Wednesday 8th February 2017 – Monday 13th February 2017
One of the main ‘to dos’ on my bucket list, written as I as researched Australia as my one way flight loomed, was a visit to Uluru, or Ayers Rock as it’s commonly known.
- Uluru is a large sandstone rock which sits at the heart of the Uluru – Kata Tjuta National Park in Australia’s ‘Red Centre’.
- The national park and many of its surrounding sites are sacred to the indigenous or Yankunytjatjara and Pitjantjatjara people. The land was given back to them, the rightful owners, in 1985 and they lease the land back to the government so that it can be enjoyed by us today.
- It is thought to have started forming 550 million years ago. According to scientists, it sits on its side, with 2/3 of the rock still underground today.
We knew it wasn’t going to be a cheap trip and had decided that, in order to absorbe as much of the culture and history as possible, we would join a tour instead of attempting to drive to the rock ourselves. And so finally, we were on our way to Uluru. The flight time from Melbourne was around two hours, although there are flights available from most large airports, and lands you directly in the small township nearby to Uluru.
The whole town is owned by one company, the Ayers Rock Resort, and is split into higher end hotels and cheaper hostels. Being backpackers, we had opted for the cheapest option, the Outback Pioneer Lodge, and would stay here one night before the setting off on the tour the next day. Or so we though. Unfortunatly due to the tour we had booked on to not filling up, we were moved on to one departing the next day, meaning we had an extra night at the Ayers Rock Resort and one less on the other end of the tour in Alice Springs.
The hostel was so so but offered free entry to the resorts museum and art gallery, a free shuttle bus around the resort, access to the facilities such as swimming pools at other hotels and this view from the top of a viewpoint right by our room.
Slight tangent; last time I did a skydive (which you can read about here) the weather was pretty darn miserable. So bad that we had to wait for rain clouds to pass before even taking off and I could see nothing but cloud when dangling my feet out of the plane. So I was absolutely desperate for the chance to do another one in better weather and, when we realised we could jump OVER Uluru, to say we jumped at the chance would be an understatement. Ba dum chuch.
So, only hours after landing in Ayers Rock via passanger jet, we were taking off again in a small two plan plane, dressed in our sexy outfits and strapped to skydive professionals. The weather was perfectly clear (my guy kept telling me it was the best weather he had ever jumped in) and the views over Uluru were just stunning as we circled to 12,000 feet. And then, before I knew it, it was time to go and I was hurtling towards the ground before the parachute was pulled and we enjoyed a short but smooth ride back to ground. The feeling was just unreal and the views spectacular.
When booking the hostel, we also noticed that the resort were offering tickets to a trip called Field of Light and a bit of research into this revealed that the Field of Light was a huge, light up art instillation by British artist Bruce Munro. We booked on to see it immediately. On the evening of the tour we were picked up from the hostel on a large coach and transported to the field surrounding Uluru, which is covered in solar powered flower like lights which shine and fade from one colour to the next to appear as if a field of wild flowers. You are given an hour to walk amungst the field and take it all in. The effect was beautiful, but sadly not one that the camera will pick up without a long exposure, so please don’t cancel your trip based on my photographs. The installation has been renewed until 2018, so if you get the chance to see it I can highly recommend.
Finally, it was time to head off on the tour. We had decided to book with The Rock Tour (Uluru, Kata Tjuta & Kings Canyon over 3 day & 2 nights) based purely on a friends recommendation, and they didn’t disappoint! Our guide, Emily, picked us up bang on 12 noon from our hostel and after picking up a few last people from the airport, we set about introducing ourselves. Emily had each one of us stand at the front and tell the group our name, where we were from and some facts about ourselves, including our celebrity crush and favourite Aussie city, which made for great talking points for the rest of the trip and we were all soon talking and laughing together. Soon enough, lunch was doled out and we all tucked into our sandwiches as Emily drove us to our first destination, a walk around the base of Uluru. As soon as we arrived, we huddled in the only shade provided by a small tree as Emily told us the history of the national park and how the land was given back to the Aborigional people, the traditional landowners. She also pointed out the route to climb the rock, though the local people ask that you don’t climb as not only is it a perilous route, it passes over land that is sacred to the local Anangu people. We all vowed not to climb.
We walked a long the Mala route, along the base of the rock, stopping only to learn more about traditional Anangu culture and the Tjukurpa (law), contemplate the ancient rock paintings and listen to the story of the mala (or rufous hare-wallaby), which passes down knowledge from the elder generation to the young. After another short ride on the minibus we arrived slightly further around the base of Uluru and once again disembarked onto the red sand. This time, we would explore the Kuniya walk to the Mutitjula Waterhole. Here we learnt about the Kuniya and Liru (the woma python and the poisonous snake man) and the story of how they helped create the land that we were standing on. The story I cannot tell, as that would be against Anangu culture: you are told a story but it is not yours to tell. Suddenly, the dark clouds rolled in and burst showering us and cooling us all instantly. We attempted to watch the sunset and eat some dinner before heading off to camp for the night in swags, an experience in itself.
On our second day, we were woken at 4am to the sweet sounds of Bill Withers’ ‘Lovely Day‘, the perfect song to describe what was to come of our morning. We were all packed up and ready at to drive back to Uluru for breakfast whilst watching the sunrise, which was well worth it. From here, guide Emily’s music choices just got better, as the Lion King’s ‘Circle of life’ blast out from the speaker as the sun rose.
After sunrise, we all packed into the bus and drove the short journey to Kata Tjuta. We didn’t spend much time here as we had a long drive ahead but there was enough time to grab a photo and take in the view.
From here, we drove for around 40 minutes until we reached the Valley of the Winds. Here, we would follow a trail to the Kuru (1st) and Karingana (2nd) lookout. From here, we would walk back down the way we came. The walk was tough in the summer heat, and I’m glad we started early (we’d finished the 3 hour walk by around 8am) as the walk is known to close around 11am or if the temperature hits 36degrees. The views at the top and throughout though were so worth the climb.
Then, with only a brief stop for some lunch, it was back into the bus for the 3 hour drive to the Kings Canyon area. That evening, after a refreshing dip in the pool, we set about cooking our own dinner on the open fire. Dinner consisted of rice, a beef mince dish and vegetables with a side of ‘bush bread’ which had been made on the fire and was delicious. Another night in swags saw us well rested and we were up again before dawn to begin our Kings Canyon treck. Again we were up early to beat the heat as the first part of the walk consisted of a steep up-hill climb, which very nearly killed me off. I can see why they place defibrillators at the top! The rest of the walk was a pleasant stroll and we thoroughly enjoyed another stunning sunrise over the canyon.
After the walk it was back on the bus to drive back to Alice Springs, our final destination and drop off point. We stopped at a few points a long the way, including this monument which marks the exact centre of Australia and a camel farm, where you could opt for a camel ride. We chose not to, instead choosing to just have a look at the camels and the other rescue animals at the farm, including two kangaroos and a lonely emu. I can’t say I knew that camels would roam wild in the Outback Of Australia, but they do!
Eventually, we arrived in Alice Springs ready for a hot shower and nice comfy bed. We all met again that night for dinner and drinks and to exchange Facebook pages. A wonderful end to a wonderful trip.
We’re now in Darwin, so that post will be next. I hope you’ve enjoyed this post, I would love any feedback.