Sunday, 8 December 2013

Kings Canyon and a long journey back

Chris came and politely woke us all at 4am, so we went and got ready, pulled our swags up to the eating area and got on the bus to leave promptly at 5am. The plan for this morning was to do the walk at Kings Canyon as early as possible as it was supposed to reach very high temps by 11am, then we'd come back to camp, have bacon and eggs and a chillout sesh by the pool before packing up and heading back to Alice Springs. 

Along the half hour drive to Kings Canyon, we found a whole load of swags along the road?! So we stopped to pick them up, turns out another tour group hadn't strapped them down very well and had lost around 5 of them!! haha! When we arrived at Kings Canyon we were there just as the sun was starting to rise which was pretty awesome. We'd made sandwiches the night before for breakfast on the go, so we ate them before we started our hike. But found out no-one had made Chris or Luke any sandwiches (we'd run out of bread I think) so we never heard the end of that! But a few people donated their second sandwiches so they had something to eat!

The hike up was pretty steep! It took us a good half hour to get up but once we did we were rewarded with spectacular views across the canyon, with the sun coming up. We then proceeded on our 5km hike - which took us around 3 hours with stop-offs and a trip down to Eden's Garden, a water hole. It was constant ups and downs, as you'd expect with a walk across a canyon! It was a lot like a very small version of the Grand Canyon. We finished our walk around 10am when it was just starting to get very hot, and we then made our way back to camp.

A few of us went and jumped in the pool before having showers, and then we all helped cook a hard-earned breakfast - bacon and scrambled eggs - delish! And helped with rolling away the swags. Then it was time to say goodbye to Kings Canyon and hello to the long journey back to Alice Springs - around 4hrs - via a stop off at the service station again. We slept on and off and had some fun between us - there was always huge bouts of giggles and laughter coming from our end of the bus! Everyone took selfies of themselves for Chris on his camera - obviously we took it one step further and got a bit silly, plus took a selfie of teddy's on the bus.

We arrived at Alice Springs at 6pm and were to meet for dinner at our hostel's bar at 7.30pm. So we checked into our new room, which we were sharing with the same German guy as our first night and a weirdo french dude who later that evening suggested my teddies meet his teddies and have a romance...errrrr I'm weird but not THAT weird!

Dinner was fun and we all had a laugh, particularly when Hayley knocked her drink over and then ended up pushing it over Andrew! haha Bex had a migraine so she went to bed around 10pm but me and Andrew stayed up with Hayley, Chris, Helen and a few others. Our main source of entertainment was the budding hook up between Luke and one of the spanish girls who he'd been flirting outrageoulsy with during the whole of the tour, they did end up hooking up which surprised us as she didn't seem keen on tour (she even switched places with her friend when Luke sat next to her the first camp night dinner). But obviously she now was keen and they disappeared for quite a while. Andrew went on a mission to try and find out where they went, and ended up walking past them getting it on outside - awkward. They came back later and we quizzed them but failed to get any details from them, grrrr.

I danced on the tables obvs, after Chris got us a load of shots, followed by Hayley and then Andrew, who we had to navigate around the ceiling fan...to which he, once on the table, then started dancing towards the OTHER fan on the other side of the table. We were all shouting at him to stop but he kept shuffling backwards oblivious to the very dangerous fan blades coming ever dangerously close to his neck, until Giovanni shouted out to Andrew to look behind him, saving his life! 

The bar closed at 1am and as we had an early checkout in the morning we went to bed around midnight. Andrew and I perhaps made a little too much noise when we got in, waking everyone up, but meh, it was only midnight afterall!

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Kata Tjuta and Camp 2!

So we were up early to watch sunrise from camp over Uluru, then we had breakfast (I got there late and all the milk had been used up because certain people had had a whole bowl full of milk haha, standard), rolled up our swags and helped Chris and Luke pack everything away into the trailer. We then headed off on an hours drive to Kata Tjuta (The Olgas) for today's trek.

