Hey y’all! I know it’s been a while since I’ve posted. I got back a few days ago from my Outback Adventure, and I’ve been busy catching up on school work, but I have time now to tell y’all about it! Fair warning, this is gonna be an essay post… But once again, I was a nerd and took notes.
There were 11 of us total going on this trip, all of us exchange and the majority Canadian. Steph, Caroline and I were the Americans. Vivi and Tanai are originally from Venezuela, but have been living in the U.S. since they were 12 or so. Oliver, Sam, Zara, Talya, Carly, and Ali are all from Canada, and more specifically, they all go to McGill University together. The whole trip consisted of early mornings, and this was no different. We all met up at 6:30am and took a Maxi Taxi to the airport. The flight was fine. We did however have a scottish pilot, and Steph and I kept calling him Simon Pegg. Since we were such a big group, we had to wait for the second shuttle to the hostel so we hung out in the tiny Alice Springs Airport for a while. Steph and I were the only two out of our group that hadn’t ever stayed in a hostel before. Ours was nice, and we had 8 people in one room and 3 in the other. Steph and I were in the 8 people room. There were four sets of bunk beds and a bathroom. It was what I imagined summer camp would be like. After we dropped off our stuff we made our way into town to check in for our tour, where we were then informed that we each needed 3L of water. So we went on a shopping expedition, which was entertaining. After everyone had their water and some snacks we went back to the hostel for nap time. After a few hours of sleeping/chatting in our bunks, we went to check out the night market (nothing compared to Melbourne’s, but it was fun). We all got dinner and then went back to begin the shower rotation. Seven girls, one guy, and only one shower. Needless to say it took a while before we were all clean.
It was another early morning. Breakfast was at 5:10, pick-up for our camping/backpacking tour was 5:30. We all rolled out of bed at about 5. Breakfast was toast and cereal. We met our tour guide Mat, who was super awesome. We all got on the bus and chose our seats. There was a Dutch couple, a German couple, an English girl, two asian girls (I don’t know specifically where they’re from), two German girls, and a French girl that completed our tour group. One of the first things Mat said was,”The only thing better than music is loud music.” At which point I thought, this is gonna be awesome. He demonstrated the Australian Automatic Door, aka Manual (Steph and I were familiar with from previous tours). Then we began our adventure with the nice ‘soothing’ sound of ‘Highway to Hell’. Mat was an awesome DJ and we had great music the whole trip. We drove for about four hours to our first destination. Mat gave us chalk pens to decorate our windows with, I suspect to keep us busy during the long drive, but it was also extremely helpful in identifying our bus. The first place we hiked was Kings Canyon. We hiked around the top of the canyon, but to get up there, we had to climb Heart Attack Hill. Which lived up to it’s name…my asthma made a valiant attempt at a come back. But once we made it up to the top, it was beautiful. It was about a three hour hike around edge of the canyon, with frequent stops for pictures. Apparently it’s the biggest canyon in the world (cause the Grand Canyon isn’t technically a canyon…). There was a rock that jutted out the side of the canyon and it looked like pride rock from the Lion King. So naturally everyone was taking pictures and singing the Lion King. At one point we crossed the canyon at it’s narrowest point. There was the option to jump across. The boys did, the girls didn’t. After our extensive hike around the canyon, we started to make our way to camp. When we were about halfway there we pulled over to the side of the road to collect fire wood from the bush. Then we made a stop to buy alcohol, of course. People took turns DJ-ing on our way to camp. On the pitch dark drive into our camp sight, Mat blasted music, flickered the lights in time with the music, and drove donuts around our campsite. That may have been the most terrifying part of the trip… But I laughed the whole way through, cause it was either laugh or cry. We all pitched in setting up camp and cooking dinner on the campfire. Mat brought along a Kangaroo tail, which he kindly put the vegetarians in charge of. I was surprised at how many people didn’t really know how to cook or properly chop up veggies, but in the end, dinner got made and it was pretty good. We were also starving so… We had chili, rice, potatoes and carrots, along with garlic bread that Mat made which consisted of flour, beer, and garlic. It was delicious. After dinner we set up our SWAGs. Which are basically heavy duty canvas sleeping bags with a mattress that you put your sleeping bag into. Mat then went on to tell us how we have to draw a trench around your swag to keep the snakes away. And that we have to lay down a line of salt to keep the bugs and spiders away, and a line of pepper to keep away the dingos. He promised he wasn’t trying to cook us. We were worried that he was making us preform some sort of satanic ritual. And Oliver kept asking for the garlic for vampires… But in the end we all dutifully protected ourselves from the outback (the next night we were informed that it was a placebo…). We had a full moon, which was so cool. We could see the full moon ring around it all night, and it gave us enough light to see in the dark. It was really peaceful once everyone went to sleep, quiet and cool. Until Steph woke me up at two am worried that she was dying. Something had caused her finger to swell in an allergic reaction, she took some meds and was fine in the morning.
