Sunrise, Sunset

Location: Uluru

Today was another long day. We woke up at 3:30 AM to get ready to take the Uluru sunrise tour. We left the hotel an hour later with our camera gear in check ready to take on the day. The tour bus took us to a platform a few miles east of Uluru. The sun would rise behind us on the viewing platform giving us a nice show of the changing colors of the rock during the early morning hours.  Unfortunately it was pretty cloudy today, but it was still a nice sunrise. The colors of the rock didn’t change too much during our time at the viewing platform.

A dramatic (but cloudy) sunrise.

About 15 minutes after sunrise, our tour bus took us for a tour around the base of the rock. One of the stops on the tour was the Mutitjulu Walk. It was a short path that showed us aboriginal rock paintings and a water hole. Our guide told us dream world (or creation world) stories pertaining to Uluru and some history about it. He also explained to use the geological history and creation of Uluru. The last stop on the tour was to the Cultural Center where we learned about the local aboriginal culture and got some breakfast.

Uluru
After it rains, water runs down this valley into the water hole below.
Uluru
Aboriginal rock paintings

After the tour we returned to the resort. During the middle of the day it’s too hot to do anything outside. Because we got so little sleep over the previous two nights, we took a shortish nap. We awoke in the afternoon to get lunch and hang out at the pool. The past two days has been our first opportunity in two weeks to start working on our tans again. Our skin has gotten paler in the time we spent in New Zealand and Australia (aka leaving the sunny tropics).

In the evening we went on the Sounds of Silence excursion through the hotel. (Note for web searchers: it wasn’t worth the price) This tour took us to a private viewing platform outside the park, but west of Uluru and East of Kata Tjuata for sunset. Had the weather cooperated, we would have been in a decent position to see the colors of Uluru change for sunset. Sadly it was cloudy again.  On the other hand, while watching sunset, we were greeted with sparkling wine and an open bar, along with appetizers made from kangaroo and crocodile.

Uluru at sunset.
The sun going down on the Outback. The hills seen in the distance is Kata Tjuta.

The overall appearance of the area seemed more like a formal dinner in the desert than an outdoor excursion. After sunset we moved down to an area for a swanky buffet bar-b-que dinner. The dinner also had exotic meats native to Australia.  We were lucky enough to have some entertainment during dinner.  A storm cloud gave us a nice lightning ‘show’ over Uluru and Rachel got some nice pictures.

 

A time lapse picture of lightning over Uluru. Pictures taken over a 30 minute period.
A time lapse picture of lightning over Uluru. Pictures taken over a 30 minute period. Star trails are also visible.

After dinner there was a stargazing presentation. This was the part which we were excited about, because tonight was also a penumbral lunar eclipse. Strangely enough though, almost no one on staff knew about the lunar eclipse. The starguide gave an excited presentation about the night sky with some extremely optimistic predictions for human space travel in the near future. Ryan didn’t have the heart to call him out on it though. Due to the time of year, we weren’t able to see the southern cross, and between the clouds and the full moon, we weren’t able to see many stars in the sky. On the plus side, they had a very good telescope for us to look through. We were able to see 3 of the 4 Jovian moons and the colored cloud rings of Jupiter!

The penumbral eclipse was disappointing  The moon got a little darker than normal. However it was barely noticeable in part because we were in a less light-polluted night sky than we are used to. Hence the moon still seemed brighter to us.

The moon during the lunar eclipse. Not very noticeable.

Today was the farthest west we will go on our trip, and the farthest west either of us have ever gone. Tomorrow we fly north and east to Cairns to begin the last segment of our trip.

Word drops: 1

Pictures taken so far: 7843

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