We flew to Alice Springs from Sydney early morning and the 3 hour flight got us there for around 2ish. The flight was quite bumpy but I had been warned by a few people that Australia internal flights can be a bit turbulent so I tried my best to just chill and watch the latest episode of Pretty Little Liars!
Alice Springs is a little town in the centre of Australia a very long drive from anywhere. The centre of Australia is renowned for being very dry and hot, and Alice Springs actually has a river called the Todd River that runs through the centre that is nearly always dry!
When we got to our backpackers ‘Alice’s Secret’ we had to chill out for a few hours as check in didn’t open until 4, so we put a film and and had a sleep. At 4 we went for check in with to find we had been upgraded to stay in an old bus! It was amazing and I was so happy as I made an earlier joke to Chris I wanted to stay there. The backpackers is a lovely small quiet backpackers which closes its gates at 7. They had a red back spider in a cage in reception which freaked me out a bit though! As you are advised not to walk around after dark, we stayed at the backpackers ordered dominos and finished our film! We were up early the next day for our Uluru trip!
The next morning we were picked up for our tour along with a few others from our backpackers at 6am, by our tour guide David. We decided to go with a company called Emu Run recommended by our friends Kaley and Rik and opted for a three day, 2 nights camping tour. As we set off for our five hour drive to Uluru I couldn’t believe how red it was on the ground but also so green, David explained that the weather had been very unusual lately as they had heavy rain a few weeks ago and it was colder than usual. We stopped off for toilet breaks along the way and stopped at the side of the road, where there had been a recent bush fire to collect some wood for that nights campfire! Everyone chipped in and we loaded the trailer up in no time. I walked in between two trees and took a spiders web to the face which freaked me out a bit, especially when I looked up and there was a big spider dangling there! Everyone found it pretty funny though!
When we had been driving for about 3 hours we saw a large rock in the distance, and David told us it was Uluru, we all believed him but he then went onto explain that it was actually what the locals call Fooluru, Mount Connor a rock that looks a bit like Uluru. Apparently many tourists have set up and watched sunset there believing it was Uluru only to be disappointed when they were later told it isn’t!
After another two hours driving we reached camp. I couldn’t believe how straight the roads were I don’t think we made one single turn along the road to get here! We all chipped in and had burgers on the BBQ getting to know each other a bit better and then it was back in the van to see the rock! We were so excited. Now I have wanted to see Uluru since I was very little ever since my mum bought me a Dorling Kindersley computer game called ‘My First Amazing World Explorer’ and you went round the world collecting stamps for your passport by identifying landmarks (a bit like what I do now really but for adults), so the point of telling you this is that I was very excited.
As we approached and this sounds silly but it strikes you how big it actually is, you know it’s going to be big but not that big. It’s so impressive and I found out in the tour it’s actually the largest single rock formation in the world and actually reaches another 6km underground.
The first thing we did was visit the rocks cultural centre, as David had to collect another few people for our tour. The centre is shaped like two intertwined snakes that represent aboriginal tale, one poisonous and one not. Inside the poisonous one is all the shops and food etc and in the other all the cultural information about the rock.
Next we had a choice of walks, we opted for the 10km base walk that goes around the base of the rock it really puts into perspective how big it actually is! The walk was amazing and the rock is huge and very red (did I mention that?) we wandered around it is awe exploring the little caves and water holes, there is a permed ant waterhole on Uluru that is very sacred as you can imagine not many are permanent in such a hot climate. The rock is streaked with ridges that were created in its formation and also bits of black from when it occasionally rains leaving trails. It really was amazing! We were all prepared with our hats and fly nets but there were no flies as it was too cold I was a bit disappointed!
As if that wasn’t good enough David then took us to the Uluru sunset car park where he set up a table with some nibbles and champagne and we watched the rock change colour into a dark red as the sun was setting and the sky was beautiful. It really was magical.
We set up camp that night and it was freezing! We had a huge campfire and everyone huddled around it. We all made dinner which was chicken stir fry and ate by the warmth of the fire all talking. We had such a fun tour group. Now we had two options for sleeping – in a tent that is permanently at the site with mattresses or outside in a swag – for those of you who don’t know a swag is like a leather bag that is very rigid, then you put your sleeping bag inside. The brave part of me came in because we were all not just me a little nervous about dingos and bugs but I slept in a swag. As we all climbed into the swags and laid back it was amazing the stars were so beautiful and a shooting star appeared. That night was very cold though everyone in the tents were freezing too and it got as low as three degrees! The next day there were some very tired people especially as we were up at five for sunrise!
After breakfast we piled in the van and headed for sunrise. Uluru has a sister formation called Kata-Tjuta (The Olgas) which is the sister formation as the formed at the same time. Kata-Tjuta is a formation of 36 domes fairly close to Uluru. The two were formed by erosion off a mountain – the big boulders (Kata Tjuta) weren’t carried as far by the river and the small sediment (Uluru) then basically an inland sea covered the area and put the formations under a lot of pressure and they were created (put simply but effectively, I hope none of my old geography lecturers are reading). Anyway we watched the sunrise over both Uluru and Kata-Tjuta which was also beautiful but it was once again freezing – little did I know that all the layers (2 tshirts, 3 jumpers, 3 trousers and a hat) would be on for the remainder of the two days!
After this we did the Valley of the Winds walk at Kata-Tjuta it was around 7.4km and quite challenging at times. It was also windy (clue is in the name). It was well worth it and we were rewarded with the most amazing views as we did a very steep climb to the main viewing point and David was waiting at the top with Cake (winner).
We headed back to camp and all chipped in (again) to make a build your own Burritio lunch and it was back on the very warm bus for the 5 hour drive to Kings Canyon for our camp! We were all very appreciative of this bus ride as it was warm and we all caught up on sleep from the very cold night before. None of us were looking forward to that night but it turned out to be amazing. The previous nights camp was on a busy campsite but this one was really out in the bush! We saw a few Dingos on the way out and that made the majority of us opt to sleep inside (partly for warmth partly so we weren’t eaten). We set up a huge campfire and had some warm showers which were amazing. David cooked that night whilst we all talked and drank wine around the fire, the food was so good we had sausage, steak, salad, potatoes and my two favourites kangaroo marinated in soy and garlic and some Dukan bread that was cooked in the embers of the fire. We also roasted marshmallows!
We had a much warmer night inside although a few brave people including Chris slept outside! The next day we were up early again for sunrise for after breakfast we were off to Kings Canyon, which was spectacular. The walk to the top was tough and it was 500 steps at 6am which woke everyone up, but we got to the top just as sun was rising and it was so amazing. We walked the entire rim of the Canyon and David gave us a talk on native plants and aboriginal uses for them (even the trees want to kill you, if you get a splinter from a certain type it makes your whole arm numb). We got into a section of the Canyon called The Garden of Eden which was full of plants and another lovely permanent waterhole, where we had perfectly timed biscuits and cereal bars! We finished the walk and I have to say that Kings Canyon took my breath away (mentally and physically from all the steps) – I still can’t decide which was my favourite of the three formations though!
After this it was time to set off back, with a few quick stops one for build your own sandwich we had another five hours back to Alice Springs. I have to say we were all very glad to be back after an amazing but very cold trip. I loved it though even if it did give me a head cold! So last night I got warm in bed and went to sleep very early!
Next up is Cairns! I hope it’s warmer there.