Alice Springs is in The Red Centre, as far as it is possible to get from the sea in Australia.
In the morning we collect our campervan from Britz and find that we have been upgraded – yay! The van has pretty much all we could need and is bigger than some of the rooms we stayed in in Japan!. We have a double bed, gas hob, air-con, refrigerator, microwave and even a shower and toilet!
Thankfully there seems to be very little traffic anywhere in Alice. A good job as negotiating the mini roundabouts in town caused a few minor panics but thankfully everyone gets out of our way and we quickly get used to it.
Stocked up with supplies, we drive south along the Stuart Highway, another very long, very straight road to our first destination of Kings Canyon.
Five hours and 500 kms driving the dead straight road through the outback, we arrive at Kings Canyon. We find our campsite, The Kings Canyon Resort and connect up the van to the power and water and head off to the bar for a couple of beers. The evening’s entertainment is an Australian rock n roll and comedy duo! Neither particularly funny nor musical we return to the van in to prepare tonight’s dinner cooked in the – Kangaroo Bolognese.
In the morning we head off to Kings Canyon for the 6.5km hike along the canyon rim. Immediately we notice the other major problem in the area; flies! They are everywhere and just won’t leave us alone! Insect repellent has no effect and we end up wrapping scarves around our faces in an attempt to keep from swallowing too many.
A we climb to the top of the canyon the flies become less of a problem but then we notice the heat. Most of the area is bare rock which absorbs the sun’s heat and radiates it back. Not a cloud to be seen and the temperature must be around 35c. This is winter – I really wouldn’t want to be here in summer!
The climb is, however, worth it as we look out on some of the best views we have encountered here in Australia. Every step of the way is yet another magnificent outlook definitely worth braving the heat and the flies.
Halfway around we cross over the canyon itself and look down into “The Garden of Eden”, an oasis of lush vegetation surrounding a waterhole on the canyon floor. We then head on back across more bare rock and no shade to the end of the walk to the edge of the escarpment which apparently is where Terence Stamp looked out in his sequined underpants in “Priscilla, Queen of the Desert”!
Kings Canyon has been an incredible experience.
From Kings Canyon it is another the 300km drive through the outback to the iconic Uluru.
The scenery is pretty much the same, very flat desert scrub land interspersed with the odd tree. I find myself day dreaming of a bend in the road just to break the monotony of this dead straight road.
After 3 hours or so, in the distance we see both Uluru and the lesser known, but arguably just spectacular Kata Tjuta (The Olgas)
We park up our van at the sunset viewing platform to catch one of the most famous views in the world; sunset over Uluru. It is spectacular. As the sun sets, the colour slowly changes from yellow to a fiery red. As the sun slips further below the horizon, darkness becomes complete very quickly and we head back to the campsite.
Next morning we rice before dawn and drive to the other side of the rock to catch the sunrise. We arrive just in time and already the car park is half full. The people watching is almost as interesting as the rock. Bus loads of Korean tourists pose for selfies in just about every position possible (including lying down in the middle of the road?!. Their breakfast is ready and waiting for them at a long table at the side of the road facing the rock and 30 or so sit down to eat their cornflakes in sight of the rock – bizarre!
After watching the sun rise and taking some photographs, we head off to the start of the Mala Trail walk around. At the car park we have bacon sandwiches for breakfast – certainly amongst the more scenic places we have had breakfast and watched enviously by some of the Koreans that have arrived.
As we walk in a clockwise direction we see that the rock , which seems very smooth and solid from a distance, is actually interspersed with gorges and caves although in some respects it still looks like the biggest pebble in the world! The pathway twists and turns away from and towards the rock affording many different views. There are also a number of spurs off of the main track to water holes, gorges and aboriginal rock paintings. All the time the backdrop to the rock is the most incredibly blue sky with not a cloud in sight.
The walk around the perimeter is about 12 kms and takes about 3 ½ hours. Our feet ache, it is starting to get hot and the flies are a real pain, but Uluru is worth every second.
The “Valley of the Winds” winds along, up and through The Olgas.
The walk is 8km and once again starts with an uphill climb in the heat of the day accompanied by the flies that seem to be following us wherever we are in the outback.
The Olgas are actually 36 giant rock domes (the aboriginal means many heads). The walk is both spectacular and strenuous. About half way though, we scramble up a rock face and find ourselves in the centre of the boulders in a really lush oasis.
Then we climb back out to the desert and continue on our way in the arid outback. Our leg muscles really know we have been on a walk when we get back in to our van.
It is another early morning start as we drive the 5 hours back to Alice Springs. Mornings are a fantastic time to watch the local birds flying about and this morning we see Budgies, Parrots and all manner of multi-coloured feathers flying around. The drive back is long, but made slightly more interesting by the need to dodge the cattle, camels and kangaroos that wander across the road. The results of mans interaction with the local livestock is evidenced by the range of carcasses littering the roadside!
As we pack our bags and say goodbye to our campervan. We have grown rather attached to it both as a means of transport and a place to live!
Alice Springs, Australia
Thursday, May 29, 2008