We had called the caravan park about a week before to see if we could book the overflow camp at Ayes Rock and was told no. The overflow is only used when the caravan park is full and people turn up without a booking. We decided not to book and hope we were put in the over flow.
Why did we want the overflow site, simple, $49 a night for a powered site, or $37 for non-powered in the caravan park. In the overflow it was only $10 a night. (There are no real bush camps close by.) Ok it was a longer walk to the facilities but when you want to stay several days the savings start to add up. As we pulled up to the caravan park there was a long line of vans waiting to book in. Yes we were happy to see them because surely that would mean we would be put into the overflow.
There weren’t many people in this area of the park so we were able to park close to the entrance, which meant it was close to the facilities. Bonus. After setting up camp we took a walk to the lookout in the van park for our first real look at the Rock and the Olgas. That done we took a look around the town. There is a small shopping centre that mainly caters for the tourist and several hotels.
It was then back to van to pack some drinks and snacky stuff before heading off to see the rock. If you ever get to the rock, watching the sunset over it is a must. The car park was packed. The only free bays where ones with small trees or over grown bushes right in the front blocking the view. We finally found one that wasn’t too bad, set up our chairs and waited. We had all come for the same reason. We watched people mingling round in little groups or setting up their tripod for that perfects shot or taking selfies. Some people stood on the cars to get a better angle some just sat and watched.
An interesting thing for me was how many people took their photos of this precious moment using their phones or tablets. I know now days the camera on phones and tablets are good but it just seemed wrong to me. Am I being to old school?
We had read the rock changes colour and it is right. Red or brown or mauve, and any shade in-between. I said to Adrian that the rock look like it was 3D. He laughed and told me, it did, probable because it was. Well I did know that but I guess I had see so many photos of the rock that to finally see it for real, I saw a hole new depths to it. It was almost as if it took on a life of its own.
The next day we drove out to the rock to see it by day and to walk around it. It is about a 10 km walk mostly over flat ground. We started of at the visitor centre. It was interesting, there were two ladies sitting in a corner on the floor of the gift shop painting in their traditional way. Sadly for me they don’t allowed photos to be taken.
From there we moved further around to start the walk. We parked right in front of where people climb the rock, not that was something we were planning to do. It is a very steep ascend. Lots of people were giving it a go though. We were told there is a book at the top that you get to write your name in to say you have made the climb. There are also plaques along the climb for people who have not make it back down alive. Around the base of the rock are some basic walks leading to some rock paintings. There are signs everywhere to warn people where and when they can and cannot take photos. We continued on around the back of the rock.
The walk was long and uninteresting for most part, apart from some wild flower. The track takes you away from the rock as a large part of it is sacred and not for our eyes.
There are signs along the way warning people about the dangers of dehydration. We only took a litre of water. That was bad of us, as we know better. Around the back, which would be about half way, is a water station where you can sit down in in shade and fill up your water bottles. Just in time. Even though we were in the dry season, which is really winter for Northern Territory, it was still hot. One complaint though. Signs everywhere about dehydration and drinking but no facilities except at the visitor centre or at the parking area leaving about 7 ks without anything but trees.
We had been told when we were in Port August that the camel races were going to be held on the weekend. We had changed our plan to arrive into Ayes Rock in time for the big event. The night before the race the camels were auctioned off for race day. The money is then divided up for prize money. This year was the highest amount they have received with a total prize amount adding up to $17000. It was a fun night with a lot of teasing from the organizers and the crowd. It’s funny but for some reason when I saw the cowboys (or should that be camelboys) in their red shirts and tights blue jeans with their camel boots and hats on, camel racing suddenly became more interesting for me.
There is a free shuttle bus service that runs through the town of Ayes Rock, extra busses had been added to the route to help move people to and from the camel races. We jumped on one at 11 am. It stopped at the different hotels before heading out to the racetrack. As the people from the hotels jumped aboard I started to feel under dressed. Here I was in jeans and a shirt and there they were all dress up with hats and jewelry looking the part. I was almost ready to go back to the van and change when camel man jumped on the bus. When we arrived at the racetrack I asked if I could take a photo of camel man and he happy to oblige. Thank you Camel Man.
