Into the red heart of Australia
"Gidday" are the first words that the kids here from a welcoming Australia immigration officer. We arrive late evening so not getting much of a feel for Darwin only seeing a few shops that made us all giggle such as "Sexyland". I was on a mission to get to Uluru/Ayers Rock in 2 days and had a detailed plan in my head, like normal Edwina felt everything was planned to military perfection, wake up at 5.30, 6am go to the supermarket, breakfast at 7, pick up van at 8 and on the road by 9am. The aim was to get close to Tennant Creek, this would give us a good chance of making Ayres Rock the next day.
So I was up 5.30am for an early morning trip to the supermarket, being welcomed to Darwin by the local Aboriginals up and about or heading home you decide..….We pick up the campervan, and with the supermarket supplies (the most important being the beef steaks that we were all craving.) We hit the road south I at the wheel, foot to the floor (as the campervan could not exceed the speed limit) and on a mission to get as far south as possible. There's not a lot going on up this way and as for the locals it leads Edwina to think more about it being a great place to live if you don't want to be found or you want to be left to yourself making your own law and way in life. We passed a number of service station/caravan spots most of them reminding us of a missing tourist headline or Wolf Creek movie. The day started to turn to night, determined to keep going, we had received a ton of advice around not driving at night which made me more determined than ever to continue. Edwina started to get jittery and not wanting to free camp, the kids had enjoyed a relaxed atmosphere at the back of the campervan being able to wander around, but as it approach dark, "Sit down and Buckle up, in case Dad decides to hit a Kangaroo", that was the expectation that so many people had set for us. It would have been quiet exciting to see an alive kangaroo bouncing across the road but instead we saw loads of dead ones on the sides of the road during the day. We approached Three Ways around 20km from Tenants creek, with some night driving done I decide to stop and we plugin the caravan and enjoy our first steak on the trip and man was it good!
Up at 5am and on the road, it was a full days driving to get to Ayres Rock for sunset, with the kids still sleeping soundly in the back enjoying the motion, 2 hrs later we pulled into see the Devils Marbles to have breakfast and a wander around these massive rocks before the heat got too strong. The distances between towns are huge and you see very little traffic on the roads, you can't help but think how long it would take if you broke down or worse had an accident for help to arrive. We then continue on for another 12 hrs passing through Alice Springs and getting to Ayres Rock for sunset. The clouds were out but the view from the sunset viewing area was spectacular, we were all excited to be here admiring the big rock in front of us. As soon as we stepped out of the campervan we were surrounded by a large number of flies, this became a common pattern whilst in the outback. I had to teach Maddalena the Aussie wave, frantically waving your hands in front of your face to keep the flies off. We then headed to Ayres rock resort the only place in the area where you can camp.
Another 5am start, kids still sleeping and we drive the 20mins to the sunrise viewing area of Ayres rock, sleepy heads and bad hair we all stumble out to view the sun rising on the rock. Shame was that the clouds were out and we didn't see the rock light up but still it was a fantastic view for eating our bacon butties. We really enjoyed our day in Ayres rock, we drove around it, walked up to it, trekked in the Olgas (Another rock formation nearby) and visited aboriginal cultural centres and art galleries. We found Ayers Rock to be both awe inspiring and spiritual and well worth spending two nights there.
The following day with a relaxed start we had a 5 hr drive back to Alice Springs were we would drop off the campervan and then fly out to Cairns, we had noticed there was a Hilton in Alice Springs and even though we had a campervan the thought of a free night in a Hilton should be taken. At check-in, the receptionist advised us parking the campervan close to the hotel due to risk of theft, out of all the countries we had been to no one had advised this or had we ever felt we were in a dodgy area and one of the perceived "safe" countries was the one that made us first feel uncomfortable. Since we have such a strict daily budget and not wanting to waste any food from the campervan, we all left the comfort of our hotel room for dinner and head to the campervan parked out the front where Edwina cooked up dinner. It was rather funny to be outside the hotel main entrance sitting at our campervan table eating dinner looking at the comings and goings from the hotel. It was great to use the laundry and everyone over breakfast couldn't help but comment on how amazing the beds were to sleep in. We then proceeded to spend a lazy day around the hotel pool popping in to Alice centre to browse the shops on the way to drop off the campervan. We all love the aboriginal art, we both loved a big piece in Ayres Rock which we bought and Arabella bought a small piece in Alice, Maddalena also wanted a piece but Edwina had already bought one as a secret Santa for her and we had to use our parental persuasion to put her off. For Xmas in New Zealand we were doing a secret Santa and the kids were so excited with the idea that we had to have our own private family secret Santa, the idea was formed in Nepal and since then we have all had to try and find time away from other members so a present could be bought unknown to the recipient.
Off to the airport and onto Cairns for our drive to Brisbane.