The famous Ghan railroad at my stop in Alice Springs, Australia. Alice is right in the heart of Australia...the Red Centre as it is called here. And red it is indeed....the very sand that makes up the outback here is a bright red that is just amazing seen in dunes against the blue sky. The next group of pics are devoted to the last 5 days here where I was one of a group on a camping tour through this amazing region to see several of its wonders. The camping was incredible too...being in such a hostile environment and sleeping in swags (thick canvas bags) under the outback stars was indescribable. I have some great stories but I cant tell them all on here...if you really want to know...ask me when I get back!
Uluru...what we westerners once named Ayers Rock...it has since been changed back to its original Aboriginal name...the one they called it for tens of thousands of years before westerners ever saw it.
Uluru as seen from the road. Check out those contrasting colors...you truly cant take your eyes away from it in person. Uluru is one solid rock...the world's largest monolith. It is over 300 m (1000 ft) high above the surrounding ground and plunges over 6km (3.5 miles) down underground!!! One rock...not a bunch of rocks piled up...ONE rock.
Valley leading to a watering hole. When it rains, the rock totally changes in that the thing is covered with waterfalls that run down all the grooves in the massive rock...supposedly it is just as beautiful as seeing it in full daylight.
The rock face was broken in certain spots revealing a porous...almost marrow like... interior. It really is like the rock is a living being. This pic also shows the amazing contrast of colors with the red, yellow, and blue.
Looking up one of the sides. The rock looks like the skin of some massive alien being...it is red (redder than the pic shows) and mottled...sooooo cool and surreal.
Ok, get out the magnifying glass because there are people on the Rock in this shot...on the second to highest ridge on the left of the rock you will see a white splotch...that is a person. There are also some on the way up. Despite being highly disrespectful and offensive to the Aboriginal religion...some visitors still climb the monolith. It's kind of like going to Japan and peeing on a Shinto shrine....needless to say I didn't climb it. The 9.4 km (6 mi) walk around the base was good enough for me.
Moon over the outback near Uluru
Even though everyone offered to take a pic for me...I had to take my now patented arms length portrait shot!
I couldn't stop taking pictures of this thing...it holds you in a trance, as if temporarily hypnotized and sent to another plane of consciousness, when you see it in person and you just want to capture that for everyone else.
The Rock glows red in the setting sun's light... it is so easy to understand how this monolith is so sacred to the Aboriginees.
Join this with the next pic for a total panoramic view of Kata Tjuta...the other massive formation that, along with Uluru, make up the national park. Kata Tjuta was called The Olgas for a while by westerners, but recently, like Uluru, its official name has gone back to what the Aboriginees have been calling it for thousands of years.
Allign this pic on the side of the last pic and that is all of Kata Tjuta...which translates to "Many heads" from the native tongue. There are 37 of the massive "heads" in all.
Uluru seen from Kata Tjuta (from almost 50 km = 30 mi away!!!)...and to think that that is ONE SOLID ROCK!!! Mind boggling...
The Valley of the Winds walk at Kata Tjuta. As Neisha (our guide) describes it, "It's like something from Jurassic Park...you just expect to see a dinosaur walking down there in the valley"
More of Kata Tjuta...the highest of the mounds is over 500 m (1500 ft) high above the surrounding flatland. Another neat thing about them is, unlike Uluru, the mounds are like a cement in that they are formed from a bunch of smaller stones and sand that has been mixed up and dried. Looking at them up close you can see this hetergeneous mixture...and credit for this beautiful bit of nature can be given yet again to glaciers and their recession at the end of the last ice age...THANK YOU GLACIERS!!! Oh yea, and like Uluru, these masses go down 6 km (more than 3.5 miles) down into the earth!
This is the valley in the middle of Kata Tjuta, so standing here, one is totally surrounded by the massive red mounds. This is a very sacred spot for the Aboriginee men, and fortunately, unlike Uluru, it is no longer legal for visitors to climb the mounds.