We felt an edge of excitement as we walked though the gates. There is no betting on the camel races and once thought the gates there is no money currency you buy camel money.
Activities had been arranged to keep everyone busy for the day. Of course there was a fashion show for children, men and ladies. There was also egg and spoon racing for children and men, the men had to run backwards. Lots of fun to watch.
What fascinated me most of the activities was the whip cracker. Nathan Griggs holds the world records for the most whips cracked in a minute. He proudly announces to the audience he took the title from an American. He is also trying to gain the world record for the longest whipped cracked, (he has to work up to that as when he first tried he hurt his shoulder.) The largest whip was on display next to his van. Nathan asked Camel Man to help him in a part of his act. He cracked two whips around Camel man as fast as he could. You could hear the whip cracking but you couldn’t see them . Camel Man held on to his camel. Nathan used several different whip lengths to do different tricks. I though he was amazing. He makes and sells whips as he tours around with his show. (The next day we saw lots of people in the van park with whips.)
The camel racings were exciting. We ate hotdogs and drank wine from plastic cups. Only 5 camels race at a time, they are lead to the start by handlers. Some of the newer camels to racing weren’t too happy about being held back. When one camel took off, that was the start of some of the races. Other racer started with a shout from the announcer. There were 5 races and a losers race before the cup. We cheered the camels on, whether they ran fast or just sauntered their way to the finishing line as some did.
One night we went to see the Field of lights. Bruce Munro set up fifteen tonnes of solar powered lights with the rock as a setting. He used 32 international and domestic flights to transport the lights to Australia first, then on to Ayes Rock. You could only go with a guided tour therefore we booked and waited for the pick up a little after sunset (we had been told the earlier tour with the sunset was filled with children.) So we didn’t get to see the rock behind the lights as a backdrop. I didn’t know what to expect. Although the lights were scatted over an area of about 4 football fields you only seemed to walked though the front of it. It was only about a ten minutes walk but everyone took a lot longer. The 50,000 light spheres varied in height and clusters; changing in a Mexican type wave of colour. Everywhere you looked you saw ever changing colour. I was pretty impressed with it. I thought it was totally out of the box thinking I guess a bit like Lake Ballard and the statues. Ayres Rock isn’t the only place Bruce has set up his light, he has traveled from UK to USA to Mexico and beyond.
We drove out to the Olga’s. The first walk is to Walpa Gorge, a little oasis between towering rocks. A family with children ran and screamed and though sticks and rocks into the water. I looked at Adrian and smiled, there goes the serenity. The walk only took us about 20 minutes.
On our way back from the walk we meet a young lady with her mother lying on the ground with the daughter holding her mothers legs up. The mother had started to feel faint and almost collapsed. We stopped to help. Two ladies stopped as well, one of them was a doctor. She assessed the situation and after asking question. It seemed the mother hadn’t had anything to eat and had only had a cup of tea all day. No wonder she almost collapsed. The doctor had a banana and gave it to the mother. “But I’m not hunger dear” she told the doctor. I was not in the best of mood by the stupidity of this woman. We eventually got her to stand without feeling like she was going to faint and walk her back to her car.
After all that fun we walked to the Karu Lookout. A number of people were walking the full loop but it is over 7 km so we gave it a miss. There was a peaceful feel to the Olgas, more so than at Ayes Rock. We talked about staying for the sunset but decided against it as sunset was too far away in time.
What did I think of Ayes Rock? It is a thought-provoking icon of Australia. We travel miles and miles just to look at a rock, and it is really only half a rock as most of it is buried. While I can appreciate the wonder and the magic that is Ayes Rock and I know it is almost a right of passage for most Australians to go see it and climb it, I feel there is something missing to it. Don’t ask me what, because I don’t know. I was told by someone years ago who use to work at one of the hotels at Ayes Rock that one you see the rock you will fall in love with it. It didn’t happen to me and maybe this is what is missing. Am I pleased that I have seen it? Yes. Will I ever came back? I don’t think so. But I did enjoy the camel racing and the light show.