It was a 7km trek on some pretty rough, uneven and steep terrain; apparently it was the hardest walk of the 3 we'd be doing across the weekend, but it was well worth it for some of the beautiful scenery! We started our hike around 7am as it was supposed to get pretty hot so Chris wanted us to do it before it got too late. It took us around 45mins to reach the first lookout point, where Chris gave us some background info on the area, the rocks etc, and we took many photos whilst chatting to people in the group along the way. Once we arrived at a huge gorge/lookout, which was the halfway point, we either had the option of going back, or continuing the full 7km walk. Obviously as we were here and only got to do it once everyone decided to plough ahead, even though it was starting to get very hot and we were all pretty tired by this point. Chris and Luke had brought along some cookies so we all had a few of these - we made sure we got a good stash before the cookie monsters devoured them. Then we made our way down the huge gorge while Chris and Luke turned back to wait for us in the car park.

It was tough...very tough! The first part was steep downhill on slippery rocks, the next part was flat but on rough rocky terrain, then it was uphill and downhill on rough terrain, then flat on rocky terrain and finally back to the first lookout point which was the steepest climb back to the car park! By the time I'd finished I felt like someone who'd just done the London Marathon in 30 degree heat at 10-11am! We made sure to keep our fluids up but it was hard when the local water tasted like chlorine! When we got back Chris and Luke were there waiting with fresh watermelon and cold water - woo!

We then freshened up at the toilets and it was time to begin a long journey to our 2nd camp over at Kings Canyon. It took us an hour to reach Curtain Springs where we had a BBQ lunch of sausages, cheese, salad and bread, Bex had cheese and spinach schnitzels. It was so unbelievably hot by then that we sought any shade we could. We then had a further 2hr journey to Kings Canyon. Around an hour into the journey, we stopped along the road for Chris to show us some Bush tucker grubs! We were all pretty tired and it was so so freaking hot, that after a bit of moaning and not really feeling up to it, we managed to get ourselves in the mood once Chris had fished out some huge white Witchity grubs from inside tree branches, and ate them while still alive!! We then found 3 more to 'BBQ' on a small fire, which a few people in the group tried. Then we collected some fire wood for our campfire tonight and took a few more outback road pictures before heading to camp.

Tonights camp was really nice, though the eating area was smaller. But I think a group before us had taken our spot so we had theirs. There was a swimming pool but we didn't get to camp until 6pm so there wasn't much time to use it. Instead we showered (me and Bex used the mens as the girls was so busy and they were all using hairdryers and putting on makeup - I mean, who does that when camping in the outback, where it was still around 25 degrees outside?!) We confused the men though, who kept coming in thinking they were in the girls showers haha. Then we all sat around chatting, drinking goon and listening to music before all helping out with dinner. By now the group had become closer and everyone was starting to bond, it was a lovely evening where everyone helped out (bar the german girls), chatted, laughed, told stories and just generally had an awesome night. Dinner was beef burritos - yum! It got to around 10pm when we all decided to hit the swags, so we set up camp under the stars again. We had a very early start tomorrow - 4am! So we tried to get a good 6 hours in, however no one really had a good nights sleep that night as I think we were over-tired and hot! Hey ho, plough through another day! 

Friday, 6 December 2013

The Red Centre Adventure begins!

So we were up, packed, luggage stored and breakfast eaten by 5.45am! We met our tour leader Chris, whose main mission for this tour was to treat us like best mates rather than a tour leader, which he definitely succeeded in! We also had Luke, who was training to start leading his own tour groups. Chris had been away from tours since 2008 and we were his first group back in the game so we knew this was going to be good!

We boarded our little bus for the weekend and stationed ourselves up back, each with our own seat of course - which would basically become our home for 3 days. There were 14 in the group which was a nice number and we eventually set off after realising two people were on our bus when they shouldn't be. We went to pick up a few others from another hostel, then by 6.30am we were speeding away from Alice Springs deep into Outback Australia, a land of red sand, trees and not very much else. The roads were endless!

