Through the Red Centre: Kings Canyon, Uluru and Kata Tjuta.
12.12.2008 - 26.12.2008 30 °C
About a stone lighter from the humidity and keen to be able to swim in areas where Crocs weren't I left Darwin in search of my next adventure. Visiting the outback was a last minute decision but it's something I had always been keen to experience.
I joined a British Guy, Ryan for the overland trek. He was in a bit of a rush to get to Sydney in time for Christmas so we were on a bit of a tight time frame. So together with a German girl Karin, we hit the road.
Ryan, Karin, myself and Tweety!
The outback was an amazing experience and I am so glad that I went overland. It gives you a real sense of liberation when you're driving for hours on end, seeing only a few cars, stopping in the middle of nowhere to set up camp and watch the sunset.
Sunset in the outback
Then all of a sudden, having driven 1600km you see the McDonnell ranges in the distance and arrive at the self contained town that is Alice Springs.
There isn't much between Darwin and Alice Springs, it has to be said, apart from the odd town which claims to be the centre for UFO's?!
I have discovered that Australia has a number of very 'frank' signs!
We did stop off at the famous Devils marbles which are a collection of granite boulders, a perfect stop for a pic!
However, other than these there isn't much apart from the odd roadhouse selling sweets that are 6months out of date and petrol that's nearly double the price than elsewhere.
For the majority we camped at 24hr rest stops which had only a 'drop' toilet and we had the odd night spent camped on the side of the road - literally. However I think there was only a maximum of 4 days that passed where I was unable to shower, so not too bad really!! The only other issue was Ryan being a typical bloke and not getting any antibiotics for the cuts he endured from the shells whilst working on the pearl farm in Broome. It's quite a common injury but without antibiotics the swellings and infection got pretty nasty, he managed to survive the trip though - just!
It's a shame that I didn't get to spend longer in Alice Springs as the walks in amongst the ranges are meant to be fantastic! It is the central hub for people going off to see the wonders of the Red Centre; Kings Canyon, Uluru and Kata Tjuta.
We joined forces with 2 German guys, friends of Karin and set off in convoy to explore the red centre.
You have to drive about 500km before you reach the real attractions, starting at Kings Canyon. It's a 300km detour from the road to Uluru but I'd have been sad to have missed it. We decided to opt for the 6km walk which takes you along the rim of the Canyon, dropping brielfly down into the 'Garden of Eden' for a well earnt and much needed swim.
Swimming in the Garden of Eden
The initial climb (all wearing flip flops might I add!) was pretty steep with flies chasing you all the way, it's a shame I didn't have a bee keepers mask with me and I'd forgotten to save the corks from the wine bottles to attach to my hat.
The scenery was spectacular and it was a great feeling to be the only ones up there and not surrounded by hoards of tourists!
The Canyon isn't as big as the Grand Canyon for sure but it does offer different landscapes and fascinating rock formations around.
Also known as 'The Olgas', Kata Tjuta is magical. This collection of dome rock formations really stand out on the horizon. Up close they are even better, as they light up in the sunlight. For me these sacred rocks were much more intriging than Uluru, which was itself pretty special.
We did the 6km walk through the collection of rocks, this time bumping into quiet a few buses of tourists!
It was surreal to actually be there at sunset and sunrise to watch Uluru changing colour. We had to get up at 4am to make sure that we would catch the sunrise and half asleep still we managed to see the sun rising behind this giant piece of sandstone.
Getting into the Christmas spirit
Look where the Americans parked themselves, behind the fence!
Sunrise at Uluru, the colours were magical
Uluru up close. Exploring its waterhole
From Alice Springs to Adelaide we passed through Coober Pedy, an opal mining town where 1/3rd of the population live underground due to the intense heat that they have to endure. We went to the underground hostel but didn't have time to explore the churchs there. The place is in the middle of nowhere, with miles of nothingness all around it but the miners get paid quite well in return. Just before Adelaide there are a number of salt lakes which are easily accessible from the roadside and fun to draw in!
Said to be the city of churches, it has a warm, clean and friendly feel to it. Adelaide does have a reputation for being a slightly boring city but I was pleasantly suprised from what I could see. The city is surrounded by hills and has the Flinders Ranges, a hikers dream, a few hours north. I didn't get chance to sample the local wines but a large proportion of Australia's wines come from this region, how can it be boring!!
Although it may have been the fact that everyone was doing their last minute christmas shopping that made Adelaide seem pretty busy!
The local markets were a great place to get our Christmas Eve meal. Traveling with Germans I joined in with their main celebration on Christmas Eve. This involved a lovely cooked meal on a nearby beach, elf hats, copious amounts of goon (Cheap wine!), attempts at volleyball, swimming in the chilly sea and then a tipsy tram ride home again.
I was very lucky to be invited to a friends family for Christmas day. I had met Linley at the Elephant sanctuary in Chiang Mai, Thailand and her Brother, Colin, was hosting christmas this year. It was lovely to spend the day with an Australian family and I felt so welcome. In addition to gorgeous food and wine I actually made it into the sea for a quick dip (the sea is colder on the south coast than you might think!). Many thanks to the whole family for having me!