Australia July 2006, Part 2
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We spent a cloudy day exploring the Kata Tjuta, which is about 1/2 hour west of Uluru. As you can see the terrain is very similar to some areas in Utah. A major difference is the composition of the rocks. Here (and unlike even Uluru) the rocks are conglomerates - many rounded pebbles and cobbles set in what appears to be brown cement. We had a good time exploring even though the weather was cool, cloudy and windy.
Overnight the weather totally deteriorated, and rain began in earnest. Rain in the desert, what a treat. Even more of a treat was returning to Uluru to see water pouring off the rock in all directions - waterfalls everywhere! A rare and special event. We drove 5 hours back to Alice Springs through steady if not heavy rain all the way. It was amazing to see standing water all over the desert.
After the Camel Cup it was time to depart the Red Center. We flew north to Darwin where we finally caught up with some warm weather (it had been quite chilly in the desert). We headed straight for the beach at Lee Point and were treated to a spectacular sunset.
Saltwater Crocodiles inhabit coastal waters of Northern Australia. They routinely carry away people and are extremely dangerous. We figured the safest place to see one would be at a Crocodile farm, so we visited one outside Darwin. It was great - the insane tour guide got into the pens with the 12-14ft breeding pairs and demonstrated their dangerous charging action by poking them with an aluminium pole. Now there's a career!
After the Croc farm it was on to Litchfield National Park, which features several waterfalls and Saltwater Croc-free swimming holes. They do have the smaller and generally harmless Freshwater Crocs. As you can see we enjoyed a fine afternoon of swimming at Buley's Rockhole.
Back in Alice Springs we got to fulfill one of Tana's longtime dreams - Camel Riding! Camels were brought to Australia around 1900 for use as pack animals. The extreme desert conditions and long distances were too much for horses to handle. With the arrival of trains and cars many of the Camels were released. It is estimated there are now about 1 million wild Camels living in Australia. They are fun to ride but definitely strange-looking.
Our good luck continued, as we discovered we would be in Alice Springs for the "Camel Cup" Camel races. This is possibly THE event of the year in Alice Springs. We enjoyed wathcing the races, mingling with the locals, and eating Camel Burgers and Sausages - quite tasty!
The most spectacular waterfall in Litchfield (by our reckoning) is Wangi Falls. Even in the dry season a good flow of water keeps this beautiful swimming hole full. Nearby we encountered a large group of roosting fruit bats. They were very loud!