Uluru Sunrise and Sunset 

We got up early again…ugh! But, so very worth it. We got a quick breakfast at 4:15 in the morning and made our way into the national park.

Because Uluru is known for its beautiful color changes during the day, there is both a sunset and sunrise viewing area. We made our way to the sunrise viewing area of course.

We got there early and I set up my GoPro to do a time lapse of the sunrise.

The sunlight reflecting off of rock gave off beautiful colors. It was definitely worth it to wake up early for this sight. I took a bunch of pics with this red rock and so many more over the next 24 hours…

From there, we headed to the base of the rock to walk around the rim, which is normally a 10 km hike. However, this morning some of it was closed because of large puddles, so we didn’t get to walk the whole thing.

It was stunning to get closer to this red rock and see how imperfect it was up close. From far away, it looks so round and red. But, there are many colors on this rock and many holes and hidden caves. It felt like a intimate look at Uluru.

From there, we headed back to our accommodations to relax a little before our helicopter ride to see a whole other side of Uluru Kata-tjuta National Park.

We were picked up a little after lunch time to make our way to the helicopter ride.

We headed up and made our first stop to see Kata-Tjuta!

From there, we made our way to see Uluru!

I LOVED seeing the rocks from the ariel view because it gave you another view of these massive monolithic red rocks in the middle of Australia.

We then made it back to the accommodation in time to get all dressed up for our special event tonight to end this Outback adventure. We actually got to put on makeup and tried to care about what we looked like, which was a first for basically this entire trip.

At 6:15 pm, we left our accommodations to go back into the national park

for a campagne sunset. We arrived at the sunset viewing area and I again set up my camera to take a video of it all. Unfortunately, the battery was so I didn’t get the whole sunset…

But, we enjoyed some bubbly and snacks! Most importantly, I discovered beetroot humus, which is insanely good! Haha

We took lots of group pictures, to make sure we would remember this moment. We were so happy to be together and to have met each other.

We got back on the bus and sang our new favorite song: home among the gun tree! It’s an Australian fave and we learned all the dance moves. Now it is stuck in my head…

We headed back to the bar at our accommodations and danced until late. Some of us would be continuing on to the second leg of the trip on the east coast, and some of us would not. We had all survived the conditions of the outback and just didn’t want to say goodbye.

Uluru = Ayers Rock

I woke up to people around me shuffling around in the dark and bright beams of flashlights shining in my face. It was 4:15 am and we were heading out to Kings Canyon for a sunrise hike.

I had already gotten dressed the night before in my hiking clothes just so I could easily get up and on the coach, no hassle.

The stars were still stunning when we were heading to the coach. I quickly ate my breakfast bar and gulp down water for the hike ahead. We were about to do a 6 km hike, which our tour manager said could take us up to 3 hours to complete. I plugged in my headphones, still sleepy for waking up earlier than normal, and blasted some EDM to help me get ready for a great hike.

We got to the base of the canyon at around 5:15 am, just as the sun was beginning to rise. I quickly put on my sunblock, being the incredibly pale person that I am, you never know if the even in the rising sun will give you a sunburn. Also, I sprayed some bug spray, to make sure bugs didn’t want to be close of friends with me on this hike.

Our tour manager had let us know that there were two options for hiking this morning. The first was a 6 km hike, which for the first 30 minutes would be straight up the canyon with seemingly never ending steps. It would exhaust you at first, but after the first 30 minutes the rest of the hike was not a heart pumping. The second option was shorter and through a creekbed. I of course wanted to do the 6 km hike, knowing the view would be worth the sweat this early in the morning.

We started up the steps and damn was it tough. Non-stop steps for about 30 minutes. A few people headed back down the to do the creek walk instead of completing the rest of this 6 km hike. When we made it to the end of these delivish stairs we had a great view of the rising sun just beginning to hit the tops of the canyon. It was a pretty sight!

The rest of the hike was just as beautiful and stunning. It was relatively easy for the most part. The way the rising sun hit the red rocks of the canyon gave off a beautiful golden glow unlike anything I had ever seen in person. I was just so happy to be there, taking in the view.

We took some steps down and crossed a bridge over what was called the “garden of eden” and then climbed more steps up to get to the other side with a really gorgeous view over the whole canyon. We stopped here for a while to take some photos.

Having a tour manager/ someone to guide you around places is great for so many reasons like having special insights, someone planning and organizing activities, and someone to look after you if anything happens. But, in this moment we were happy to have Mark because he knew all the best places to take great pictures to capture the moment. Especially in the tricky lighting of the rising sun. We got some really cool photos.

We continue on and down the canyon, down many steps until we made it back to our starting point.

