Australia Day 10

Another early rise as we had to meet the airport bus at 6:30am. We had a bit of difficulty at check out as the hotel tried to charge us for our room even though we already had paid for it when we purchased our package. The driver was getting testy and we left for the airport about 10 minutes late. We made it to the airport and checked in without difficulty and took the opportunity to do some shopping at the shops.

The flight to Ayers Rock Airport was fairly smooth – I plugged in the iPod and fell asleep for most of the trip. We arrived a bit early at the airport to a swarm of flies and gorgeous scenery. We found the shuttle bus and received an overview of the area as we drove to the resort area. We checked into the hotel and noticed that most of the people were wearing these fly nets around their head. It didn’t take long before we realized that the flies and moths were particularly voracious. When we got to the room we found a Goodyear Blimp sized moth already occupied it. We had Gary chase it and flush it. That would have settled it, but there were other creepy crawlys about the room. We headed over to the tourist information center to book a sunset tour of Uluru. The gentleman behind the counter was of German origin and threw a big fit whenever anyone required him to do something that would take longer than a few minutes. After getting the base and sunset tour, we headed over to the central area of the resort to eat. By this time the flies had become so prevalent, we opted to join the cool ‘net kids’ and each got a new piece of netting for our heads. The shopping center at the center of the resort contains a few shops, a central tour booking center, a few restaurants, a grocery store, post office, and a bank. We opted for take away burgers so we could eat in the relatively bug free area of our room. It took awhile for them to be made (but hey at least it is fresh to order!) and we chowed down at the room.

We then had several hours to kill before our tour and there was not really much to do other than shop or swat flies. It was decided that a nap would be appropriate so we turned on the TV to one of our 4 TV stations. We ended up watching the seminal classic – Rich and Famous starring Candice Bergen and Jacqueline Bisset. The movie was really bad, but it passed the time and caused us to snooze until it was time for the tour.

The tour guide showed up promptly at 1530 and we headed off to Uluru for our close up look at the reason we all came here in the first place. I neglected to get the Tour Guide’s name, but he was rather pleasant and gave us some insights into the area. Our first stop was the Cultural Center. The Uluru-Kata Tjuga National Park is jointly run by the Aboriginal owners of the land and the National Park service, which has leased the land back in 1985 for 99 years to run the center. It had some interesting displays, but what I found interesting was that there were no Aboriginal people working at the cultural center. There were lots of displays and stories of the legends of Uluru, but no one there to put a face on it. It would have been nice to see and experience the monument from the people who it meant a lot to and since the center did not have this element, it came off as a bit hollow and preachy and not heart-felt. I do not know why the Aboriginal people are not represented. If they object or do not like people on their sacred land, then why do they allow people to experience the area? Also, if they feel so strongly about people climbing on Uluru why do they still allow it? It was all very confusing and reinforced my belief that there should be some native presence at the center.

We then headed out around Uluru to get a close up look at some of the rock formations, watering holes, and sacred Aboriginal sites. It was neat to finally see something I have wanted to for as long as I can remember. The nets came out again as we started walking close to the water areas as well as some of the more popular points of interest. I think the flies know where the juicy watery eyes on people tend to congregate and thus swarm accordingly. After a nice tour of the base and a look at the beginning of the Uluru climb (complete with more Aboriginal pleas to not climb) it was time to head off to the Sunset viewing area. I did not have high expectations for post card like views since it was overcast and the forecast was for rain. At the Coach parking area it was a mad house. There were at least 10 huge busses full of tourists all along a fence looking at the rock waiting for it to change color. I thought the whole sight was rather amusing.

Our tour company offered us free red or white wine or Sprite to make the evening memorable. I suspect there were some suckers who ponied up for the ‘upgrade’ to champagne. Sunset came, and actually there was a noticeable shift in color on the rock. We then packed it up and headed back to Yulara – the Ayers Rock Resort. On the way back, Mom had mentioned to a family that I worked for Disneyland and thus they asked me some questions about some admission tickets they had. I told them I would contact one of my supervisors and email them when I got to Cairns since I was out of contact for the time being. They got my name and promised to look me up when they came out in June.

At the hotel, we discovered that dinner reservations are a must and we had to wait over an hour for a table at our hotel (worse than Red Lobster on a Saturday night in Brea!). We ended up being the last group seated at the restaurant for the evening. The food was pricey – as all things in the resort are – but at least it was not bad. We then retired for the night completely wiped out from the combination of flies, humidity, and heat. In the middle of the night, it started to pour rain and Mom swears that in between the lightning and thunder she heard critters trying to get in through the sliding glass door out of the rain. Thank goodness I was sound asleep!