Travel Well Traveled
'Because you deserve blisters'
G'day mates! Let's talk like a stereotype! Aussies hate it when you do that. But one thing we should all not be hating on is the stark beauty of The Outback (not the out-house, my southern friends, there's more sand and less poo). Should you find yourself in the interior and around Alice Springs, then to Uluru you shall go. Here are just a few reasons why.
What To Do
Heading to Uluru you have a few options. I was pressed for time and did a quick one day trip (all day in-and-out like some honeymooners). However, I would suggest that you take the 2-3 day hike where you spend the night in a sleeping bag! Under the stars of the outback!
Once you're at the big rock, you just meander around, looking at ancient cave paintings, hearing stories about the Dreamtime, and enjoying being near this big, damn rock. If you have time-lapse capabilities, use them on the sunset!
The Wallet Roll
This jaunt will roll your wallet for a number of reasons. 1) Getting to Australia is expensive. 2) Flying around Australia is often pricey. 3) A koala might eat your wallet. Seriously, though, it's not a small expense for a backpacker, but how many times are you going to be in Australia?
Climbing on the Altar
My guide had a good quote about whether or not we'd take the chained path to the top of Uluru. Essentially, he said the rock is completely sacred to the Aboriginal religion and climbing on top of it would be like climbing on top of the altar in St. Peter's. So let's not be a-holes.
Well don't try and free climb the rock (see: not being a jerk-off earlier). But there are other opportunities near Uluru. You can ride some tame camels and maybe do some off-road action in the desert. But they'll both cost you. You'll find more options back in Alice Springs.
Rocking the Rock?
If you're there with your honey bunny or hit it off with a fellow hiker, there's. . . not a lot you can do till you get back to civilization. Jack does NOT recommend sneaking off into the Outback for nookie. Do you know how many poisonous things live in Australia? All of them.
When his bus passed near some wild camels, Jack was the lone person brave/dumb enough to jump out and run over to take their photos. Spitting may have ensued.
During the grand gathering at sunset, Jack may have also mounted a picnic table and done an impromptu striptease for a group of Cockney women. More likely than not.
You're kidding, right? But we did have some wine at sunset. A little too much, in fact.
The kicker here is if you have the time and money to get out here. If so, absolutely do it.
Loyal, broke, scruffy, backpacker readers will need to budget quite a bit of their Aussie funds to get to Alice Springs, then to Uluru. It really is in the middle of nowhere. Still, don't we all want to visit the middle of nowhere?
Travel Tip 64: Make your own maps and use these to keep track of all the little spots you want to revisit or tell others about.
Travel Well Traveled Fifty Ks South of Woop Woop
When Is It Okay To Do A Public Striptease?
One universal, unequivocal, noble truth that I've found is that at some point in our lives, regardless of our appearance or upbringing, we're going to be presented with the opportunity to take our clothes off, in front of others. Usually to applause and/or laughter. Now, for many of us, the idea of throwing caution and garments to the wind in front of strange eyes doesn't even breach our frontal cortex as a 'yeah, maybe I will do that'. For others (you college freshmen)this is every chance you get. But once you start traveling, no matter how puritan your state of mind, you will have a moment like this cross your path.
Because travel does something strange to our psyches. Besides all the other benefits that you normally hear about, there's another truth to being on a trip that we don't usually talk about: it lowers our inhibitions. It's a rather freeing experience thinking that it doesn't really matter what you do as these aren't your hometown people, these aren't your extended group of friends, gasping relatives, gossipy coworkers, etc. If you find yourself atop a bar in Saigon and bare the bank only to then lock eyes with your childhood Sunday School Teacher then the only solution is that God hates you and statistics is a meaningless science.
