DAY 8 – Sydney to Uluru
Sydney. Sunday morning.
Woke to that horrible sound of my phone insisting it was time to wake up. Jumped out of bed and completed packing and made a cup of tea. Could die for a bottle of Shepshed milk from a real cow! Packed suitcase to stay in Sydney and stuffed an overnight bag for Ayers Rock. Checked out and the lady on reception hailed a taxi for me. $18 to the airport (£8 I think). Taxi driver said nothing. I thought Aussies were meant to be sociable.
As it turned out I was very early. Browsed some shops and decided I will buy a hat and boomerang later. Bought a neat little camera case instead for $19. Grabbed a coffee and orange muffin for breakfast. At Sydney domestic (terminal 3). Now – as previously advertised – am sitting on another 737. Had hoped so much to sit next to some friendly, chatty woman. Had woken this morning feeling quite homesick. I must also be very tired. My alarm clock this morning had been like a gun to my head. However, – as luck would have it – I am next to an older couple and I am next to the chap. Theys eem to be American. And he is Mr Silent. I made a couple of comments which he laughed at but didn’t follow through.
Worse still, in front of me is Mr Big Fat loud American man with his seat in full recline. He is virtually sat on my lap and I can almost smell his bald head. Suppressing a growing feeling of panic and claustrophobia (alleviated only by the fact I am in an aisle seat) and a desire to place my teacup on his head upside down and flatten it. Had a cramped lunch at 10.30am. Decent if flabby salad and cup of tea. My back is sore – not sure why. Maybe its all those flying hours. This is flight #4. After this, I am officially on the return journey!
Watched film about two guys – Dan and Carter. Carter is 26 and highly strung and full of corporate nonsense. Dan is 51 sensible family man. A film with a message. Carter is, of course, my ex-boss Angelo as a youth! Descending now into Ayers Rock. We put our watches back 30 mins – the first place I have moved my watch other than by whole hours. So now a mere 8.5 hours ahead of the UK.
Still not talking to anyone – and feel in need of a quality conversation. Sunny out there – glad I didn’t pack my fleece after all. It is safely in my suitcase in Sydney, I hope. along with my laptop and half a meal in plastic containers from last night. My dad would be proud of me. I think he would also be responsible for my wanderlust and thirst for knowledge. Apparently Ayers Rock is down there but I can’t see from this seat. Still, I guess it will still be there after we land, it seems to be a pretty resilient inanimate object.
I just got a view of it out of the left hand window. Wow! Very formidable and unpretentious at the same time. Just like the writer then (ha!) Also a lovely terracotta colour, as in the desert. Lots of individual plants/trees covering the landscape. The airport is also red where the sand blows across the tarmac.
We landed with a jolt or two but I guess over-running the runway would not be a great problem. Ironically, as we landed, I struck up a conversation with my two neighbours from Seattle. Told them what I was doing and they were genuinely interested. They asked if I was here on business. So I assume there are conferences here. Talked about Vegas. The location of Vegas in a desert is comparable.
Walked off the 737 down the steps and into a warm breeze (again, like Nevada in many ways). Straight through the airport (no luggage for me). Quite a lot of Americans and older people, but one or two younger folk on their own. Asked at information and was directed to the Lost Camel coach outside. Bus driver is Craig. Drove through to the resort on roads with commentary. Has a feel of a holiday camp (upmarket).
Into the Desert
Dropped off at the Lost Camel. Very smart and an excellent reception. Room 109! (my old street number and another 9). Room is exactly as the photo with bed stuck in the middle of the room and toilet/shower at the back. Unpacked in about 2 mins and went for a wander round the shops. Bought aborigine vase, boomerang, drinks cooler (for Phil) and books/postcards and a t-shirt. Dropped these off and then went for a walk round the town and out to one of the lookouts. A good 45 mins in the heat.
