When we got off the bus in Alice Springs, we were surprised to find that it was a freezing 16 ºC at 6.30pm already. We had an hour to get settled in the Haven hostel and then we were picked up again to have a group dinner at the Evolution club. The location itself was a bit weird and there only was one other tour group and about 5 other people but the 10$ dishes were beautifully arranged and I had the most delicious fish and chips I ever had. We danced until they closed the place at 1am by then, I was so exhausted from the past days, that I just wanted to go to bed. At first, a few of us had planned to rent a car the next day to go to the MacDonnell Ranges but in the end, we didn’t want to be bothered with organizing it and I wanted to see Alice Springs too.
So, after finally sleeping more than 5 hours, Maya and I strollethrough town, passed the headquarters of the Royal Flying Doctor Service, walked across the bridge of the dried up Todd River and then visited the botanical gardens. There were mostly bushes and this dry, dusty or rocky soil but there were colorful parrots and butterflies too.
We had lunch in a Thai place and then wandered through the shops (they have K-Mart and Coles/Woolworth here!!) and the aboriginal art galleries.
Then, for the first time, I went to Gloria Jean’s Café. I don’t know whether it’s the same in the other shops but here, I could put my own toppings on it afterwards, like in the Stewarts ice cream shops in the US. I probably had the most unhealthy but delicious coffee because it seemed that everybody else was there with their mother, who told them not to put so much on it.
For the sunset, Maya went on a camel tour and I met up with Tiffany to walk to the top of ANZAC hill. I wished she’d be with us on the next part of the tour but unfortunately, she had other plans. She was the Hong Kong girl that Jan first left behind. I’m glad we waited for her, she was such an awesome person and really spread a good mood among the group.
It only takes 3min to walk up the hill, if you take the steep path. The sunset was beautiful and the view on Alice Springs and the flat desert in front of it and the mountains behind it impressive.
Back in the hostel, I had to pack once AGAIN. It doesn’t get better over time. Although we then went to bed early, it felt like a rather short night. When we got up for breakfast at 5.30, some people were already watching Spain-Netherlands.
When our bus arrived, I was pleased to see that it was a 4WD truck without a trailer. Our guide Bender than told us that we all got bumped up a class. Must be thanks to our Italian grandparents who are on tour with us again and were already waving good morning to us from their seats.
And I have to say that the quality of information and food has been a lot better on this tour. Good that this was the last part, so that our tour has been gradually improving.
We spent the morning driving towards Ayers Rock (Uluru). Now we didn’t need as many bathroom stops since the weather is freezing and windy.
After a few hours of driving, we saw a big flat mountain that could have been Uluru but isn’t, so the tour guides call it Fooluru. Finally, after about 500km, Uluru came up in the distance. It does look quite cool in the otherwise flat landscape.
We had lunch on our campsite in Yulara and afterwards, Bender brought us to the visitor center at Uluru, where we had an hour to look around. At first, I thought that an hour would be too much time. Time I’d rather spend at the actual rock. But in the center, there was a great movie about the Aborigines living here and a lot of art and information. In the end, we really needed the time.
Then, Bender took us on a walk half around Uluru, always stopping and telling us the stories of the Aborigines, that we were allowed to know.
From up close, the rock also looks impressive. It’s just a pity that there is a metal fence running to the top, where you could climb it on certain days. There are enough other high platforms you can climb here, Uluru must not be one of them. Hopefully, soon it will be prohibited and they can take away the ‘scar’ of Uluru. There actually was an ‘I did not climb Uluru’ guest book, which I found a funny idea.
After the walk, we drove to a parking lot where all the other tour groups were waiting for the sunset already. My group walked a little off to the side on a sand hill. From there we had a beautiful panorama of Uluru and the red center. And we even had dips with crackers and a glass of sparkling wine to go with it.
We arrived back at the camp in the dark but luckily, there was electricity in the kitchen.
We built a fire with the wood we had collected on a stop during the drive in the morning and Bender actually cooked dinner for us on the fire. It was spaghetti bolognaise with kangaroo mince. It was delicious!! Then, we had the option to sleep in a cabin with nice hostel bunks but in the end almost everybody opted for a swag, since they tend to be warmer than tents. And since there were clouds, I actually wasn’t cold at all and had a great sleep.
The next morning, we got up at the usual time to have breakfast and then walk up a sand dune for sunrise. Now I was glad that it was winter and we didn’t have to get up at 3.30.
By the time the sun had risen, we were all frozen. Unfortunately, the rays never really reached Uluru, so the color play there wasn’t so special but the Olgas in the distance were quite pretty. That’s where we were driving to now. Katja Tuja looks great from the distance but is also amazing from up close to walk around. We went on a three hour hike, on which Bender gave us more information about geology and flora. The rocks around here really are fascinating!
Then, we drove back to the camel farm in Yulara, where we had a bbq for lunch. This must be the place from where my parents had taken a sunset camel ride about 25 years ago.
The afternoon, we spent driving to our night camp at Kings Creek. On the way, we stopped again to collect some firewood. When we got to Kings Creek, Bender first received the sad news that somebody had fallen off Kings Canyon that day and therefore it wasn’t sure whether the rim walk would be open the next day. Apparently the first time in about 8 years that had happened.
We set up our camp and Bender cooked on the fire again. Chicken with vegetables and rice and two dampers (bred with different kinds of fillings).I’m amazed what you can do on fire if you know how to and I loved the dessert damper that had a chocolate dough and m&m’s and Nutella inside!
At this camp, the toilet hut was a bit off in the bush and didn’t have a door. To have hot water for the shower, you also had to build a fire below the tank. Now, this really felt like adventure camping. The evening was warmer, because there was no wind and so I wasn’t too afraid of being cold when I climbed in the swag. However, that night, there were no clouds and somehow, the swag wasn’t isolating from the ground and just felt freezing all around. I was busy wiggling my feet and changing the side that touched the mattress all night, to stay warmer, I don’t think I slept at all. I was glad when Bender finally turned on the wake up music because that meant I could go have breakfast by the fire. I could have checked before that, whether the fire was already burning but I didn’t want to stick my head out and let even more cold air in…
After breakfast, we drove to Kings Canyon to find out whether the walk was open. There still was a police car and a lot of park ranger cars. Half the walk was open and so we climbed the steep hill up to the rim, from where we had a beautiful view on part of the canyon and the plain. Bender told us some more about plants and rocks and four small toy koalas, that found their home on tree on the canyon. We walked to the billabong in the Garden of Eden, where we turned around to walk the same way back. As usual, climbing down the steep hill seemed more straining than getting up, because you are always facing the long way down.
Our last stop here was lunch and then we already started the drive back to Alice Springs. Before I came here I assumed that you’d see Ayers Rock and the other sights from Alice Springs. Now I know that even once you get there, you have to do a lot more driving to get to the famous nature sights, But as they say, the journey is just as important as the destination and the red center really wasn’t disappointing.