Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Down, under, out, back

My impulse purchase of 2012 is a trip to the Australia outback during Christmas/New Year break. It is a long trip to make for a relatively short stay, spending a almost 3 days in totally flying to and from destinations to have 15 days on land. All for a little surprise to my partner who is spending a year travelling around the world.

The highlight of the trip is a 5-day camping trip in the outback. On Christmas Day, after spending a day in the Ayers Rock Resort in Yalara admiring Uluru (aka Ayers Rock) and Katajuta (aka the Olgas) from afar, a rugged 4x4 truck (Bindi) complete with a trailer rolled into the parking lot to pick us up for the trip. We met Bec, our guide, and the other 12 people in our 14-person tour. The tour we joined was the Wayoutback 5-day Kangaroo Dreaming tour. The itinerary is well planned, containing a variety of activities and locations to give a taste of the outback.

Each day has a feature activity / hike, amongst the essentials of eating, travelling, showering and sleeping. We get to walk around the base of Uluru, admiring the rock from different angles, including the sacred aboriginal sites. We get to hike amongst the valleys in the Olgas. We get to walk up to and around the rim of King's Canyon. We get to scramble across the boulders in the Glen Helen Gorge accompanied by some wallabies and followed by a swim. We get to spend time with Loi, a knowledgeable aboriginal woman who told us about some history and showed us some landscape. And of course we had some bumpy 4x4 drives on loose gravel and dirt surfaces.

Breathtaking redness of Kings Canyon during sunset

Chilling at Glen Helen Gorge after a long bumpy drive

As for the camping, we also had the opportunity to try different styles. From having pre-built tents and bed on a campground to bush camping sleeping in a swag, we got to truly enjoy the overview of what the outback has to offer.

There are some excellent detailed review of similar Wayoutback trips online already, so I won't go into too much detail.  You can see what fellow Canadian WestCoastGirl and The Fourteen Month Weekend have to say about the trip.

Last but not least, the food. Bec is a good cook with years of campfire cooking experience. Within the confines of the food provided by the tour operator (and some supplements out of her own pocket), she tried to vary our meals. Lunches are mostly simple sandwiches (served Aussie style with beet root), although we did have BBQ and bacon and eggs on 2 of the days. Dinner has a larger variety - meat stews, steaks, even turkey with gravy on Christmas Day (complete with Christmas crackers and chocolate), baked zucchini with feta and chocolate cake (with sprinkles!) for an early celebration of her birthday.  We had our fair share of discussions about new possibilities she can try.
Our luxury Christmas dinner - turkey with gravy, roasted vegetables, dessert bread.  Complete with Christmas crackers and chocolates on the table.

During a conversation on the trip, Bec reminded me of a very important philosophy in life.

It's the small things that count.

Here are some of the small things (in no particular order) that counted during my 5 days on the tour:
- Playing 'Hey Cow' with Bec on the road
- Looking at the full moon and stars lying in the swag at night

- Waking up to the "bacon and eggs" song
- Having people around who care enough to scour for ice for my sprained ankle (which is also when the "small thing" conversation happened)
- Sitting on the open-air toilet looking at the moon
- Having philosophical discussions about politics (e.g. South Africa apartheid) and life (e.g. not delaying decisions) with Pat, an older well-travelled gentleman on the tour
- Listening to Bec's funny travel stories

- Chatting with everyone over some Curtin Springs Fucking Good Port

- Everyone showing up fresh & clean for dinner after returning to Alice Springs

It is unlikely I will return to the outback soon. I will keep the memories alive with all the photos, videos and the classic Aussie songs I will add to my playlist.