All the ground is red sand. There is a lot of vegetation sprinkled in the sand – shrubs and trees. No sign of those snakes I’m no longer scared of at all (ha,ha) but felt pretty brave about it all. Took various pictures of Ayers Rock (Ulura). Flies irritating, especially when taking photos. No-one else around at all, just the odd vehicle driving past. Kept to the paths and road. Back via the info. centre and main central lookout. Is there a new angle on Ayers Rock photos? We shall see! 4.30 now – just eaten an ice-cream, visited by tame yellow-breasted birds. Shooooo.
Checked my morning tour with Lost Camel reception and found that my booking was on the wrong date. Dashed round to AAT King who fixed it for me – phew! and then dashed to the supermarket to buy some breakfast for tomorrow (yoghurt and choc bics were the impulse buy). Suddenly I was in a dash to get to the hotel reception and all ready by 5.15.
Coach was late anyway. Most people were dressed up – but one or two scruffs like me (jeans and casual shirt). Nearly all couples or groups. In fact, I didn’t see another single person. Two coaches full, but only one came back so I think we had one bus load on our tour (Sherlock Holmes hey?) 10 minutes drive up the same way I had walked earlier and then up a desert track – very rough ride for a luxury coach. I was sat on the back seat in the corner. But despite being a single man just decided to enjoy it whatever and try to strike up conversation. Again an interesting situation – a single person surrounded by couples.
Disembarked and walked up a short red sandy path to viewing point from where we could see Uluru (Ayers Rock) in one direction and Kata Tjuta (Olgas) in the other – towards the setting sun.
Didgeradoos, Honeymooners, Kangaroos, Crocodiles . . . sunset in the desert, and the southern stars
There is a man playing a didgeridoo (couldn’t quite catch the tune, but quite haunting). In a gesture to western civilisation in the heart of aborigine culture we partook of champagne and canapés – latter gave me my first bite of kangaroo. Similar to beef I guess, bit chewy. Took photos and asked a girl to take mine. Chatted to an older American woman from Missouri. Again a lot of Americans here. Then overheard an English voice – a young couple, it turned out, from Caversham (Mike and Charlotte) who I immediately hit it off with. Ended up sat on a table next to them, as we moved to our dining area.
Sat opposite me were a couple from San Diego – he was very talkative but very likeable, as was she. To my right an Italian couple from Milan. All three couples were on their honeymoon and we all laughed as I offered free marriage consultancy! Had a really brilliant time talking and laughing. Endless supply of red wine. All my fears about being a miserable single man were swept away and I realised what a good conversationalist I can be when I want to.
Mike had been to Santiago (Chile) and Charlotte to Vegas so we compared notes. All were amazed at my 13 day world tour. Went up for our buffet after an excellent soup. Had crocodile – a whitish, tangy, chewy meat. Had to use ‘get me some crocodile and make it snappy’ joke of course. Eeeh. So bit into the crocodile, also more kangaroo and an excellent salad.
Now it is dark. Only lights aree the stars and the lighted path to the aurora of the unisex toilets. Which I went to – water frea toilets and didn’t even THINK about snakes sliding in from the darkness! (If I keep telling myself I’m cured, maybe I will be). The MC spoke up and they turned off the lights, read a short poem and then turned on the silence (this was the Sounds of Silence tour). All we could hear were the sounds of the desert creatures in glorious stereo.
Then we had a show by the astronomer lady with her light beam, pointing out the Southern Cross and Jupiter. Not crispy clear but good enough to see them. We were all getting gently sozzled by now. Later I had a chance to see through her telescope and saw a twin star and Jupiter with her two lines across and her moons (?). I talked to her about her telescope (x81 mag, couple of thousand pounds).
Finally after another loo break, and a quick gullop of deserts (crumble thing and chocolate sludge) we climbed back on the coach. I sat on back row with American couple from dinner. As they got off shook their hands and wished them all the best, and also with Mike and Charlotte. Staggered back rather to my room and fell asleep in my chair (about 10.30pm)