Uluru & the Red Centre
A two week tour of Australia’s Northern Territories and the Red Centre
For full itinerary please click here.
Part 3: Uluru and King’s Canyon
Today is the day we met Joe, from Outback Tour Services, our tour guide for five days. We usually go it alone when we travel, but the Red Centre is one place you may wish to enroll a little help. I could list a hundred reasons why, but I’ll start with five:
- You don’t want to get lost – it’s hot, remote, and full of things trying to kill you,
- There’s a lot of driving,
- You can take a backseat and enjoy the scenery,
- A knowledgable guide will give you an insight into the land, flora and fauna,
- And you’ll cram in more than if you do it yourself.
You might think that there isn’t much to see in this great expanse of dust. After all, some of the cattle stations are the size of European countries. You could be a seagull tourist, just flying in and flying out again. But if you really want to get to see why people visit and stay, book yourself on a tour.
(If you do go it alone, you’ll need a 4WD, as not all the roads are sealed. You’ll need to know how much petrol and water you’ll use if you’re planning to travel off road. You’ll need a sat phone, as your iPhone certainly won’t work.)
Jolly guide Joe was full of relevant information that enabled us to understand not only how the rock in front of us was formed, but what it meant to the local tribes. It’s not just a rock. It’s a snake or a paw print, wrapped in stories that have been passed on verbally and through rock art over centuries.
If you’re expecting luxury, you’ll be disappointed if you go with thoughts of crisp white linen and chandeliers. This is not luxury in terms of glamping. The outback is a hard and harsh environment. Aussies are rugged, fit and keen. Luxury camping means that you’ll be offered a bed in a tent with a solid floor instead of a sleeping bag on the ground (although the latter can be arranged, and is worth doing). You’ll be able to sit at a table to eat dinner from plates, although there’ll also be opportunities to roast marshmallows over an open fire. And you can’t beat the glass of bubbly and nibbles on offer as you watch the fantastic sunset over Uluru.
Sights to see
Let’s face it, Uluru is just a rock. That’s it. It’s a huge rock in the middle of nowhere. Except it’s not. It has a magical spirit that draws in travellers from far afield with a force field that can’t be explained. And the more you learn, the more mystical it becomes. For example, you’re only looking at the very tip of a gigantic rock that sits on its end, reaching a depth of 2.5km below ground. It’s about 3.6km long, 1.9 km wide, and has a circumference of 9.4km. As I say, it’s a big rock.
It’s swaddled in Aboriginal stories and tales that go back centuries, and you’re asked to respect the rock in the same way. You’re asked not to climb it, although you can if you want to disregard the locals’ wishes. Try the 10km base walk instead, which is dotted with paintings and sacred Aboriginal sites. (You’ll be asked not to take photographs of these areas.)
Essentially, the rock will question your integrity. It will question your views on how Aborigines and Europeans should live together.
Make sure you see the rock from the sunset viewing spot. It’s amazing. The photographs speak louder than words, so click here to see our "no filter' pictures.
Also set in the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park are the 36 domes of the Olgas, or the Kata Tjuta to give them their local name. The area has some lovely walks, with the Valley of the Winds being my favourite.
Kings Canyon National Park and gorges
We continued on to Kings Canyon National Park, which for some people is the best part of the trip. Beautiful walks, stunning viewing, drops literally to die for so keep hold of your children. As with most walks in this region you need to start early, finishing before 11am, and take plenty of water.
The sealed road disappeared into dust as we continued around the Mereenie loop, which took us to Glen Helen and several beautiful gorges, with ochre-red views.
I don’t feel I’ve ticked Uluru off my list. I’ve done more than that. With Joe’s help I feel I’ve been able to get under the skin and gain a little understanding of what I’m looking at. I've changed my mind. It’s not just a rock.
Who we travelled with:
Outback Tour Services. They offer a range of tours to suit all budgets. We experienced the five day 4x4 Red Centre Adventure as part of a luxury private chartered service, but group tours are available too. They even offer disability camping tours making the Outback accessibly to everyone.
Where we stayed:
Two nights camping near Uluru, one night camping near Kings Canyon, one night camping at Glen Helen.
What we ate:
Traditional damper bread cooked on the fire, barbeques, curries and Bolognese. And of course marshmallows.
Watch our video below for a peak of what we got up to.
Part 1: Darwin
Part 2: Alice Springs
Part 4: Kakadu, Katherine & Litchfield
Uluru in the news. To climb or not to climb?