Sunday, February 8

Day 164-The Outback

My Survivor Outback Adventure began in Alice Springs, where myself and 13 tribe members packed into a minivan led by our laid-back Aussie guide, Paul. From the start, we told that it would be quite hot, quite fly infested, and quite interesting. On no account were we disappointed. A longs days drive, through the searing and sandy acacia plains, culminated at the base of Ayers Rock. I first became aware of this very special stone, the heart of Australia, back in my younger climber daze. It is the second largest largest monolithic, unbroken stone in the world, and measures some 350 meters high by 3.6 kilometers long by 2.4 kilometers wide. That's one big stone, but then consider that only 1/3 of it rises above the desert plains. It has recently been returned to the Aboriginal people who still hold ceremony amoung the hidden crevices and pockets, and is now known as Uluru National Park.

As we left the comfort of the air-conditioned van, we were immediately accosted by hordes of black flys and temperatures in the shade of 106. The rock, of course, becomes much hotter, and there was no hope of climbing this behemoth in these conditions. Even the short walk along the base, exploring a few of the waterholes and overhanging crevices, was taxing. Having experienced such conditions in the south of Utah in summer, I was well prepared with full brim hat, complete with fly net, long pants and water-soaked long sleeves. I was surprised to find some of our tribe braving the blaze in shorts, tank top, and sun screen, but I was out to school anyone in the way of the wild.

The next day, after a rather sparse open air sleep in the desert( I awoke in substantial pain, convinced that an ant had crawled down my throat and bit me!) we drove off to a neighbooring park known as Kata Tjuta (Many Heads). We stopped to enjoy breakfast amidst swarms of flies, watched the changing colors of sunrise, and then proceeded to embark upon a 8 km walk through the thousand foot high hummocks of crimson conglomerate stone. My tribemates, again scantily clad, started off strong, but by half-way the fright showed in their flushed faces, their heavy breath powering their heavy legs. Along the way we were regaled with tales of bush tradition, the severe punishments doled out to law breakers, and the abandonment of those too weak to continue. I took this attitude to heart, and as others lagged and dragged, I just kept moving on at my own pace, feeling protected, comfortable and somewhat superior. Despite my tendency to separate myself, however, nights back at camp found all forgiven and we enjoyed beers and tales of bravado around the campfire. There would be no Tribal Council tonight, and because the Outback is big enough for all to enjoy, we all would continue the adventure.

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