The flight from Adelaide to Alice Springs was a nice smooth one. From the plane window all you could see below was red. There didn't seem to be anything around either except for a few trees and we were a bit worried about where we were going to land seeing as we were getting closer to the ground and there was no airport in sight! We did make it down safely though, where we landed was very small and we had to get out of the plane by walking down steps straight onto the airstrip.
After collecting our luggage we were picked up by a shuttle bus and taken to the hostel. We checked and then had a look around Alice. There wasn't much there at all, there was the main strip with a few shops and cafes and then an outer bit with a supermarket. There were also a lot of drunk aboriginals walking around the streets which was a bit scary. We didn't really do much in Alice seeing as there wasn't actually much to do and we had to be up at 5am the next day so we simply packed our small bag for the next three day trip.
In the morning we were picked up from the hostel by our tour guide Aaron. We jumped on our Adventure Tours bus and headed off to the office to check in for the tour. After this we were on the road and officially started the first part of our tour.
Our first stop was a camel farm where we had the opportunity to ride a camel! It was only $5 to ride so me and Zoe were first in the queue. We both jumped on the same camel, (poor thing I know!) me at the back and Zoe at the front and had a little ride around a sandy ring. The guy also made the camel run which was quite fun! It was quite easy to sit in the seat although it was a bit bumpy. You have to get on and off the camel when it is sitting down. The guy managed to make the camel get up easy enough but when it came to letting us get off the camel refused to sit down, it did eventually though!
After the camel ride we could pat a tame dingo which was nice. It was quite different looking to the pure ones on Fraser Island but it did look like Jay! We also got to try a homemade cookie which was yummy!
There isn't a lot in the outback to see except for redness and there isn't much by way off amenities. Aaron stopped off wherever possible to fill up on diesel and to aloow us to get refreshments. Zoe decided to undertake a new mission, which was to find a shop that sold Pods (a biscuit sweet which comes with different toppings - mars, twix or dove.). She wasn't very successful but she never gave up!
After driving for quite a while we came across a large rock which very much resembled Ayer's Rock or as it should now be called - Uluru (its aboriginal name). However, this rock was a fake! Mount Connor, its official name often causes confusion for tourists by its likeness for Uluru. This rock is actually situated on private land and permission must be obtained by the owner if tourists wish to get a closer look.
We stopped off within a reasonable distance of Mount Connor as from this point we could also climb a small, red sandy hill and see Lake Amadeus, the large salt lake in this area.
We also had a stop to collect firewood for our fire at the campsite later on that night. We all got off the bus wondered around in the bush in the outback and had to come back with dead pieces of wood as thick as our arms! Mine and Zoes 'chunks' of wood probably weren't the best but they were still used!
After our first insight into some of the background of the outback and our first red rock we drove to Yulara, the campsite near Uluru and had some lunch. After lunch we drove to Kata Tjuta also known as the Olgas. Here we went for our first walk, which wasn't too strenuous but did involve quite a bit of rock climbing and seeing as I (Michelle) have developed my new fear of rocks I went to the back and had to be helped by Aaron - another young, fit bus driver hehehehohohoho! Its lucky this was our last trip as I may have obtained a new reputation for holding bus drivers hands! Anyway we all made it safely round and the views were amazing. We also had a history lesson on how Kata Tjuta came to be and managed to walk through them instead of just around them. It was a nice walk.
We had to drive pretty much straight away to Uluru after Kata Tjuta as we were aiming to get there for sunset. We made it in good time as it wasn't far from where we were. We parked the bus and walked acroos to the designated 'sunset spot' of Ayer's Rock. Aaron popped open a couple of bottles of champagne and we all stood there with plastic cup and camera in hand waiting for the sun to go down! I felt we were in an odd spot for sunset as instead of actually facing the part of the sky where the sun goes down we actually looked at the rock from the angle opposite sunset, so instead of seeing oranges and reds we saw pinks and purples behind the rock. It was till pretty but it seemed harder for the cameras to pick up these less intense colours.
Pretty much straight after the sun went down we all jumped back on the bus and headed back to Yulara, our campsite for the night. Everyone had a different role to play whether it was helping to make a fire or helping to prepare food. After dinner we all sat around the camp fire chatting and getting to know one another.
