28th August - 5th September - Red Rocket tour with Adventure Tours.
Day 1/2 - Darwin to Alice Springs
My trip to see the infamour Uluru actually started a couple of days early as most of the tours to Uluru run from Alice Springs. Until I got to Australia and started looking at the map of the country and distances, I didn't actually realise how big Oz was (yes, I know that sounds stupid). For me to get from Darwin to Alice Springs took just over 24 hours! Fun. Luckily the bus was pretty comfortable and they put some entertainment on the bus - we had two DVD's, so that passed the time a little. There were a few things to see on the way down but not all that much - just a whole heap of red dirt (something that you eventually get used to being in the outback)
Once I got to Alice did a bit of wandering around - it certainly wasn't the outback town that I had thought it would be (I thought it would be a red dirt town, with tumbleweed rolling through) but to my surprise and relief it was a pretty nice little town with a few good places to eat and have a drink. Whilst I was there I made sure I stocked up on some warm clothing as my room mates in Darwin had warned me it gets pretty cold in the outback (cold in the outback, yeh right I thought) but knowing my affliction to the cold and my lack of warm clothing I stocked up on warm gloves, a hat and some warm socks. Stayed at a really really nice hostel - the Haven backpackers - probably one of the nicest places that I have stayed in Oz.
Day 3 -day 1 of tour! Kings Canyon.
Started with a very early pick up from the resort - 5am, this was the first of many early starts for me! Our tour guide was a fairly young guy, Brett. After a few hours driving we started our tour at Kings Canyon - and tried to do a 3 hour walk in 2hours. The walk was pretty hard - well the first part was (Brett helpfully told us that the first acent bit is called heart attack hill -great encouragment there). Seeing how much I hate uphill, I took the first part very slowly as I really hate uphill! Once I got to the top of that bit, I did feel like I was dying but I was really happy that I did it! However, soon realised that we had a lot more walking to do.I took the rest of the walk pretty easy as I didn't want to wear myself out on day one - really enjoyed Kings Canyon, was a nice was to start the outback adventure!
After Kings Canyon, Brett drove like a man possed to get us to our camp at Yulara for sunset. And it was worth it! My first site of Uluru was amazing, it really was. As the sun was going down, the colour was changing and it was just such a beautiful thing to see - the pictures that I have taken don't really do it justice at all.
Once sunset was over, we headed back to camp to set up - when I mean set up, choose our tents and help unpack the van. Most of the companys that operate on this route have permanent camps with proper toilets and showers, so not quite the camping I was expecting (which I have to say was a little bit of a relief). Dinner that evening was a BBQ! My first of many as I would later discover. Somehow, I ended up cooking (don't ask how, i just seemed to end up there) and learnt how to cook stake to order! Not that I'll ever be needing this skill seeing as I don't even eat beef. After dinner we were entertained by the Sydney soup choir, who were touring Uluru and trying to raise money for their cause. Some of us had decided to sleep out under the stars that evening in swags - basically a waterproof sleeping bag with a mattress inside which you can put your sleeping bag in. After setting up around the fire (which we never got going), we saw Brett sleeping in a corner of the campsite - he told us that it would be better to sleep in that area, due to protection from the wind. However, once we had moved our swags and everything else over, we started to feel a few drops of rain! We then abandoned our attempt at sleeping outside and decided to go back to our tents.
Day 4 - Uluru and Kata Tjuta to Alice Springs.
Again, we were up before the sun and after freshening up and breakfast we headed off to Uluru for sunrise. We did the 3/4 way walk around the base of the rock - with none of the group opting to climb the rock. Walking around Uluru as the sun rises is probably one of the best experiences that I have had on this trip - there certainly is something about that place. It took us about 2 hours (with all the stopping for pictures) to do the 7km walk. It is definately something I reccommend people to do when they come to Oz.
After lunch we headed to Kata Tjuta or the Olgas and we did the short walk through them. It was a nice relaxed walk and a great way to finish our red centre experience.
We headed back to Alice that night and ended up going out that night with Brett the guide. Everytime we tried to leave, he would end up buying us drinks! But it got to near 1am and we had to be up at 5am, so we headed home after a really good couple of days.
Day 5/6/7- Alice to Darwin.
Day 5 started with another early pick up by the very enthusastic Scotty - who would be our guide for this leg back to Darwin. The group that we had this time was even more of a mix - we still had the miserable Germans with us who didn't help with anything, along side them was Maria and Pia (who had adopted me into their little group), we also ended up with an old Swedish couple, the young French couple who couldn't put each other down, a family from Ireland, another German (who thought she knew everything) and a very strange Irish guy who did exactly the same silly pose in everyone of his pictures! The highlight of the first day was the devils marbles -the local aboriginal people believe that the boulders are the eggs of the rainbow serpant. Scotty also told us about other stories that the local aboriginals associate with the devils marbles - he was a very good guide when it came to knowledge about the area and local legends.
The second day of this tour took us through Daly Waters, were we met our youngest guide, Baily who took us around the town showing us the sites. The Daly waters pub is famous for travelers leaving momentos of themselves there- everything ranging from ID cards, to pictures of themselves, to underwear! Unfortunatly I forgot to leave something there, didn't want to part with my family pictures that I had been carrying around with me and I didn't really have anything else I could leave there. That day we also stopped off at some thermal springs just outside Katherine and enjoyed a dip into the lovely water.
The last day of this part of tour was a little more interesting, we headed to the Katherine Gorge where we did a river cruise. This was a nice relaxing cruise, with us trying to spot the crocs - unfortunatly today was not to be the day where I saw my first croc, though we did see some croc tracks. After that we headed to Edith Falls, were we went for a swim before the long drive back to Darwin.
Day 8/9 - Kakadu national park.
Our last two days of tour sent us to Kakadu national park. On the drive to the park we headed to the Mary river where we went croc spotting - and boy did we see a lot of crocs! I however wasn't very good at spotting them, I tended to spot more logadiles than actual crocs! So, I'm never going to be much use in a croc spotting situation! We saw lots of other wild life including lots of birds and a couple of wallabies on the side of the lake. It was such a beautiful place but full of the hidden dangers of scary salt water crocs! We then headed off to Ubirr, where we saw lots of examples of aboriginal rock art - some of it was very interesting as it displayed not only the aboriginals but also the "white man" in it.
Next day we headed into the park to do some walks to see Twin and Jim Jim falls. However, in order to get into the park we had to go into 4WD mode. I loved this part of the drive, and as I was in the front, I had even more fun bouncing around and being thrown about a bit! Leah was a bit nuts dirving but I felt very safe with her! Both walks were pretty good fun - not so much climbing or steep acents but more boulder hopping and working out the easiest routes! Saying that, I did manage to hit my head against a tree - I was concentrating more on getting the flies out of my face than where I was putting my feet, so I ended up misplacing my foot and stepping on a wobbly rock and going straight into a tree! Fun! This did catch me off gaurd a little, and so I took the rest of the walks with a bit carefully.
After the day out in the park, we headed back to Darwin for a rest before I started my next tour - 21days, Darwin to Perth!