27 October, entry from Ørjan, no entry from Tanja
On the 27th we had an early start to start the second leg of our 6-day trip. We were just 18 people in a smaller bus with Steve as our guide. We found out that this leg was way more informative and interesting that the previous 3 days. Our camp was at Kings Creek Cattle station. A much finer camp than the previous nights with large tents and a nice camping area. We got some time to settle in and relax after the drive from Alice Springs. In the afternoon we drove to Kings Canyon for a short trek, standing on the edge of that canyon was nothing short of spectacular! After peering into the abyss, we walked to the Garden of Eden, an oasis in one of the canyons. We had a refreshing bath in a small pond of fresh spring water. The walk back was long and essential was good shoes. When we got to the bus our knees where sore and our feet likewise. Back in camp we had BBQed chicken and beer. Sunset was epic.
28 October 1997, Ayers Rock Resort, Australia:
Sitting in the dining room, relaxing. Soon to depart to watch the sun set over Ayers Rock. Quite incredible – a cliff rising more than 300 metres in an otherwise flat landscape. We’re supposed to climb it tomorrow, but after having seen the path today I don’t know if I dare. It was literally going straight up on the steep cliff wall. And after walking in military boots both yesterday and today I’ve got a lot of blisters that hurt. Maybe I’ll just stay around the base of the cliff tomorrow. Today we were at the Olgas, or Kata Tjuta, as it’s called in the Aboriginal language, meaning “many heads”. All these places are sacred to the Aboriginals, believing that the spirits of their ancestors dwell there. The Olgas were as impressive as Ayers Rock, consisting of several peaks. From a distance apparently, they look like a reclining Homer Simpson. Didn’t manage to walk more than three kilometres today due to the blisters, but what I saw was very nice. But also, very hot! The heat here is almost unbearable, the same goes for the flies – they constantly buzz around your face.
Last day of camping for now, both sleeping outdoors and in tents, getting up early, feeling sweaty and dirty almost all the time has not been a problem, rather a new and exciting experience. Still, looking forward to getting to a hotel room with aircon, a shower and toilet (hopefully). Yesterday we hiked 6 kilometres in steep terrain in Kings Canyon – beautiful! Swam in a waterhole about halfway – very refreshing! Left Alice Springs quite early, stopped for lunch at a pub in the middle of nowhere along Stuart Highway.
It was another early start to drive to Kata Tjuta or The Olgas as the foreign invaders called them. Kata Tjuta can be seen from Ayers Rock or Uluru in local aboriginal language. Equally as impressive these stone formations look like alien spaceships that have landed in the arid desert. The local aborigines think that they are heads of ancestral beings who created the world, thus a sacred place. We had a great walk among the enormous rock massive, Tanja had blisters on her feet, so she had to turn around halfway. My first encounter with the Australian flies! They will drive you mad! Argh! After a 6-kilometre trek in scorching heat, the wind felt like a hairdryer on full tilt, the flies getting in my face constantly, I had blisters on both my feet, beer! Now! After we returned to camp we walked to a lookout with great views of the setting sun, Ayers Rock and the Olgas. The setting sun behind the Olgas made Ayers Rock change colour from bright red to dark red to almost purple. Amazing! Hamburgers and salad for dinner!
29 October, entry from Ørjan, no entry from Tanja
Had to get up at 04:00 and drive to Ayers Rock at 05:00 to get to see the sun rise from the top of the rock itself. Tanja decided not to climb due to her blisters. When we got to the foot of the rock it was pitch black, and we started to climb with only small torches to light our path. First part of the climb was incredibly steep with only a chain to hold on to, the drop on each side felt sheer and it was pure horror. I was scared and nervous and exhausted after a few hundred metres. The walk is about 45 minutes, and by walk, I mean mostly climb. It was tough as hell! I was unsure on the way if I would get to the top by sunrise, the elevation from bottom to top is 340 metres in about 1,4 kilometres. After a few breaks I was sure I was at the top, but it was a false summit, I settled at the false summit and the sun rose behind Mt Connor and the feeling and views were indescribable. I have never felt this before, to sit on top of Ayers Rock and see the infinite landscape being illuminated by the rising sun was epic! I could see for miles and miles as the wind picked up, and I laid down on my back and felt the earth beneath me and the wind howl in my ears, magical. I took a few pictures, and I felt very sad that Tanja was not with me, her feet too blistered to follow me up to the top. The trek down was even longer than I imagined. Now that I could see the surroundings, I saw the mass of people now scrambling up the incline we had passed earlier. They looked just as tired and scared as I probably had coming up. It did not help that my cold was still bugging me. When I came down to ground level again, I could see the antlike people still climbing above me, and I could see how steep and sheer the drop off each side of the path was. There had been several fatalities with people falling off the path and they said that a guide had died a few weeks before, trying to retrieve a cap that one of his guests had lost.
