Friday, September 08, 2006

8 - September 2006

We had another early-morning wake-up call, this time for a sunrise camel ride (no chance of wind cancellation from these guys--though wouldn't you know it, the air was still as could be!). Mike and I rode 20-year-old Moosha, the biggest and tallest camel of the one-humped bunch. We were lucky enough to get right up front just behind the guide, who was really personable, funny, and knowledgeable--and it was like we had him all to ourselves!

As the full moon was setting, dingoes were howling loudly in the not-too-far distance (we saw their fresh tracks in the sand, too). The ride was so peaceful and beautiful, we couldn't have asked for a more perfect morning. After an hour of riding, we went back to the base camp for cocoa and homemade beer bread fresh from the oven. This outing was a definite highlight to our trip, and we can't stop talking about it!

With brightly beaming faces and slightly sore bums, we then headed to the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park Cultural Center. They have an amazing display on the rich, resourceful, and resilient Anangus, the Aboriginal traditional owners of this land. Much of the exhibit is written (and spoken, via push-button speakers) in the tribal members' own words, and we learned all about Tjukurpa, the basis of the social, religious, legal, and ethical systems of Anangu culture. We also learned of their passion for preserving the land and their way of life in the face of modern changes. It's been a long road, but they've been able to build and maintain a rewarding partnership with the Australian Nature Conservation Agency to manage the park and welcome visitors to their sacred site.

The Anangu urge us, as guests on their land, to respect their law and culture by not climbing Uluru, but people blatantly disregard their wishes. One guide told us of a man just a few months ago who panicked that he might miss his hotel shuttle; he rushed down the rock, slipped, and died three weeks later from the internal injuries he had sustained from the fall. The climb is obviously grueling; injuries and deaths aren't all that uncommon, and they of course upset the Aborigines greatly. In the few minutes we sat and watched the climbers before our tour began, we saw three water bottles go tumbling down, folks repeatedly lose their foothold, several people be forced to stop climbing and start back down on their rumps, and others shouting triumphantly from the top. This desire to conquer and this cultural insensitivity astound, embarrass, and sadden us.

It was time for our small-group, fly-infested (Australian flies are pesky, persistent little buggers!) Mala walk, which was led by an elder Aborigine (in his native tongue with an interpreter). We studied the cave paintings and etchings around Uluru and learned a great deal about the local tribe's sacred sites (not to be photographed), ceremonies, lifestyle, legends, and cultural customs. We sampled Aboriginal plums and figs, and we admired how green and lush the plants were at the base of the rock (there are plenty of plants growing right out of the rock, too!).

By then we were pooped, so we spent the afternoon reading and resting in our hotel room (a bizarre place, The Lost Camel hotel--the rooms are strangely dorm-like, Art Deco, and void of much natural light) before getting take-away dinner and resting some more.

--Camels weigh 600-800 kilos (about 1300-1750 pounds), and yet they leave barely a footprint--they are so very light on their feet that they hardly disturb the sand at all.

--We wish we'd driven between Alice and Uluru; it would have taken about 4-1/2 hours, but we'd have better appreciated the nuances of the changing scenery between the two places and seen much more of the outback lifestyle. And, we'd no doubt have dingo- and camel-crossing signs to share with you! (We'd also be able to get ourselves to and from Uluru and Kata Tjuta without taking a $35-apiece shuttle or joining an even pricier tour!)


mama ruthie said...

Good Morning! LOVE your well-spoken commentaries. You might consider publishing them in your spare time! So glad you "three" are enjoying such a wonderful Holiday!
Wish I was along on the camel ride.
Actually, I pretty much wish I was anywhere but here these days! Very hectic. Still trying to get this house ready to list. I've been awake since 2:30, my head swimming with "house" details--Was reading your previous entry when this new one popped up! Very thrilling & informative. The photos are awesome! Hope you are feeling well, Alisa--Well, you too, Mike! Until next time-
Thanks for the vicarious Holiday!
Much love,
Your Mama (AKA Ruthie) & Gary

7:39 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home