It was hard to believe we were coming to our final few days of travelling, and we weren’t quite teady to let go just yet, so we decided to go on one last great adventure. Uluru, or Ayers Rock as it was formerly known, is one of the defining symbols of Australia and particularly the Outback, and we couldn’t leave Australia without a visit. An early flight from Melbourne got us to Alice Springs mid afternoon, and a shuttle bus dropped us off at Alice’s Secret Travellers’ Inn. It was very sweet, with clean dorms and lots of cozy chill areas. We repacked two day sacks for our impending Uluru trip and stored our big bags for the last time. An early night saw us up for a 6am pick up time by Mark, one of Mulgas’ tour guides. It was a 6 hour drive to Ayers, so we slept for a few hours in the van until the sun came up and gave us our first real glimpse of the Outback.
The first day was a lot of waiting around, as the tour’s group were picked up with us at Alice or at Ayers airport/ Ayers resort, but our first stop before camp was a camel farm, where we were able to ride a former race camel and find out a bit about camels’ place in Australia and how tough an animal they are. As first to arrive in Ayers early afternoon, we checked out our camp and spent an hour or so learning about the Aboriginal fight to reclaim their sacred land during the 1980s at the Cultural Centre. Aboriginee culture is very complex and difficult for us to understand, but their deep connection to the land and understanding of the world is enviable and admirable, that much I could fathom. Once all the group had arrived and settled, we set off for Uluru. We spent 2-3 hours following part of the Base walk, with our guide explaining some Aboriginee creation stories and where they had orignated from. Markings and features on Uluru represented sections from Aboriginal history, and paintings in caves showed how these stories were passed down generations.
The rock itself is breath-taking, 348m high and 9.4km circumference. Most of the rock lies underneath ground level, but is above is a stunning red colour, from ionisation of the sandstone.
After a long walk and lots of photos (taken only in places indicated as acceptable, as Aboriginees deem some sections too sacred to be photographed), it was time to enjoy the famous sunset over Uluru from a distance. With champagne and a time-lapsing gopro in hand, it was incredible to watch the changing light reflect off this huge, reddening mass. Going from bright orangey- red to a purplish-grey in a matter of minutes, it is not hard to understand why Aboriginals took this place as one of the utmost consecration thousands of years ago. With the horizon dimming, we returned to camp to prepare dinner and settle in for the night. It was kangaroo steak and sausages on the menu tonight, and trying hard not to think of baby Roo, it was not unenjoyable. Then it was time to shower, set out our swags around the campfire and chat from the warmth of our sleeping bags. Soon everyone fell quiet, mesmorised by the stunning starry sky above us. The night was so clear and free from light pollution that you could see the Milky Way, a dense river of stars snaking across the sky. It literally took my breath away, and I stared trance-like for a good hour before finally falling asleep. It was very cold the first night and I started shivering in the early hours, but luckily we were up by 5 to catch an Uluru sunrise, so I didn’t have long to resent sleeping outside. A short drive took us to the viewing platform, and with the whole group wrapped within their sleeping bags, we waited for the first light of the day.
It was amazing just to sit there in such beautiful surroundings and pure air, I loved watching the bush slowly change colour and the huge rock on the horizon take shape and definition.
All too soon we had to move on, but I will never forget the peace I felt sitting there at the heart of this beautiful area, doing nothing but appreciating everything.
Our second day was a walk through Kata Tjuta, also known as The Olgas or Valley of the Winds. Another stunning rock formation not far from Uluru, it had the same striking red hue, and although not as high it was arguably all the more impressive for being able to walk through it. Normally living up to its windy name, we had an exceptionally still day, and the silence in the valley was eerie. Birdsong filled the green basin and bounced off the red walls, making everyone reluctant to talk and break the spell.
After 3 hours we had completed the walk and headed back to camp for lunch, this time camel burgers (which were really tasty and not at all what I expected). Then it was another long drive to our second campbase, with everyone offering their playlists and taking it in turns to be roadtrip DJ. Our second camp was much quieter than the first and we arrived just in time to see another sunset over the hills. Dinner tonight was an amazing campfire bolognaise, cooked in a hotpot over the campfire and served with garlic bread and every sauce or garnish you could wish for. Probably one of the best meals of my life, I had thirds and would have had more if it was physically possible. Then it was time for an Aussie tradition, a dessert bread they call damper. It’s bread, which we filled with nutella and marshmallows and cooking in the hotpot under the coals. It was interesting to say the least, and I preferred the smores handed out after to cook over the fire. There’s nothing quite like roasting dessert over a campfire whilst you’re in bed looking up at the stars. It does something to your soul and everyone should experience that feeling at least once in their life.
The next morning we were up before 5 again, this time heading to King’s Canyon. The hike starts at Heartattack Hill, which is apparently accurately named – there is a defibrillator kit at the top…
But we got up, and the views were breathtaking. As amazing as Uluru was to see, this place is the one I will hold most fondly in my mind. Red sandstone everywhere, dropping away into deep canyons which are carpeted by lush greenery, stunning rock formations and overlooking miles of bush. It’s hard to describe it much more in words, so I hope our photos do it justice.
Four hours up there went by incredibly quickly, and before I knew it we had to return to camp to await our ride home. A little later than planned, it arrived in the form of an off-road, 4×4 bus, and we hopped on for the 5 hour drive back to Alice Springs, saying a fond farewell to our guide Mark, nice campmates and the unbelievable scenery of the red centre. The bus took us off road after an hour, hurtling through the bush on a dust track shortcut to Alice. It was a fun ride, not quite as exhilirating as Fraser Island but a great chance to see the outback properly one last time.
Finally dropped back off at Alice’s Secret and having reclaimed our bags and beds, we cooked a quick dinner and feel asleep by 8, sleeping a good 13 hours until the next morning. An afternoon flight got us back into Melbourne late evening and we made our way to the last hostel of many in our epic journey.