Getting WayOutbackAugust 3 in Australia ⋅ ☀️ 57 °F
We met up with our WayOutback tour group yesterday afternoon, climbed aboard the 4-wheel drive bus and rode into the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. WayOutback had arranged for a talk and walk with an Aboriginal Anangu woman. Through an interpreter, she explained some of the art in a cave where men would teach boys to hunt. She demonstrated women’s and men’s tools, and talked about what women would find with their digging stick—witchetty grubs and various insects, great sources protein if the men’s hunt wasn’t fruitful. Their language is mesmerizing to listen to, and the interpreter (from New Zealand) was very knowledgeable. This was a special experience. No photos were allowed, unfortunately.
Later, after dark, some of us had booked tickets for Bruce Munro’s Field of Light display. 50,000 hand-blown color-changing lights on pedestals cover the equivalent of 7 football fields in the desert. It is a temporary installation, inspired by the Aboriginal dot paintings.
Our group of 16 is mixed in nationality —- French, German, Belgian, Australian, English, and we are the only Americans. Ages range from early 20s to a couple around our age, and one 12-year old. Everyone is friendly and cooperative with the plans. There is only one guide, so part of the experience is to help with food preparation, clean-up and firewood gathering. Adam is our Australian guide, and provides a wealth of commentary along the drives or hikes about the geology, astronomy and cultural history of the Outback and its people. It’s shaping up to be a great 5 days.
In the morning we were awoken from our platform tents (with cots and pillows!) at 5 a.m. for an early breakfast. We had a short drive ahead of us to catch the sunrise on Kata Tjuta, the other large rock formation in the park. Its cluster of misshapen domes catch the sunlight nicely. It’s mighty cold before the sun is up — low 30s!
By mid-morning, we set off on the 4.5 mile Valley of the Winds trail. This hike goes around one of the domes, which involves a lot of climbing up and down rocky paths, with rewarding views over the valley and close-up looks at cave paintings. Looking over the valley, Adam pointed out that we can see how Aboriginal dot painting came to be—the terrain was dotted with acacia shrubs and mounds of spinifex grass.
The afternoon consisted of a 3-hour drive to WayOutback’s private campsite near Watarrka (King’s Canyon) National Park.
Dinner was grilled kangaroo meat and veggies, as well as potatoes and homemade bread, both cooked in Dutch ovens over the campfire. The bread had the best crunchy crust, and kangaroo is hard to distinguish from ground beef.
That night, we bedded down in swags, which are like heavy canvas sleeping bags with a foam pad. You put your sleeping bag and pillow inside, zip up, and you’re snug as a bug in a rug! The desert nights are still very cold, but with a beanie hat and extra blanket we were toasty. The star-filled sky stretches to the horizon in any direction, with no city lights or buildings obstructing the view. The Milky Way has been clear and vast every night and we saw many shooting stars.Read more