The Red Centre!
6th Novenber. Flight to Ayers Rock.
I got up at 7ish to catch the train to the domestic airport, my flight was leaving at 9.50am so I thought I had ample time but turned out when I got there it was final check in...Oops! Also, weighing my bag it was 22kg!! On my next flight from Darwin to Cairns I'm only allowed 15kg..I'm screwed haha. Anyway despite the late arrival and shock of of baggage weight I was on my way :)
The flight was good, taking longer than I expected but I arrived all the same. I got picked up by a big off road 4WD truck and a South African woman named Tash. On the bus everyone was all aboard and I was quite suprised by the people there..seemed to be an older generation about me. There was a french couple who mush have been about 60, a Swiss couple maybe late 50s, 3 single ladies, a Canadian, an American and an Australian each middle aged, a Belgian couple my age, and 6 Germans!! If I'm honest I was quite disappointed with the group, I thought this tour was "Adventure Explorer!" haha!
We drove back to camp, unpacked and had lunch. Not much flowing conversation except from the group of Germans, I just spoke to Dennis and Dana. After lunch we were back on the bus on our way to Ayers rock. The official Aborigional name however is Uluru! Not going to lie the rock was absolutely massive, you could see it from miles away and put it this way it took us 3-4 hours to walk around a total of 10.4km and at its highest 340m. Very impressed with its size and imposing presence on the landscape.
Stocked up on water we were dropped off at the self guided tour around the rock. Self guided? How were we to learn anything? It was great to be so close to an Australian icon so to speak but there was no information about it anywhere. Around the rock there were signs saying "sensitive area" meaning significant point to Aborigional tribes of the Anangu people so no photos were allowed; a shame because those points were the most interesting structually and it would have been good to know their importance...the rest was just a big rock. After 2 hours of the walk I think everyone got a bit bored. It was HOT buzzing with a BILLION flies and I'll say again it was HOT! I think the only people who loved every minute was a strange german couple...they were wierd and even their fellow germans agreed!
Towards the end there was a story that we could read. Kuniya's journey with Liru; a story about a womans intuition to protect her children. She became a sacred waterhole and the aborigional people worship a precious source of water. No wonder in desert heat like this! I asked Tash for more information about the rock but she just didn't know. Apparently some guides are only taught children stories and these sometimes only to men. Strange to be on a tour with a guide who didn't know anything, especially the more interesting details.
Be that as it may it was still good to see it up close and next stop was Uluru for sunset. The site was busy with other tour companies but it was a good spot to see the giant red rock in the distance. The sun wasn't setting behind it as I supposed but fell behind us instead haha, would have liked to go to a different place and see a silhouette for a photograph but the reflection it made was cool and I still enjoyed it. The whole desert glowed red, orange then pink as the sun sank lower in the sky. Uluru the last bit of desert landscape to glow until dusk finally overwhelmed. Can't complain with the view.
After what seemed like hundreds of photos we drove back to the camp, had a hot dinner and an early night open under the stars. We slept in Swag bags! Really cool outdoor sleeping bags designed for comfort in the outback. They had thin mattresses to soften the ground, pillows and then sleeping bags within so it was plenty warm. The outside was tough material made for all weather to keep out the rain...and most likely those creepy crawlies! Absolutely brilliant to sleep under the stars.
The next day we were woken by the Beatles "Here comes the sun" a nice way to start the day even if it was horrendously early! We packed up camp and walked up the sand dunes to see the sunrise. I got my wish of a silhouette...the sunrising to the left of Uluru lifting the hazy blue of the sky before me. Slowly the colour came starting with a light pink, then deep orange then a bright yellow giving a beautiful sunrise.
Sun up and back on the bus we made for Kata Tjuta, another rock formation in the red centre known as the Olgas. Kata Tjuta means "many heads" and it's a sacred site for the Anangu men to do the long walk called the "Valley of the winds". It was a awesome rock formation not far from Ayers rock. I had no idea there was another place worth a visit in the red desert! You only hear about Ayers rock/Uluru but in truth Kata Tjuta is so much better! The rocks were high above our path creating immense shadows along the walkway. The Valley of the winds was an adventure; up and down along whindy stone trails, loose rocks and a cool breeze surrounded by vast rock mountains on either side that I felt really involved, I didn't even mind that Tash knew little of its Aborigional significance haha!