Even though there were small little tenst set up which had two beds in our itinerary stated that we could sleep in swags, so we asked Aaron about this and he said they were all in the shed. We suggested the idea of sleeping under the start to the rest of the group and most of them were in agreement. For those who don't know a swag is like a canvas sleeping bag which has a small mattress in it. It zips up either side and has a flap to go over your head. Seeing as we were all quite tired it wasn't long before the swags were appearing around the fire and everyone was dropping off to sleep. Sleeping in a swag was very comfortable and the sky looked amazing with millions of stars, although it was a bit cold.
We had another early start the next morning as we had to be back at Uluru for sunrise. We had breakfast and then drove to the designated sunrise area. Again the sun was actually rising behind us instead of behind Uluru, but this time it was understandable as the higher the sun rose the more redder the rock became. This was because the sun reflected the redness of the rock. While we were standing there taking pictures of Uluru at sunrise we just so happened to bump into Kayla and Wes who we met on our trip form Sydney to Melbourne. It was good to see them again as we hadn't had a chance to say a proper goodbye to them in Melbourne. It was a funny place to bump into someone though!
Once the sun had risen we drove closer to the rock so that we could start our walk around the base. It was quite cold during the nights and early mornings on this trip but once the sun was up it was really hot. We commenced our three hour walk around the rock quite early like most of our walks so the heat wasn;t unbearable to walk in. As you walk around the rock there are certain areas you are not allowed to take pictures of as they are areas which remain sacred to the Aboriginals and if anyone is caught taking a picture of these then a park warden will confiscate your camera and throw you out of the national park! During our walk we came across Kayla and Wes again so we walk half of the way round with them. It was quite a nice walk - very flat, so no rocks involved hehe! Although after doing lots of hilly walks it did seem slightly less adventurous!
After our walk we then headed to a cultural centre where we could see how Aboriginals lived and buy some of their works. At this cultural centre they also had the 'Sorry book', this was where people had written into the centre to say sorry for either climbing Uluru or had sent back rocks which they had taken from Uluru. It seems many of them had written in stating how since they had taken a piece of the rock they or they're family had suffered misfortune. The book was very thick.
From the cultural centre we went back to the campsite for lunch and packed up all our stuff as we were leaving that campsite. Once we were all on the bus we finally got to do what we had all been waiting for - sleep!!! It was quite a long drive to the Kings Canyon campsite. We did stop along the way to collect more firewood.
As we were driving to our camping spot we saw dingoes roaming about. This campsite was pretty much set up the same as the last with tents already made or the option of sleeping in swags again. A fire was made and this time our tea was cooked on the fire with coals. It was very nice and was all the more tasty as it had been cooked on the fire!
That night Aaron came over to me and had a little chat to me about the walk the next day. He was explaining to me that the walk was going to involve lots of rocks but there was an option to do a shorter walk. There was no way I'd ever let my new fear of rocks get in the way of seeing the beautiful sights of Oz so I said I would do the same walk as everybody else. He said that was good and that he would help me if needed.
Again we all slept in swags under the stars, even with the dingoes about!
The next morning one of the girls from our group kept being sick. Aaron was quite concerned about her so he said he would take her to the medical centre and we could join the other group that were doing the same walk as us.
The first part of the walk is known as 'Heart Attack Hill'. Gives you an idea of what was ahead of us! However, it wasn't that bad actually as there were 'rock steps', which helped and after climbing up the Blue Mountains this seemed quite tame. In order to complete this walk there were requirements of reasonable fitness and that each person must carry at least 1litre and half of water.
Once we all made it successfully up the hill it was a case of discovering different parts of the Canyon and admiring the views. It was amazing and was probably the best walk I had done on the whole trip. The rocks were managable too although me and Zoe did end up at the back a few times. We also went to the Graden of Edn where we sat and ate biscuits by the water hole.
Once we made it back from our three hour walk we met Aaron and Nicola back at the bus. She was OK just dehydrated. We drove back to a different part of Kings Canyon campsite and had our last group lunch together. After this we had a longish drive back to Alice Springs.
Aaron dropped us off at our hostel and we all arranged to meet up that night for dinner. We ended up going to Annie's Place, where we all had $5 meals. It was a good night and we got a chance to say bye to those people that weren't going to be on the next part of our trip. On the way home we walked back with some of our group and were discussing how the Japenese tend to take a lot of pictures of anything and everything! (This might seem like an odd comment to end with but read the next installment to find out why it was mentioned heheheh!