So, the first night in the swag was terrible. I'm lucky if I got more than 2 hrs of sleep altogether! A swag is an Aussie canvas sleeping bag with built-in padding and a flap to cover your head so you're cocooned in canvas. It looks like something that cowboys would sleep in. You need to insert a sleeping bag inside in order to insulate yourself from the bitterly cold Central Australian desert night breeze which cools down the earth to an unbearable 2 degrees Celsius - that's almost freezing! Needless to say, it was a very loooong night, but not as long as the German couple that didn't rent a sleeping bag and had to sleep huddled together in one swag to try to keep warm.
After breakfast, we headed to Kata Tjuta (meaning "Many Heads" in the local Ananga language) - a series of large rock forms which lie 50km west from Uluru. Here we undertook the Valley of the Winds walk for 3 hours. It was very tough going in parts (especially up Hell's Stairs) and as the sun started to beat down on us, it became incredibly hot, but the views of the towering rocks were amazing! It must be unbearable in the summer when the temperatures soar into the late forties!
After lunch in yet another glamorous National Parks car park, we headed to the Cultural Centre to find out more about the local Ananga culture and the Tjukurpa (traditional laws and guides to living in the land taught through oral narrative and painting). The building has been beautifully and sensitively built to reflect the local landscape and architectural traditions of one of the oldest surviving cultures in the world. The displays were very interesting and depict the stories handed down from generation to generation. I bought a gorgeous pair of earrings - my only non-food purchase in Australia.
In the afternoon, we headed to Uluru to complete the Mala Walk where we viewed rock art and the astonishing Katju Gorge. Then, off to another car park to view the sunset over Uluru and eat dinner. The colours were a rainbow of pastel shades and ochre hues as the sun set and the stars appeared.
After sunset, we headed off to camp again and sat around a lovely warm fire before rolling out our swags for yet another sleepless night and a 5:30am wake-up call...