We had a trek around the base of Ayers Rock, we saw cave paintings, a water source that never ran dry even in the driest of times. The sandstone of Ayers Rock is like a sponge and soaks up any moisture from the ground and deposits the lifesaving drops in springs around the rock itself. No wonder this is a very sacred place for the local aboriginals. There are many sacred places among the rocks at the base, but we were not allowed to take pictures at those sites. There are sacred spaces for men and women. The women would gather the food, roots, and grubs. Different groups had different languages, they think that there are/were around 250 different tribes and 750 dialects in Australian Aboriginal society. To become a man, you had to pass an initiation rite that meant you could be wandering the land for up to 10 years before you were allowed back to the tribe. They had to follow song lines that were sung by the ancestral beings, and they had to find and follow their own totem animal, it could be a kangaroo or a wombat, a totem animal that was then considered a brother that you could not eat, but you could participate in the hunt. You were taught the ancient ways by your elders since your parents still were young and could partake in hunts and other activities that demanded physical strength. We walked via the visitor’s centre on the way back to camp, we packed our gear and ate lunch.
500 kilometres back to Alice Springs, it was a long ride. When we got back to Melanka lodge we had a small argument with the management, we had a free room, and we wanted aircon and shower in the room, we won luckily and got a nice room with all amenities. To shower off all that sweat and red dirt was heaven after days in a tent. In the evening we had a farewell dinner with our fellow travellers to Ayers Rock. Kangaroo and camel BBQ meat with salad. Beers and wine and slept like a log.
30 October 1997, Melanka Hotel, Alice Springs, Australia:
So nice – feeling rested, relaxed and clean. It’s 10.30 a.m., have been up since 9. Got here last night around 6 p.m., the receptionist didn’t quite believe that we had two nights free stay in the hostel, and it became more confusing when we asked to pay for the upgrade to a motel room. However, instead we were given a family deluxe room with a double bed, bunks, a dining room, fridge/minibar, TV and separate shower, toilet and bathroom – all for free! Finally got a whole night’s sleep, the last nights I’ve probably only slept for about two-three hours. Yesterday we were going to get up at 4 a.m. but woke up around 2 a.m. from a sound coming from the tent zipper – sounded like something tried to get into our tent. Didn’t dare to go and have a look, and imagined all kinds of stuff, snakes, spiders etc. Asked someone to check from the outside before we got up, and it was only a big grasshopper… Left camp at around 5 a.m. and drove to the base of Ayers Rock, where everyone except three others and myself climbed the rock. The four of us instead went for a
9-kilometre hike around the cliff, we got to see a beautiful sunrise, but would much rather have been on the top. Looked like a strenuous hike – 1.6 kilometres on a very steep path to the top, pitch dark when they set off. Worried about Ørjan, happy to see him when he’d finished the hike – everything went well. He was beaming – something he’d been wanting to do for a long time, so well pleased that he’d managed the hike – I think it was a great achievement! After the hike the guide Steve took us on a short walk, telling us about the Aboriginals’ attachment to Ayers Rock. We also visited a cultural centre. Then back to camp, packed up our stuff, had lunch and started on our five-hour bus ride back to Alice Springs. Met up in the evening for dinner consisting of camel meat and kangaroo meatballs – not something I’ll have again, I think. Had some drinks with the others before heading off to bed at around 11 p.m. – knackered. Felt great to go to sleep in a nice, soft bed in a cool airconditioned room. Sad to say goodbye to the others – it’s been so nice travelling with them. Glad the camping trip is over, but it has been really exciting!
Used the day to relax and do some shopping.
31 October 1997, Melanka Hotel, Alice Springs, Australia:
Sitting in the backyard by the swimming pool feeling a bit cold. Strange feeling, since setting out on this journey more than a month ago I’ve been sweating, sweating, sweating. There was heavy rain and thunder last night, and we were cold when we went out to find something to eat. Thought it would be warmer today, but even the wind feels a bit cool – almost like a Norwegian summer’s day, and I like it! Had to locate my warm sweater. Have just finished writing some post cards, nice to just relax for a bit, doing nothing. Our flight leaves at 7 p.m., hopefully we’ll arrive in Cairns around 10 p.m. We’ll travel together with the Danish girls and have already booked a room. Very excited to see what the north-eastern coast has to offer. This is a nice and quiet place, almost no traffic, few people, and no pushy sellers. Was at an opal jewellery store earlier and bought a nice necklace for gran. The store’s walls were filled with autographed photos of celebrities that had been to the store. When the owner discovered that I was a Bon Jovi fan he ran into the back of the store and returned with a plectrum with Jon Bon Jovi’s initials, which he’d been given by BJ’s personal assistant (the owner’s best friend apparently) on last week’s concert in Australia. Got a kiss on the cheek on my way out. Bought a blue-stone ring for myself at another shop. Last night we brought take-away from Pizza Hut to the hotel room, relaxed in front of the telly with “The Saint”, and had some nachos with dip for dessert – guilty pleasures… Talked to mum who said we’d received a 700 NOK (GBP 70) phone bill – most of it from Indonesia – forgot how expensive it was to make calls from there…
Coming up next: Cairns, Cape Tribulation and the Daintree Rainforest
The hike sounds a bit dangerous but amazing to see the sunrise. I would also think Orjan is very glad having done the hike since it is no longer allowed.
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The hike up Ayers Rock was one of the scariest things I have ever done but still one of the most vivid memories I have. And Im glad I did it, even with mixed emotions, since I always abide to local tribe and society rules on our travels. Fun fact, I brought back 2 stones from the top of Ayers Rock to Norway, after a few years I felt so bad about stealing native property, I sent them back by post to the visitors centre at the base of the rock, apologizing for my sin.
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I admire you for returning the rocks. It feels best when we follow our gut!
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Nostalgic, beautiful melancholy in the images.
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