You don't know until you go.
That could be (and should be) my mantra. Because even destinations I've seen hundreds of times in photos and videos always surprise in person.
That certainly has been the case on this latest trip to the Northern Territory of Australia. Sure, I knew the sands were red here, but as the plane was about to land at Ayers Rock Airport, I looked down, and my first, and very cynical, thought was: "oh look, they cleverly colored the sand right around the runway to get the tourists excited." Because the ground looked like something you'd see in a Warner Brothers cartoon, a vivid, almost neon burnt mango that looked manmade. Of course my second thought was "uh nope, that stuff's real, because nobody could afford to color the miles and miles of red sand I'm now seeing."
That first view was partly a trick of the light. The colors shift here depending on the position of the sun. But I have to say that I've been in few places where I've experienced color in such a visceral fashion. It may be because the landscape is one of complementary colors, the reds and oranges off-set by the daintiest of heather greens. Because of global climate change, the once sandy, arid land around Uluru (the proper, indegenous name for "Ayers Rock") has been experiencing more rain than it has in centuries. So the landscape is now blanketed in vegetation, a startling sight in an area that's so stable, geologiest feel that not even the major sand dunes have shifted in close to 30,000 years (or so I was told by a local; if I'm totally wrong, please excoriate me in the comments section below).
I'll be posting more about my experiences in this eye-popping country as the days go by. I hope you'll drop by again for the next installment. (By the way, the photograph is a close-up of Uluru I took this morning). But more on that later.