My last full day at Uluru, and this one was all about Uluru.  It started with a sunrise viewing, yes that makes two sunrises in a row for me.  Then a nice base walk around the entire rock.  Then I spent some time at the cultural center, and then my third and final sunset viewing.

Again, I am going to try to just let the pictures speak for themselves.  The base walk was a real highlight.  It was great to get up close and personal with what had only been a looming figure.  I think the whole trail is only about 6 km and is basically as flat as they come.  Make sure that if you do go, that you take every side trail possible.  They take you really close and to some awesome sites including a spectacular water hole and some really great cave paintings.

I was there early in the morning so, some of the photos really lacked light due to shadows to come out well.  Also, there are several areas that are sacred and off limits to photography.  This includes the whole cultural center.

In the end, I decided not to climb Uluru.  It seems pretty clear after spending time in the Cultural Center of the park that the Aboriginal people really don’t want you to climb it.  I decided to honor that request despite the fact that I really, really wanted to climb it.

To sum it up, GO TO ULURU.  It is an experience that is one of a kind and worth every minute and penny you spend to get out there.  Three days was perfect to see everything.


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Uluru Day 2

For my second day in Uluru, I decided to go to the other portion of the park called Kata Tjuta.  This is the other large rock formation in the area, and while it may not have the prestige and aura of Uluru, it was still an amazing experience.  The day started with a sunrise viewing of Kata Tjuta.  I also took a picture there of Uluru in the distance, so you can appreciate all the open space of the NT.  Plus, it looked pretty cool with the sun coming up next to it.

My first bush walk of the day was through the Valley of the Winds.  This is probably the most challenging hike in the whole park as you actually have to scale a good bit of vertical distance; however, some of the ridge hikes on Oahu make it look like kiddy fare.  That being said, most people don’t do the full loop around entire trail.  Amazing considering I had 25 mins to spare at a leisurely pace.

The best part was that our bus driver got us there before all the other tours, and I was the first out of the bus and onto the hike.  I know, amazing morning energy for me.  It was totally worth it though, as I literally felt like I had the whole place to myself for most of the hike.  I even got a chance to see a few wild kangaroos!  All in all, the hike was top notch and I recommend the whole loop to anyone who is in decent walking shape.  I’ll let the photos tell the rest of the story.

The second part of my day was the Walpa Gorge.  This hike was much flatter and easier than the previous hike, but also lacked some of the really stunning scenery.  You basically walked straight into a gorge and then out of it.  It was nice and all, but something you can definitely live without seeing.

The day concluded with yet another sunset view of Uluru.  I tried to limit the photos here…

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Uluru Day 1

Originally, when I found out about this Fellowship, I was really keen to travel to New Zealand. I’ve been wanting to go there for some time, but after checking out costs and, most importantly, weather I decided that maybe I should save New Zealand for some other time, in the summer. I just didn’t want to risk getting stuck inside by freezing fog and rain.

Winter, however, is the perfect time to travel to the Northern Territory. The day time temperatures are manageable, the evenings are cool but not freezing, and there are no flies. So, I decided that I would go to Uluru (otherwise known as Ayer’s Rock) for 3 days and check out a completely different part of Australia. Uluru is in the middle of nowhere. There is a little resort town that is 20 km away and then the nearest town is another 450 km away. You are in the heart of the dessert and besides the other happy inhabitants of Ayer’s Rock Resort, you are there alone.

It took about all day to get there from Melbourne, but from the moment your plane descends from the clouds you know it is going to be worth it. You see this amazing red dessert below you (that was actually the lushest it has been in decades) and then this giant rock looming at the distance. The sky is so blue, the grass that is there is incredibly green, and the dirt, red. A primary color bonanza, and that’s the middle of the day.

I stayed at the Outback Pioneer Lodge which is the cheapest place in the Resort. It had all the comforts of a nice sleep away camp, but for $35 a night you couldn’t beat it. I actually thought it was perfect for the setting. Plus, you still have access to everything else in the resort. For touring around, I got the 3 day Uluru-Kata Tjuta Explorer pass from Uluru Express (www.uluruexpress.com.au) which gave me unlimited access to all of the major attractions at the park.  It’s a steal only for $180 compared to all the bus around and tell you about stuff companies.  All the info you need is at the park’s cultural center and the Uluru Express drivers were very friendly and knowledgeable.

The first day, all I had time for was to catch “the rock” at sunset.  Another perk of using this smaller company was access to the small car viewing area which is closer and way less crowded than the coach (bus) viewing area.  What a great show as the sun sets and paints Uluru in these great red and orange colors.  I’d never thought I would take so many pictures of the same thing, but every minute it seemed to look a little different.  Below, is the gallery of my best shots from my first sunset.

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Melbourne Day 3 (Aquarium and St. Kilda)

This was the first day that I got to sleep in for the trip.  And, by sleep in, I mean wake up at 7:30.  Carlie had an early evening flight and we had plans to pack in as much of Melbourne as we could.  Being a couple of people obsessed with the ocean, we decided to head first to the Melbourne Aquarium and then to the funky coastal town of St. Kilda.

The Melbourne Aquarium is a nice aquarium about the size of the Birch Aquarium at Scripps or the New England Aquarium in Boston. Most of the displays were found along this winding maze like path through 3 floors.  They had a great display of giant cuttlefish and a nice touch tank filled with sea stars that I really enjoyed.  Carlie and I both found the displays to be really great, but the information signs were often either lacking or rather obscure.  You then find yourself in a massive room surrounded by a large fish and shark tank as sort of the grand finale of the aquarium.  The other big exhibit the aquarium has is the Penguin exhibit.  They have the only Antarctic penguin collection in Australia, filled with Emperor Penguins.  Not that I am in to birds, but it was a nice display and having them behind glass took care of that awful penguin smell that the NE Aquarium suffers from their penguin exhibit.  Overall, I think that it was definitely worth the time and the money to check out.  See some highlighted photos below and a full collection on FB.

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After the aquarium, we made our way, via tram, St. Kilda, a small coastal Melbourne suburb.  It basically has one main street that parallels a coastal esplanade.  It’s filled with little boutique shops, funky cafes, dessert shops.  We ate lunch at this cool restaurant that was outfitted with classic Rock and Roll posters and album covers.  We then took a walk along main street to gawk at all the delicious treats in the pastry shops.  There were 3 or 4 different shops that just had windows filled with amazing desserts.  There were so many shops and dessert options that we decided to walk along the entire esplanade and check out the St. Kilda pier to work up an appetite.

There is actually a colony of Fairy Penguins that live at the end of the St. Kilda pier.  Normally, you have to get there at dusk or dawn to see them, but we were lucky enough to find one hidden amongst the rocks.  We stood there for about 10 mins while Carlie tried to coax him/her out of her hole.  While she didn’t get far, she did manage to get it to look at us long enough for a good picture.

We ended our Melbourne adventure with delcious desserts from this little shop.  I had a chocolate mint fudge and Carlie had a Mars bar cake like pastry.  Paired with capuaccino and tea, it was a lovely mid day meal, and a great way to end an awesome weekend…on Monday.