Thursday, July 10, 2008

Rocks of the north, part one (better title pending)

Welcome to part one of the several part series also know as 'my holiday'. VG and I headed off on a little adventure, flying from Melbourne to Alice Springs, where we'd pick up a rental car and head to Yulara, to check out the sights and then back to the highway where we'd travel to Darwin by way of Kakadu. We learnt several things on the way... including why not to pack your bags (ie, drunk the night before your early morning departure) - while the three tshirts I packed myself were quite comfortable, the slogans 'Justice for Jack Thomas - he's not a terrorist, he's just a naughty boy', 'APEC - Armed Police on Every Corner...NO POLICE STATE', and 'FREE PALESTINE! VICTORY TO THE INTIFADA!' didn't really seem all that territory appropriate, particularly given the sizable population of military and police who can be found withing spitting distance, even when in the middle of a seemingly empty desert. Anyhow - enjoy. More to come in a day or so!

This needs no caption, so you should probably ignore this text.

This is alright for a budget airline, I thought to myself as we boarded the dinky little plane tucked away out the back of Tullamarine. Three hours of having the seat in front of me repeatedly rammed into my knees, I thought a little wiser of my previous sentiment. Don't get me wrong - Tiger are decent for a budget airline... their staff seem to know what they're doing, their planes seem to leave and indeed even arrive on time, and they don't put on the sickening 'we're so friendly' song and dance that leaves you retching in your Sky Soup that Virgin & Jetstar have seemed to have so well developed. But they do have very snugly packed seats, that are far from ideal for anyone who isn't a midget (VG of course had no trouble here).

Air travel aside, we were now on the road and heading towards Yulara, fresh from our journey to Alice Springs. As we drove, we gazed and noted the crazy as all batshit architecture (from mars of course), the vegetation or lack thereof, and the fucking insane wildlife which seemed to insist on repeatedly battling our car. The rather large hire car insurance premium flashed before my eyes at one financially scary point, as a kangaroo bounded off the red dust, and straight in front of the car. Narrowly missing us, I relaxed a little and pointed out the local wildlife to VG who'd been hankering for some Australiana action. Much to my own alarm, the only response I could have when she asked "Oh! Where?!" was "OH FUCK - CHRIST! RIGHT FUCKING NEXT TO ME". Now I know I slowed a little when the little fucker jumped in front of the car the first time around, but I have to say I was more than a touch surprised to find the little shit not on the other side of the road hopping off into the spinifex as I'd expected, but instead keeping pace with the car and hopping next to fucking window, only very slowly losing ground. I slowed again, and the bastard tried to dart into the side of us, and this time, very narrowly missed running straight into the back of the car. We continued down the road keeping a very sharp lookout for further kamikaze roos, and successfully avoided any further nasty wildlife encounters, bar a dingo going a little zig-zaggy whilst chasing a rabbit.

We arrived in the town of Yulara, and by 'town', I mean resort complex owned in entirety by a cunt of a company called Voyages. Now the best way to introduce you to Voyages, I suspect, is by telling you all about an award winning dinner they run out of the Ayers Rock Resort, called The Sounds of Silence. Upon much brochure reading, website reviewing, and of course, Lonely Planet consulting, the general opinion of Sounds of Silence was that it was a pretty good night out. We booked it in a flash, treating ourselves out to a ridiculously expensive night out in the safe knowledge that it would be a once in a lifetime dining experience... Five star dining in the desert - in fact, in the very shadow of The Rock itself. A romantic dinner for two, if you like, in the vast and private expanse of the desert, in the capable hands of expert restaurateurs. What we got however, was this:

