2006 Australia – The Red Center

On the 12th of February we flew from Perth to Uluru for the second part of our trip ‘Down Under’. After having landed at Uluru (which some of you might know by it’s western name Ayer’s Rock) we were brought to our ehh ‘resort’ which was a complete rip off. Since Voyager has a monopoly on accommodation, food and tours they can do anything they want. And the bastards do!!!! We stayed in backpacker style accommodation at 5 star prices, were charged almost 300 euro for two half-day tours for the both of us, and the food was horrible and totally overpriced! Needless to say we felt royally shafted and because of this we unfortunately had difficulties enjoying the natural beauty of the area.

Well, so far the bitching and moaning. There is no need to say that Uluru and Katja Tjuta (The Olga’s) were spectacular to say the least. Sunset and sunrise were supreme and left an unforgettable impression.

We did a morning tour that was leaded by an aboriginal (and a translator), which was very informative. The caves around Uluru were stunning and the paintings and rock carvings which we saw there were splendid. We we’re happy to have chosen an aboriginal guide to get a glimpse of inside information about their culture and dream time stories.

In the afternoon we visited Katja Tjuta as well and walked through a canyon over there. I must admit the both of us consider Katja Tjuta even more impressive than it’s famous brother Uluru. Oh, did I mention the heat and our little friends??  Flies, flies, flies all over the place. They drove us to complete madness but after having bought a fly net (the best 6,5 dollars ever spent at the red center) we felt much better and our little ‘friends’ were much more bearable.

It was the 14th of February, Valentines Day, and the both of us had been looking forward for months for this special evening to come. We had booked two places on the Sound of Silence, which unfortunately turned out to be a complete disaster. The so-called ‘romantic dinner in the outback’ while zipping champagne and enjoying the sunset at Uluru was the biggest tourist trap we’ve ever been in…. going with 5 busloads to a ‘romantic’ dinner is not our idea of fun. It was conveniently forgotten to mention that the technical facilities are located between the dinner site and Uluru. Also the quality of the food was abysmal. Not the ‘gourmet BBQ’ as promised in the advertisement but a very mediocre buffet instead. But no more words on that, I have complained enough and would almost forget about the spectacular sunset we witnessed in the middle of this rip off…

The next morning had a little sleep in (must have been the wine), picked up our 4WD, checked out our 2 bunk bed prison cell (over 100 euro a night, yes we are completely pissed off by the place) and drove off to Katja Tjuta where we walked part of the valley of the winds. As it was already too warm at 10.00 in the morning the valley was closed so we could not finish the complete walk. We went to the aboriginal culture centre instead and had a great breakfast.

After that we were ready to hit the Lassester highway to witness dry desert mile after mile. It was an absolutely fantastic and impressive drive though and we enjoyed every single minute of it. We filled up our car at every occasion possible, we didn’t know how far the next gas station would be and this was not the place to run out of fuel.

At the end of the afternoon we arrived at Kings Canyon resort, relaxed at the pool and enjoyed a nice dinner. Once again we went to bed early since we had to rise again at 5.15 (which is quite a regular on this trip). The next morning we drove off before sunset and climbed the steep ascend to the rim of Kings Canyon before the sun was up. This turned out to be a good idea, since it was ‘only’ 28 degrees at that time… The walk itself, well, what can I say, it was almost 4 hours long but the spectacular lookouts were worth every drop of sweat. Those of you who have been here will for sure know what I mean. It was a bit scary to sit on an overhanging piece of rock with over 100 meters below us the bottom of the canyon but we did it anyway and felt like we did something daring and special.

About an hour further on in the walk we arrived at the Garden of Eden. Like it’s name promised this was a very lush place indeed with a fantastic waterhole and vegetation. We finished the walk just after 9.00 and by then it was already hot as hell. It must have been one of our hottest days over here; at noon we measured 44 degrees Celsius in the shade… Directly in the sun it must have been far above 50… With temperatures like that we spent the rest of the day with nothing but swimming in the pool and waving away the flies.

The next morning we did the Mereenie loop over unsealed road and this is where our 4WD came handy. It was a fantastic experience through a vast countryside of read earth, populated with some green plants (well actually there were more plants than we expected) and numerous fantastic viewpoints. Wow! It was for sure one of the more adventures rides so far. We continued past the west McDonald Range and St Hellen’s gorge before we arrived in Alice Springs late afternoon. In the evening we found a fantastic restaurant in Alice where we treated ourselves with a grill plate of lamb, kangaroo, camel steaks, and crocodile, accompanied by a fantastic Shiraz. Yummy.

On our last day with the 4WD we went off-road again to visit some rock carvings and chambers pillar, well, that was the idea anyway. I’m not exaggerating when I tell you the road was sometimes ehh, difficult to see and in extremely poor condition. We passed sand dunes, very rocky areas and had a lot of fun keeping our car under control. At times one of us was outside the car guiding it past difficult areas. We had already driven about 200km south when we came to a point where we were advised to radio ahead to check whether there was oncoming traffic or not. Also there was a warning for high and unstable sand dunes. This was the point where we decided to return, as we did not feel comfortable at all finishing the part of the journey. We realized the outback conquered us but then better safe than sorry…. Fortunately it was not only the destination but also the trip itself, which was breathtaking and a lot of fun so we did not feel we had done all the effort for nothing.

On the way back to Alice we did a detour and visited Rainbow Valley, which normally is mirrored in the lake in front of it. Not this time however as the lake was completely dried out!!! Still we admired the absolutely spectacular sight… The different colors were to say at least out of this world…

Our last day in the red center we stayed lazy at the pool before flying out south to Adelaide later in the afternoon. The last couple of days we had driven over 1300 kilometers again so after two weeks the counter stood already at 3000 kilometers in total. Not bad… After a week in the outback we were now looking forward to a couple of things; cooler temperatures (over 40 every day turns out to be a bit much after all) and perhaps a couple of flies less (or even better, no flies at all).

Continue the journey From Adelaide to Sydney