It took us an hour to reach our first stop-off at a Camel Farm, where Bex and Andrew had their first Camel ride...it was hilarious! It then took us another hour to reach our next stop-off for fuel and snacks, where we took some middle-of-the-road pictures...you just have to in the outback, where cars are very rarely seen! During this time we'd begun to realise why people warned about the flies! They were everywhere, and I managed to swallow one which got caught in a sharp intake of breath, and also managed to get a thorn in my foot at the same time.

Drama over, we got back on the bus and began a long 2hr stint to our next stop, Curtain Springs. During this time Chris and Luke got everyone on the bus to come up to the front and over the microphone answer questions they'd written on the window screen in board-marker pens, as a getting-to-know-you game. Things like, name, nationality, how long you've been away from home, what you miss, which celebrity you'd like to play night games with, favourite band etc. It was a great ice-breaker and got us all talking to each other. Halfway through we had to have a toilet break in the middle of nowhere behind what little bushes were around, as we'd all been told we needed to keep our fluid up, but our bodies were not used to that much water!

Before long we began to notice a very large mountain in the distance, which many of us thought was Ayers Rock, but it was actually Mt Connor, which apparently some tourists do mistake as Uluru! We stopped for a picture op and Chris told us a little about aboriginal culture and tracks for hunting bush tucker and info about Mt Connor. It was already very very hot and it was only 11.30ish! We got back in the bus and made our way to curtain springs, where we had a toilet break and our last chance to buy some alcohol for our couple of nights camping. We got two boxes of goon with Hayley and Helen to share. Then we were on our final stretch towards Uluru and Kata Tuja National Park!!

When we arrived we took a scenic drive around Uluru (Ayers Rock), it was massive and Chris put on a great soundtrack for the drive round which made us feel all sentimental that we were here, at Ayers Rock! It's just as red as in all the pictures and we weren't allowed to take photos on our drive as some of the areas were sacred sites which you are not allowed to take pictures of. They also say if you do and if you pick anything up and take it away with you from the area, that you'll have a lot of bad luck!

Once we'd done a drive we went to the Cultural centre where you could find out more about the aboriginal stories surrounding Ayers Rock, it's tourism today and how certain things - like climbing it - are very disrespectful. Many of the stories are very protected and are very important to the aboriginal people so we only get told the children's stories. Not many people are lucky enough to know more detailed stories, legends and initiation ceremony details that go on here in the sacred areas. Chris knew a few of these but unfortunately couldn't tell us, because we were not initiated into the community.

Chris then gave us the option to walk either half or the whole way around Ayers Rock. It was now around 2.30/3pm, so heat of the day, but geared up with plenty of water and suncreamed to the max, the whole group decided to do the entire walk, which was around 12km. Chris had to go sign us into our camp ground so he'd meet us at the halfway point in case anyone couldn't continue, Luke came with us. So off we set, and it was a good chance to mingle with everyone. We got chatting to Luke, the two spanish girls, Hayley and Helen - two girls from the UK, Patricia from Poland, and Giovanni from Columbia. Unfortunately two German girls in the group pretty much distanced themselves from the group at the start, there's always some! So we never really got to know them and they became a subject of our banter during our time out here, you'll find out why in due course.

We managed to, amongst the heat, FLIES and picture ops (though you can't take photos of some of the rock as it's protected and you an get a hefty fine, some people have even been deported!), to make it halfway where Chris met us with Oranges and some ointment for helping ward off the flies - they were literally swarming around us! And we all decided to push on til the end as a group. Chris met us a little way down and showed us a watering hole, which is quite a sacred spot to aboriginals. By this point everyone was knackered! We had roughly another 30mins to walk before we reached the end. Some of the group went to look at  some aboriginal art on the rock, but me Bex and Andrew, plus Patricia, the german girls and Hayley, were all busting for the loo and didn't want to duck behind any bushes for fear of what was behind them, so instead we pushed on! Me Bex and Andrew led the way and we managed to make it back within 20mins and sighed of relief when we saw the toilets. It had taken us around 3hrs to walk it! We then just waited for everyone else to finish and then Chris took us on a quick cultural walk before we were headed to the sunset view point. No one had the energy really so he made it quick as we needed to be there for sunset by 7 and it was currently 6pm.

