Our Red Centre Adventure continues! After finding several beautiful stones and playing in the red dirt at Gemtree, we made our way down to Alice Springs. The town is the beating heart of the red centre and one of the few places around to get food and precious water. The way there is a whole lot of nothingness. Few people, few rest stops and even fewer shops. We are visiting this area with a mission to visit the most famous rock on the planet. THE rock, better known as Ayers Rock or Uluru to be precise. We will also explore Kings Canyon, Kata Tjuta and more!
Alice Springs & Kings Canyon
We got up early and set out for a visit to the Alice Springs Desert Park. The park focusses on indigenous animals that you’d find in the wild desert. We started our lap of the park with an encounter with intriguing Dingos and found out that Australians have built a 5.600 km long fence to keep them away from most of the south-east coast. It is one of the longest structures in the world. We enjoyed watching the bird show that had eagles soaring and owls gliding inches above our heads. The nocturnal house gave us an excellent display of the animals active in the dark, that you normally wouldn’t see.
What started off to be a great day, turned sour real quick when we got back to our van. The left rear tyre was flat. We managed to drive it to TyrePower in town and were warmly greeted by Wendy. She gave us a much needed break and hooked us up with four new tyres in no time. Safety First. Less than an hour back underway a stone chip cracked the front window, what a day…
We stayed at a rest-stop near Kings Canyon, called Salt Creek, where we spend a night tormented by howling winds. Luckily the next morning things settled down and we drove to the starting point of the hike. Anna-Lena did her research and planned us in for a 3-4 hour rim hike of Kings Canyon. As we turned left past the info-point the road changed to a winding staircase straight up the canyon. In an attempt to not throw up and die, I made a short stop halfway before also making my way to the top. Luckily for me, the rest of the walk was level with only few obstacles.
Once we reached the rim of the canyon, you get incredible views of the red rock escarpment. At places the cliff is at a perfect ninety degree angle. It looks as if somebody grabbed a huge knife and chopped off a piece. A very long time ago, the water levels rose and this entire area was part of the ocean. Nowadays it is thousands of kilometres away from the coast, yet you can still see waves in the rock faces where the ocean used to be. The walk was very rewarding with amazing views throughout the hike. With the odd white tree trunk standing out against the red rock, it is quite a sight.
Uluru & Kata Tjuta National Park
My eyes tired from the sleepless night, my legs tired from the long walk the day before, I stand gazing upon one of the most intriguing natural structures in the world. Uluru. I have never been more happy to have gotten up early in my life. I also never have been more amazed about a sun-rise as on this day. As the sun makes its way over the horizon, its rays light up Uluru like a beacon and show just how magical this place is. Breathtaking.
On our way into the Uluru area, we came across a huge mountain, a bright red stand alone mountain we started to see from more than hundred kilometres away. We pulled up at a parking next to the road to get a good look of this amazing mountain, we thought just had to be Uluru. We took pictures, and were overjoyed we finally made it to the rock! Only to find out via google maps, it wasn’t… It is called Mt. Conner and it is amazing, but not Ayers Rock. Slightly embarrassed but in elevated spirits we drove on to a nearby free campsite, which had all the amenities for free, which is really rare in Australia.
The next day we only planned a short program, so we enjoyed the morning sun with a hot cup of coffee and a lavish breakfast. Only in the afternoon we made our way to Kata Tjuta (The Olgas), to do some hiking and to watch the sunset. We started to walk the Valley of the Winds trail, but it turned out it was only about a kilometre to the viewpoint, leading to a rocky valley. Although the view was nice we were a bit disappointed, as it didn’t give the spectacular view we were hoping for. The wind picked up and brought along a blanked of clouds, that obscured the sunset. We choose to overnight at the campground nearest to Uluru.
We set our alarms well before sun-rise as we wanted to make sure we would be on time for nature’s morning spectacle. It is one of the most popular things to do here, so the viewpoint was pretty crowded, luckily for us the sun-rise at Uluru was well worth it. We took some pictures and tried to warm up in the slowly rising sun.
At ten we joined a free ranger walking tour, called the Mala Walk at the base of Uluru. The two-hour walk offered us amazing local insight into culture and customs. We passed several caves with rock art and waterholes, each time explaining the significance. The history of the indigenous population was not written in books, but on the walls of caves that functioned as a classroom for learning children. The Anangu are the traditional owners of the land around Uluru and only received back part of their lands in recent history. There are a staggering 360 individual languages spoken among the indigenous population of Australia creating a rich culture.
We were also explained why traditional owners do not want you to climb the rock. Westerners only see a pretty mountain but to them it is sacred and it is not to be climbed by humans. Basically, by climbing the mountain you are offending their culture on their land. That simple notion underlined my earlier decision not to climb. I mean, when you visit the blue mosque in Istanbul, you also dress appropriate and take off your shoes right? Also a notion, 35 people have died in the past walking up this mountain.
After our insightful walk, we started our twelve kilometre base walk of Uluru. While circumventing Uluru we got to see this magnificent place from every side, each side more stunning than the next. We stopped several times on the way, to take pictures and to visit more rock art sites and waterholes. Halfway in we took a water break and sat on a perch while staring at the incredible cliffs. The walk was a lot of fun and a life-long goal for me personally.
We drove back to the campsite and had a late lunch and a shower before we drove back to Uluru. This time to watch an incredible sunset of the Rock. The fiery red colour that is highlighted by the setting sun is something we will not forget anytime soon. We took out our chairs and table and cracked open a couple of cold beers while watching the natural spectacle unfold.
We raced back in darkness to the campsite and had a quick dinner before jumping aboard of a tour bus. During our travels we were told by other travellers that the Field Of Light is something not to be missed when visiting the area. Just a couple of kilometre outside of town lies this beautiful man-made art-network. The English artist Bruce Munro felt a personal connection to the area, and was allowed by the traditional owners to set up his masterpiece. 100.000 light bulbs on sticks connected with glass fibre cables that glow in all colours of the rainbow. They change colour every thirty seconds creating an ever-changing landscape. It reminded me a bit of the tulips fields back home.
The Red Centre has been an incredible adventure that really stands out as one of the most amazing places we have visited. During our time in the outback we had so much fun and have seen so many amazing things that we will remember forever. Our next stop will be Coober Pedy to explore the underground city and hopefully find some shiny opal!