The coaches at the Uluru Sunset Viewing Area were parked three deep. From the bowels of their vehicles, guides were pulling out trestles and tablecloths. Ten minutes to go. Are we ready? The guides set out wine boxes, snacks and tubs of dips. Five minutes, folks. Got your cameras? OK, here it comes...
Whether an oh-my-gosh wholesome American backpacker from the beat-up bus, a wealthy grey nomad in the mighty silver desert cruiser, Danish, British, French, we all saw that sunset over Ayers Rock in what seems to be the prescribed tourist manner: mouth crammed with corn chips, glass full of Château Cardboard, loved one posing in a photo’s foreground as the all-time No 1 Aussie icon behind them glowed briefly red.
Back on the coach, our guide declared our sunset to be “pretty good”, although not the best she’d witnessed in her six years. Behind me, Adam, a student from Manchester, who’d struggled with the whole dusty, flyblown Outback experience, reinserted his iPod earphones: “Well, that’s enough of that bloody rock.” Indeed. Shattered from rising at five to behold Uluru at dawn – the other moment when the rock’s iron oxide makes it glide through the Colorama – I felt glum, empty, bored and suckered. But what was the point? What made this rock the definitive sunset rock event: why not nearby Mount Connor, which is bigger and just as red, except that it’s inaccessible to tour groups because it is stuck in the middle of a private cattle station?
Why had we come here? Well, I suppose my sons would remember it always. Except they’d missed the magical transmogrification while they foraged a rival tour group’s snack table, which had better crisps.
So now I’ve visited four of the “25 Wonders of the World”, as decreed by Rough Guides this week. And I think this will be the last. While my heart longs to wander China’s Forbidden City, my head knows I’ll be skulking grumpily at the back of some Imperial Palace Tour or getting cross with Americans watching the Grand Canyon through viewfinders as if mere eyes, since they lack a record facility, are not good enough.
What do the author means by "the prescribed tourist manner"?
Does she think it's a good thing?
What about "as the all-time No 1 Aussie icon behind them glowed briefly red", what does it mean?
"Not the best she'd witnessed in her six years"? In which six years?
What will her sons remember, the rock or that snack table?
Why does she think that that rock is probably the last "wonder of the world she will see"?