Camels are big! Really big! I didn’t appreciate their size until we signed up for a morning camel ride in the shadow of the Rock. Upon arrival at the camel farm, I spied our beasts, sitting in a row, elegantly attired in colorful Afghan saddles.
Even sitting on the ground, they came up to my waist. Mounting the camel was to prove a challenge. I had to sit on the front side of the hump as Kenn, being heavier, had to take the rear seat. But how to get into the saddle? My leg just didn’t want to go up and over. I’ve never been very good at Can Can high kicks. I can’t do the splits either. I was also worried that my leg could connect the head of the beast in the attempt. As if it could read my thoughts, my camel turned its massive head and gave me a penetrating stare and a warning snort: I froze. Everyone waited. Eventually, the cameleer came to my rescue and gave me a hoist up. But worse was to come. Camels don’t get up evenly on all four legs. They straighten their rear legs first, then unfurl their front legs. At one point, you are perched in the saddle almost perpendicular to the ground. “You have to lean back and hang on as your camel gets up,” we were told. And lean I did. My lean would have made a bare back rodeo rider proud!
Soon, we were off on our ride through the red dirt. We kept up a sedate pace and all adjusted easily to the swaying gait of our ‘ships of the desert’. There were no dashes across the sand hills reminiscent of Lawrence of Arabia but lots of interesting information about camels and our surroundings was imparted by our charming guides. For example, did you know that all camels think about, is food: finding food, eating food and bringing up food from one stomach to another. A highlight of the ride was the view from the sand hill. We could see both Uluru and Kata Tjuta!
Back at the farm, we explored an interesting collection of pioneer coaches and paraphernalia. There was an especially cute baby camel that had been abandoned in the desert and hand raised on the farm. Just had to say hello.
It was a great way to spend a morning. That afternoon, a close encounter with Uluru awaited. Will share it with you next time. Rock on!
They say that in the desert, the stars are so big and so bright in the velvety, dark sky that you feel that you could almost reach out and touch them.
This is certainly true of the night skies that surround Uluru, (Ayers Rock),which is located in the centre of Australia. I travelled to Uluru last week with my husband Kenn and friends, Helen and Phil. Luckily for me, I had a window seat for as we approached Uluru, the pilot banked the plane on his approach and I had my first view of the rock. Even from the air, it’s huge: it dominated the landscape.
Settling into our rooms at the very comfortable Desert Gardens Hotel, we spent a couple of hours exploring the resort township of Yulara,
which is just 20 kilometers from the Rock before readying ourselves for our first encounter with the desert, ‘The Sounds of Silence” dinner. This was truly unforgettable. We were picked up by our coach as dusk was approaching and driven out into the desert, There we walked up a sand hill where we were greeted with champagne, a view of the rock and the haunting sounds of the didgeridoo.
A couple of champagnes later and the sun had dipped below the horizon. We were ushered to our dining table under the stars where a wonderful Australian themed dinner awaited us. What’s not to like about wonderful food and wine in an unforgettable setting?
While we dined, we were entertained by a group of young Aboriginal dancers. I really liked their youthful enthusiasm and the way the boys acknowledged their uncles and elders who had shared their dances with them. Then there were the stars: millions of them. We listened as a young astronomer pointed out some of the constellations and planets we could see and invited us to look more closely at them through a telescope. I have waited a long time to see the moons of Jupiter and Saturn’s rings with my own eyes!
When at last the final port had been drunk, the last chocolate consumed and the torches had burned low, we found ourselves walking back through the dark, in the silence, sheltered by the stars, touched by the magic of the desert.