Day 23: Exploring Uluru
The plan to get to Uluru before sunrise completely failed. I blame it on my never needing to use an alarm clock for 3 weeks and I just assumed I'd wake up at 5 like most other days.
At 645am, I shot out of bed, packed my Ashvault backpack with water and snacks, and MotoGP'd my way toward Uluru. 4km in, I was met with the back end of an SUV full of elderly people who have stopped at the Uluru National Park gates to pay the admission fee. They all paid separately by card.
I could see the sun rising in the distance and although you can see a small bit of Uluru on the way to the front gate, you can't see anything from the gate itself. When I finally paid my entry, I rode until about 4km from Uluru and pulled over. I think it's more special to view Uluru as a whole rather than just staring up at one side of it, and by the time I got to the parking lot, the sun would already be up.
My haste was rewarded. The sun was already halfway past the horizon but the colours were spectacular. One moment the sky would be orange, the next it would be a brilliant yellow. Uluru changed wardrobes too, from a deep purple to the intense red colour everyone knows it to be.
I then rode right up to the parking lot and wedged myself between two campervans, directly in front of a sign that says "CARS ONLY". I assumed they just don't want tour buses around. Right in front of 3 tour buses full of avid hikers and explorers, I stripped off my Kevlar jeans (I wore shorts underneath) and folded it up into the windshield. Then I removed my boots and put spare water bottles upside down inside them to prevent creepy crawlies from finding a new home. Then I clipped my helmet and jacket to the seat cowl and threw my gloves in the backpack. It was like a Batman transformation without money.
On the map at the parking lot, it said the route is 4km and you could do it in 90 minutes. The hoard of foreigners seemed to go clockwise so of course I spent no time deciding to go the opposite way. The silence of Uluru is truly something else. As the traditional centre of Australia, it is so remote from every city other than Alice Springs (450km away) so it gives off a very peaceful aura. The only sounds you can hear are the crunching of gravel under your feet as you walk, and the occasional cricket and grass blowing in the wind. No airplanes, no cars, and usually no people aside from a few American tourists who didn't know they weren't in a cafe.
As I made my way around, I found it intriguing that every portion of Uluru has different faces. Some look smooth like you can slide down the side. Other walls look angry and jagged. Much of Uluru holds traditional stories that are passed through generations of aboriginals. They are sacred and can only be seen in one place, which is Uluru itself. So photos are heavily discouraged of certain parts, which is perhaps why postcards and prints all depict the same side of Uluru.
There's a sense of serenity thay comes with this place, but at the same time, any demons you are struggling to supress finally come out. I thought about the last 3 years of my life and how few people would understand what happened. So, I don't tell anyone. All I know now is that I can place my hand on Uluru and I came here via a motorcycle journey. Something tells me that many bad things had to have happened before things start to seem alright.
About halfway through, I started to get hungry. Apparently I should make a habit of checking which plastic bag I pack in the morning, but long story short, I went snack-less for the hike but at least I had 2 spare changes of underpants. The only "nutrients" in my body was from a chocolate chip cookie when I stopped for the sunrise. It also just so happens that I was literally the furthest possible point from Sheba that I had to complete the whole hike.
The hike itself is on a very easy red-sand trail. It is wide and winds in and out so sometimes it takes you intimately close, and other times you're presented with a more panoramic view. There are a couple of turnoffs to a waterhole and a sheltered area covered with ancient paintings. Every 750m or so, there is a small sheltered hut to provide shade. Other than that, there were safety signs describing how to survive in a desert. This place draws many people from all walks of life, so I can see how the scarcity and importance of water can be taken for granted.
It's hard to believe Uluru is basically one piece, resisting erosion and human forces timelessly.
The flies woke up as it got hotter and swarms of them took over several areas of the trail. It was so bad that I had to wear earplugs, sunnies, and keep my hand over my mouth and nose. Australian flies are little flying spawns from hell. They will go up your nose and the corners of your eyes. They are the single worst thing about riding Australia. No amount of Aerogard kept these bastards away. And, because it was 10am, it was starting to get intensely warm.
I wanted to see The Olgas (another rock formation 40km further out) but was far too hungry and the flies were relentless. My thighs started sticking to each other while walking back. I had only learned about Kings Canyon the day I arrived in Alice so I didn't budget any time for it. The best way to get there also happens to be 4WD ONLY so I didn't want to risk puncture or another brown pants moment. It's also 450km from Yulara and is a major detour from Alice. I do plan to come back to experience this area properly. But first and foremost is a motorcycle trip, and I left completely satisfied with the hike and the experience.
Back in Yulara, I popped into the town centre for a sandwich and a record-setting worst coffee in the history of coffees. What was I thinking? The coffee was weak and actually made me realize how tired I was. It seems as though my body just preferred to consolidate all the lost sleep into one go so the next thing I knew I was back at the room and face down.
3 hours later, I decided to get dinner. With Yulara's prices, a caesar salad wrap sounded like a good option. Except, salads are usually cold. They toasted this salad wrap. I was hungry anyway and the lineup was huge, so I ate it while watching a live guitar cover show. I'm pretty sure he found it odd that a solo girl was watching him while slowly chewing a hot salad wrap.
Just outside the room, Anja flagged me down. "Hey look! I got salties and sweets!" Together we sat there and destroyed a bag of chips and a party pack of M&Ms over a hilarious recollection of her day.
Day 24 will be the beginning of the longest backtrack of this trip. 1000km North before turning off toward Queensland for the first time.