The best stop along the walk was Karingana lookout; two rocks either side high up on the trail to a view of the valley below. I felt king of the world holding out my arms to the breeze around me; so cool. The entire walk of the Valley of the winds was 7.4km in total and we got to see Kata Tjuta in all its glory on another hot day. It was an impressive monument in the desert and think it should recieve way more attention than Uluru. Nature really is wonderful to create something so interestingand the crazy thing is scientists think that Uluru and Kata Tjuta has another 6km of rock under the surface! What we saw today is just the tip of the ice burg! Incredible. Chuffed with todays sights :)
Leaving the Olgas we drove to a cattle station where we were to spend the night. We drove for ages and after falling asleep I woke up and saw Uluru again..."How the hell are we still so close to Uluru?!" I said! Turns out there is another massive rock very similar called Atila..most commonly known as "Foolaru" due to its similar appearance. Haha well confused for a moment there!! The cattle station (Kings creek) was great. We camped way out in the middle of the ranch where camels, cattle and kangaroos roamed free. We pulled up just in time for sunset and it was beautiful; quiet, colourful, with stars beginning to reveal themselves as the day drew darker. I love a good sunset! After that was over and it was fully dark I had a bush shower with fire heated water, it was crawling with ants whose bites pinched and stung but once the water was on they soon learned to leave me alone! We ate dinner over an open fire and roasted marshmellows over the flames...definitely by far my favourite camp site.
Throughout the night I slept great. I was briefly woken by a strange noise but other than that all was well. In the morning I found out the noice that woke me was a camel walking right through the camp haha! Right in the middle of us its foot prints were clear as day in the mud! So funny, we really were in the outbackto have wild camels roaming between us!
Our actual wake up was 5am to Slim Dusty's "G'day G'day" song, our unofficial song of the trip...stayed in everybodys head the whole trip! We were heading for Kings Canyon, yet another place to see in the Red Centre. It was really hot again but a nice strong wind blew around the canyon keeping us cool. The walk again was a good experience with lots of views to see with trails leading up and down, through rocks and across bridges; I even got a little out of breath. At the top of the canyon it was an awesome view. You could see the whole area and from such a vantage point you could see that Kings Canyou was an oasis in a barren land. It was a site of 3 ecosystems so biodiversity was immense. Even as we explored more of the walk I could hear running water and after a while I saw a small forest filled with trees and stubborn bush...the garden of Eden.
We walked right around the canyon which took us near 4 hours, I must have taken hundreds of photos many of those with me perched right at the edge of something high haha...always looking for that perfect profile picture!
Finally finished we drove to our last camp before the trip to Alice Springs. Being ina 4WD truck we took a road for 2 hours which was made of sand and stone...BUMPY!! At first it was fun but after a while definitely too much; would have loved a sleep after our epic walks. Mercifully we did get to camp, my bum was numb and I had a banging head ache!! At camp we had a group photo which was nice and then before I knew it I was back on a bus heading to Alice Springs. The majority of people stayed at the camp but 5 of us continued on. I said goodbye to Dennis and Dana exchanging emails to stay in touch and to the others just polite farewells. Thank god that the road to Alice Springs was smooth...if it was another sand road I think I might have gone mad haha!
Alice Springs!! Arrived safe and sound at the hostel Haven. Checked into a 4 bed dorm with me the only occupant haha, a double bed to myself lol. A quick shower I met Sina (German girl) Hendrik and Till (German gus) and Emily (Canada) for some food and a drink. Pizza and a cider went down great and it was nice to talk and chat in a small group laughing about out red centre experience. It was really good to get to know them better, we all laughed and really got on; just a shame it didn't happen sooner on the trip. Also it made me laugh that they didn't like the strange German couple either...not the only one then lol!
Well that was pretty much it. The red centre coming to an end. I get picked up tomorrow to do the next part of my outback experience; a 1400km drive up to the tropics to Darwim. Until then and my next adventure!
I'll keep you posted!