Camels and champaign
Jun 13, 2013
|Started the day by getting up at 5;30 and dragging our bags to the lobby. Luckily the transport was waiting. After we paid the bill for our two phone calls ($22.00… plus 1.5% for using a credit card) we were on our way to the airport.
Got to the airport at 6:30 and check in was fine. They do the whole process – including luggage tags – at check in, so no issues. We sat in row one – an issue as we had to stow our bags overhead but otherwise nothing special.
It was quite interesting flying across the continent – moving from tropical forest to sparse trees to no trees to salt flats. The meandering rivers of northern Australia were amazing. Then the semi-arid conditions. The geography was amazing with the twists and folds of the landscape – like some giant had crashed together some layers of clay.
We arrived at Ayers Rock (Urulu) at about 10:00 and made our way to the hotel - the whole flight was scheduled for the same hotel complex – about five hotels operated by one company at the same spot. We were at the Desert Springs complex – at the far end – nice view of the desert from the back porch. Alice was rather pooped so we went and had lunch at the “Town Center” deli – relatively inexpensive grilled cheese – then bought some stuff at the local IGA – the only grocery store in 400 km. The town is restricted to 1200 residents who must work in the area (it is controlled by native groups) and most staff live near their employment. As expected, most of the domestic staff were aborigines.
Alice went to the room for a nap but I headed out to explore. Looked at some local crafts (very expensive) then went for a walk to a sand dune with a view of Uluru – then back to the hotel. Quite dry and though cold very dry. Temperature was about 60 and humidity about 10%.
After wandering around a bit I went to get Alice and we got ready for our camel ride - but our clocks were all off a half hour. Also found that internet was only available by the hour ($10 per) so decided to put it off a while…
After wandering around a bit we finally ended up at the lobby and were picked up by Brent – a young cameleer who had been working at the camel farm for about a year. Alice thought he had a nice butt… We picked up another couple then headed to the camel farm. We learned that there were 750,000 camels in the northern district. They take about five years to mature so the farm does not raise them – they simply round up wild camels and train them in a process that takes about three months. They did have rescue camel that was about 6 months old but were talking about letting it goi back into the wild. They are considered a pest animal with well over 1.25 million on the continent. They even paid a firm to kill a bunch, but harder said than done.
At the farm we met another couple from Cairns (originally Switzerland) who were on the ride, so there were five of us on the trip – Brent and the four guests. I rode Comanche who was quite a gentle animal. All went well except for a small fire that freaked out the lead camel, so we had a cluster for a couple minutes. Brent then dismounted (a feat in itself) and walked the lead camel for a bit.
The trip itself took about 90 minutes and was quite interesting. Brent kept up a running commentary about history, current conditions, myths, geology, and many other subjects during the whole time. We were “attacked” by a small bird (the gossip bird) because we were too close to the nest, but no one was injured. Uluru was spectacular. Unlike other words in the local language, Uluru has no translation – it is just the thing (rock formation) itself.
We finally ended at the “Sounds of Silence” dinner. There were about 50 people on a hill top waiting for the event as we rode up on our camels. We were met by a waiter with four glasses of Champaign. We dismounted, got out drinks, and made our way to the top of the hill with the rest of the folks taking pictures of the rather spectacular arrival of our camel troop.
At the reception area we were served canapés and had a didgeridoo concert going on. We tried kangaroo and crocodile canapés and some with salmon (quite a contrast). After this elegant start we were led down a small hill to the dinner area.
We were served wine and saw a small group of three aborigines wandering through the bush toward the camp. In full body paint they preformed several dances for the assembled 50 or so folks. Although they were supposed to be authentic the emphasis of protecting and respecting the earth did not ring true to traditional values of a good hunt and great fertility.
In any even the dinner beneath the stars was very nice – heaters and lanterns made it quite easy. The dinner was “bush inspired’ with kangaroo, crocodile, and Caesar Salad… along with potatoes and rice.
At our table of eight there were the two of us, the Swiss couple, a couple from Cairns, and two people from Sydney, one originally from Nova Scotia Canada – an odd mix. Alice spent most of the time chatting with the lady from Cairns (Switzerland) who were off on holiday themselves. I spent most of the evening talking to a guy from Cairns – interesting folks!
The evening ended with all the lights being turned off and a commentator talking about the start – the Milky Way was spectacular and vividly clear – the southern cross (More like a southern kite – four points…) and Saturn. Several southern constellations were pointed out as well. Quite spectacular. Alice saw a shooting star.
Finally a bus ride back to the hotel. All was well but for some reason I had deleted the earlier version of this file and spent a while looking on how to recover it… no luck.
Now to be and a 5;30 wake up tomorrow to see the sunrise at Urulu…