After Melbourne and Sydney, we flew to the great Australian Outback – Uluru ( also known as Ayers Rock). I had seen pictures of the Uluru monolith when one of my colleagues had visited Australia. She winged this trip with her then four-year old. I was hooked and had mentally filed this away. Uluru is remote and even though there are connecting flights available, they are $$$. Imagine flying to Grand Canyon Airport without having a Phoenix or Las Vegas airport around. The $$$ add up as the place has 4 types of lodging owned by a parent company – so pricing is monopolistic. Take it or Leave it. But this was our once in a life time trip. We had endured a 23 hour flight to get here. And also this was our special anniversary edition – that’s how we justified the expense 😉
This was the most busy part of our trip. Having come this far, we wanted to hike the Kings Canyon as well as take an Eco-tour with the Aboriginals. Sunset over Uluru is a must-do. And of course we didn’t want to miss the Kata-Tjutas ( or Olgas ). These places are not only of sacred to the aboriginals but have breath-taking desert beauty.
After a morning flight, we landed on one of the smallest airports I have ever been too. We picked up our rental car, had lunch and first drove to Kings Canyon. The drive was monotonous after Mt . Conner through dry dusty brush and we had to keep “singing” to ensure we didn’t fall asleep 😉
A refreshing swim at the Kings Canyon resort and we were ready to watch the sunset. We had beer we watched dingo’s or wild dogs run around in distance. By then, the dry warm desert air started to cool off a bit.
Dinner was at the bar since the only restaurant was not open.We slept early that night, as we planned to do the Rim walk early next morning. At 5:30 am we were at trail head and watched the sun rise over the valley: very calm and peaceful.
Rim walk is definitely a must-do! The Garden of Eden is simply amazing so are the rock formations and the sheer cliffs. We came back to resort by 8 am, showered, had breakfast and drove back to Uluru.
En-route we saw a herd of wild camels. So exciting!
After check-in at Desert Gardens hotel, we had a late lunch at the Café next to the only supermarket and photo shop in Uluru- amazing sandwiches and ice-creams and then headed to Kata Tjuta Cultural Center for the 4:30 pm Kuniya Walk with Eco-tours.
The Cultural centre itself is nice and has video presentation of native culture, fruits/plants.It was fun taking the tour with the natives. We heard about the mythology (similar to Indian mythologies), traditional medicines and dwindling interest of next generation in preserving those and how foreign workers are staying in Uluru for extensive period to learn their language, art and craft so they can protect the aboriginal culture.
We even got to sample some bush figs that they hand-picked on the tour.
Our native tour guide was also selling her paintings at the end of the tour – for less than the gallery/store prices. The tour ends just in time for sunset and we had ample time to drive back to the parking area to enjoy spectacular sunset over the Uluru. There was an option to do a Dinner under the Stars tour along with private Sunset viewing but we didn’t really want to be with large group of people and loved this plan instead. This was more us – enjoying a romantic moment gazing at the magical monolith.
We drove back to resort, grabbed dinner and then headed to Outback Pioneer for our night show pickup. As city slickers, it was awe-inspiring to see so many stars in the sky. We saw the milk way, galaxies, Jupiter and lots of constellations. We fell asleep on the way back as we had a really long day and had another long one ahead.
Early morning, we drove to Olgas for sunrise. There is a sunrise point about 7 miles before the Olgas. Very picturesque views of sun rising over the Olgas and distant Uluru. Totally worth the effort to get up early and drive to Olgas .
We did the Valley of the Winds hike soon afterwards. There was absolutely no one around. We had the whole place to ourselves. We went up to second lookout and turned around. The first tours started coming in after we had returned back to the first lookout. The “martian” surface of Olgas is amazing to look and feel.
We personally didn’t like Valley of Winds hike as much as the Rim Walk in Kings Canyon but Kings Canyon is not worth driving all the way for if you are not doing the Rim Walk hike. Oh, and it was windy near the Valley of the Winds walk. It was hotter once inside the Olgas gorge we drank more water on this hike than the Rim walk. Luckily, there is potable water on the trail. And we also spotted a wild kangaroo while we were coming out of the gorge.
We came back, showered, bought some souvenirs and then drove around the Uluru, stopping along the way for photos and short walks.
We earlier thought of doing the Climb but the high temperatures deterred us.It was 36-37 C while we were in Uluru and the Climb was closed due to high temperatures.
Our flight to Cairns was at 3:30 pm and we had to return the car.
Off we went to the hotel , packed and went to the airport for the last leg of our Australian adventure.