Day 79


Ayers Rock Resort



What We Did:

Today Raquel joined Dad for a visit to the beating red heart of Australia’s Red Centre, the famous Uluru aka Ayers Rock.  Immediately it became obvious that travelling to Ayers Rock with the surname Esrock causes a little confusion, especially with the Australian accent!  We boarded our smooth Jetstar flight from Melbourne, flying 3 hours direct to Ayers Rock Airport, minutes away from Ayers Rock Resort.  It was too early to check into our hotel, so we hopped on the free shuttle to visit the camel farm and say hello to the camels, water buffalo and cute little pigs, and visit Town Square.   There were lots of people about to visit the national park, and Uluru itself looks much bigger than it does in the photos, and the sands are bright red.  That night, we joined astronomers for a starry Family Astro Tour.  With the moon only at about 10% full, the stars painted the clear and chilly night sky.  We looked at nebulas and the Galilean moons next to Jupiter,  we looked at different galaxies and learned all about the constellations.  Towards the end, Raquel’s sense of wonder was replaced by a fear of monsters (the shapes of trees at night). We grabbed some noodles back in town and returned to the hotel room to catch a not-so-early night for the sunrise tomorrow morning. The colours of Uluru are famous at sunrise and sunset, and since Raquel loves animals, we decided to brave the chilly morning for a sunrise ride on a camel. We arrived at the camel farm and were assigned a cuddly dromedary named Connor. Raquel hung on tight as Connor launched himself up as part of a camel train. Wrapped in red ponchos for warmth, we were guided through the shrubby desert at dawn, arriving at a viewpoint just in time to see the sunrise over Uluru. We learned lots about camels and their history in the outback. After good rains, the scenery was definitely more green than red! We returned for breakfast and headed to the Wintjiri Art Gallery and Museum to learn more about the indigenous history, flora and fauna of the area. Since Raquel wasn’t inspired to look at information boards (and the stuffed animals kept her busy for about two minutes), Dad bought her a boomerang to paint and the helpful staff set her up with some paints. Next we hit the playground at the Ayers Rock Campground and then lunch in the Town Square. Raquel fell fast asleep on the shuttle bus home, and after a successful transfer from the bus she woke up from a long and much needed nap in time for dinner. After sunset we went to see artist Bruce Munro’s Field of Light, with 50,000 solar powered light stems matching the stars above with lights on the desert ground. It’s pretty impressive, even for a five year old. There’s lots to see and do here and Dad was glad he had the opportunity to explore Uluru by air and on the ground earlier this week when he passed through on The Ghan. Raquel enjoyed her final big adventure, which, like Australia itself, will leave a lasting impression.

What We Ate:

Breakfast: Homemade bread with peanut butter and Nutella, which immediately launched Raquel on such a crazy sugar high Nutella it will never be repeated!

Lunch: Chicken sandwiches.

Dinner: Salmon spaghetti with capers and garlic, Dad had kangaroo gyros.

Where We Ate:

Breakfast: The Camel Farm
Lunch: Kulata Academy Cafe
Dinner: Mangata Bistro (and the night before, Ayers Wok).

My Favourite Pictures Today

Where We Slept:

Ayers Rock Resort is a sprawling complex all managed by the same company. There’s a range of accommodation from campgrounds to the budget Outback Pioneer Hotel, the more upmarket Desert Gardens, serviced Emu Apartments and flashy Sails in the Desert. We stayed at the Desert Gardens with a view of Uluru from our balcony. It’s was modern, spacious and comfortable. A free shuttle bus takes you around the resort, and there are a lot of tours and activities on offer, some free, most of which cost a fair penny.

We Learned:

So much about camels! Did you know if a camel doesn’t eat any food for a month it will lose its hump? That Australian has an estimated one million feral camels in the outback? That camels have special padding so they don’t feel heat on their feet, knees or chests? That camels have stronger personalities than horses, and can be super aggressive. Did you know camels regurgitate their food to extract liquid, and that they have 32 teeth including 6 canines? They’re also super destructive to farmsteads and cattle stations. We learned all about indigenous culture, such as:  what the rings and lines mean on the paintings, about dreamtime and songlines;  and legends of different animals and stars. We learned how find the Southern Cross and Jupiter and Venus. That spinifex is a bush you don’t want to mess with. We learned about that tourists in the 1950’s used to spend 2 days getting to Ayers Rock and camped in tents. That Uluru and Kata Tjuta (aka the Olgas, another striking range of rocks in the same national park) were created by rainwater and geological processes over 500 million years. Uluru is 3.6km long, 348m high, and changes colour because of the filtering effect of the atmosphere on sunshine. Ayers Rock is the 4th largest city in the Northern Territory, after Darwin, Alice Springs and Katherine. Just over 1000 people live here permanently.

Reflection of the Day

The Best Part:

The camel ride on cuddly Connor!

The Worst Part:

Waking up early for sunrise and being cold (ironically, we hardly brought any clothes for cold weather from Canada, because we didn’t expect Australia to get cold!)

We'll Always Remember

  • Name: Dan
  • Favourite Place: Right here, because I'm with all these camels and they make me happy
  • I Love Travel Because: I like to see new things, meet new people and broaden my horizons
  • My Advice for Kids: Do what you love and be yourself
  • Name: Emily
  • Favourite Place: The Cayman Islands
  • I Love Travel Because: I get to meet people like you!
  • My Advice for Kids: Don't be afraid to try new things
  • Name: Eddie
  • Favourite Place: Vancouver
  • I Love Travel Because: I see new things
  • My Advice for Kids: Work hard and be good to your mother
  • Name: Phoebe
  • Favourite Place: Antarctica
  • I Love Travel Because: Ever single person has a story to tell and I like finding and recording those stories
  • My Advice for Kids: Sometimes when it feels like things are falling apart, they’re actually falling into place
  • Name: Chris
  • Favourite Place: South Georgia Island
  • I Love Travel Because: I like to meet people, and do different adventurous activities
  • My Advice for Kids: Go out and do it the best you can, while you can
  • Name: Chloe
  • Favourite Place: The UK, where my sister lives
  • I Love Travel Because: of the shopping
  • My Advice for Kids: Always be happy and say please and thank you
  • Name: Littiah
  • Favourite Place: Poruma Island
  • I Love Travel Because: of the food
  • My Advice for Kids: Don't live with any regrets

  Today's Random Thing

  A Note from Mom and Dad

Raquel is a great little traveller, although can swing in moods so that people either think she’s much older than she is, or much younger than she is. She’s certainly not immune to unleashing a high pitched scream at almost any time, shattering the silence of a museum or a fancy restaurant. But she’s also quick-witted and has no problem engaging with people and asking questions. It’s going to be interesting to see how she adapts to a more regular routine, which is just around the corner (as much as one can have a regular routine living in an exotic country for four months). It’s amazing how much more manageable one kid is after you’re used to dealing with two.  Since Dad was in Uluru earlier this week, it was an enormous relief not to try and do and see everything in the short time we had, and travel at the slow, inefficient pace of a five year old. Still a challenge, but it would have been insane rushing around the national park to tick off the big attractions. Kinda like the insanity we’ve put ourselves through since we started our journey.

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