We then got back on the bus and made the short drive to sunset viewing point, where Chris and Luke got out some nibbles and champagne to toast our first day together watching an iconic sunset at Uluru. It is just as pretty as the pictures, and we obviously took tons of photos, including a group one.

Chris then drove us back to camp, where we all helped unload the swags, food and chairs etc, then had a shower before dinner, which was much needed after a long hot dusty day. Chris and Luke had started the BBQ by the time we returned and it smelt amazing! We were having a typical aussie outback BBQ of Kangaroo steaks, Camel burgers, salad and pasta, with our goon we'd bought earlier. The Camel burgers and Kangaroo steaks were actually amazing and I could eat them again! Kangaroo is kind of like a sweet beef steak, so so delish! I was more fond of that than the Camel burgers but both were really yummy! Sorry Roo! Bex had a veggie option of falafels. However this is when the German girls started to annoy us. Even though it had been stated it was for Bex as a veggie, they both decided not to listen and ending up eating most of Bex's falafels, which really angered me and Andrew! We also noticed they didn't help with any food prep or washing up, but always went up for food first and got themselves a refill before some people had even served up their first plate! Patricia was also another big eater - I've never known someone to eat so much! Another thing that annoyed us as well as Hayley and Helen was everytime Chris spoke to us, the german girls decided to chat over him in German so we couldn't hear what he was saying, which is just SO rude! To Chris and the rest of the group...plus we never once saw them smile or look like they were enjoying the trip!

It was then time for Chris to give us a demo on how to unroll and re-roll our swags and how to set them up. For those who don't know, swags are covered mattresses with a pillow and sleeping bag inside and are possibly the most comfiest things ever! After that me and Helen were shattered so we went and started getting ready for bed out in the pitch black under the stars. It wasn't long before everyone else followed suit and we all set up our swags in one long line on the sandy grass, kinda cute. The stars were amazing and there was a point in the night that I woke up looking at them and shat myself as I forgot where I was! However, we had a pretty good sleep, but still had to be up at 5.45am, so we only got around 5-6hrs!

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Welcome to the Outback - Alice springs

We awoke at 4.45am, got ready and waited for our airport pickup, which was late and so we were panicking we would miss our flight but luckily we made check in with 20mins to spare! Boarding was the fastest ever and soon we were saying goodbye to Sydney!

The flight was 3 and a half hrs long so we mainly just slept and i did a bit of blogging. We then arrived at Alice Springs 10am local time, the views were surreal, just miles and miles of orange/red desert! We got our bags and headed to the shuttle bus, and had a bit of a panic when we got to the first hostel as we couldn't remember if it was Annie's place or Alice lodge we were staying in. Luckily it was Annies place and we got off at the right one!

We checked in and met a guy in our room who we just found out may be joining our tour tomorrow which would be awesome, this hostel is way more social compaired to sydney, it even has a bar! We then made sure we got all our stuff ready and packed for our tour tomorrow with Gadventures around the outback.

Then we went for a wander around town, Alice Springs isnt very big and there's not much to do but it is definately real australia and im glad Bex and Andrew get to experience that, they are fascinated with the aboriginals (a very strange race but equally fascinating). We went up Anzac hill for a view of Alice Springs and the mountain ranges / desert surrounding it. Then we went to Coles to get some dinner for tonight and came back to the hostel to chill before our tours 5.45am meet time! Exciting! We are going to fry and die out here!