Just some stuff I want to share with you

Monthly archives for April, 2009

Ayers Rock or Uluru

Today we will walk along Ayers Rock (also called Uluru) and find out what it’s all about. Therefore we booked a guided tour with somebody that knows a lot of the rock, its history and the people that used to live around it: the Aboriginal people. Since our tour guide does not speak English, we also have a translator.

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There’s a cultural centre close to the rock that gives an overview of everything you possibly would like to know about the Aboriginal people that used to live here and the history of the struggle of these people with the government about ownership and use of the land around the rock. Very informative and it’s clear that there has been (and probably still is) a lot of emotion related to this place.

One subject is very visible. The Aboriginal people don’t want you to climb the rock. The information board by the rock states that you should not climb the rock, but the reason here is only the safety of the climbers. When you ask the people in the cultural centre or our guide there are far more reasons not to do so. But a lot of people want to take on this challenge. It’s a difficult climb and the views from up there must be magnificent. Well I did not climb the rock. If this place has special meaning to the Aborigines then let’s stay of it.

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Our guide takes us to several cages alongside the rock. He explains about their use and history. At certain positions along this route, you will find signs prohibiting you from taking pictures of the rock. These places have special meaning and therefore you are not allowed to take pictures. All in all, it was a very informative walk and this thing is impressive. Here’s a small overview (have a look at the picture library for more pictures):

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Tomorrow we will fly along the rock and we will also see the Olgas. The Olgas are rocks close to Uluru and we planned to see them as well. But since there was no way to get to both places in one day, we will have to do with a view from above. Since all other tours were full, we spend the afternoon at the pool. The weather was great and it’s also very nice to just relax a bit, do some shopping and have a beer.

Wednesday 25 March 2009

Time to find the big rock

Today we will fly to one of the most famous and popular places in Australia: Ayers Rock.

The day started with something unusual: rain, wind and cold weather. Yesterday it was 35 – 40 degrees. This morning it’s cold (less than 20 degrees). Feels like home 😉 After fueling up the planes we took off; according to the weather information, we would fly away from the bad weather quite soon. And the forecast was correct.

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The distances here are enormous. You can fly for hours and hundreds of kilometers without seeing a single house or vehicle. It’s amazing that somebody would want to live out here, but they do. This is the Outback and live is harsh. We moved from dry and dead to green and saw all possible colors on our way over. Just look at the pictures.

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Since the distances are enormous and we are flying VFR (meaning we find our way by looking outside and navigate based on visual information) over land that hardly has any usable visual points, navigation has to be taken seriously. I fly based on the GPS but Clare constantly looks outside to verify we are heading in the right direction and when the GPS would fail, we know where we are.

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When we got mount Conner in sight, we knew we were getting close to that big rock. But first we did a 360 and had a close look at this little brother of the famous one.

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On our way to Ayers Rock we caught up with the other two planes that took off before us. This is the way we have things organized: the slowest plane starts first and the faster will follow. Since we have the fastest plane, we always start last but arrive first. So every flying day we have the opportunity to take pictures of the other planes. Well, if we can find them. Although we all fly the same route, for some reason we have passed Harrold and Marjie several times without seeing them. We think they have found a stealth button in their plane…

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And then there he is…

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Ayers Rock airport (well actually its official name is Connellan airport) is quite a big, untowered airport. They were quite happy that we arrived earlier than planned, since they expected 4 big Quantas planes after us. This place is very busy. Well it’s one of THE tourist attractions of the country.

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We ended up in our hotel: Sails in the desert. And the name says it all.

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After a nice dip in the pool and doing some laundry, it was time for dinner. Tonight we will be dining under the stars. So a bus picked us up and brought us to a nice place some hundred meters away from the hotel. Here we had a fantastic view on the rock and we waited here for sunset.

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Then we walked for about hundred meters where they had setup our tables. The dinner was great and when we got to the desserts we heard the music of a didgeridoo. Up to today I only heard the sound of this instrument via my television and as I now found out, it is far better when it is played live by a good musician. We ended this evening by watching the stars. And then it was bedtime.

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The track of today:

Tuesday 24 March 2009

Coober Pedy

We are in Coober Pedy and today we will learn a bit more about opals and the area around this town. And the best way to do all this is by having a guide. So, we ended up with Gunther. As the name suggest he is from Germany and came to Coober Pedy a long time ago to search for opals. So he is an expert now and stopped digging holes in the ground to find these stones. Nowadays Gunther organises bustours to show people like us around.

We started our tour in one of the opal shops in our hotel. Gunther explained a lot about the different opals and how they are turned into all sorts of jewelery. After that it was time to hit the road. On to our first stop: a church build into the wall of a hill. As I already stated in a previous post: there are some faboulous diggers here and this church is a good example. Just look at the pictures…

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Then we were off to see the surroundings of this town. On our way out of town Gunther showed us several interesting places. Look at this sign:

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On our way we passed a road train. As you can see we are on a dirt road and these big trucks go fast.

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Our next stop was at the dingo fence. This is world’s longest fence and it was build to keep the dingos away from the sheep.

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The next stop was at the breakaway hills. Initially I thought this was manmade. Since they love to dig in the ground here, they must have a place to dump all the stuff that they dig up. But I was wrong: this is an untouched area. It’s beautiful; just look at the pictures.

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We spent quite a bit of time looking at the amazing views, but then it was time to move on. We were on our way to the opal mines. And again: they love digging here! You are not allowed to go into this area unless you have a permit. And I understand why. There are holes everywhere. Their diameter is not big (a few meters), but they are deep (hundreds of meters), so when you fall in: tough luck… The two vehicles in the pictures are used to: transport the dirt and rocks out the hole they are working in and the other one is used to go through the piles to find opals that may still be in there.

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One of the things I have learned over the last few weeks is that Ausies have a great sense of humor. A good example is the Coober Pedy golf club. This is a very hot and desert like area. But when you want to play golf, that’s not a problem. You just redefine the definition of the “green”…

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The next stop was the local opal museum. This is also build into the side of a hill and shows all the aspects of digging for opals. Furthermore it shows a house build into a hill. Nicely cool, but the views are poor…

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After the tour it was time to go back to the hotel and just relax. It’s too hot here to be outside the whole day. We finished the day with a very nice diner. Tomorrow we will move on to our next destination: Ayers Rock.

Monday 23 March 2009