In general, getting nekkid and maybe even shaking what you got while on a whole 'nother continent is a safe affair. At least it used to be. You see, Jack's own story of his burlesque show took place atop a picnic table, in Australia, in the middle of the Outback, in front of a group of tipsy, middle-aged, Cockney women, and the cute Korean girl he was turning red with embarrassment. My only excuse is that at the time I was considerably more wild, was rocking a decent body, and, after I'd gotten atop the table to take a photo of Uluru and removed my hat, the women shouted 'Woooo! More!' and I obliged. Truly a series of logical decisions.
However, the true moral here is that when Jack had his little adventure in public exhibitionism, the internet was not in its heyday. Youtube was still a struggling little website and digital cameras or cell phones that could record decent video were but a dream in the speck of Tyrell's eye. So I was relatively safe from becoming some internet meme of the stupid tourist acting stupid. You will not have that same luxury.
So, should you do it? For many women there isn't enough liquid courage in the world to perform in front of others like this and who can blame them? A fat guy jiggling around is funny for everyone because those same guys paint up their bosoms at sporting events and rock thongs to make players miss free throws. But the ladies may get mocked, mercilessly, on the internet. And the women that are fit and confident enough to own that (most of you fine ladies at Burning Man and such come to mind), they'll still have to deal with potential fallout of coworkers or recruiters remembering them from that sexy video that was all the rage a month back. Or maybe Fox News will show their outrage by displaying the video on TV over and over again. Do it live.
In this day and age, with the overabundance of recording devices everywhere, I'd have to advise against letting your wild side loose in this way. If I went back to the same place, with the same folks, I would certainly be keeping my shirt on. You guys. . . well people will make fun of your gut (no matter what your pack is), your muscles (no matter how many you have), and the size of your junk. So, as long as your fragile manly ego can handle it, you still don't enjoy the same social stigma for making such an event of yourself. Hooray for sexism.
Now, what are you left with if you still are feeling those inhibitions drifting away and your skin cries out to be natural under an alien sky? Well, hit up an onsen in Japan, find a little waterfall oasis in the jungle, skinny dip offshore, or a non-prudish country with a relaxed beach code (basically anywhere other than the USA). Big Brother is still all around you, so think twice before getting crunk atop a bar or in the hostel common room. Save your parts that jiggle for the most opportune moment.
Now that deserves to be on a bumper sticker.
Travel Tip 37: Giant bugs are a constant threat, check your shoes and bed!
Uluru not Ayers
The big rock. You've already seen it do all its tricks (sit there, look big, and rocky), but once you get close up there are an amazing numbers of pits, water falls, cave paintings, oasis, etc. to marvel at. Our guide did a good job telling us the lore of the different places (since Uluru is like a combination Mt. Olympus and cathedral).
A hop, skip, and bus ride away is the other bunch of great big rocks near Uluru. Kata Tjuta is not as famous as the big brother, but it's still a striking sight to see. These are rolling mounds, rather than the foretress-like flatness of Uluru, and you can walk between their high canyon walls (it gets HOT in there!). If you're at Uluru, you might as well go here, too!
Sunset in Dreamtime
The various legends that surround the Aboriginal Dreamtime are all quite cool in their own right. More than a few pop up in that amazing series of Earnest Ether books, you know. Anyway, when seeing the immense mountain change color during the sunset, it is easy to understand why this place would evoke not just the idea of an oasis against nature, but also a magical place.
Uluru For You
In hindsight, I wish that I had budgeted more time for Alice Springs and Uluru. I was still a young traveler and was speeding through my trip far too quickly. My flight out only allowed me a few days so I could only take a day trip to the big rock.
If I had planned on a week in the Outback I could have taken the three day camping/hiking tour and slept out under the stars. Now that would have been an experience.
I feel in with a group of hikers back in the hostel and they all seemed to have had a fantastic time. I am ExJack's envious 'what-if'. That's a Fight Club joke, by the way.
If you have the opportunity to hit up this place then you need to do some serious research to maximize your time. And if you are super awesome and are driving the Outback in your RV, then you need to let me ride with you! Uluru is one of those spots that the books always have in their list and there is a good reason for that. Do your best to see the spiritual center of the lonely continent!