Spacious and comfortable viewing platform

Salubrious dining environment

It seems the description was a little stretched from the truth. When we hopped of the bus, we were presented with the ominous view of a small sectioned off area of desert, complete with ten or so round, 10-seater tables, jammed in next to each other. Then we were lead off to an equally small area of fenced off desert, where we were to stand for the next hour or so, watching the sun set. The view of the rock was lovely - the service was embarrassingly inadequate though, with very mediocre champagne on offer, a choice of crownies or crownies in the beer case, and the promise of canapes fulfilled with a single offering during the entire hour, after which, the tasty little snacks were no longer to be seen. This was a pretty far cry from vast expanses of desert with private dining tables in the sunset that all the pictures had presented us with. In fact, it was safe to say that the only view available in the 'dining area' (after fighting over tables of course) was of the toilets and the bain maries; which we were later to queue up at and serve ourselves our dinner out of.
It was the point that I sipped at my shithouse champagne, observing the far from described 'award winning' environment around me that I decided that the only award these dickheads were going to win was the rantolotl 'shittiest and most overpriced tourist trap venture' award. I then decided to award myself for an equally ambitions award, the five champagnes in five minutes trophy.

Well into the crappy white wine award

I shall treasure it forever.
The $150 a head price tag was almost worth it, when you considered the salubrious company we got to share our table with. Pig Man, as I like to call him, invited us to sit at his table, as we scrabbled around for spare seats among the larger groups. And indeed, when he called it his table, he meant it - him and his 6 guests were part owners in the Voyages venture. Like all very little fish swimming in even smaller ponds, this group thought they were the shit. Now there's no real way to really recreate the experience that was pigman & co, but it's safe to say that they gave us the shits, and we gave them the shits, more or less in equal parts. This was the fate we were more or less resigned to when, upon being politely asked where we came from, and somehow, mistakenly answering Melbourne, we copped the biggest ribbing this side of Durex. When the other couple at the table, a lovely Italian couple residing in Perth, pointed out that they rather liked Melbourne, because unlike the rest of the country it actually felt like a city, Pig Man pulled out the big guns.

"Oh yeah? Well. You know why parliaments' in Canberra, don't you? Because we gave Melbourne their chance at it, and they were shit. So then they had to decide between Sydney & Brisbane, so they compromised and put it in Canberra"

Now onto glass six or seven, I couldn't help but retort.

"Brisbane? Are you fucking kidding me? Queensland barely federated with the rest of the country let alone had a shot at hosting Parliament"

"Oh yeah? Well let me tell you about my grandad, Matthew Flinders!"


And with Pig Faces' ladyfolk looking totally confused and a little bit embarrassed at this point, I thought I'd won. But then VG chipped in

"Ha! You don't know who you're messing with, do you?"

Just as I thought to myself, no dear... who is he messing with? Do tell! Pig Man of course echoed my own thoughts, but surprisingly with a little fear in his voice...

"Oh... who am I messing with then?"

VG started, soon realising her own error.
"Well... Michelle here...
She reads a lot of books, you know!"

Oh! Books! Shit - run for the hills! And with that, our vantage was lost, and all we could resort to for the rest of the evening was drink more and become increasingly belligerent. I can safely report that we did this well.

Foreground of Kata Tjutu

The deplorable role of Ayers Rock Resort and all other associated Voyages ventures aside, Uluru (Ayers Rock) & Kata Tjuta (The Olgas) were absolutely fantastic. The landscape is insanely different from anything I've ever experienced, and the landmarks are just stunning. The Olgas in particular, perhaps helped by the underhype of them, are fascinating.... larger than Uluru in size, and hiding the most amazing chasms, gorges and other little secrets among them, they are a lovely way to spend an afternoon. The great shame of it all is that the only way to experience these areas is by dealing with Voyages - who I find not only generally incompetent at what they do, but downright exploitative. But I'm sure I'll fill you in more of that later. Now, I need to plot the downfall of Pigman....

1 comment:

CJ said...

Ahhh, pigman, what a delight! I think to be fair it was I who announced loudly prior to seating, that I had hoped for more salubrious company for the money we had spent...and also I who dropped the the wine all over the table...but it was the table of drunken package tourists next to us who really topped off the class of the evening