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climbingrock.jpg (69607 bytes)Uluru to Alice Springs

November 6, 1998

An Incredible Experience

My notes for this day have a single comment, and nothing else:

"Climbed Rock!"

This is the story.

Yet again, another early wakeup call (not being a morning person at all, this was killing me!)  The crowd on the bus was a bit thinner this morning, due to an unexplainable increase in the number of hangovers (hmmmm... how could that have happened?)   So of about 20 or so that were going to try for the Rock again, only 13 of us actually managed to get up.  Crossing our fingers, we once again drove out to the Rock.

Luck was with us: It was open!  With water bottles and cameras at the ready, we made our way up the first slope.

I'll say this, if these were O.K. conditions, I'd hate to feel what *real* wind felt like.  As you climb the first leg, the wind blows at you and you have to grip the chain that is bolted into the rock face.   Uphill travelers are supposed to be on the left, downhill on the right, but a few people were unclear on the concept. :-)  On either side of you the rock slopes away, so a few good steps and you'd be on your way down!  On the way up this first leg, my hat blew off and was lost forever (or so I thought...).  I remembered the advice Jo gave us (DON'T RUN AFTER YOUR HAT...) and kept climbing.

I will say I was one of the slow people: I really need to get back to the gym and work out more!  The first place that you can actually rest and be sheltered from the wind is a small ledge called Chicken Rock, so called because that is the place where a lot of people chicken out on the climb.  Fortunately we did not, and after a rest break began the climb to the top.

After Chicken Rock, the climb is more a series of hills and valleys than anything else: the top of Ayers Rock undulates like a stormy sea frozen in time.   (Ooh, that was a cool phrase).  The more I thought about it, the more I was grateful that I *couldn't* see this part of the climb from the bottom: I think I might have given up earlier.  My sore throat was back and I was definitely not feeling 100%.  However, I also knew that the Rock and the land around it had been given back to the Aborigines, who were considering closing the rock because of its significance to them.  If I did not make it now, I might never get the chance again.  So I continued on, undaunted.

At last, the end in sight!  I spot the rest of the crowd waiting at the small monument in the center of the Rock: I've made it!  Everybody gathers around for a group picture: Greg (who had accompanied us on the climb) pulled out his cellphone and attempted to call home.  He got a wrong number (hah!)  Eventually he made it through and called back down from his first climb of Ayers Rock!

After a bit of a rest, we headed back down again.  We were going to have plenty of bragging rights when we got back, especially since we saw one guy walking up the rock with his 3 year old and 5 year old trailing along with him!   If those two kids could do it, what's a lousy hangover stopping you for??

Another group picture at Chicken Rock, and we headed back  down to the bottom, where they were preventing anyone else from climbing because the wind was getting too high!  The final slope down I crabwalked most of the way (feet first, lying back, arms down behind you) because of the wind.   When I got back down, I looked around for my hat, but there was no sign.   Then, as Jo was handing out oranges to us hungry climbers, one of the girls spotted my hat: it was hanging on the park sign in front of the climb!  I guess the rangers found it and left it there.  My day was complete!

This was definitely the highlight of the trip: I felt really great to have persevered and conquered the Rock!

So rare you can hear it bray... Mystery Meat

The rest of the day was almost anticlimactic after that: we headed back into Alice Springs for our final lodgings at the Frontier Oasis Hotel and to relax.  On the way, we played another game of TV trivia (TV themes again): this time, there was a superior TV freak in the audience! 

When we got to Alice Springs, there was a camel ride that I had signed up for, but I wasn't really feeling up to riding a sack full of coat hangers, so I elected to rest up a bit and nurse my sore throat.  Time for a nap...

For the evening meal, we walked on over to the Overlanders Steakhouse, where we were going to dine on a variety of Australian specialties: Crocodile, kangaroo, camel, barramundi, emu and of course, beef.  The restaurant was decorated as an old western "saloon" type of deal, with saddles hanging from the rafters (the significance of which would be made apparent shortly) and a small stage for our live entertainment.

I had fun trying out the various meats: kangaroo was gamey (kind of like deer not prepared properly), the crocodile was as I remembered it from Koorana, and the emu tasted like beef!  One thing for sure: the laid-back Australian lifestyle showed up here: it took forever to get things served!  After dinner there was a group participation song: something about   "gum trees, what a fun tree", etc., and swiveling our hips in a suggestive manner.  Must be some Australian thing...

Later in the evening, they brought out a branding iron and branded the "STH" logo into a couple of peoples jeans (with them still in them!)  Also, they started putting people in the rafters on top of the saddles!  Everyone was getting drunk, the girls were shrieking: great night!

Finally, those who were still standing went to a local dance club: we got in and had a few drinks.  It was much larger than the clubs we went to in Surfers Paradise, and had live music on stage.  I danced a bit and talked with Jo (who looked *really* nice, I must say: she'd been wearing safari clothes and a baseball cap for much of the trip, but had let her hair down and cleaned up a bit for dinner.  Way to go, Jo!).  Later Mike, Jo and I took a cab back to the hotel, while Jo grilled the cabbie on what it was like to be a cab driver (I wasn't sure if she was just joking with him or teasing or what!)

I got back and was packing up, when I realized that this was it!  My last day in the Outback.  Tomorrow I would head back to Sydney for home...

 

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1995-2002 William Geoffrey Shotts. Last update: Tuesday, March 09, 2004