We had another early morning. We found a few people sleeping in the bus, apparently there had been a dingo or two on the edge of camp. We had our usual breakfast of cereal and toast and then we got to take showers! They were nice, hot showers too. The way we reacted to them you would have though it was liquid gold coming out of the faucet. Once we were all clean, we headed over to Kata Tjuta. We hiked through the Valley of the Winds. It was beautiful. We stopped at one point where Mat gave us an interactive geomorphology lesson, pretty neat. We learned that Uluru is basically a giant land ice berg (the part you see above ground is only the tip). We hiked up the valley/canyon, which wasn’t as bad as heart attack hill, but pretty darn close. The view was worth it though. Then we spent a fair amount of time taking pictures, and the tour guides being ridiculous. Then we had lunch, with the help of super annoying flies (which were all over us on all of the hikes, a few people bought fly nets) and wraps with the left-over chili. Once we’d all reached our tolerance level with the flies, we headed to the Uluru Cultural Center. It was pretty interesting. they had a fair amount of the Dreamtime Stories on display, accompanied by aboriginal art. There was a lot of information about the aborignial culutre in its many forms. They had this book called the ‘I’m Sorry Book’, which is full of apology letters from people that came to Uluru and took a rock or a piece of Uluru back with them, and then bad things happened to them. They hoped that by apologizing and sending back the rocks that their luck would be restored. Uluru is sacred to the Aboriginals. It’s like their church. But they don’t really have any power to protect it, because when the Australians gave them back their land, there were certain restrictions that came with it. For example, you ‘can’ climb Uluru, but they really prefer you not to, because it’s like you’re climbing their church. But the aboriginals don’t have the power to physically stop you. All they can do is educate people about it and hope that they will be respectful and not climb it. Mat was very proud to say that in all the times he’s lead this tour (which is a lot, he has everything effortlessly timed down to the minute) he’s never had anyone climb Uluru (they have to give the option). After the Cultural Center, we drove to Uluru do to the Mala Base walk. Leon (half of the German couple) sat at the very front of the bus (his girlfriend was at the back cause they were the last to get on and we were rude and took all the paired seats). His english wasn’t great, but he was funny. He clearly understood everything, but just kept quiet, and when he would do something funny, and Steph and I would laugh (we were the row behind him) he would look so proud of himself. The point being, that he was an awesome guy, and to make it better, he would jump out of the front window (it was a pretty big window) to open the door for the rest of us, every time without fail. Anyway, we did the baby base walk around Uluru, it was gorgeous. It’s this giant rock in the middle of the outback, which is flat. We understood why it would be sacred, if you’d only seen flat land all your life and then you went to Uluru and saw this huge, bigger than life piece of earth sticking out of the ground, bigger than anything you’ve ever seen before, the only way to interpret that would be something spiritual. Steph said that it was sublime, in the art history sense of the term, and she’s completely right. There are certain places that can’t be photographed because in their culture they are scared and thus not everyone in their culture is allowed to see them, and they don’t want them winding up on the internet for those who haven’t seen to accidentally be seen. Mat said that if they do see a site they’re not supposed to, that they can still be punished within their culture. At one point, Mat reenacted one of the Dreamtime stories for us, which was cool. Then we went to an area across the way that had picnic tables where we could watch the sunset on Uluru. Mat made us dinner, which was delicious, and we all took more pictures, and drank, and had a jolly time. Then it was time to head to camp. We must have been obnoxious to everyone we drove by. We were jammin’ out to all the 80’s/90’s throwbacks when we pulled up to the gas station. It was a great time though, and everyone on our bus sang along. We got back to camp and showered again (because we could and it was the last time we’d be able to). Then Mat walked us up to a look-out platform outside of camp. It was amazing, we could see the stars, and not just the stars, but the star dust and the outline of the Milkyway galaxy. It was incredible. There was the whole sky dome effect going on. Steph and I had a moment or two. We stayed up there together to watch the moon rise. It was so surreal. We didn’t want to leave, but it was getting cold. We headed back to the campfire, where true to form, there was a sign along occurring. Steph and I felt bad for the european people cause they didn’t know any of the songs we were playing. We set up our Swags, sans spices, and slept under the stars. A few girls chose to sleep in the bus again. I loved sleeping under the stars, it was cool and peaceful and it was so calming to just watch the sky. I want to go camping on the beach back home now.
