Jan 22nd
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Australia's Outback

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Australia's Outback
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The Long Way Round

      If there’s one thing that travelers need to know about the whole Australian Outback experience, it’s the constant need to do the Aussie Wave: your hand flapping in front of your face to ward off the flies trying to land on you and suck moisture from your facial oracles.  That kind of wave.  We noticed right away that nearly all visitors wear enormous hats with nets over their faces and peer at the Outback through netting.
    One of our sons commented that if he had a dollar for every fly that had landed on him he’d be a millionaire and that was just in three days of outback adventuring.  He said he counted 24 flies on my back at one time, obviously attracted to my bright orange t-shirt.  
    Despite the flies, I’d wanted for many years to see the giant red rock called Uluru or Ayers Rock located in the middle The monolith, Uluru or Ahyers Rock steeply rises to 348 metres and is an Aboriginal sacred site.2of the Australian Outback.  It held a kind of you-have-arrived status for me, to be that far from the Pacific Ocean and in the heart of the country.
      Although there’s something quite awe-inspiring about the monstrous rock, Uluru is actually grey but it’s also covered with a coating of red iron oxide.  Ayers Rock looks amazing at both sunrise and sunset which are the best times to photograph it as well.
      Uluru is a huge monolith that stands 862.5 metres above sea level.  It’s 1395 km south of Darwin, and 465 km southwest of Alice Springs.
    We flew with Qantas from Brisbane to Alice Springs and then had planned to drive 5 hours to the national park.  We hired a Toyota Land cruiser from Thrifty Car Rentals at the Alice Springs Airport and set off to explore.
     After two days in Alice Springs (population about 28,000) we’d pretty much seen and done everything there including Reptile Park, which was a bit rundown and small but it redeemed itself by a hands-on reptile show.  We and the kids got to handle lizards and skinks, and a black-headed snake did the rounds of our shoulders.  When the snake got to me, it curled its big black head around my neck and the kids were so embarrassed when their mom let out a loud scream!
    Alice Springs is located pretty much in the centre of Australia and the community carries lots of interesting history. The first adventurers made their way through the area from Adelaide in the south to Darwin in the north, naming things here and there as they explored and traveled.  It originally was thought there was an inland ocean in the middle of Australia when workers set about putting in poles for the first telegraph line.
    To see the whole city of Alice Springs at once, take time to visit Anzac Hill, which overlooks the area and is a busy spot in the early evenings for tourists taking photos and watching sunsets.  There’s a good share of petrol stations, fast food restaurants, council run swimming pools, sporting centres, and a few other tourist attractions such as Desert Park with its birds of prey free flight show; outback ballooning adventures; Alice Springs Telegraph Station; and quad bike riding. You’ll also find a variety of tours and a good number of shops and Sunday markets although the prices are generally higher thanVictoria and her family choose an unique mode of travel to explore Australia’s amazing Outback. on the coastal towns due to the city’s remote location.
        At the Alice Springs tourist information centre we booked a one-hour camel trek at Camel
riding was another one of those must-do adventures on our list for the Australian Outback.  The camels are well treated and fun to be around.  They squat on the ground with their saddles on and next thing you know, they’re being asked by the handlers to stand up with a tourist or two on their backs.  You hold onto the saddle, lean back, and try not to scream or fall off!  Then you’re off on a half hour trek through shadeless desert-like paddocks.
     At the half way point, our guide Marcus Williams collected cameras and took photos of all of us sitting astride our mounts with the McDonnell Mountains in the background.  Returning to the station our camels squatted again and we eased out of the saddles and walked around like a bow-legged cowboys for a while.
    Marcus explained that he caught and trained his own camels out in the Simpson Desert and then walked them back to Alice Springs.
    We also learned that in the old days, when camels were eventually replaced by modern vehicles as a means for the explorers to get around, the animals were turned out into the desert areas of the outback where they bred their own camel families.  My camel was huge and he was such a character he threw back his head and showed his large teeth and “smiled” while I shot a close-up photo of him.
    Somewhere along the line we got talked into taking the Scenic Route to Uluru.  Instead of 5 hours the Scenic Route took 11 hours but it was worth the time to see some amazing sights along the way.  In hindsight we should have set off much earlier than 9 a.m. but we took too much time packing our gear.
    Our first stop was Simpson’s Gap, which wasn’t far from Alice Springs. The No Swimming sign seemed ironic since there was hardly any water there.  The Outback was very dry due to the Australian drought but I could see evidence of there having been water at Simpson’s Gap at an earlier time.
    Along the same road, we discovered many places to stop and look or investigate such as Ellery Creek, Big Hole, Standley Chasm, Serpentine Gorge, the Ochre Pits, Ormiston and Redbank Gorges, Glen Helen Gorge, and Kings Canyon.


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