We felt absolutely elated as we joined the rest of the group, high off of endorphins and beautiful sights. We boarded the coach and headed back to the station for some brekkie.

Brekkie in oz (Australia slang) is mostly fried eggs, bacon (more ham like), beans, toast and tomatoes. Put it all together and you’ve got a great sandwich. I am loving it!

After brekkie and a quick shower, we loaded onto the bus to go to Yulara for our final days of the trip. On our way, we stopped at fool-a-roo, which can fool some people who think it is the real Uluru. The sand was getting so red, we knew we were getting closer to the red center.

By lunch time, we had made it to the town square and got lunch from the local grocery store. I picked up some boomerangs to bring back at a gift store.

We then boarded the coach again, this time to go into Uluru Kata-Tjuta Nationa Park!

So before I go further, I want to better explain the park. Uluru is more commonly known in the states as Ayers Rock. Kata-Tjuta is a rock formation nearby, which is less round compared to Uluru. In fact, Kata-Tjuta literally translates into many heads, referencing the 26 domes of red rock. Both are huge monolithic rocks made of sandstone with high amounts of iron in them, which exposed to the elements, give them the red color.

The first thing we did was go to the cultural center to learn more about how this park came to be. In the mid 1970s, the land was given back to the indigenous people, who then leased the land back to the government for 99 years to have this park. There are many stories about Uluru, which is the most sacred of the two rock formations. Though Uluru is quite round, it does have some holes and discoloring on it, so there are many aboriginal stories to explain how the rock came to be.

From a geological perspective, the rock was formed over thousands of years from sediment. Then, it was pushed by up through the ground, turning exactly 90 degrees. Though Uluru is quite tall from the ground up, it is not as tall as Kata-Tjuta, which has some domes taller than Uluru. However, Uluru is considered the largest monolithic rock in the world because geologist believe that it goes as far at 6 km below the ground.

Geographically, it is basically in the center of Australia. So people consider it the heart of Australia.

It is truly incredible on all fronts: both spiritually and scientifically.

We then got back on the coach and took a lap around the rock which gave us a better perspective of how massive it really is. We would get to interact with the rock a lot more tomorrow!

We spent the rest of our time in the park with Kata-Tjuta, specifically doing the whopper Gorge walk. It was a bumpy one and the second one of the day, so I was a bit tired. However, being up close with the rock gave you great perspective on spectacular this lesser known rock formation is on its own.

Once we completed the hike, we went back to our lodge style accommodations, got a good shower and ate dinner. None of us wanted to stay up very late, given that we had gotten up before sunrise today and would do it again tomorrow.  We passed out happily!

Gorgeous Katherine Gorge

It’s Christmas Eve and it is about 80 degree Fahrenheit here, along with humidity. No white Christmas here!

We woke up at 6 am to get breakfast at 6:30. The night before, as I expressed my love for tim-tams, one of the aussies told me about a trick with Tim-tams and coffee.

The trick is to bite off diagonal corners, then place one of the bitten off corners into the coffee. Then you need to suck through the other bitten off corner to get coffee and make the cookie smooshie! Yum, so delish!

We then got on the bus with all our stuff and headed out of Kakadu National Park, where we had spent the last 2 nights. Our first stop was the Kakadu entrance sign to get a picture or two.

Then we headed off to a cafe to get lunch that we would take with us to Edith Falls just down the road. When we got to Edith Falls, we were not allowed near the water, since there may be a few crocs in there. We are our lunch in the grass near by with a view of the Falls. The flies were insufferable though. I guess that is the outback for you!

We then quickly changed into bathing suits for our next adventure.

We then arrived in the town of Katherine about 2 hours later. We stopped at Woolworths for some water and other necessities. Finally heading off to our next adventure, we passed the Katherine School of the Air. Because of how remote this area is, they used to have children gather in a school house and listen to the radio to learn. It just helped me understand how remote the area we were in was, before modern technology. But, even then, I was still having trouble getting wifi now.

The coach pulled up to a dock, where we all loaded into the boat for a Katherine Gorge tour. The gorge was huge and went on for over 100 km. It had a reddish tint to it from exposure to the elements. It actually reminded me of what I imagine the Grand Canyon would look like in person.

We got a certain point in the Gorge where we wouldn’t be able to cross by boat, so we got out and crossed to the next boat on foot. We got a photo or two there.

On the next boat, we saw the iconic Katherine Gorge photo. It was beautiful to see the water running through the reddish rocks, with a little green here and there, a blue sky with a smattering of clouds. Picture perfect!

We then docked the boat again, this time to find a waterfall within the Gorge.

