I was picked up at 6am for a 3 day trip to Uluru and the surroundings.
The whole reason I took this detour into Australia!
The group was nice and small – 12 people and all seemed nice, so good start. It is a 400km drive to Uluru. So we set off. Down a straight road. During the whole 5 hour drive there was only one right turn, the rest of the way was entirely straight. The road was quiet (as expected!). We only saw another vehicle every now and then. And probably only about 4 for the first few hours!
We were driving through a semi-arid landscape. It’s not classified as a desert as the area receives an average rainfall of 300mm a year. It’s just coming out of winter and they did receive some rain, so the whole floor was covered in greenery, which was surprising. Small yellow and purple flowery shrubs. Widgety trees. Dead trees. Grass. All covering the orange floor. The sand ranged in colour from pale orange to almost bright red.
We stopped off several times at various roadhouses. These are petrol stations/small shops/camel farms/emu farms all in one. One of them was at the very centre of Australia. We also stopped off a larger camel farm. Camels are not native here, but were brought over from Africa. They were running camel rides. But I didn’t go. I’ve done it before and it’s not the most comfortable of things and seems a bit mean.
We passed by a large rock which looked like Uluru but isn’t. It’s called mount cook and has apparently fooled a lot of people. (Rocks all look the same..!).
But we finally arrived at the real rock around 1pm. From a distance it didn’t appear all the large. A pile of orange sand. Funny that I travelled all this way to come and look at a rock.
First stop lunch. We stopped off at the Ayers Rock resort area. This is a small ‘town’ area with a supermarket, couple of touristy shops, restaurants and a grassy area with seats. It was hot. 40 degrees. We had salad rolls before continuing on.
We stopped off at the cultural centre. Kind of boring. And a very expensive shop selling aboriginal paintings. Most of them were $500-$3,000. Craziness.
Then a couple of viewing points to look at the rock. This was cool. It’s just a lump of rock really! The ground was sandy and such a bright red colour.
We did a couple of short walks around the base. Most of the walks were closed off as the temperature was over 40 degrees. And it was hot. We walked to a small water hole at the base of the rock. When it rains, small waterfalls fall down the sides of the rock and the water gathers in pools similar to these.
As well as being hot, there are quite a few flies. Which are annoying. The place I had been staying in at Alice springs had given me a fly net, so I tried it out! Looking like an idiot. But it helps. It is still possible to climb the rock. However the aboriginal people ask that you do not climb as the rock is a sacred place for them and only certain types of people are allowed to climb. There is a vote every few years as to whether the climb should remain open. This year the 12 people on the committee voted and 11 of 12 said to close it. However in order for it to close all 12 have to agree to closure. Tourism Australia were the ones who voted to keep it open on the basis that no one would visit Australia if it closed.
We were parked next to the pathway leading up the side of the rock. It is a white path, having eroded the red of the rock away. Today it was closed anyway. They close it when the temperature goes too high. Our next walk was past some caves at the bottom of the rock. There are different areas for different groups of people. The young boy area. The man area. The women area and the girl area. Some of the walls still had paintings on them. In white, yellow, red and black. They didn’t have any other colours. The paintings tell stories. Apparently it’s not possible to date these paintings so they could be anywhere between 200-2,000 years old.
Around 6pm we headed to our campsite for the night. Here there was a lookout point which we could watch the sunset across Uluru. It wasn’t as amazing as I thought it was going to be. I thought the whole rock would turn really red. But it didn’t. So that was a bit disappointing.
Being paranoid about dehydration I drank rather a lot today. Just over 7 litres. Despite this, I haven’t needed to wee as much as I thought I would. Dinner was rather rubbish. They said they cater for vegans. But tonight was courgette and red pepper cooked in a pan. With some salad – lettuce and tomato. Lucky I had some bananas and cereal with me!
Tonight we are sleeping outside.
Not in tents.
Just on the floor.
In a ‘swag’.
This is a canvas bag that you put a sleeping bag inside of and it’s like an extra sleeping bag layer, which is a bit more durable. Luckily it was still relatively warm. And not raining. I don’t know how you avoid getting spiders/snakes etc in with you. But apparently that doesn’t happen. So at 9pm we were all laying on the ground, wrapped up for the night.
Saturday 12 November 2016
I didn’t sleep too well. I was up most of the night. Going to the bathroom (too much water…) and generally unable to sleep. But at 4am it was time to get up. Apparently. No idea why we had to get up an hour before we were leaving. Crazy. Breakfast was pretty awesome. Cereal is so good in Australia. Weet-bix (like weetabix, but thinner and dissolve faster). Cocopops. And nutrigrain (best cereal ever – like sugary cherrios).
