Friday, December 21, 2007

The Road. The Reef. The Rock

The three R’s of Australian tourism are the road, the reef and the rock. We are at “the Rock” … Ayers Rock to be precise. Uluru is its aboriginal name and it is considered sacred by the indigenous people.

My first impression of the Outback was to think this is Nevada squared and red. It is a desiccated landscape and I get this primal feeling when I am in the out of doors that it is designed to kill me. It is as though the plants are looking at me walking by and thinking … she is walking moisture, let’s kill her. Ok not that bad … but it is HOT here.

Last night we ate dinner in the desert under the stars. When we arrived in the isolated location we walked up a pathway to a rise in the desert. I felt like I was going to Tribal Council. We mingled with other guests as a skilled player of the didgeridoo played in the background. He took some time to teach us about the instrument. It is the oldest wind instrument on the planet. The aboriginals used it to accompany their chant. His particular “didge” was made form the trunk of a Eucalyptus tree. The hollowing out is done by termites and burning and termites again until you have the correct pitch. If it doesn’t sound right, you go out in the desert and find a termite mound and stick the trunk on top and let the “mites” work their magic for a few weeks. His was tuned to the key of F. A well made “didge” can cost up to $10,000. Ironically there are more players of the instrument performing in Germany than there are in Australia.

From our little perch, we watched the sunset over Kata Tjuta as Uluru glowed red in the sun’s reflection. We then followed a path way down to our dining area under the stars. (Apperently no one was going to be voted off tonight) Long after sunset the afterglow lighted our setting. We ate by candle light with interesting companions. The theme that united the table was that each of the three couples had “lost a child to Australia.” Two were from the UK and one from Berlin. Their children love it in Australia. They make less or equal money than they would in the UK or Germany, but it is less crowded, a MUCH better climate and it is an easy place to meet other young people.

I used the buffet as an opportunity to taste some new things. Barramundi (the ever present fish of Australia), crocodile and kangaroo were all available for the taking. And there were some spices that were new … but I did not write them down. After dinner we listened to the silence of the desert. I am not sure I have EVER been in a place as totally still as this was. During our after dinner astronomy talk I learned two new ways to locate South. This time of year the Southern Cross does not rise until very late at night and is best seen before dawn.

For those interested in the saga of the luggage … no, it has not yet arrived. We have been given a voucher for $200 to cover the things we need. Hunter has two nice new Billabong shirts suitable for our evening dining. I am not at all convinced it will show today. Well We wanted to travel lite … this is one way, I suppose.

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