Adventure in Central Australia
The Start of the Journey
It is one of the many adventure trips that one can put into their bucket list. Central Australia popularly known as Alice Springs Region is one of the five Regions of Northern Territory. Getting there is either by flying or taking the road trip.
It was last November 2015 when I invited my 73 yr old mom to join me for a 3-day 2--nights “Rock Tour” We hopped on a Greyhound Bus from Darwin at 11:45am and travelled for almost 21 hours before reaching Alice Springs. It was 9:00am the following day when we hit Alice and both of us were exhausted so we settled first to get an overnight accommodation before our big tour began.
The composition of our tour group
The following day at 6:00 am we were picked up by our tour group from our hotel. We were 20 tourists from different nationalities with age ranging from 20 something to 73. All of us were packed in a minivan with our driver Tom looking after us during the whole trip..
Uluru or Ayres Rock
So the first day of the tour was to see the popular Uluru or Ayers rock . Uluru is one of Australia's most recognisable natural landmarks. It is one of the world Heritage Sites and part of protected national park. It is notable for appearing to change colour at different times of the day and year, most notably when it glows red at dawn and sunset. As any must see places it does not come easy, we have to travel for hours and hours with very unforgiving heat and long hours of being in the middle of nowhere. During the trip there was nothing to see only vast lands after vast lands with bushes and plain desert. We did some stops along the way to do toilet stops, do some stretching and grab something to bite and cool us off.
At Uluru grounds
We were at the Uluru site past lunchtime and we were in awe of the magnitude of this rock. Its red colour, the fissures and contours. Before we were allowed to wander around the rock we were obliged to go inside the Cultural Centre to learn the history and culture of the local Anangu people. For the aboriginal people the place is very sacred. There were some areas that we were not allowed to walk nor take photos. Inside the Cultural Centre there were some bits and pieces of rocks returned with testimonies written on it that strange things happened to them when they took them for souvenir and so they were returned for respect of the sacredness of the place. We followed what we were told so we were on the safe side.
The veiwing area of Uluru
So we thought all that was for Uluru, little did we know that we have to travel again to the viewing platform of Uluru. It was before 5:00pm that we reached the lookout. The place were jammed packed with tourists, including us converging and waiting for that magical moment to capture the rock in its reddish colour. It was indeed an enthralling show of nature. We had our dinner there prepared by tour guide/driver. We took lots of photos to take home from our trip.
Sleeping under the stars
The sun was setting down and it was getting dark. Every one of us were worn out and tired. So we head off to a camping ground to pass the night away . It was our first time for me and my mom to have that camping kind of accommodation experience. We literally slept under the stars. Every one of us were tucked in our individual swags and used our sneakers as our pillows. There was a struggle at first getting to fall asleep as we acclimatised with the surroundings but the fatigue and exhaustion got us.
The following morning we were up at 4:00am folded our swags packed them away to our minivan and we were on the road as early at 5:00am. The tour was always on an early start while the temperature was cool. So we were on our way to Kata Tjuta also known as the Olgas.
It was an endless trip again into the wilderness, all of us were bored staring into nothingness. The only entertainment was country music that were played from the cd’s. But after hours and hours of road trip we reached the site and it was an exhilarating experience. Nothing beats that feeling when one is captivated by nature.
Kata Tjuta or The Olgas are large domed rock formation 30kms from Uluru. There are 36 huge boulders clustered together. As written in the books Kata Tjuta are the remains of erosions that began around 500 million years ago. Kata Tjuta means many heads in traditional Aboriginal ;language. It is part of the Uluru Kata Tjuta National Park.
The Valley of Wind Loop and Olga Gorge Walk - Kata Tjuta
There are two bush walks one can take, one is the Valley of the Winds loop which is a 7km (two to four hours) and the Olga Gorge walk. which is a two hour walk from the gorge. We took the Valley of the Winds Loop which we find it most demanding and rewarding bushwalks in the park. It winds through the gorges giving excellent views of the dreamlike domes and passing through varied terrain. There are some areas which was tricky to climb and one must wear sturdy shoes, and take plenty of water to survive. If the temperature is due to be 36 degrees or more then this walk is closed from 11am at the Kalpa Lookout. Arriving on the site early gives one the benefit of lonliness and time to appreciate the sounds of the wind and bird calls carried up the valley.
Gathering some firewood in the desert
As we retreated from that long bush walk we have to drove to our next camping site for the night. We were all worn out and all we were looking forward was a nice shower and nice dinner. Along the way we were all surprised when our tour guide stopped in the middle of the desert and asked us to help him gather fire woods. And I jokingly said that we were there for a holiday and not for some survivor training. All had a laugh and all of us loaded the top of our van, piles of fire wood enough to cook our dinner and to start a bonfire
Our second night accommodation under a tinny shed
The night ended early and we slept again in our swags but this time we were inside a tinny shed. There were lightning and thunder as we proceeded to sleep but was not worried enough as we thought it will just pass, only to be awakened by a big downpour as we were in our deep sleep. So around 3:00am some of us have to transfer to the van and some had to move where it was dry.
Since it was the third day of our tour we have bonded already in our group. So we were more chatty on our trip to the Kings Canyon, we did not mind the length of time we travelled, we have reached our destination.
Kings Canyon is approximately midway between Alice Springs and Uluru. It is part of the Watarrka National Park in Australia’s Northern Territory. Watarrka National Park covers 71,000 hectares. The attraction to this place are the soaring sandstone walls and imposing cliffs which were the result of erosion over millions of years.
The rim walk and the base walk at the Canyon
There are two choices of appreciating the grandeur of Kings Canyon depending on the fitness of the individual. Some of us opted for the Rim Walk which begins with a daunting 500 steps ascent . Once at the top one can marvel the breathtaking views of the Watarrka National Park in its entirety before descending into the green haven of Garden of Eden or exploring the unfamiliar weathered rock formation of The Lost City. The 6km rim walk which takes up to 3 hours is for the physically fit as it is an exhausting and demanding exposed walk. The other option which is more for all ages only requires average fitness is the Kings Creek Walk. This 2.6km walk from the base of the Canyon leads to lush rainforest of ferns and eucalyptus trees and to a lookout point where one can view walls surrounding the Canyon.
Me having my 73 yr old mom opted for the The Kings Creek Walk. We enjoyed it, as much as what the other group went to see.
The end of our tour
The tour ended well with all of us safe with no injuries or incidents whatsoever. The rule that was given to us by our tour guide Tom to survive was to smile, drink lots of water and don't die. Quite simple yet effective.
As we ended our tour some of us meet up at a pub in Alice Springs to celebrate the memorable tour and the friendship formed on those three days of both challenging yet exhilarating experiences. And most of us made invites in Facebook to become friends to follow us each others next adventures. Others have said their goodbyes as they have to catch their flights and trip going back to each individual destinations.