14.10.2007 - 18.10.2007 36 °C
'Do you realize the sun don't go down, it's just an illusion caused by the world spinning around' - Flaming Lips
Hello from Western Australia, Perth to be precise. We have arrived at Lynn's friend Amy's house and have got up early as Amy and Simon have gone to work and we have a pile of washing to do after a dusty few days in the outback. I also wanted to check the Scotland score from last night, sadly they lost to Georgia meaning that European Championship qualification comes down to the last game against Italy at Hampden. The atmosphere for that game will be electric. COME ON SCOTLAND!
We had a great 2 night/3 day trip to Uluru in Central Australia, so stand by for an update.
Sunday 14th October
Got up at 5.30am and it was still dark outside. Our bus was picking us up outside the guesthouse at 6.10am. Early starts are common on most tours in Australia, so you have been warned if you are thinking of coming! Outside the guesthouse was a group of 5 Irish lads who were on our trip and they hadn't been to bed! They had stayed up at the local outback pub to watch the England v France rugby match, which England sadly won. To say they were a little rough, tired and still pi$$ed would be a bit of an understatement. They were well up for a craic though!
Our guide was called Dom and he was a cheery bloke, full of useful information and a wicked sense of humour. As well as the 5 Irish lads our group consisted of - Gronia and Yvonne who were also from Ireland, Yvonne's folks Padder (more of him later) and Evelyn who were out on holiday for 2 weeks to visit Yvonne, Hayley and Giovani from England, 2 very grumpy German girls - I hadn't seen Germans so moody and grumpy since 26th May 1999, a German couple. a French girl, a Dutch girl and a trooper of a 66 year old lady called Brenda from Lincolnshire.
We had quite a drive to get to our first stop, Kings Canyon. 30 minutes after leaving Alice Springs the radio reception cut out and Dom asked if anyone had an IPOD he could plug into the stereo. Thankfully I had brought mine and we cruised through the outback listening to The Beatles and some classic Motown - ideal.
We arrived and climbed a steep hill, known locally as 'heart attack hill' and had a picnic lunch up the top in the little shade we could find. We then hiked for a further 3 hours through the sandstone domes and gorges that make up Kings Canyon, stopping halfway for a refreshing swim in a freshwater pool called the Garden Of Eden.
After the hike it was a 2 hour drive to camp, stopping to collect firewood on the way. Dom cooked a lovely meal of chilli, rice, potatoes and veg. We sat around the campfire and chatted to our fellow travellers under a beautiful blanket of stars. Lynn and I sat next to Brenda and she told us that she had always wanted to come to Australia and 6 years ago, she and her husband had booked tickets. Sadly, just before they were due to fly, her daughter was involved in a car accident and was in a coma for 6 months. She came out of it but she is severely paralysed and has the mental age of a 4 year old. Her husband is now badly affected by arthritis, so couldn't join Brenda on the trip but she was determined to get to Australia. Listening to her story made me realise yet again how lucky Lynn and I are. It was also very interesting to listen to her views on euthanasia.
Dom brought out his digeridoo and guitar and pretty soon Padder was singing Irish folk songs and a bit of Johnny Cash to get us all singing. Brenda then told us that it was her 46th wedding anniversary today and Padder played 'Danny Boy' for her as she sang along in a beautiful high voice. It was quite moving and Brenda had a tear in her eye and thanked us for giving her such a great night.
I know I said I wouldn't have anything to drink until Perth, but I had a couple of beers around the campfire, underneath the desert stars, singing songs. It was a great night.
We slept out underneath the stars in our Swags - a massive sleeping bag with a mattress inside. We also had our own sleeping bags for extra warmth as it was quite cold during the night. It was a great experience.
Monday 15th October
It was a 6am start and we had breakfast of cereal, tea and toast around the campfire. We headed to Kata (the valley of the Winds) and hiked for 3 hours in the blistering outback sunshine, marvelling at the rock formations out in the middle of nowhere. It was so warm that I out on a long sleeve top to cover up, the Australian sun is a force to be taken very seriously.
