Monday, 21 January 2013

Are you the no Moo-Cow? A day tour Aussie style

‘I’m lactose intolerant.’

Not me, thank goodness, I’ll tolerate anything (almost), but someone on our one day tour from Alice Springs to Ayres Rock.

‘Oh, so you’re the no moo-cow!’ replies one of our guides (the one with the handlebar moustache that got a lot of stick from our co-guide).

To be fair, it is 6.00am and we're all a bit bleary-eyed as we board the coach, clutching our breakfast pack (cereal bar, orange juice, crackers and cheese, marmalade for the no moo-cow).  And we all know that we won’t return until 1.00am.  After losing 7 hours when we flew from Jo’burg to Perth four days ago, we lost another hour and half when we landed in Alice Springs – which meant we just had enough time to nip to the bar next door for dinner, then back to The Airport Motel for the bottle of Merlot we bought in Margaret River (see previous blog) and an early night.

Despite Eddie’s protestations (what do you want to look at a rock for, there’s no wine there!)  I persuaded him that you can’t visit Australia and not go to Uluru, which is the traditional name for Ayres Rock.  So we went.

It's a long road from Alice Springs to Uluru
The tour took all day and most of the night, we travelled 1100km and walked around in 42 degrees heat - and we were lucky.  The weather cooled for us just before we came, otherwise I’d have melted like tar in the coach park.

Why did we do this to ourselves?  Because flying to Ayres Rock means going via Alice Springs, staying at Ayres Rock means taking out another mortgage and using up another day, so we decided to stay 2 nights in Alice and take the day tour.  We chose Emu Run Tours, because they looked the friendliest. 

Which turned out to be great fun, hugely interesting and informative, with lots of add-on wow factor.  Exhausting, but absolutely worth it.  And once we were on that bus, we didn’t have to think about anything other than getting off the bus to take snaps and have a comfort break when we were told.  (‘The bus does have a toilet, but please only use it in emergencies and no number twos, they stink the whole bus out.’)

The first walk was the longest, hottest and hardest – 45 minutes at Kata Tjuta, or the Olgas as they were known before the area was handed back to its rightful owners.  When our guides said they were going to wait by the bus for us, we should have been warned – but at least they kept the engine running and the air-con going.  The walk was hot, but worth it, the scenery spectacular.

Kata Tjuta - the Olgas
When we got back, there was ice-cold water melon waiting for us.  Plus another chance (there were a lot of these) to fill up our water bottles.  We had a visit to the cultural centre, where we were promised ice cream, but arrived to find they had none left.  Still, it was nice to sit with a bottle of ice cold apple juice.  There were two walks at the base of Ayres Rock, accompanied by one guide while the other kept the air conditioning going.  Each time there was a cool treat waiting for us on our return.  Each time we were grateful to get back inside, then sat fanning ourselves as our poor bodies told us how hot we were.

The thing about walking around in the heat, is that you don’t notice that you are sweating.  It just evaporates away.  But the moment you’re back under the a/c, it decides to register – in a sort of glazed-eyed, tongue-lollong, panting sort of way.  Then, just as you’re comfortable, off you get again.

But, it was worth it.  The place is stunning, atmospheric, like nothing else you’ll experience.  It’s the most photographed rock in the world and it really does change colour depending on how the sun is shining on it (it goes purple when the sun is behind a cloud – yes, we got clouds.)  So, I’m not going to bore you with hundreds of different coloured Ayes Rocks/Ulurus, but leave you with the one of us just before our barbeque dinner was served, all taken out of the bowels of the coach and cooked while we waited.

And yes, that’s bubbly in those glasses – and we had wine with our meal!  (And a very interesting conversation about why the red wine was decanted into a bottle that was stained an unusual shade of pink – but I won’t go into that, we drank it and survived.   And I’d better not tell you about the conversation I had with a young Frenchman about Australian wine . . .)

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