Sunset at Ayers Rock/Uluru in Australia; somebody found a Packers game!
AYERS ROCK/ULURU, Australia - Wow.
I expected a few people would be in the parking lot at Uluru to watch the sun go down. I didn't expect a Lambeau Field/Green Bay Packers tailgate party.
But that's what I got. I'm staying at a wonderful resort called Longitude 131, which overlooks Uluru or Ayers Rock from a few miles away. They said they'd take us to Uluru for the sunset, including champagne and cheese and crackers, so I was naturally all over that. I expected a few buses, but instead it was a madhouse, with dozens of tables set up with wine and beer and veggies and crackers and shrimp and stew and all sorts of food and drink, with a couple dozen buses in the parking lot spewing out hundreds of visitors intent on seeing the legendry sunset.
It was slightly disapponting today, with a little too much cloud cover for a really great sunset. But it still was pretty cool to see all the zanineess surrounding the nightly ritual. Not to mention the rock itself, which is hugely impressive and all I expected it to be.
I started the day with a nice walk around the rim of Kings Canyon, also known as Watarrka, about 300 clicks from here. It was fun, but not quite as overpowering as my first visit to Uluru.
I had a quick walk near one of the waterholes at the base of the rock, then had to return my rental car. I checked into Longitude 131, which features remarkable, one-on-one service and an open bar, plus units that look like tents scattered along a hill with great view of Uluru. I grabbed a five-minute swim, then had a 15-minute helicopter tour (see photo), followed by the sunset viewing and then dinner on the sands of the outback, complete with a didgeridoo player and a fellow who explained the night stars to Longitude 131 guests on a warm, beautiful night in the bush near the hotel.
Great food, fascinating insights and wonderful guests, one of whom gave me a couple Benadryl-like pills to combat the worst itch/hives I've had in my life. Maybe it was a plant at Kings Canyon, I don't know, but I'm a mess of hives and it's horribly, horribly itchy. Someone at dinner suggested I rub toothpaste on my skin, which I just tried. It doesn't seem to help but I smell pretty minty, anyway.
More to come when I get the chance, but I have a 5:30 a.m. wakeup call for some touring of the Olgas, another wonderful geographic feature of the Northern Territories.