We had lunch and got back on the bus to head to the Aborginal Culture Centre next to Uluru (Ayers Rock). It was very interesting to see their artwork and learn about their cultures and traditions, although many acyually remain a secret as they are only passed down from father to son. The Aboriginies view Uluru as a sacred place and ask tourists not to climb out of respect. Of course the vast majority still do, but their story made me contemplate whether or not to climb the following day.
We drove to the Rock and walked around it for a bit and Dom told us a little more about the history, how certain areas had been for women, some for men, some communal cooking areas and some for ceremonies including the most important one when a boy became a man after spending2 years in the outback and then climbing the Rock with the men of the tribe.
We then drove a short distance to a sunset viewing area and watched the Rock change colours as the sun went down. It was fantastic to watch and I don't think our photos will do it justice.
It was chicken satay for dinner, although tonight we were staying in a registered camp site so there was no camp fire. That didn't stop Padder singing a few Irish songs. We both though of two of our best mates Colin and Scott who would have been in their element on the trip as they love Irish music. Padder looks like Christy Moore and is a real character, full of life, spirit and passion. We slept in our swags but didn't get a great sleep as we were getting up very early for sunrise.
Tuesday 16th October
Dom woke everyone at 4.30am. Yes, you read that correctly. After a quick breakfast we drove back to the sunset area. We had the area to ourselves as most tours go to the sunrise area to watch the rock change colour as the sun rises. However, we had a group vote to go back to the sunset area so we could watch the sunrise from behind the Rock. It was good, although I prefer sunsets.
We went back to the Rock and 3 people decided to climb it, while the rest hiked around it. Lynn and I took our time and marvelled at the size and diversity of the Rock surfaces, colours and textures. I had been tempted to climb it but after the stories about it's culture I decided not to. Lynn had actually climbed it 11 years ago, so she said she would do whatever I wanted to do.
After the Rock it was a long drive back to Alice Springs, stopping off for lunch on the way. We slept and I played some tunes on my NANO as we sped through the outback. We got back to Alice Springs just after 5pm and had a shower and attempted to have a nap before meeting the rest of the group again for dinner at 8pm. We had dinner but didn't stay out as we were shattered and went to bed not long after 10pm, leaving the Irish crew to go partying off into the night.
Wednesday 17th October
We had a realtively long lie, getting up at 7.30am! We got a taxi to the airport and it seemed to be shut. There was only two other people in the whole place and it turned out to be a Scottish couple from Edinburgh. They said that they had had to bang on the door to be let in!
The place soon filled up and staff arrived at 8.30am to check us in. The flight from Alice to Perth was around 3 hours and there was a bit of a time difference. We arrived in Perth and got the bus into the centre. The driver was an elderly English guy called Austin who sounded like Austin Powers. He was a bit crazy and was constantly on the radio to two fellow drivers telling them where to go to pick up passengers at the airport. He kept confusing their voices and lost the plot at one of them and yelled out 'I don't need this sh*t' before turning round to the passengers on the bus and saying 'Sorry about that, their Korean, nice people though'. Lynn and I looked at each other in disbelief and killed ourselves laughing.
We arrived in Perth and had stuck our big rucksacks in left luggage to walk round town before meeting Amy after work. Perth is pretty small and we covered most of the main streets in the few hours we had.
We met Amy just after 5pm after taking the train a couple of stops outside the centre. Amy and her boyfriend Simon picked us up and we drove to their house for dinner and a couple of glasses of wine and a good chat. We also played cards and Lynn and I taught them how to play the game 'Hearts' that we had learned from our friends Kay and Frank. I amazed everyone by getting a run!
Thursday 18th October
Amy and Simon are off to work and Lynn and I are going to chill for the day, planning what we are going to do in Western Australia and also catching up with several loads of washing as Central Oz is a very dusty place! Simon cooked last night and it's my turn to cook tonight for the first time in 4 months!
We got up early today as I wanted to check the Scotland V Georgia score. Sadly Scotland's fabulous run of results ended in a 2-0 defeat, meaning that we have to beat the Italians at Hampden in November. What a game that will be, Hampden Park will be rocking and I really hope Scotland win to qualify for our first major finals in 10 years. COME ON SCOTLAND!
Lots of love
Murray and Lynn