Into the desert

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April 21st 2014
Published: April 26th 2014
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After our second stint in Adelaide it was time to head north towards drier regions. On our way we decided to take a quick stop in Adelaide Hills in an Aussie petting zoo. We had previously read about it and dismissed the idea of petting kangaroos as activities for small children, but our host in Adelaide warmly recommended the experience and when she told us there are other interesting animals like Tasmanian devils there at least I was sold.
The petting zoo exceeded our expectations from the first steps through the door. The first thing we saw was a group of potoroos (think of it as a kangaroo of the size of a rat – really cute!) that we could give small pieces of fruit, and from there we moved to bigger beasts all the way up to emus and red kangaroos. There were some animals that you couldn’t feed, dingos, Tasmanian devils and wombats, but most of the other gladly ate the animal snacks we bought at the gate. Instead of spending one hour quickly browsing through the most interesting animals we used over three hours and badly got behind in our schedule to drive all the way up to Flinders Range that day, instead we had to stop half ways in Red Banks for the night.
In the morning we decided to do a hike in the valley in Red Banks, walking through a varied landscape of bush and canyon, and then started off towards Flinders range. The national park had some really nice mountain views and gorges, but most was covered in bush and forest instead of being naked red rock as in all the pictures in the tourist brochures. Here we saw a lot of the animals we petted in the petting zoo running around wild, and sometimes trying to step in front of our car. We have decided not to drive in the dark due to all the animals, it would be impossible to see them in time without the aid of daylight.
From Flinders we headed north, this time towards Uluru and Kata Tjuta in the north territory. It was a two day drive, we stopped for the night in the opal mining capital of the world, Coober Pedy, where 85% of all the opal in the world are mined. In the South Australian Museum in Adelaide they have a fossilized Pliosaur on display were the fossil is completely opalized, it has been found here. After leaving early and again driving all day we then arrived to Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park just in time to see the iconic sunset over Uluru (also known as Ayers Rock), the huge rock seemed to glow with the light from the setting sun, beautiful! While driving away we saw a half moon rising next to the rock, only when we were back on the camping site we realized it wasn’t a half moon but a partial lunar eclipse that we had seen.
The next morning we got up really early in order to see the sun rise at Kata Tjuta, crowded but pretty, and after a quick breakfast headed out to the Valley of the Winds loop, a scenic two hours walk among the domed rocks of Kata Tjuta. Kata Tjuta is of the same red rock as Uluru, and the trail went past several hundred meter high domes and through the gorges between them. After a visit to the Cultural Center where the Anangu (local aboriginal tribes) view of Uluru was presented. The significance of Uluru for them is tied to all their stories; every hole, ridge and formation on the rock is explained in them. We had already made up our mind not to climb the rock, but the explanation that the rock is where all their culture is documented made our resolve stronger. Instead we took a drive around the rock and then went back to Kata Tjuta for the sunset.
After watching still another sunrise, this time at Uluru, we left the national park behind us and drove to Kings Canyon. Here we did the spectacular rim walk trailing along the rim of the several hundred meter deep Canyon. With vertigo inducing cliffs and layered sandstone domes it was truly spectacular, comparable to the sights in the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. We then started our drive towards Alice Springs, only to realize the road we had planned to take was only accessible with a 4WD car. The detour we had to take instead meant we only got half ways to Alice Springs that day, this didn’t worry us much as we still should have time to do our Easter shopping on Easter Thursday the next day.
When we finally arrived to Alice Springs the next day we therefore surprised to find the town quiet and the store closed. We quickly realized we had somehow calculated the days incorrectly, it was already Easter Friday, so everything was closed! Luckily we still had some reserve food in our car, so we decided to just take it easy that day. The next day we had a look around the town and visited a museum with paintings by local artists, among them Albert Namatjira whose gorgeous water colour paintings from the MacDonnell range west of Alice Spring stood out in the crown.
During our last day in Alice we went to see the MacDonnell range for ourselves. There were several beautiful chasms, gorges and waterholes spread out on an area suitable for a full day trip with a 2WD car. With a 4WD you would have been able to continue to still more places, but then you would have run out of time. With more time it would also have been possible to do several longer hikes, but with the heat we were more than content to just do shorter hikes to the different lookouts and sights. Definitely worth seeing if you ever have your way to Alice!

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