Reflections from the Red Hot Centre

It is on Friday, December 14, 2007, and we arrived several hours ago into the rain forest in Mossman (outside of Cairns) in preparation for our journey to the Great Barrier Reef tomorrow.  But, because we haven't checked in since Monday, I wanted to concentrate here on the Red Hot Centre of Australia, the Outback--which is where we spent the last several days.

Think The Thornbirds and an absolutely desolate area... a little bit of west Texas, no tumbleweeds...many fewer people...temperatures hovering in the high 80s (though it's Celsius here) and LOTS OF flies! (You would absolutely love our facial fly nets; the latest craze but they work.) Welcome to the Outback. We arrived in Alice Springs on Wednesday morning and proceeded to a bush tucker lunch in the brush where we heard a talk on the Aborigines and then had the opportunity to purchase art from several artists.  I promised food updates... so the most notable item here was not the art, the artists or even the cultural talk.  It was our own Andrew Rhodes tasting some authentic ancient Aborigine fare--a live grub!  Our host asked for volunteers and Andrew, being the youngest in the group by 27 years, felt the need to volunteer.  He gulped the grub faster than the speed of light, so we were not able to record the moment for prosperity with a photograph.  But, he reports it was crunchy on the outside and creamy on the inside.  Needless to say, the two of us (Wendy & Wayne) had severe stomach cramps for the rest of the day!

That evening, we went to an Australian BBQ where Wendy was called up as one of the entertainers (you don't want to know).  The dinner featured grilled kangaroo filets (tasted like soy sauce).  Just say, we had a full day of kitsch!  The itinerary started getting really fantastic though on Thursday.  Andrew & Wendy started out the day with a hot air balloon ride (and champagne breakfast) over the outback.  It was amazing and doable even by those with an unreasonable fear of heights (your editor).  We were promised a kangaroo sighting or two but only saw cows and the sunrise...but that was enough.  However, along the way we picked up some trivia about champagne.  First, apparently, Australia has the largest per capita champagne consumption of any country worldwide.  If my drinking is any indication, that stat makes perfect sense.  Second, because hot air ballooning was invented by a Frenchman, champagne is a critical component of the overall event.  The champagne brunch included four courses (all finger food) which were amazing...

However, by far the highlight of the day (and the trip so far) was a visit to Uluru (previously called Ayers Rock) in mid afternoon through sunset. Uluru, a huge rock (one of my co-editors would do a better job with the dimensions--but suffice to say it is more than 6 miles around)... is a sacred Aboriginal space.  And, indeed, it was truly spiritual.  We explored some of the adjacent areas (some cave paintings, a watering hole) and were just amazed at its magnificence.  Great museum here, too.  We capped off the evening watching the sunset over Uburu, with (yes, once again) champagne and (this time) appetizers.  

The plan this morning was for Wendy and Andrew to leave the hotel at 4:45 (that is after a 4:00 a.m. departure on Thursday) to take a camel ride around Uburu at sunrise.  However, the van driver arrived with the message that the camel event had been cancelled because there was a light rain and "camels get psycho in the rain"... so next time for that! Andrew and I walked to a lookout point to catch the sunrise there instead. 

There is a queue at the it's time to sign off.  We're off to Cairns on Sunday and, hopefully, a business center with better access.

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