realize that here I am with an army veteran and an Eagle Scout and we weren’t prepared for this in anyway. Go figure.

So the next day, after my bag had just spent the night in the rain, I was expecting my boots and my pack to be soaked. Neither were! If you are buying a pack I recommend the Osprey Aether 75. The boots were just sitting on the ground on their side and they were as dry as the desert should have been. Gortex truly is a magical fabric.

The flies during the day are absolutely relentless. That’s why we were wearing those nets over our heads. During our hikes you would have 50 or more on you at once. I’m not sure what the final fly inhalation count was at the end of the trip.

That day we took a 7.5km hike around the Olgas, which you can see from far away in the sunset picture on the bottom left. They are also in the background of the picture with Jim and Hans at 382 meters. It’s basically a mini mountain range. They say it looks like Homer Simpson lying down, but I don’t see it.

That night we decided to have dinner complete with steak, emu, crocodile and kangaroo. The kangaroo was actually much better than the beef steak Hans ate, much better. They give you the raw meat and you cook everything for yourself, so that was interesting.

The closest we came to seeing any wildlife was to hear some dingoes howling in the middle of the night. You know the Seinfeld reference where Elaine says “Maybe the Dingo ate your baby”? Well, I didn’t know this, but apparently there was a huge trial here where a child went missing and the parents claimed that a dingo made off the baby. I just thought it was some stupid dingo reference. Maybe the Ramsey’s should have tried that one.

The Aborigines ask that you do not climb Uluru. We thought it over and decided that we would do it anyway, because they do it and it’s our planet too. It’s not like they built it, so it seemed a bit hypocritical. It really is a wonder more people don’t die climbing up and down this thing. The magic number is currently holding steady at 35. As we labored up the rock this one Aussie was just trotting down without holding on to the chain with his son following behind and holding his daughter in his arms. I thought this dude was crazier than Steve Irwin. One slip and this guy goes over the edge. If you are looking at the pictures the end of the chain is only a third of the way there, but the rest is much easier.

It was a great trip considering how much little time we spent planning it. We were there for 4 days and three nights. It rained two out of four days in the middle of the desert. Good thing Hans came to escape that rainy, foggy San Fran weather.