On to Ayres Rock, the most famous landmark of Australia. We were very glad we had a rental car for we could do our own sightseeing. Glad for AC because the temperature was over 100 F. But we just couldn’t tolerate the flies — they landed on our head, arms, shirt and you couldn’t shoo them off. So we bought fly nets to cover our head and faces.
We spent all afternoon driving around “The Rock.” It is composed of red rock sandstone and is the world’s largest monolith — 1,143 feet tall and a circumference of 6 miles. It was very impressive with brilliant sunshine turning it bright shades of gold. We also drove a few more miles to the Olgas, another impressive sight with several large rock formations.
Later we drove out to Ayres Rock for sunset pictures. Many others had the same idea! We took pictures as the Rock turned many shades of red and at 7:30 it was black.
It is a very popular thing to climb Ayres Rock and we decided to give it a try. We were out there at sunrise. Others were already starting the climb. We were well prepared: hats with fly nets, backpacks with cameras, film, and 2 liters of water. The climb looked very steep, strenuous and formidable, but we started up. My sneakers seemed to grip the sandstone okay, but Al’s hiking boots were not so secure. We went about 100 feet and I was a little ahead when Al said, “Wait.” He was on his hands and knees, afraid to get back up — afraid of slipping and falling. I inched my way back to him and we both decided to call it quits. “Discretion is the better part of valor.” We crept back down very carefully.
Instead we followed a trail around the base of the Rock. There were many caves, overhangs, and sacred places marked “no photos.” Looking up at the rock we could see a tiny line of hikers silhouetted against the sky. They looked like insects. Glad we weren’t there!
There are stories of hikers who have fallen and you can see little crosses at various places. The souvenir stores sell t-shirts that say “I climbed Ayres Rock” and others that say “I didn’t climb Ayres Rock — so what”.
The aborigines have never been happy with tourists climbing their sacred mountain and in October, 2019, it was officially banned. The day before the closing, thousands of tourists made the climb.
Cairns — the Great Barrier Reef
We rode on a big catamaran on beautiful turquoise water to “Moore Reef!” Then we switched to a semi-submersible boat for a cruise over the reef. Lots of coral and many fish came right up to our windows. And yes, the Great Barrier Reef can be seen from outer space. It is the world’s largest living structure and is 1,429 miles long.
Spectacular train ride through the rain forest (hot and steamy), over gorges, through 15 tunnels, view of valley and ocean, and past 2 waterfalls.
A humid enclosed greenery with hundreds of brilliantly colored butterflies that wouldn’t stay still long enough for a picture. We kept trying!
This was a local market with lots of Arts and Crafts. We watched brave boys “Bungy Jumping” off a high platform! For lunch we had an authentic Aussie Damper — like a huge biscuit with butter, honey and jam.
Afternoon drive over the mountains to see the Curtain Fig Tree and more waterfalls. We got out of the car at Zillie Falls and heard loud chattering sounds. Looked up and there were thousands of fruit bats hanging upside down in the trees, opening and closing their wings and chattering! Very weird sight and sound!
Butterflies and birds — 300 meters of covered walkway on tree level — with fluttering butterflies and brilliant birds.
Kangaroos and wallabies — big and small — some with babies in pouches. We walked right among them and even petted some.
Back to Sydney for an overnight and then on to New Zealand.
Next week: “Switzerland — One More Time!”