Published: January 2nd 2009December 10th 2008
We arrived in Alice Springs and were a bit disappointed that we'd left Sydney in glorious sunshine and arrived in the Red Centre where it was pouring down with rain.. we thought it wasn't supposed to rain in the desert! We had our 3 day Uluru trip booked for the following day so spent the afternoon sheltering from the rain, exploring Alice Springs town centre (not really that much to explore) and preparing ourselves for a very early start of 5am the next day.
We got up with no problem the next morning and were very excited to be going to explore the centre of Australia along with the other 22 people in our group and Mark our guide. Off we headed to Kings Canyon, the first stop for our journey into the red desert. On the way Mark broke the news to us that there was a chance that Kings Canyon could be closed due to flooding so we were all kept our fingers crossed that it was open again as he made his phonecall to find out. Thankfully, it was open and we arrived at 3pm ready to do the ridge walk, the sun had even decided to
come out for us so we were all quite looking forward to stretching our legs after 5 hours in the bus.
The walk is really nice, going up the canyon wall and around letting you take in the spectacular scenery of the rock face and the desert behind. The canyon itself is actually a film star and those people who have seen Precilla Queen of the Desert may recongise some of it! During the walk we got to stop off at the Garden of Eden which is a watering hole set deep inside the canyon walls, here you can go for a cooling swim which most people took full advantage of to rinse off the sweat we'd all built up.
With the walk behind us we continued on to Curtain Springs Station which was to be our camp for the night. It was a pretty spectacular journey there because we watched thunderstorms building up all around us and then the lighning started shooting forks down to the ground right in front of us. Because it's so flat here you can see for miles so we got to fully appreciate the size of the storms as they made their
way across the land throughout the evening. As everyone knows though, where there are thunderstorms there is rain and lots of it so we were not so happy when we neared camp and it started chucking it down.
The problem was that we had booked a tour that meant sleeping in swags under the stars each night, a fantastic experience but not so great in the rain because swags are not waterproof! Our luck was in though because as we were cooking dinner and setting up our camp fire the rain stopped and we got to enjoy our first night under the stars in the dry. Sophie was a little nervous about the prospect of what may crawl inside her swag overnight but she was so tired that she dropped off straight away and had no time to think about it.
After a really good nights sleep (the swags really are so comfortable) we were woken up at 5am just as the sun was coming up. A quick breakfast and we were off headed to the Uluru National Park to get our fist look of the world famous big red rock which really is quite awesome when you
first get to see it.
Also in the park is the lesser known Kata Tjuta, a collection of dome shaped rocks that are just as spectacular as Uluru. We arrived here at 9am so were in good time to be able to do the Valley of the Winds walk which has to be started before 11am because it is just too hot to do it in the peak of the suns heat. We were in luck this day because the rain seemed to have passed and we got to enjoy the walk in glorious sunshine which was at a mild 33°C! While Sophie chose to complete the 7km walk Dale went for the second option of going for a swim in a natural pool that had only been formed because of the heavy rains the previous days! There were also hundreds of tadpoles in the pool which took quite a fancy to him and nibbled at his legs whenever he stopped swimming.
By midday it became really hot so we all retreated to our second camp at the Ayers Rock Resort campsite, enjoyed lunch and then made the most of the resort swimming pool for the afternoon which
was just amazing after a hot sweaty morning. We left the pool at the exact point the sun decided to go in and the rains came out again so we could not have timed that any better.
Off we went back to the National Park to visit Uluru visitors centre and typical of our tour, while we were in the centre the hugest thunderstorm decided to come right over our heads and drench everywhere. For some people this would be a bad thing but not for the Uluru visitors and rangers because rain on the rock is quite a rare thing and everyone gets quite excited about it. Everyone except Sophie that is... the last time she came to visit Uluru it rained so, although it is supposed to be a once in a lifetime thing to see she was not so happy about it being a twice in a lifetime thing as she'd so looked forward to seeing it in the dry this time!
Mark our guide was one of the really excited people and gathered us all up quickly so we could drive over to the rock and have a closer look at the waterfalls coming
off it. The rain was still coming down very heavily as we pulled up next to the rock but out we got and rain for shelter (which there really isn't much of!) most of us lost our flip flops in the red mud puddles on the way and everyone ended up with red mud splats all up their legs as they ran along! The sight of the waterfalls is quite spectacular though and you can see why everyone gets so excited when it happens becuase it is such a rare sight and especially for the aborigine locals something to be really celebrated as their water holes fill up.
After a while the rain eased and we all took a short walk round the rock with Mark explaining the significance of the mens and womens areas and some of the special places which was very interesting for us all. The sun sets on the rock at around 7pm so after having a look at some of the sights we made our way to the busy sunset viewing area and set up home on a couple of the tables. We had a great time here taking loads of funny photos and
drinking our beers watching the beautiful sunset.
Back to camp we settled down for the evening, cooking our dinner and drinking a few more beers while playing 'guess the animal drawn badly in the sand'. Sophie's wombat proved to be the most difficult to guess but that was probably the terrible drawing rather than the intelligence of the people! Our second night was spent in our swags again and we were glad that the water drains away so quickly here otherwise it would have been a night of damp swags which is no fun for anyone!
Another early rise was in store for us the following morning because we had to get to the rock to see the sunrise at about 6am. Although the sunrise is quite beautiful we didn't find it quite as spectacular as the sunset so we didn't linger long and shot straight off to start our 10km walk around the base of the rock. Thankfully we were in luck again with the weather and there was a cool breeze blowing in the mere 32°C degree heat so we really got to enjoy the walk in relative comfort.
Walk completed and our bellies filled
up with a gorgeous cooked breakfast back at camp we all set off on the long 6 hour drive back to Alice Springs. This journey proved to be the perfect opportunity to catch up on the much needed sleep we all needed from the early starts.
No time was available for sleeping when we got back to the hostel as we had all arranged to do the traditional group get togther in the hostel bar that evening and to take full advantage of the $5 meals on offer as well as $12 jugs of beer.. great! We had all vowed not to get too drunk but that all went out of the window very quickly and before we knew it we were being kicked out. Not ones to let the party finish there our guide Mark invited us back to his place where we got to meet some of the local wildlife in the name of the HUGE cicadas that fly around.. Sophie was not impressed when Dale decided to pick up a handful of them and proceeded to wear them as badges with her squealing to stay away.
The tour was a great one, Sophie enjoyed visiting
such an amazing place again and Dale agreed that it was well worth the journey there to see something so special. Thankfully the weather really was on our side for the whole 3 days with us escaping the normal 42° heat and enjoying what this area has to offer in a much more comfortable climate, the rain also managed to know when to fall as just the right time so we could enjoy the wateralls on the rock yet not get wet as we were tucked up into our swags. Our time in the red centre was over though and we were looking forward to getting back to the coast where the weather forecast was looking particularly good for the time we'd planned to be there....
There are more photos below