Monday, 22 October 2007

Eat your heart out, David Copperfield

Forget that thing with the Statue of Liberty. Mother Nature just worked the most amazing vanishing act, disappearing - and reappearing - the massive monolith that is Uluru from the horizon as I watched, alarmed.

I arrived at Yulara, the Ayers Rock Resort, hungry for Uluru. I had spent the entire flight with my face pressed to the window, drinking in the view as we passed over ground that was coloured the most fantastic colours - from purples, to mustard-yellows, here pale and near-white and there dark, brown-red. I was enthralled the entire time.

But this was all but a prelude to the main act. We all knew why we were there. And, as we began our descent, the fidgeting and fussing on board grew to new levels, everyone craning their necks for the first sight. Not for me. Sitting on the right hand side of the 'plane, I did not glimpse Uluru as we landed, nor on the short ride (courtesy bus, not camel) to the hotel.

So it was that by the time I was finally There, by the time I had actually Arrived, I was desperate to see the Rock. Desperate not to be disappointed, too. But eager for it nonetheless.

I scurried out to the nearest lookout, scuffing my feet through the red sandy earth gleefully, watching my sandalled toes getting grubbier and grubbier, and smiling all the while. But also rushing to see the monolith. And rushing because I was racing both sunset and the clouds that were gathering all about.

As I crested the low rise - the highest thing around, little more than a molehill, yet still an ideal vantage to see the famous rock, I stared eagerly ahead to see -

(dramatic pause)

Absolutely nothing!

Like those visits to the high mountains - the Andes, perhaps - where the clouds cheat the viewer of the postcard view, there was no Rock. There was simply a wall of clouds, grey and disappointing.

At that moment, I was fairly close to being gutted, I don't mind telling you.

But then the thunder came, and the lightning. And I realised that I was in for a spectacle not enjoyed by every other visitor, on every other day of the year. I was in for a somewhat rarer treat.

It was raining in the desert.

Again the thunder came. Thunder and more lightning. And then a rainbow somewhere over the vanished monolith.

And finally - glory of glories! - the clouds parted the smallest amount, to reveal - faintly - water, running off the face of the Rock.

Which, on the whole, was pretty special. Not the sunset I had dreamed about, but something rarer yet. Apparently, there had not been rain like that for six months, not here.

Red sand beneath my toes and rain on my face. I think I'm going to like it here.

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