If you have ever gone to Australia and you missed visiting Uluru then you need to go back. For me it was the best – people rave about the Opera House – meh! It’s a building – and a pretty nice one at that – but nature is the most amazing architect. It is a hassle getting out to Uluru – or Ayers Rock as it used to be called. You have to fly there because – guess what? – it’s in the middle of nowhere.
You have seen the pictures I am sure – as had I. Nothing prepared me for the “feel” of the place. No wonder the aboriginal people of the area regard it as extremely sacred. I felt like I had to whisper when walking around the base of the mountain. And as you can imagine legends and stories abound about this place. Australians refer to it as “The Rock” – no not Dwayne Johnson, The Rock – this is the real Rock!
I had seen the tourism pictures of Uluru at sunrise and sunset – yes they were pretty impressive but in this day of photoshop do you ever really believe anything you see on a tourism website? Wow – all I can say is it was one of the most amazing sights I had seen – the rock seemed to almost glow. It is definitely magical and spiritual.
It is sometimes reported that those who take rocks from the formation will be cursed and suffer misfortune. There have been many instances where people who removed such rocks attempted to mail them back to various agencies in an attempt to remove the perceived curse.
The rangers at the National Park there receive stones, pebbles, rocks and twigs on a daily basis from tourists who are worried about being cursed. They call them “sorry rocks” and place them back in the area. Some of the letters are fascinating – As reported in an Autralian news site –
“One traveller from Hong Kong posted a 300-gram piece of Uluru with the note: “When I received the rock I was so worried that I want to return it as soon as possible. [In] just one week, my brother broke up with his girlfriend, my father went to hospital and he will do heart surgery on the 20 January. Anyway I just want to return the rock to its rightful place and say good bye to the bad luck!”
The returned rocks are placed in a neutral space and are used to assist in repairing areas of erosion in the park. Some raw material has even been geologically identified as coming from another region and recently the park received a package of seashells. Tourists caught trying to take rocks or sand from the park can face hefty fines of up to $8500.
So those of you out there who have this habit of collecting little rocks, pebbles or shells when they travel – beware! I have to confess guilt here. My daughter loves to have a special stone or shell from anywhere I visit. My favourite one is a stone found on a muddy country road in Co. Cavan, Ireland, outside the now crumbled little farmhouse where my mother was born.
But if I go back to Uluru – I won’t be bringing any rocks or curses home with me!
Tipping – how much is too much and how much is too little. Is a tip expected? In countries like Australia and New Zealand hardly anyone tips – it is just not expected. Same thing in the Cook Islands. So what’s a poor traveller to do and how much should you tip if at all?
According to the website http://www.thisismoney.co.uk a survey of British travellers showed that 70% of them didn’t research tipping customs for the destinations they were visiting. This leads to over-tipping – which I guess is not a bad thing from the recipient’s point of view. My philosophy has always been rather over-tip than under-tip.
The whole tipping thing though does sometimes get out of hand and a good example of this is the cruise line industry.
“There are exceptions, but most mainstream cruise lines pay the men and women who serve their passengers a low base wage (by Western standards). As such, on nearly all big-ship lines, crew members are dependent upon the generosity of travellers for a good portion of their income.” (except from Cruise Critic website).
Now that’s a shame. But it is also frustrating for guests on these cruises. For a whole week you have your waiter and bus boy all over you – BFF’s – and then on the last farewell dinner you give them The Envelope! Next morning at breakfast it’s every man for himself as waiters are getting ready for the next wave of cruisers. And I understand why they act like that – it is survival.
That’s why it is always surprising and charming when you try to tip someone and they refuse to take it saying that it is their pleasure to assist. True story – happened to me on a Uniworld River Cruise. Now they did tell us beforehand that tips are included but this girl had gone out of the way and I just wanted to show my appreciation. As a traveller there is something really good about being on a trip where you are not taking advantage of other people and that everyone receives a living wage.
I have to admit -I am not very good at this whole tipping thing – probably because my dear husband takes care of all that side of things but I can be a bit of a dope sometimes. In India last year we were at a fabric warehouse and had watched a demonstration of weaving just in the courtyard. As everyone was choosing fabrics and shirts I needed the ladies and as this was a pretty smart facility I figured I should take advantage – after all in India you never know! As I passed through the courtyard the weaving man was still there sitting in front of the loom.
So with a waggle of his head in true Indian fashion he signals me to come over and sit next to me. Oh that’s sweet I think. He starts showing me how to weave the wool and I did a couple of lines (or whatever you would call them). I gave him and nice smile and said thank you and then of course he signalled that you wanted some money. At the same time he put his finger to his lips to indicate that it would be a secret because clearly he wasn’t allowed to do that. So of course I gave him some money – I was so embarrassed at being caught in this old trick that I didn’t even check how much. So much for me – the seasoned traveller! On the plus side however I hope it made his day and he could go home that night to his modest little hut and show his wife – “Hey look what I got from this stupid English lady today!” and his wife will clap her hands and jump up and down and tell him what a smart and clever husband she has. Wish I could have been a fly on the wall!