Our flight to Alice Springs went very smoothly. The rain clouds quickly disappeared, and the outback appeared. Just before landing, we already saw some rocks and nothing but red sand and bushes as far as our eyes could see. After landing, we took the shuttle to our hostel, Alice Lodge. It was a small and quiet place with everything we needed. We went into town and visited The Rock Tour Office to sign up and gather information for our tour to Uluru. Shortly after, we explored Alice Springs. There wasn’t much to see, but overall, it was a nice town. We went to the store to stock up on water and some snacks. We packed our bags, taking only what we needed for the next three days. We left the rest at our hostel. After the tour, we’ll return and spend one more night here. We went to bed early after watching an exciting episode of The Sinner Season 2.
Like many previous mornings, we woke up early at 4:45 am. It was a bit tough, but we managed. We took a shower, grabbed some items from the complimentary breakfast, and waited outside for the bus. It arrived a little later than expected, but it didn’t matter much when you had a 6-hour trip ahead of you. Luckily, we made 3 stops along the way. Due to the heat, you drink a lot, so toilet stops are a must, and stretching your legs feels good. Our first stop was a camel farm (strange that they call it that here because they’re all actually dromedaries 😀). Here, we could watch the racing camels. The second stop was in Erldunda, the geographical center of Australia, also known as “The Centre of The Centre.”
The third stop was the alcohol stops. Everything was cheaper here than in Uluru itself, so it was recommended to buy some drinks. In the Northern Territory, you need an ID to purchase alcohol. We didn’t have it with us, but some fellow travelers kindly bought some beers for us. On the way to Uluru, we came across Mount Connor (fourth photo below). At first, we thought this was the big red rock of Australia, Uluru (Ayers Rock). But Uluru was still 100 kilometers further. We looked forward to seeing the world’s largest rock formation up close. But before we did that, we entered the National Park and visited an Aboriginal center where we learned more about their history. This piece of beautiful, untouched, and unchanged nature still inspires the legends and art of the Aboriginal people.
Our first hike of the three-day tour was the Base Walk. This 11-kilometer walk took us around Uluru. Stunning! This natural phenomenon is indescribable. An impressive rock, 348 meters high and 9 kilometers in circumference. You only realize how big it is when you’ve walked all the way around it. Since 1960, climbing the mountain via a constructed path has been possible. But it has been prohibited for several years due to damage to the rock and the deaths of 35 people during the climb. The last death occurred in July 2018. Near Uluru, we enjoyed the sunset. The harmonious colors – the earth’s red, the yellow of the bushes and sun, and the sky’s blue – made it a lovely finale.
Afterward, we drove to our camping site for the first night under the stars. In the outback, there is virtually no light pollution. A star lookout offered us a beautiful starry sky. We slept in a sleeping bag inside our swag. For our first time, it was still quite comfortable. At 3 am, we woke up, and by then, the moon had descended further, providing an even clearer starry sky. It was fantastic!
Despite being woken up at 5 o’clock, we had a good night’s sleep. We quickly had breakfast and got ready to witness the sunrise at Uluru. The sun rose, and Uluru gradually lit up. As it became brighter, we heard more and more birds. The outback came alive as we watched the sunrise. Our second hike of the three-day tour was The Valley of the Winds in Kata Tjuta. Here, we learned more about Aboriginal culture and how these rock formations were created. In Western Australia, there is an even bigger rock called Mount Augustus.
However, Uluru is classified as the largest because it stands 348 meters tall and has 6.5 kilometers of the same rock extending underground. Surviving in the outback is not easy. We learned about the endangered Quandong tree, whose fruits are edible. Of course, we had the opportunity to taste them. Keeping warm at night and cooking is also essential. We searched for firewood and loaded up our bus. We quickly experienced the extreme climate of this semi-desert, which can reach temperatures of up to 50 degrees Celsius in the sun. On the way to our campsite for the night, we encountered some wild camels and horses. Australia has the largest population of wild camels. These animals were brought here during the 19th century as transportation in the outback.
After the arrival of cars, these animals were no longer needed. However, they didn’t expect the 12,000-strong wild herd to multiply. About a million of these animals are now in the outback, and they are considered a pest. Unfortunately, the animals are being culled until only a third of the population remains. While driving, we also saw some dust devils in the distance. This place should not be underestimated! Our second campsite was far removed from civilization. Nothing around us and no cellphone reception. We started a fire and prepared our food.
Our guide took us into the woods to search for spiders. You’ve found a spider if you shine your flashlight down on the ground and see a glimmer. Their eyes briefly light up. We came across a wolf spider. They are not poisonous to humans, but their bite can be excruciating. We were also told that there are dingoes in this area, although none have been spotted in the past four months. These were both exciting prospects for our second night under the stars. Inez was already afraid of sleeping outside (because of the dingoes) and was less enthusiastic than the first evening. However, she persevered, and we settled down by the campfire. Around 2 o’clock in the morning, it started raining, so we moved into the tents.
The next day, we were woken up at 4 o’clock. After a night with little sleep, this was a bit tough. But soon, we enjoyed the beautiful starry sky and the visible Milky Way. After breakfast, we headed towards Kings Canyon, where a challenging hike quickly woke us up. This hike best starts early morning when it’s still relatively cool. After 11 o’clock, certain trail parts are closed because the heat becomes unbearable.
The first section of the hike is called Heart Attack Hill, with five hundred steps carved into the rock going uphill. Once at the top, you might need to use a defibrillator to get your heart going again! 😀 Once at the top, the rest of the hike was relatively easy. Breathtaking views took over, and we were left speechless. Amid the two red-colored rock walls, there is The Garden of Eden, a beautiful green oasis with a small lake. After visiting that, the route continued along the edges of the canyon. We increasingly felt like we were on a different planet. It sometimes resembled Mars.
We were back at the bottom three hours later, enjoying refreshing fruit and tasty snacks. Satisfied, we made the journey back home with some necessary stops. Along the way, we came across several car wrecks left behind by backpackers. It’s cheaper than having them towed since towing costs at least 10 dollars per kilometer (imagine the price if you have to cover 250 kilometers to the next service station). Finally, we stopped at the camel farm, where you could take an optional camel ride. We politely declined because we weren’t interested in such a ride. Both of us longed for a refreshing shower (or three) :D.
Our guide, Connor (we found out he used to be a Loka guide as well. Small world in such a big country, apparently), invited everyone to The Rock Bar for dinner, where we received a discount. The kangaroo steaks caught our eye, so we ordered them. We raised our glasses (or maybe even had a shot in between 😉 ) and had a great conclusion to our day. Very tired and satisfied, we went to bed for a slightly longer night’s sleep than the past few days.
For some, it may seem like just a rock, but The Red Centre will be etched in our memories for the rest of our lives. For us, this has been the highlight of our trip so far.
X Ely & Inez
- alice springs
- ayers rock
- kata tjuta
- kings canyon
- rock tour
- valley of the winds