And we left at 5am, the sun was beginning to rise and the sky was gradually turning lighter. Orange at the base and blue further up. So cool. But a shame we were driving along. We stopped off at a sunrise spot.
But by now the sky was almost lit, which was a shame. But we watched the sun come above the horizon, just to the side of Uluru and another stack of stone behind us – Kata Tjuta (the olgas).
This is where we were off to today.
These rock formations are a series of big orange rounded lumps. Here there are several walks you can do. We were doing one for 7km through a canyon. It started flat but after turning into the canyon, we we walking across rocks, up and down over the rocks. Luckily it was still only 6.30am, so not too hot yet – only 28 degrees!
We climbed up to a lookout point, where there was a nice view both ways through the rock and out to the surrounding green flat landscape. From here, we went down, and through some flower filled meadows. It was pretty. It took about 3 hours. And by the time we had made it back to the bus it was getting much hotter.
On the way back to the campsite we stopped off at the supermarket in the ‘town centre’. I bought some watermelon (more expensive here – was £3 for a quarter). And some beans and tomatoes to make dinner better tonight! We had lunch back at the campsite. It was only 11.30am. I had my watermelon and another bowl of cereal because it was so good!
And then we set off for a 3 hour drive to the next campsite, near to Kings Canyon. About an hour away, we stopped at the side of the road to collect firewood for a campfire tonight. Trees here are designed to burn every now and then (wildfires). And the dead parts are incredibly dry. There was lots on the ground. And it was hot. Of course I managed to cut my leg, the whole way up from my ankle to my knee on a piece of tree. Typical.
Tonight’s campsite was on a camel farm. Random. Similar to last night but much quieter – we were the only people here! (Last night was a lot of tour groups – around 10). There was also a pool! It was 5pm and still hot, so we all went swimming. And it was freezing! So cold we couldn’t stay in there long.
Obviously we had to go and watch the sunset. We were given instructions to follow a sand road and ignore the signs which point to the sunset point and carry on going. It was supposed to be 10 minutes. 20 minutes later we were confused. This road went on forever and the lookout point seemed to be behind us. So we gave up and walked off road, across bush land and up to the lookout point.
From here we were looking out across the bush land area and behind us were a range of rocky flag topped hills. These were lit up red. The sunset was nice. We could hear dingos in the distance.
On the walk back, we followed the path and it turns out you do just follow the sign – and it was just a short walk..! Dinner was much better today. As we had popped to the supermarket earlier, I avoided a situation like last night by buying my own beans, chopped tomatoes and taco spice mix. Everyone else was having wraps. And I didn’t want to miss out! Was the best dinner ever! And then basically just went to bed.
Again on the floor, on the sand.
Sunday 13 November 2016
Of course we were up at 4am again. I had slept much better tonight. After some cereal, we were off to Kings Canyon. We arrived at 6am. So early! To get onto the canyon, you have to walk up. A steep hill. There are steps and it didn’t take too long. Not too hard!
From here, there were great views back across the valley. But there was the edge all around us. Several people have died by falling off the edge. And always through taking photos – selfies, or silly ‘hanging off the edge photos’. The whole walk was along the top of the canyon. Cool rock shapes. Lots of views. Lots of plants.
And the best part – because it was so early in the morning, it was nice and cool. We crossed over from one side of the canyon to the other, via a tree filled watery area called the ‘garden of Eden’ and once on the other side, the rocks changed again. This time lots and lots of hut shaped domes. It was cool.
We walked for nearly 4 hours. And luckily not too many people around. We finished the walk by 9.30am. It was rather hot by now. So glad we were finishing! Some groups were only just starting. Craziness. We were back by 10am and lunchtime! We had some salad and vegetable burgers made from brown rice and vegetables – were pretty good. Australia seem to do a lot of frozen simple vegan falafel/burger style things.
And back in the bus at 11.30am for the final drive back to Alice Springs. We stopped at a couple of roadhouses along the way. One was an aboriginal art gallery. Lots of aboriginals in the area paint here. It was much cheaper than at the rock, but still relatively pricy.
We got back into town about 5.30pm. So good to shower and feel clean again! We headed out for dinner about 7pm, in town. The place we were going to had nothing vegan on the menu. The woman was helpful and helped to customise a salad for me and the other vegan girl. We weren’t optimistic about it, so popped to Woolworths and got an avocado to add to it! It was actually pretty good – rocket, roasted pumpkin and tomato (and the added avocado!).