|Another spontaneous change of plans - from Adelaide we had planned to go to the nearby Kangaroo Island which is known for wildlife and beaches. However, the ferry turned out to be much more expensive than we had thought and way overpriced for a 45 minute trip in general. For about the same money we could cover our gas expense to drive into the center of the country to Uluru (aka, Ayer's Rock). Since this was actually something we had originally planned on seeing, we decided to go for it despite warnings that the drive is painfully long and boring. We were also warned about the added dangers of rogue kangaroos and speeding road trains (trucks with 2 to 4 trailers). With the rain cleared we set out on our trip into the Outback. Luckily the route went through some of South Australia's famous wine regions. Charlie graciously agreed to be my designated driver through the Clare Valley where we stopped at 3 wineries. My favorites were called Claymore and Sevenhill Cellars. We also got the tip that for the Clare Valley 2002 was a good year for reds. From here we drove, and drove and drove (I dozed a little); and then we stopped for gas and then drove and drove and drove and so on. The only sites of note along the way were huge salt flats (they call them lakes, but hello, there's no water) and then on the second morning, Coober Pedy, a town famous for its opal mines. It's also famous for underground houses, the inhabitant's great idea for escaping the heat (and then cold) of the desert. What you see from the main road is just hundreds of piles of dirt that look like huge ant holes and signs showing a picture of someone falling into a pit warning to beware of holes. The area is also where scenes from Mad Max III and Priscilla, Queen of the Desert were shot. Then guess what followed - drive, drive, drive; gas; drive, drive, drive. We stopped to sleep in the car at a roadside rest stop (oh yeah, Australia is obsessed with signs everywhere telling you to take a nap and telling you that you're tired. Not just on this road, either.) Sleeping in a corolla - even too small for me. Before reaching the rock we were pretty sure that a big, red rock, no matter how big and red, was going to be kind of a let down. However, we were pleasantly surprised. In fact, the long drive helped in a way because after seeing a flat, barren landscape for 2 whole days, this giant monolith was even more striking. Nearby Uluru is also the Olgas (which also has an aboriginal name we can't remember at the moment). This is a collection of smaller, but taller and rounder rocks. Some people climb Uluru - it takes about an hour or two according to the guidebook. There is a big stink about whether it's disrespectful to the aborigines to do so. There are signs saying don't climb because it makes them sad when someone gets hurt. Also, they say the way tourists go up is not the proper way to go up. Not wanting to sound disrespectful, but we would have understood their argument more if they didn't repeat over and over that we're basically too dumb to understand their ways and/or have a better reason then saying they don't like it when people get hurt. Anyway, it wasn't an issue for us because they closed the climb due to some showers in the area. Another sore point with us was that for a pretty high entry fee ($25 per person) there was very little information about the area's geography. Actually, we came across no such information. Maybe they think it's disrespectful to explain the mystery of the rock with science. Anyway, we were glad we went and got about a million pictures of the thing at sunset as it changes from brownish red to dark red. Then it was drive, drive, drive...you get the idea.