jen yu: australia 2007 - day 1

australia 2007 - day 1

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sydney, alice springs, yulara, uluru
march 8, 2007
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I had never been to Australia before, but I knew there was one place I wanted to go in Australia - that was Uluru (Ayer's Rock). Uluru is in the middle of the continent and Australia is a BIG country. As luck would have it, Jeremy had a conference that was being hosted in Alice Springs, the closest real town to Uluru. As I began to plan for our trip, I discovered there were other amazing sights to see in addition to Uluru. The only thing to deal with would be the heat.

Our unnaturally long day of travel began at Denver International Airport. From there, we were to fly United (the airline that works hard to earn my spite) to San Francisco. Our flight was *surprise* delayed and we would have missed our connection had we not rebooked on an earlier flight with everyone else. Actually, the earlier flight had so many delays leaving Denver, that we would have missed the connection to Sydney had they not held that flight for well over a dozen of us. We've flown to New Zealand before, twice, and that is a 12-hour trip. For some reason, the extra 2-hours going to Sydney made me feel absolutely horrible. Or maybe it was the less than stellar service on United compared to the excellent service on Air New Zealand in the past?

Our flight into Sydney was *also* late. However, the service in the Sydney airport was such that it put the US to shame. We had an hour to get to the domestic terminal for our flight to Alice Springs and this helpful woman expedited us through customs and directed us to domestic. It's the fastest I have ever entered a foreign country through an airport! Every service staff we encountered was incredibly friendly and professional.

After 30 hours of flying, we deboarded the plane in Alice Springs at 11:30 am, local time. It felt hot and dry. A few flies buzzed in my face as we walked in the sun to the terminal. I grabbed our bags and Jeremy got the rental car. We changed to desperately-desired shorts in the parking lot before driving into Alice (the airport is 14 km from town) to pick up groceries. Then we were off for Yulara, the resort town of and gateway to Uluru. It's about a 4.5 hour drive and the landscape is mostly subdued, red terrain dotted with splashes of bright green vegetation. We saw dozens of kangaroos, which would have been exciting except that they were roadkill in various stages of decomposition.

Yulara is a posh service town in the Red Center, set up 20 km from Uluru to minimize the impact of visitors on the the sacred rock. Uluru is the #1 tourist attraction in Australia and it isn't cheap getting there from anywhere, nor is it cheap to stay there. Yulara offers lodging from camping to a 5-star hotel. Once we procured a campsite, we drove out to Uluru for sunset viewing. There were a lot of flies, but the non-biting kind. They seemed perfectly happy to land and crawl all over you, although the kamakazees in the eyes, nose, and mouth were a little disconcerting.

Several people were at the sunset viewing area, even though peak season is in winter (we were at the end of summer). The air quality wasn't so great - a lot of haze, but Uluru does not disappoint. The colors change with every second the sun drops on the horizon, and the monolith is an awesome sight to behold. As we drove back to the campground after sunset, the sky still glowed in the west, highlighting the almost Dr. Seuss-esque trees that thrive in the Outback. It felt great to finally be horizontal that night.

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