How cool is this...so I have gone on a bit about how the blue sky, the red rocks and sand, and the yellow grass all contrast so amazingly well (better than the pics can show of course)...but around Kata Tjuta, you can even find rocks with all three of these colors in them!!! The red is expected, but yellow and blue...thats just unreal!!! Aboriginees in the area traded these rocks for use as chalk in rock paintings, and these rocks have been found at sites all over the continent even though the yellows and blues can only be found in Kata Tjuta...wild.
Me on the rock overhang lookout point at King's Canyon. This was the last day of the tour, and it was just as amazing as the other two! I wasn't expecting too much, but I was blown away by the landscape and scenery on this hike! In the middle is this fertile area where the water is protected from the sun by the veritcal canyon walls on either side. We went swimming in a water hole along the way...it was freezing but still a lot of fun! The whole day was just amazing and a great end to our tour. I made some great new friends on this 3 days of camping and hiking, and it was quite sad to see them go. We had a great time!
Looking back from the top of the canyon...those white dots in the top center are the various tour BUSSES!!! Just for a sense of scale of course.
Our awesome tour guide, Neisha, laying out on the rock overhang...a foot thick slice of rock hangoing out over about 1000 ft of air above the bottom of the canyon! It was so cool!!!
The crazy landscape of King's Canyon. All of these domes were formed from what was once a solid plane of sand...neat eh!?
Looking at the rock face across the canyon...note the size of the people in the tour group on the other side....yea...its big and there is absolutely nothing stopping you from plunging over the 300+ meter cliffs...and the ever present wind is a constant reminder of that too!
Some more of the crazy landscape of King's Canyon. It stretches as far as the eye can see with those little dome mounds of layered sandstone. As with many of the other places I have seen in the last few days, it is like being on an alien planet!
Oz's king brown snake, or mulga snake. One of the top five most deadly snakes in the world of course and found all over Oz. These guys can get up to 3 m (9 ft) long and are able to stand up to the height of most humans...that would be a nice little suprise to come across in the outback eh?? Fortunately, here, at the Alice Springs Reptile Center, I found out that most of Australia's deadly snakes have very small fangs! Long pants such as jeans often can save your life from the serpents deadly venom! One of the reasons that so many die from snake bites in Oz is because of the remoteness of most bites...but the crafty Aussies have come up with a solution: the Royal Flying Doctors...Dr's that can reach anywhere in the country by flying planes!!! Really cool (and great to know). Also good to know, right now most of the snakes in the country have gone into hibernation! That is why we didn't see any on our stay in the outback (thank you God). I did enjoy the various deadly specimens at the center though.
The Taipan: what snake experts reckon to be the most deadly snake in the world. They of course, are found in Oz as well.
A thorny devil. These lizards were incredible, and despite their name, they are really pleasant and timid. They are really really thorny though.
Me holding little Frank at the Kangaroo Rescue Center in Alice Springs. The amazing owner rescues kangaroo babies (joeys) from mothers that have been killed by cars and trucks on the highways. The joeys are often left alive inside the mother's pouch to starve, or sometimes worse, eaten alive by carrion birds. Many people in Australia nurse these kind of joeys back and then raise them to be released back into the bush. Amazing people...but I see the benefits. The kangaroos are soooooooo nice and as you can see, adorable beyond reason. Frank here is using his tail as a pacifier...how cute is that?!?! They are kept in sacks that work like the mother's pouch. Visitors to Alice can come in and see them at the rescue center. I'm addicted and will be returning every night that I have left here. I will also never eat kangaroo again either.
The three little guys get to hop around to stretch (and scratch) themselves every once in a while. I don't blame them after being in the "pouch" for hours on end...but when it was time to get back in they were very happy to do so (for the warmth mostly...or maybe just the lounging)...and it was about the cutest thing in the world; the owner holds the bag open at his knees...the joeys put their arms in and bend over, then they do this little summersault into the bag! It was adorable.