Friday, June 24, 2016

A Short Stop in Alice Springs

We arrived and quickly went to the airport.
Upon arrival in Alice Springs, we were taken to the airport for a flight to Yalara, which is the town near the main attractions in The Red Center - so named by the color of the earth there. The name Yalara is Aboriginal for "howling"and "dingos" so that's what we expected we might hear and see.

Our accommodations were at Voyager's Sails in the Desert hotel. It was a very nice place with a beautiful swimming pool that we never got to use! It seems that all of the tours are either sunrise or sunset. This means you are on a tour bus at 5 AM or 4 PM. There was a short midday break for lunch to get out of the heat, but no time to swim. Bummer!

Outback: as red brown as expected.
We arrived at the hotel at 3:30 PM and we're off on our first tour at 5:30 PM for sunset at Uluru (known to white men as Ayers Rock) followed by an Aussie barbecue under the stars. I didn't try the crocodile, but I tasted some kangaroo. It was a beautiful night so we could see all of the constellations in the southern sky. Our guides were young adults and very knowledgeable about the history, flora, fauna and the sky.  

Early the next morning we were back on the bus for sunrise and breakfast at Uluru followed by a walk to significant sites around the base. Originally we were signed up for a 6 kilometer walk around the base. Then someone said that it is more like 8 km. And those who did it said it was closer to 12 km. Happily we switched the group that visited select sites without walking all those miles!

It was interesting to learn about the way the indigenous Aboriginal people have lived there for thousands of years. It is believed that they have been there for over 80,000 years! They live off the land, eating berries, ant honey, grasses, native fruits and emu, buffalo, deer and fish.

Uluru (Ayers Rock) changes colors throughout the day.
Until refined foods were introduced, they were healthy. Now there is a serious issue with weight and diabetes. Apparently their genetic make-up does not do well with sweets and carbohydrates in general as they were not available for generations. Maybe that is true for many of us!


Now they have leased their lands to the government for national parks and have a cash economy, which gives them access to processed foods and sugary soft drinks and alcohol. While this community income helps provide better housing and education, they are suffering from indulgence of less than healthy foods. Also suffering is the demise of teaching the children the old ways of living off the land.

Uluru in the afternoon.
Uluru (aka Ayers Rock) is one of their most sacred sights and there are areas where men cannot go or even look as well as those where women cannot go as well. Their most sacred sites are off limits to tourists. They have allowed us to visit some sacred sights and see their cave paintings. The guide shared the stories that the Aboriginal people believe as to how Uluru and Kata Tjuta (The Olgas) were created. Very interesting! And they believe them today just as they have for thousands of years. Without a written language, they continue to pass their history and beliefs through story telling.

And at sunset it becomes purple.
Here are some interesting facts about this area. Uluru is 3.6 kilometers long and 348 meters at its tallest point, making it higher than Sydney’s Centerpoint Tower and 24 meters higher than the Eiffel Tower, but 33 meters lower than the Empire State Building. What we see at Uluru is just the top of it; this huge slab continues approximately 5-6 kilometers below ground! The sand dunes in the area are estimated to be up to 30,000 year old and geologists have dated the underground water table to be as old as 7,000 years in some areas.

Uluru is one of Australia's most iconic symbols of the outback region and is listed a World Heritage site. Uluru is a place that speaks of timeless folklore, indigenous culture and spirituality. The most beautiful times to see the "rock" is at sunrise and sunset. Of course, we did both!

Sundowners in the Outback!
We first saw Uluru in the late afternoon sun from a lookout point. Of course, Sundowners were in order! The tour provided wine and snacks for us as we watched the changing colors as the sun set. Then we were taken to the site of the evening's under the stars barbeque Australian style: kangaroo, crocodile, beef steak, chicken and all of the trimmings. After dinner, one of the guides explained what we were seeing in the night sky. Like out on the ocean, the stars and planets were stunning here. It made for a long day of travel and sightseeing, but well worth it.

Our guides were most informative. The ATT King Tour company has drivers and guides who love this land and love sharing its stories. That made the journey extra nice even though we spent a lot of time traveling in very nice coaches. They also made sure everyone was staying hydrated as it can be a concern in the hot sun and drying winds out there. They were well versed in the history and culture and kept us entertained.

A view of the salt lakes in the desert outback as we
flew into Yalara from Alice Springs.
We learned much about the land and its people. As with most indigenous people, there were many challenges and very poor treatment by the white settlers. Even though the Aboriginal people have regained much of the land that was taken from them, they are not very visable. They tend to stay in their own villages in the outback.

Aboriginal Artist in Residence at Sails in
the Desert Resort. I loved his work!
We did see a very disturbing site on several occasions a man was punching a woman in the face and stomach right on the street. Dennis' first instinct was to help her, but he stopped as he remembered he was in a foreign country and dealing with a different culture. Not that the beating was acceptable, though; he just should not have gotten involved. Unfortunately, many of these underdeveloped regions and cultures have a problem with domestic violence.
Our lovely room.


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