Friday, August 17, 2012

Post-Thesis Holiday, Part 4: The Red Centre

The Red Centre looked nothing like I imagined it would. I pictured a vast expanse of red nothingness, maybe sand dunes; little or no plant life. Mars, in other words. So I was surprised by all the vegetation.

The first morning, I was up at 5.30am to watch the sunrise turn Uluru from dusky purple to bright red-orange. It was cold that early in the morning, and not Sydney-cold either. It gets down to freezing at night in the Red Centre. I lost feeling in my fingers, but the shuttle man gave us tea and biscuits, so at least my soul stayed warm.

I didn’t climb Uluru. Normally, when I see a large rock, or a cliff, or a tree, or a wall, or a fence, I’m all over it. But while visitors are not prohibited from climbing Uluru, you are asked to respect its cultural significance and choose not to. I think the Aboriginal culture has traditionally been quite cautious. In other parts of the world, people invented things to climb when they’d run out of cliffs and big rocks – pyramids, for instance, or Great Walls. In Australia, such exploits would earn you the wrath of the spirits.

I went on to Kata Tjuta that afternoon. Kata Tjuta is like Uluru, but lumpier (and in my opinion, possibly even cooler). The Valley of the Winds walk takes you through and around and up and over the lumps. The picture above is from the ‘around’ part. Here is an ‘up and over’ shot:

And here is a ‘through’ shot:

You can really only see it in the full-sized photo, but hanging out just beside that lump on the right is the moon. I took this one just as I was heading into the hike. Ha, I said to myself. I knew the Red Centre looked like Mars.

Uluru makes a last hurrah just as the sun is setting. I saw it both at sunrise and at sunset that day. It goes from its daytime red-orange to a fiery bright red.

Then there’s a minute or so when it looks like it’s being lit by red spotlights from below, before it lapses back into its nighttime purple.

Then all the tourists high-tail it back to their little hotel rooms because, as our wise old bus driver said, “there’s no more Uluru, folks.” The bus drivers want their dinner, the Lauras want a hot shower, and Mars on Earth needs her beauty rest.


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