We started on the path, which clearly was not well laid out. There was a lot of climbing on rocks that were slippery with sand and no clear place to put your foot next. A few of the girls only had on thong sandals which broke on the way there. I was behind them and got a little annoyed at the situation, since I had my tevas with me. I really wanted to see this waterfall, so I was getting impatient.

We did get to the waterfall with plenty of time to enjoy the water and the experience.

I brought my GoPro in with me, which was great because the footage is awesome!

The two Aussie sibilings climbed up a rock formation nearby the waterfall and were jumping off the ledge. It looks like fun, so I decided to climb up (again thankful for my tevas) to the top.

Once at the top, about 12 feet from the water, it was a little nerve racking to think about jumping. But, of course there was no other way down and I really wanted to do it.

I jumped and it of course was exhilarating! I came up smiling and laughing. Just a fun way play in the waterfall pool. And, I love that kind of stuff!

Feeling more alive, I swam to shore to get my outer clothes back on and head back to the boat. We got back on the boat, headed back to the dock, got on the coach and headed to our accommodations for the night.

Given that it was Christmas Eve, there were not many restaurants open. So, we ordered pizza and sat by the pool. We got to try an Australian dessert called “lamington.” It’s a yellow cake with a chocolate and coconut frosting and a whipped cream top. Really good!

We swam for a while, before heading to bed for another early morning. This time it would be Christmas!

Exploring Kakadu!

We woke up at 6 am, got breakfast at the restaurant. I made sure to avoid the vegemite! We left the accommodation at 7 pm, to drop off some people who were signed up for a scenic flight of the park.

Kakadu is a massive national park. In fact it is half the size of Switzerland and the size of Maryland. There are over 10,000 different species of insects, which was quite obvious by looking around. There are lots of wild animals as well, like wallabies, crocodiles, dingos, board, wild horses and more.

While some did the scenic flight, the rest of us headed over to the Bowali cultural center to learn more about the indigenous people. We saw their calendar on a stone. It was not by months, but by seasons, which makes more sense to me. I don’t get the point of month’s of December 21st is when winter starts. Just had an extententional crisis wondering about why we had months on our calendar.

We then headed to an area where there was an indigenous rock art walk. We loaded up on bug spray and sunblock before heading in.

There are ants with green butts running around everywhere. Our tour guide mentioned that if you ate the green butt part, you would get a shot of vitamin C. A few of us tried it and it was actually pretty great. It just tasted like citrus.

There were large rock formations, almost wall like, where we could see the paintings. Because most of the culture is held closely by elders, many of the larger meanings of the stories are not known by people outside of the culture. However, we could glean some basics from the drawings. We saw a wallaby on one, another was about fertility, another about celebration and so many more.

From there, we did a quick hike up to see the larger rock formation from a distance. Mark told us about the small rock on the edge of the cliff. Apparently, within the indigenous culture, you are not supposed to mate with a sibiling. But, a chief did and he symbolically placed a feather up there. Now, there is a rock to symbolize it and remind others not to do what he did.

Here is me at the top!

We headed over towards the yellow water, to have lunch. We had a baguette with some cold cuts. Relaxed for a while and just enjoyed the air conditioning.

We then headed down to the yellow river for our cruise. We were on the billabong river in kakdu, getting a wetlands cruise. Our guide was straightforward and funny. He knew a lot about the waters and the animals inside. Though we couldn’t see any crocodiles. There were definitely a few hundred in there!

They are able to hold their breath for up to 6 hours and slow their heart beat down to one to two beats per hour. In dry season, they layout in the sun to keep warm. But, since it was very hot out, they were mostly sitting at the bottom of the river. We were instructed to try not to fall overboard. But, if we did, we had about a minute before a croc would be after us. Comforting, huh?

There were lots of other wildlife in the river as well. We saw “Jesus birds” who look like they are walking on water, but really they are walking on Lilly pads. We saw some beautiful flowers from a specific type of Lilly pad. This one the indigenous women would harvest for their stems. Not before doing a prayer to keep the crocs from eating them. If they did get eaten, the elders would say they didn’t do the prayer right…

After a long day in 80 degree weather, we headed back to the accommodations to hangout in the pool. A girl from LA bought some yellow tail wine and red solo cups. We enjoyed some laughs over that. We hung out in the pool for a couple hours before heading to dinner.

After dinner, we just hung out around the table and talked about the differences in culture. I love hearing from the aussies on the trip because though they don’t know this part of their country, they know about most everything else. We talked about cricket, politics, differences in candies, stores, restaurants and more. It was funny to hear they even have the bachelor in australia. It is the Australian version, of course. I thought I might actually watch that one! Ha!

We headed off the bed because we once again had to wake up early.