We arrived at Alice Springs around 12:30ish on the 6th & checked into our Hostel - Alice Lodge. The rest of the day was spent looking around the town & hanging around the hostel before we had an early night to conserve our energy as we'd booked ourselves onto 'The Rock' tour following day which covers the Uluru area.
We we're picked up from our hostel at 6am by Ryan, our tour guide, & we met the other people on the tour (21 of us in all). From here we headed down to Kings Canyon which took around 5hrs. Here we had a quick bite to eat before going on a 6km hike around the Kings Canyon. Our first task was to walk up 'Heart Attack Hill' which I'm sure you gather was very steep. From the top however we were given fantastic views across the Australian Desert, although this desert was very green as they'd experienced torrential rain throughout the previous week. From here we continued along the top of the Canyon visiting the Amphitheatre, North & South Walls and The Garden of Eden seeing fantastic views all the way. The Garden of Eden was situated in the heart of the canyon and here you could go for a swim in the lake. Helen jumped in first and by all accounts it was very cold. I gathered this by the way she shouted 'it's ****ing freezing' as she jumped in. Funnily enough this didn't really sell it to me so I stood with most of the others watching the crazy few who went in. From here we hiked our way across the remaining 3km's back to the bus stopping taking in the breathtaking views on the way, including one particular section where we got to lay down at the edge of the cliff and look out into the canyon. Back in the bus we headed to our campsite for the night - Curtain Springs. On the way we made 2 stops - the first was for firewood and the second for beer. Our campsite for the night was a 1.1 million acre cattle station with no amenities so the first job was to get the fire going. Once this was going we cooked our dinner on it & sat around chatting, drinking and attempting to play the didgeridoo which was cool. Once we'd finished it was time for bed. Our beds for the duration of the trip were Swag bags. For those of you who don't know what they are, their basically a canvas bags with a mattress in. This seemed really strange at first as your face is uncovered so we thought that all kinds of animals would be coming up to us in the middle of the night. After a while though you soon forgot all about it as our ceiling was a perfect clear sky where you could see thousands of stars & loads of shooting stars! If you needed the toilet in the night however you held it in as you had to walk out into the pitch black bush, dig a hole, pee and fill it in!!!!
We were woken up the following at around 5am and greeted by an amazing sunset coming though the trees behind us. After packing up our stuff and headed to Kata Tjuta, or as its also know, The Olga's. Here we went for another hike, 7km, through the 'Valley of the Winds' being told aboriginal tails along the way. Again there were fantastic views all the way through. Once we'd finished here we jumped back into the van and headed to the Aboriginal Cultural Centre. This was meant to give us an insight into the beliefs & traditions of aboriginal people, although we think that it was only there to try and prevent you from walking up Ayres Rock, if it was open - which it wasn't, and to make you respect the area. After the cultural centre we headed to the rock itself and went on the Mala Walk which covered 1km (2km return) of the 9km circumference walk around the base of Ayres Rock. Here we were shown how various areas that the rock were used for different aspects of aboriginals lives such as, boys and girls classrooms, the 'kitchen', where the women gave birth to their children & the watering hole where the men used to catch the food. This was very interesting and gave an insight how the rock was used for basically every need. From here we headed to the Ayres Rock sunset viewing point which was a short drive away ready for the sunset.
We'd completed the days tasks fairly early so we arrived here an hour or so before the crowds so we managed to get some great photos of the rock - although none of the photos manage to do any of the places we'd visited over the three days justice! Here we cooked dinner at the back of the trailer and sat around on our swags eating dinner as the sunset while the other 'posher' tours stood around eating cheese & crackers & sipping champagne. The sunset itself was awesome. Watching the rock change colour from bright red to a dark red, then to a dark purple and eventually disappear as it got dark. Our home for the night was the Uluru Resort Campsite where we again spent the night looking up at the stars on our swags.
Friday was our last day on the tour. We were woken up at 4:30am so that we could see the sunrise over Ayres Rock. It was hard to wake up at this point as it was the 5th day in a row we'd been up before 5:30am but we were rewarded for our efforts with another spectacular sunrise. Again it was fantastic to see the rock changing colours as it received more and more light. After some breakfast we headed to the rock itself and walked around the remaining 8km, however this was unguided as Ryan could not leave the van where we started, and he needed some much needed sleep as he'd been working 20hr days the previous 2 days. The walk itself good although we didn't know the history behind the remaining areas so it was left to us to make things up - and there was some interesting tales!!! You also don't fully realise how big the rock is until you walk around it! In total it must have taken us around 4 hrs to walk.
Once we'd finished here this was unfortunately the end of our tour, so after dropping some people off at the airport we headed back to Alice Springs where we returned to our hostel. We meet back up with everyone later that night for a meal and some drinks at a local bar. The problem was it was Friday night so they had a MC making everyone play party games which we were not in the mood for as we were absolutely shattered. I however somehow got dragged into it all and managed to come 2nd in the limbo competition which was very impressive as I was by far the tallest in the comp, and I was competing with Mr. Soft who could bend himself in half!!! I also got choose to see how many pegs could be attached to my face by someone in 30 secs which was highly embarrassing! Again coming 2nd with 23 pegs - you'll see by the photo I look rather fetching!!!
All in all the tour was absolutely fantastic! We had a brilliant group with us and a fantastic guide! Also the area was so interesting! This has by far been my favourite part of Australia so far!
Our last 2 days have been spent in Alice Springs. There's not that much to do here so its given us a great opportunity to catch up on some sleep - which Helen is doing as we speak! Yesterday however we did go to the Kangaroo Rescue Centre. This place was set up as there are hundreds of kangaroos that are hit every week by motor vehicles and have surviving joeys in their pouches. If they aren't rescued within a day or two at max. then they are either killed by eagles or they will eventually starve to death as many have never left their mums pouches so don't know how to survive. Here they are brought up in pillow cases as they imitate their mums pouch and you can hold them for 10 minutes at a time as it again reflects how they would be living with their mum as the warmth from your body keeps them comfortable. We managed to arrive just after feeding time so Helen got to burp one of the babies, Nikki. I got to hold Oliver and it was really surreal looking down seeing a baby kangaroo in a pillow case in your arms. They were however very cool and we couldn't help but feel bad for not checking all the dead kangaroos we saw at the side of the road on Kangaroo Island - although we didn't know at the time. The best part of the visit however was definitely when they jumped out of their pillow cases to have a little run around the garden. And it was funny to see them get back in as they literally throw themselves into a forwards roll back into the bags.
We left Alice Springs on Sunday and caught the bus up to Katherine where for the last couple of days we've been chilling out by the pool. There were two reasons for this 1) we needed some relaxation time after a hectic couple of weeks 2) as there nothing to really do in Katherine. Also we chose a rather disgusting hostel which came very close to the dump we stayed in at Thailand. They did however have a very cool dog which went someway to cure us missing Harvey & Benson.
We've just arrived in Broome after a horrendous 20hr bus journey in which we were surround by very very smelly 'locals' & one who snored like a fog horn right next to us!!! Adam he was even worse than you!!!! We'll update you from here soon.
Hope everyone is well
Gavin and Helen