Road trip to see a Big Red Rock
Trip Start Nov 30, 2009
142Trip End Jun 01, 2011
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Where I stayed
Britz Camper Van
We had just over 470 kms to cover in our first day, so powered our way through the desert, with very ,little in the way of entertainment as the radio signal soon died and we didn't have any CD’s or a cable to attach the Ipod. Note to self for the New Zealand road trip – remember to sort out music. Only entertainment was keeping a count of the road kill – 5 kangeroos, 1 dingo and something we couldn’t identify, plus managed to hit 3 small birds ourselves sadly
We arrived at the Kings Creek Cattle station around 3pm, our first overnight stop. Had to opt for a powered site as the hire company had told us we’d need to give the battery a good charge before we could free camp. A bit stunned to find this cost us $38 for the night, we’d brought our own bedroom and kitchen on wheels with us after all. Got some directions from reception for a short walk for the afternoon and did a nice one hour return trip to Katherine Springs, a lovely little gorge, which was like a small oasis in the desert full of a surprising amount of green plants and a very healthy looking water hole. Clearly there has been quite a bit of rain recently as there was lot of trapped vegetation in the trees where there must have been a flash flood.
Collected fire wood on our way back to camp to build a campfire. The trees and scrub in this part of the world tend to be pretty small and weedy, so no large logs to be found, just lots of spindly branches and twigs, so took us a good while to fill up the back of the camper to get enough to make it worthwhile. Got some funny looks from our camp neighbours as I organised the wood into two piles depending on size, big to the left, small to the right
Our first night in the camper proved to be very comfy indeed with the table and chairs converting into a decent sized double bed and not nearly as cold as we feared it might be.We were however very glad we didn't go with the swag camping option, which is basically sleeping on the ground in an oversized canvas sleeping bag. Think I'd have spent the whole night worrying about snakes and dingos!
Up early on day two to get breakfast cooked and then head 40km to Kings Canyon where we completed a 3 hour walk around the rim of the canyon. Really spectacular scenery, red rock, steep sided canyons and some really interesting rock formations caused by erosion from the wind. Nice to be doing the walk in the winter as really comfortable temperature and no need to carry the one litre of water each per hour that we would need in the summer
Walk finished by lunchtime, so time to cook up some food in our mobile kitchen before hitting the road again to cover the 300 odd kilometres to the Yulara Resort in time for sunset. The resort provides the only accommodation option close to Ayres Rock / Uluru, ranging from unpowered camper van and tent pitches to cabins, posh permanent tents to full on 4 and 5 star luxury hotel suites. The site it occupies is huge, but somehow manages to be fairly unobtrusive, nestled between the sand dunes that form fantastic view points for the Rock.
Set off just after 5pm to the National Park entrance to pay our $25 each park entry fee and then head to the sunset viewing point, a 30 minute drive from the park entrance. Secured ourselves a good spot, put the kettle on for a mug of hot chocolate and then set ourselves up to watch the amazing natural spectacle. The rock changes colour as the sun goes down, changing from red to orange to almost purple. At one stage it was as if someone had turned a light bulb on inside as it glowed an amazing and surreal bright orange. As the sky grew pink and purple there was an added bonus - a full moon rising! It made its way up over the rock, perfectly positioned for some fantastic photos, a really lucky combination of perfectly clear sky and lunar timing.
Up early the following morning to see it all happen in reverse. A longer drive to the sunrise view point and with no idea of exactly what time it was due to rise and how long the drive would take we crept out of the campsite at 5.45am. Arrived at the view point with the carpark still pretty empty, so time to get the kettle on and take our mug of steaming hot chocolate with us to the viewing deck, with lots of jealous looks from our fellow tourists
As everyone else departed after sunrise we set up the table and got the frying pan out for a good old English Breakfast before heading off to do a three hour walk around the base of Ayres Rock. There is still an option to climb the rock, although all the signage and tourist information strongly urge you not to in line with the wishes of the Aboriginals who are custodians. Its seen as a very spiritual and sacred place in aboriginal culture, added to which more than 30 people have died attempting to climb. The decision was taken out of our hands as high winds meant the climb was closed. I'm not really sure you need to climb it to appreciate it anyway, as the walk round is impressive enough and you gives you a much better perspective of the size and scale of the rock, and you get to see all the caves, cracks and strange formations close up. It's really hard to get your head around the fact this is just one rock, and that two thirds of it are under the ground.
After our morning hike it was back in the van again and a 40 km drive to Kata Tjuta or the Olgas. These huge bolders can be seen on the horizon as you look at Ayres rock and look like a pile of marbles. Close up it could be argued that they are as, or even more, impressive than Ayres Rock. Eroded over thousands of years, with narrow valleys between the towering rocks. We took the Valley of the Winds walking trail, a three and a half hour hike that took us through some breathtaking scenery and provided its fair share of challenges as we made our way up and down the slippery rock faces and narrow steps
Our final overnight stop was a Curtin Springs cattle station, a bit of an outback version of a motorway service station, which very usefully offered free camping pitches. Fantastic view of Mount Connor (which is often mistaken for Ayres Rock from a distance) from our window as we prepared our dinner, plus a very noisy and inquisitive emu that made its way round everyones camper vans in the hope of getting a snack. In the morning it was time to use up the last of the eggs, beans and sausages and refuel the camper for the third time before heading back to Alice Springs.
On handing the camper back we were surprised to have them inspect the van and announce that we had put a dent in the front. We'd noticed the dent but assumed it was there before and that it would be on their inspection sheet. We were certain we hadn't hit driven into anything and had always parked front on so it didn't seem likely that someone had hit us. The only possible explanation was that it was caused by one of the two small birds that had decided to fly into us while we were driving. Just had to be thankful that we hadn't hit a kangaroo, or that would have really made a mess. Fortunately we had taken the zero excess insurance so didn't have to do anything more than sign a damage claim sheet and leave it to them. Good lesson learned and confirmation that we need to make sure we have the right insurance in New Zealand when we hire one there.