Warning! the following 3 posts will be very photo heavy!
After our 3rd night we moved accommodation to the Alice Motor Inn from where we would be picked up at 5.45 the following morning. We had checked it out on a walk the previous day and decided that it would be too far with all the luggage but there was a very conveniently placed bus stop immediately outside, albeit an infrequent service. We surprised ourselves by being ready late morning, have stored our bags at the hotel so jumped on the lunchtime bus and were entertained all the way by a very chatty driver who also gave us an update on the Olympics. (One of the two drivers of our Greyhound this morning is also very friendly, even passing around sweets before we set off, and then engaging us in an hour long conversation about where he’d travelled in the UK, where we should visit and most of the rest of his life history. They then made a couple of short diversions to points of interest en route, like a tour bus.)
We had a huge 5 bed family room which enabled us to sort the bags properly before retiring to read books around the pool before getting a fairly early night after a delicious pizza and bottle of wine. We were joined at the bus stop in the dark early hours by a bloke who transpired to be a ski instructor in the Pyrenees and had been a British downhill champion in the early 1980s and also a young Italian couple on their honeymoon.
When the bus pulled up Eric, our driver, chef and tour guide for the trip got us organised and onto the bus. Already in seats were a family who turned out to be Korean, a young, very quiet and unassuming German lad and a Dutchman. We had one more stop to collect a French family before starting out. We did notice that the Father of the Korean family was very dismissive and distant with his wife and 2 children, leaving her to deal with everything whilst he spent all his time taking oodles of photos and videos on one of his 4 cameras! He turned out to be displaying the racial stereotype of the Japanese and was nothing to do with the other three!
Our first scenic stop was to view Mt Connor, AKA Fool-uru, AKA the giant toothbrush. It had seemed odd that Eric hadn’t mentioned anything as this huge monolith, bigger and higher than Uluru, came in to view but we soon learnt why. In the opposite direction was the bottom end of dried up Lake Amadeus with its thin crust of salt bleaching white in the sun. Continuing on, we stopped at the roadside to collect wood for our camp-fire that evening. A little further, Uluru came into view from behind the dunes. It is quite a remarkable sight and certainly deserving of its iconic status.
We paid a visit to the cultural centre before embarking on a shortish walk. The base walk was an option but the time constraints meant that it would have to be undertaken as a bit of a route march so opted to go at a more sedate pace and absorb the detail of Eric’s explanations about the geology, plants and culture. At one point we were left to complete a short section on our own whilst he moved the bus to our finish. This involved visiting a very still peaceful waterhole, Kapi Mutitjulu, not disturbed, quite unusually, by flies or mosquitoes. We hadn’t intended to lag behind but soon found all the other voices to be retreating and were able to sit on a huge beautifully assembled and polished bench in one of the most popular tourist attractions in Australia in total peace and isolation from the hubbub.
Eric then took us to the sunset lookout point where we joined a myriad of other vehicles whose occupants were waiting and watching for the evening illumination of the rock. The skies did not look promising, as they hadn’t done all day but we only needed a little chink at the right time, Eric assured us. He delivered some fizz and snacks to consume whilst we waited which were very welcome. As if by a switch, as the sun sunk right down onto the horizon, the rock started to glow, seemingly from the inside out, like a Himalayan rock salt lamp. All around was brooding threatening skies but Uluru shone like the mystical beacon it had become in Aboriginal folklore before it began to fade from the right hand side.
This light emphasized the fissures eroded from the unusual vertical strata. The whole rock, two thirds of which is submerged like an iceberg, had been tilted by 90 degrees from its original position resulting in one end of it being 50million years older than the other. Totally remarkable!