Mat woke us up super duper early (not as early as the summer tours though) and we went back to the picnic tables to have breakfast and watch the sunrise. It was beautiful. At one point Mat was blasting music (a famous symphony piece that I can’t remember the name of) and conducted the sunrise, it was great. Then we went back to Uluru to do the rest of the base walk. It was just the right amount of chilly and quiet and peaceful. After we walked around all of Uluru, which took us a little over two hours (at a pretty brisk pace I might add), Mat met us with oranges and fruit cake. It was divine. Then we began our six or so hour journey back to Alice Springs. We had a few awesome jam sessions between stops, and Mat was taking requests (mostly Steph and I because we were sitting behind him). We stopped for lunch after about two hours. Then we had another couple hour drive, where everyone passed out, the music blaring. Then it was time for the camels! We had the option to ride them (I didn’t), but Steph and a few others did. It was amusing to watch. Then we drove the rest of the way back to Alice Springs, in which Mat pulled out the 90’s big guns, aka Back Street Boys, Britney Spears, ect. It was great. We got dropped off at the hostel, showered and then went to The Rock Bar. It’s tradition to go to The Rock Bar after the tour for dinner and drinks with tour guides. (I got a free drink out of it too!) It was a fun time, but we called it a night fairly early, since we were all exhausted.
We had a random extra day in Alice Springs because for some reason there were no flights out of Alice Springs that day (there’s only one flight each way each day, and we didn’t get back early enough the day before so we had to wait till the day after). We woke up early (8am) for free breakfast (5:10am-8:30am). Then we all lounged around for most of the morning until lunch time. We broke off into little groups and went into town. We had lunch and did some souvenir shopping. I was exhausted so I went back and slept for a few hours. Katja (one of the German girls from the trip) met up with us and hung our for a while, she was also on our flight back the next day. We had pizza from the pub at the hostel for dinner. It was surprisingly good… but I was also starving, so… We hung out, then showered, and passed out. We got up early the next day for the airport, which was uneventful.
I was very apprehensive about going on this trip. I was going to have to miss a few classes, I didn’t really know a lot of the people going… I’m not an outdoorsy person in the least… But Steph convinced me to go, and I’m so glad I did. It was so much fun, and enlightening and amazing. Definitely one of those once in a lifetime experiences. And in the end I didn’t really miss much in the way of classes and such. It was really nice to unplug from technology and all of that (although by the last day or so you could tell that we were all going through withdrawal… There was a sign on the wifi at the hostel that if they felt we were being too anti-social they would turn it off…) I’m also becoming a firm believer that it’s not where you are, but the people you’re with. In the sense that you can be somewhere so amazing, but if you don’t have anyone to share it with, then it doesn’t really mean much. And the people that you’re with have the power to make or break the experience. I’m so happy I went with the group that I did, they’re all wonderful human beings and so happy and positive. And Mat was the best tour guide we could have had, he was fun and goofy, had really good taste in music, and he knew what he was talking about/doing. Words cannot express how great this trip was. It’s strange to think that it’s already a memory. I’ve been hanging out with too many optimistic people, because this trip had its ups and downs (what trip doesn’t), but the downs seem to pale in comparison to the ups, they hardly seem worth mentioning. It’s a good thing, just different from the norm for me.
In other news: I updated the gallery. I added a few from Sydney that were on Steph’s camera, and then started a new gallery for the Outback trip.