Friday 18 and Saturday 19 March 2016

So a Qantas hop to Uluru which is really in the middle of nowhere, as well as the middle of Australia!  And when we arrive the sun is shining and the obvious place to go whilst we wait for our room to become available is the pool.  Watches change this time by only 30 minutes.  I am not sure I understand Australian time management.  Apparently and a little unusually for this part of Australia it had rained overnight so the outdoor seats are generally wet and when Jackie tries to inspect one cushion she is completely unnerved by the sight of a cockroach scuttling away.  And there are insects everywhere and they are not small either!  We decide to head back indoors and find a seat to wait until the rooms are ready.

Qantas by the way originally stood for Queensland and Northern Territory Aerial Services, although the airline has been through many subsequent mergers and changes.  But at least it explains missing “U”.

Once the room is ready we then spend the early part of the afternoon there having a bit of sleep to catch up on the sleep lost the previous night.

Late afternoon and we board the coach to visit the “Sounds of Silence”.  Effectively a buffet dinner in the desert, so we can watch the sunset on both Uluru and Kata Tjuta.  As the sky is not completely clear there are also some clouds to add some different aspects to the surroundings.  The infamous fly nets on our hats are needed by most (but not all) until sundown at which time the need largely disappears.  Some people seem unbothered by flies; whilst others are under constant attack.

Uluru we are later told is where the female Aboriginal Australians tend to gather for their purposes.  Kata Tjuta is for the males of the species – and it is not perhaps as spectacular for the visitors such as ourselves and indeed perhaps the Aboriginal Australians were able to maintain better control of it.

Once the sun has set it is time for dinner, a performance by Aboriginal Australian dancers and a talk of some of the stars.  We do manage to see the entire Southern Cross but little else.  However the food is good and well prepared – and all is helped along by good quantities of alcohol.  Jackie raises the subject of myrtle with the chef which is used in several dishes and he also shows her a picture of a quandoo.  (No I have no idea either).  Myrtle has a strong aniseed flavour.

The photographs that evening are linked here.

Throughout the evening there have been flashes of lightning in the far distance on the horizon to the north west and these are becoming more frequent, so the evening is brought to a quick end by recall of the coaches and a return to the hotel.

A very early start in the morning is arranged to take us to a viewing spot for sunrise.  Over the last 30 years since the historical significance of the site was properly acknowledged the camping and semi-residential sites adjacent to the rock have been moved a considerable distance away and access is generally far more limited.  We also visit a waterhole and adjacent cave with painting, drive around the rock and visit the cultural centre.  The Aboriginal Australians do not reveal their stories to non-tribe members and consequently there is little of the culture which can be told – the most seems to be a story told by the tribe to children and non-tribe members can be told that story.  The secrets are maintained.

Whilst there is one point at which it is still possible to walk up the rock, our guide is of the view that slowly such access will be eroded by various limits and probably will become closed within a few years.  Whilst it was not cold when we woke up it is soon getting a lot warmer.

We circumnavigate the entire Rock.  I would say there is a special feeling about the place and it must be a good thing that the former camp and small town immediately adjacent to the Rock have been removed to a distance.  No doubt the walk up the Rock will be closed within a few years – already the numbers climbing are only a small proportion of the overall visitors.

And the morning photographs are here.

Once back at the hotel we secure our cases and place them outside our room.  Only now do we finally get breakfast and I have to hand it to the team – probably the best breakfast underpinned by an excellent omelette.  And a couple of pieces of fruit in the hand luggage as we are travelling JetStar next – the local no-frills operator.  Despite the weight limits no-one appears to be charged for being over weight.  Apparently Jet Star is owned by Qantas so I am not sure why we do not get air miles for this leg.

Jackie and I have the benefit of a row of three seats for the two of us and we both manage to recover some of our lost sleep before we are flying over the suburbs of Sydney for the next stop on this journey.