Continued on from the previous Roadie ‘Darwin’ with a full car and an extra passenger…
This is an easy drive from Alice Springs, even with limited space in your car. We strapped Lucy’s gear to the roof of the Volkswagen and jammed Lucy (our friend/tour guide/local) in the back seat. The back seat with only one view – out the side window. It’s 320km to Kings Canyon passing through the small town of Hermansberg 130kms west of Alice. This drive is a combination of dirt and sealed roads, with plenty of wild animals meandering around – wild brumby’s, donkeys, and camels.
A wild goanna at sunset at Kings Canyon Resort
Before too long we arrived at Kings Canyon Resort, one of the few places to stay out there. It was an early night of sunset drinks with a goanna before rising at 5.30am the following day. We drove out in the dark to walk around the top of the canyon. It’s key to get up early to beat the heat – then you can reap the reward of watching the sun rise whilst atop the canyon. Well worth the early start! It is highly recommended you carry plenty of drinking water with you also – the walk/hike up and around the canyon takes about 3 hours. Starting with a killer climb up ‘Heart Attack Hill’ as they call it, you will climb over rocks archaeologists believe are more than 400 million years old. The colours of the rocks at this hour are simply stunning and continue to change as the sun rises. A walk that every fit person should do.
Dawn atop Kings Canyon
Post walk, make the most of the buffet breaky at the resort, then climb back in the car to venture the next 330 km’s onto Uluru and Ayres Rock. The quote of the day for us was ‘there it isn’t…” with the rock eventually appearing on the wrong side of the car for the backseat passenger to get a view. A good pit stop along the way is Curtain Springs Station – a million acre working cattle station that offers accommodation, fuel and a number of varying experiences, and is only an hour from Uluru.
It’s commonly a balmy 37 degrees in Uluru, and the flies are more than friendly. A popular thing to do (apart from buying a fly net) is to drive out to the viewing platform to watch the stunning sunset over Ayres Rock. Cars are parked all along the side of the road to catch a glimpse, and no wonder – the colours again are insane, no photo could do that place justice. After sort-of mastering the art of the self-timer photograph upon dark (see below), it was onto the Field of Light art installation by Bruce Munro. As far as the eye can see gentle rhythms of colour light up the desert. 50,000 spindles of light covering an area of more than seven football fields. Due to its popularity it is now indefinitely on display there. Extremely hard to photograph however!
Mastering the art of the self timer – sunset at Ayres Rock
There are a number of places to stay or camp in Uluru catering for all budgets and the Ayres Rock Resort is one of the most well known, also offering a number of different dining options. If you’re after luxury however there is the bucket list topper at Longitude 131 – exclusively offering Ayres Rock views from your bed and some incredible dining options under the stars.
The following days activity was to cycle around the base of Ayres Rock, a brilliant way to see it up close and easy on the legs. The sheer size, textures and colours of the rock are incredible, you can understand why it is so sacred to the Aborigines. 60km’s out the road are the ‘Olgas’ or Kata Tjuta as they are known, which are ancient red rock formations, a natural wonder and cultural landmark. Incredible to walk between two of the formations where they tower over you like a high rise in the city. Next up was a helicopter flight over the Olgas and around Ayres Rock – although you can’t actually fly over Ayres Rock due to its sacred heritage. None the less, an awesome sight as these huge landmarks appear out of nowhere in the middle of the red centre, really putting their size into perspective.
View from the air over Kata Tjuta
The world famous climb up Ayres Rock was still available when I was there in 2017, however it is now permanently closed to respect the aboriginal elders. Upon the announcement it was going to cease the operation of the climb, there were ridiculous scenes of hundreds of people queuing to climb it before it finally did close in 2019.
Other activities include cultural, food, sunrise and sunset experiences and many different camel adventures. If you’re in town in May, you will be lucky to witness the Uluru Camel Cup, attracting tourists from all around the globe. There’s a Calcutta, Black Tie Ball and Fashions on the Field.
Uluru Camel Cup
You cannot go past the buffet dinner at Ilkari Restaurant – the most extravagant all you can eat buffet in the desert…fresh seafood (even if the closest ocean is 1,200km’s away), chocolate fountains and fresh salads. We even prepared ourselves some generous doggy bags for the drive the next day! Before departing Uluru, we pulled into the one and only local fuel station, where petrol was around the two dollar a litre mark – the most expensive fuel we had seen and the only stop in town. Only problem was it wasn’t the fuel we required, so regular petrol it was, and we hoped for the best…no hiccups luckily. This got us 3 hours east to the Erldunda Roadhouse back on the Stuart Highway – which in fact is the exact centre of the centre of Australia! From here its either 200kms north back to Alice Springs or 480 km’s south across the border to Coober Pedy.
Flight around Ayres Rock
Definitely a must do trip – are you even Australian if you haven’t been to Uluru?! You can fly directly into Uluru, but as always – take the road less travelled and take the scenic route!
Images by VC Events, Longitude 131, Camel Cup Racing Club