While planning my trip to Uluru, I realized that it was much more economical to fly in and out of the airport the Ayers Rock Airport then the Alice Springs Aiprort. I made arrangements with my tour company to meet my tour group at the airport at Uluru. As I hauled my backpack into a trailer and sauntered onto a minibus. I looked at tired, but cheerful eyes of my companions for the next three days who had been traveling in from Alice Springs. I was handed my lunch and we cheerfully munched and got to know each other while we waited for another flight to arrive (it was late). Once the final few companions arrived we headed out of the airport and over to the Cultural Centre which is a great starting place when entering the park because it provides a context to begin to understand the culture of Uluru’s traditional owners, the Anangu. We spent about an hour wandering around acquainting ourselves, before filling up our drink bottles and heading for a 10 km walk around Uluru’s base. The walk allowed us to observe many sides of the rock, including sacred sites where you were asked not to take any photography out of respect for the traditional owners (there were signs indicating those areas). The walk was hot due to our late start in the day (36° C or 96.8°F) but easy as it was very flat. There was a shelter providing shade and water midway which we flocked under to try our best to cool off.
After that we ended up waiting to see the famous sunset at the sunset viewing area. Our guide kept looking worried at the cloudy sky saying we might be that unlucky few who wouldn’t get a sunset, but if we did it was bound to be extra special. We celebrated the occasion by taking lots of pictures (with ourselves in them too), drinking sparkling wine, and eating snacks. And then it got dark, I was full of hope but we sadly did not get a beautiful sunset. We got rained on, which is impressive given it only rains a few centimeters each year here. Our guide said this makes us extra lucky even among the top one percent it’s not typical to get rained on. It was disappointing as being on a tour I knew we wouldn’t be back the next day, but that is just the way of it. I am still in awe of Uluru, and hope next time I return I won’t be such a lucky duck!
After “sunset” we went off to our next stop, the campsite. I got to experience my first swag (an Australian bedroll) at the Million Star Resort (slang for a campsite). The swag was surprisingly comfortable, and I really enjoy camping so this was no worries for me. I did learn that putting the swag next to the shelter in our campsite is a horrible idea if you’re not planning to be the last one to go to bed at night, as it’s a communal place to have the lights on and be loud. At this point moving wasn’t a great option so I just dug out my sleep mask and earplugs.
Morning usually comes too early, and the next morning was no exception. We got up for a hike before sunrise so we could go to the sunrise viewing area to take some pictures. It is worth getting up that early for such a treat! It’s much farther away then the sunset viewing area, but we did get to take some pictures and see some color about the rock. For that, I feel very privileged. While we were away our breakfast was set up by our guide and ready for self-serve when we got there.
We went hiking to Kata Tjuta, Valley of the Winds. Our early start was fortunate since the trail closes at 11 am because of the heat (there is a sign indicating if the trail is open at the start of the trail head) The hike was beautiful, though I opted not to do the whole thing (our wise guide advised that after a certain point, it was hot and there wasn’t interesting to see, and there was no shelter). I’m all for walking, but I’m not so inclined when there’s no shiny object at the end of the walk. When I was little that was usually an ice cream, but now that I’m older it’s a beautiful view or gorgeous opportunity to take a photo so instead I doubled back and went to wait.
When we were done we got back on the bus and did some driving to our campsite for the night. We enjoyed some unique cuisine of kangaroo steaks and camel burgers cooked by our guide. We also got visited by a brown snake who thought it’d be great fun to slither by our frat boys making for a fantastic drama of them screaming. Then the brown snake decided to settle in our cooking shelter where most of us had stored our bags. Brown Snakes are one of the very venomous native residents to the Australian Outback.
The next morning we were up before the sun once again, this time with the intent of taking a 6 km hike around Kings Canyon. I was very amused by the fossilized sea life on the top of the ground left over form prehistoric times when this part of the world was shallow sea, and native the palm tree who grows in middle of the desert to this day, though it is likely left over from millions of years ago as well.