Friday, 20 May 2016

Half-lap Day 18: Uluru

I was up at 5.30 and some of the other campers were already leaving. The rest of the family got up at 6 and quickly ate some breakfast, I made tea and coffee for Tony and I and we were in the car by just after 6.30. The sky was beginning to lighten as we started to drive. Approaching Uluru, it was a black silhouette against the slightly orange background of the eastern sky – very very impressive. We bought our National Parks pass on the way (and were given an information sheet in German – could be handy if we want to learn some German on our trip) and kept driving around to the sunrise viewing area at Talinguru Nyakunytjuta (I might need to check the spelling of that!), watching the changing light on Uluru as we went.

There were already a lot of people there but the sun was still below the horizon. Uluru was quite visible now, still a dark brown mass rising out of the ground. We walked up to the main viewing platform but there were too many people there for me and the kids so we moved back down to one of the lower areas. It was exciting to watch the sunlight slowly hit different bits of the rock, and gradually light up the face of it. We could also see Kata Tjuta from here and they were lit with sunlight earlier than Uluru, quite impressive from a distance. While the sun was rising some of us noticed a kestrel fly into a nearby tree. Another, smaller bird (who may have had a nest in the tree) starting scolding the kestrel loudly. As we watched she moved closer and closer to the big bird, sounding warning calls the whole time, and eventually she started dive bombing the kestrel. It held it’s ground for a while (it seemed to just be ignoring the smaller bird) but eventually had enough and flew away, being chased for some time by the smaller bird, who kept diving at it the whole way – into another tree and down near the ground and eventually across the plains until the small bird was happy it was far enough away from her tree.

LiAM is happy that we gave him his birthday present early - he was very keen to get a photo of Uluru (or in this case, a photo of me taking a photo of Uluru...)
The kids and I wandered along the paths and watched the changing light from several different view points. The one we ended up at seemed to have the best view, on ground level, straight across to the rock. Many of the other vantage points had trees in our line of sight – which didn’t detract from how amazing the sunrise was. We eventually wandered back up to where Tony was, and found him chatting to a guy who used to supply presses to De Bortoli. Nearly everyone we’ve spoken to has lived near somewhere we used to live, or near some of our family, or works somewhere we’ve had something to do with… There’s always a connection.

Back at the carpark we were happy to find flush toilets – my worst ever toilet experience was a Uluru in 1997, so it was a relief to see that the toilets have been upgraded quite a bit since then! Once we’d used the facilities we drove all the way around Uluru – so amazing to see it from so many different angles. I’d forgotten how wriggly the outline is, I tend to think of it as just being a big oval. We stopped near the place where people can climb it (the climb was closed and we had no intention of climbing anyway) so the kids could get close to it. Then we popped around to the cultural centre as LiAM wanted to get a souvenir.

Caitlin and I spent quite a bit of time in the art gallery, watching two indigenous women painting – one woman was working on a dot painting that I loved more than anything else I’d seen in the gallery. I would have loved to buy it – someone else had already said they wanted, and it was a little out of my price range anyway. I could have stayed there all day watching them work. LiAM bought a little Uluru snow globe, and Millie bought a note book with a dot painting on the front, and Caitlin a scrunchie with a dot pattern on it. Tony bought an Uluru tea towel – we figure tea towels are handy and practical souvenirs! LiAM was eyeing off the cakes at the cafĂ© – they were $6 a piece so I said we could buy a whole cake to share from the IGA later and it would probably be cheaper. He was happy to wait.

Back to the campground where I waited in line to find out the details of our new site. It was a good sized site (I’d been worried, some of the sites here are really narrow, and we wouldn’t be able to put our awing up), right near a toilet block, and with shade. We had a bit more to eat back at our tent, then started to do a weird sort of pack up – we put things away where we could, and shoved a heap of stuff in the car – it still took a while and it was a little frustrating to have to pack up so much to move such a short distance – but we needed to put the tent all the way down to move it. We didn’t put the cover on though, just piled everything on top of the folded tent and tied it down for the short drive. Tony and Caitlin had already ridden their bikes over and Caitlin helped Millie ride hers.

Setting up was also a bit of a pain since we normally have a break in between putting the tent down and back up again and we weren’t really in the mood. I hadn’t really eaten enough and I think the busyness of the last couple of weeks was catching up with me and I was rather grumpy. Everyone seemed tired so we decided to simply spend the rest of the day at the campground rather than going out for more sight seeing – sometimes we need to rest! We got everything set up and had some lunch, and I eventually got our washing hung out to dry. LiAM and I went to the IGA to get milk and cake and a few other supplies, which picked up everyone’s mood a little. After lunch Tony took the kids to have a swim and I stayed at the tent, catching up on some banking and email and so on, and enjoying the down time.

The kids came back and had showers and we had pizza rolls for tea (tomato paste, ham, kabana, cheese and pineapple wrapped up in flat bread and cooked in the fry pan). Not quite pizza but the closest we could get with the equipment we had! Everyone was exhausted, LiAM went to bed and listened to music before the rest of us wandered in and we read Brisingr for a very short time before people started falling asleep.

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