Scenes from Uluru - Sunrise Hike

Thursday, May 26th

When in Uluru, if you don't do a sunrise excursion, you're not doing it right.  

I mean, you're in the middle of the Outback to see a Big Damn Rock, you better be up and at em when the sun rises.

So we were.  And seriously, it was early.

Our excursion went until about noon.  The check-out for the hotel was at 10a.  Which meant we needed to check out before leaving at an insanely early time.  Which meant we needed to be packed first.  Do we remember it was a late night last night??  And there was unlimited wine??

I could have felt better.

We jumped on a bus at 6a that took us closer to Uluru than we had seen last night.  The excursion was to hike around the mountain.  It was a "light" 8k.  We could do this.  Right??

And then we couldn't.  We had one of our team bail within the first five minutes (a good time to bail if there ever was one).  The rest of us included the three members of the family, a couple from New Zealand on their 10th Anniversary, and a solo traveler from England.  Our guide was an adorable Italian named Cecelia or Olivia.  I'm honestly not sure.  Mom kept calling her Cecelia, but I don't think that was her name.  Her guide buddy was pretty quiet.

The hike began around the north side of Uluru.  We were told at the beginning that there were "Sensitive Sites" around the mountain where we couldn't take pictures.  The Aboriginal clan from this area told guides the stories of the mountain, but only stories they wanted the guides to know.  Usually these stories involve areas of the mountain where they don't want people to take pictures.  While I'd like to have taken pictures of these places, I'm not a monster.  I follow rules.  I didn't want to be the Ugly American.

We walked around the base of the mountain, hearing the stories of the Aboriginal people.  Stories were told about the "Men's Business" and "Women's Business."  We walked through the caves where Elders ran the clan.  Then there was the area where Women worked to turn grain into bread.  We walked past the children's area, the Man Cave (a real one, not a Man Cave as made popular by HGTV), the Family Area.  And in these areas, we heard the stories of the serpent and the spirits.  But those aren't stories for me to tell.

It was a reminder that this was a place where people lived and worked.  Up until the last century.

Midway through the walk, we stopped for breakfast.  Now breakfast wasn't a huge deal.  It was included in our tour, but it was a bottle of water with some cereal and a few granola bars.  More of a "camping breakfast."  If you're joining a sunrise tour for the food, don't.

We ate breakfast in front of an area of Uluru that people feel like they should climb.  Our guide was seriously ticked to see people climbing.  She knows this is a sacred site and believe that people shouldn't desecrate the mountain.  There are signs telling people not to climb.  But a climber's gotta climb.

We were not "This Guy."  Don't be "This Guy"
To be fair to the climbers, there is a small rail for people to use to get up the mountain.  Back in the 1960's (or so), the National Park Service in charge of the mountain (the Aboriginal Tribe is the landowner of the mountain, but the National Park Service of Australia works with the tourism of the area) knew people would try to climb up the mountain.  Because that's what we do.  We're. The. Worst.  The Powers That Be wanted to make it easier to climb the mountain without being hurt.  Hence, the rail.

Funny story about the rail, the person hired to set up the rail was told to make the rail waist high.  But this guy was on the small side, so he set up the rail to his waist.  For most people, the railing is way too small, so if they decide to climb the mountain, they have to hunch.  Serves them right.  They shouldn't climb the mountain to begin with.

Before we started the hike in the dark, we had jackets.  But we knew the temperature would increase.  Elias and I decided to ditch our jackets just before the bus took off.  The New Zealand guy laughed at us.  "You can tell you guys are from're in shirtsleeves."

The temperature was chilly to start, but we made a very wise choice.  The sun came out early and while we were in the shade for a good amount of time, we were plenty warm.  Even in our shirtsleeves.

The entire hike took between four and five hours.  About 20 minutes before the end of the hike, we were given the option.  Our van could come pick us up at an earlier point on the trail.  Or we could continue to the end of the hike.  We all decided to continue on.  But this was the time when the sun really came out.  And this was the time when we all regretted continuing on.  Or at least Mom and Elias did.

This was our guide with no name.
I haven't mentioned the fly situation yet.  I mentioned it from the day before though.  Flies are a beast here.  They look for any areas with moisture.  Mostly eyes, face, and ears.  The New Zealand couple put on fly nets over their heads.  Good choice.  Our guide let Elias use her extra net (and he DID NOT let me take a picture, which was just mean).  The rest of us kept flailing their arms to keep the flies away.  It sucked hard.

I don't think we drank enough water. 

By the end of the hike, we walked almost 6 miles and 17,000 steps.  Sure...a light hike.  I mean, if you are reasonably fit and can walk, it wasn't difficult.  It was just a long morning.  And if you aren't used to walking a 6 miles a day, it's much harder to do, but still not unmanageable.  The Tiz Family cheered the arrival of our van driver, who took us back to our hotel, where we caught a six hour bus ride to Alice Springs.  But that is another story.


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