The Rock Tour
After South Australia Diem and I jumped aboard ‘The Ghan’ train named after the Afghan Cameleers who rode from South Australia to the Northen Territory all the way up to Darwin, carrying supplies for the people. Apparently there are more camels in Australia than anywhere else in the world.
The train from Adelaide to Alice Springs takes 25 hours! When you buy your ticket the cheapest option is- just a reclining seat, which is what we opted for, with YHA membership we saved $200 so it’s well worth it. Luckily the seats were comfy and big with lots of leg room so it meant you could curl up or stretch out, which meant we did actually sleep.
We more of less work up with the sunrise which was lovely and as the daylight peaked through the blinds we were told that we were still 1 hour from the Northern Territory, I couldn’t believe it, we’d boarded at 12.30pm the pervious day, South Australia is massive, just like the rest of Australia. Anyway time passed and we arrived in Alice and it was hot but nothing we couldn’t handle.
Our hostel, was not lovely, I can’t lie BUT the staff were really very friendly and welcoming. In reception we asked about the weather and were told that we were lucky, because of the storms in Darwin, the cooler air moves south and Alice was due to experience temperatures of mid 30’s, brilliant!! I had been rather worried about the heat and I how I would cope, but I knew this would be ok.
Our tour started early, up at 5am and picked up at 6am, then we drove for 6 hours to Uluru.
Alice Springs is the nearest town…. Incredible, we passed a petrol station after 2 hours and then another 2 hours a farm with a bottle shop then 2 hours later we were at Uluru Airport and close to Yulara resort which has been established for the tourist visiting Uluru.
We walked around the base of Uluru, approximately 10km in the afternoon heat, it took 2 hours – it was a very flat walk but by the end we were all was struggling, After a sports drink, you need something with salt, and a rest I felt a lot better as we headed to watch sunset at Uluru.
Uluru the rock is really impressive, it’s in this dessert which is pretty flat until Uluru pops up and it is one massive landmass.
The indigenous people who live near and lay claim to Uluru, (in partnership with the Australia Government) call themselves Anangu (pronounced arn-ang-oo) and they request that you don’t climb Uluru because it’s a sacred and spiritual place for them and by climbing on it causes erosion and becomes less sacred. I didn’t want to climb in the first place because it looked really difficult and dangerous- 36 people have died climbing but these people actually died by falling and hitting the rock, the number of people who died in the ambulance due to heart attack, knocks to the head from falling etc is almost 200 however because they did not die on “impact” the government say it doesn’t count and they will only close the Uluru climb once the number reaches 40. Saying all of that, it is closed in the summer because of the heat and it’s just too dangerous but I think 36- 200 people enough and they should just close it rather than waiting for the unlucky 4 who plummet to their death.
(You can see the flimsy hand rail which is all you have to “help” you climb)
The walk was beautiful you could see different pictures in the rock formation and it was pretty interesting but it’s a long walk looking at one rock.
Sunset was nice watching the colours change but the cloudless sky meant that it wasn’t as spectacular and I would have liked, I still managed to take about 100 photos.
On this tour we weren’t sleeping in hostels we were sleeping in swags which is an Australian bushman invention, it’s canvas and has a little matress in it and rolls up like your Guides ground sheet. I found them really comfy and they have a flap which you can leave open or closed, when it’s open your head and shoulders and lying out under the stars. I thought I would worry about beasties crawling all over me and getting into my hair, but I didn’t think about it, I just lay looking up at the stars.
Day two, woken up at 4.15am to watch the sunrise over Uluru, it was actually cold at 4.15am, I was surprised, but then again it’s dessert. We ate breakfast and watched the colours change again, this time I liked it more but still not a cloud in the sky.
We then drove to Kata Tjuta (formerly known at The Olga’s) and did the Valley of the Winds walk. It was lovely and more interesting scenary than Uluru walk because this is lots of different rocks and you can walk through them. We opted for the longer and harder of the two walks which meant a steep climb up a hill, but we also spotted a red kangaroo which was really cool and we wouldn’t have seen otherwise. Our guide told us to if possible not look behind you while walking up the steep hill, I managed but that was almost as hard as the hill itself. When I reached the top breathless, I turned around and was amazed, it was so stunning. I desperately tried to take a photo but each time I was disappointed, they didn’t give the right impression, they didn’t capture it properly, it’s just too big and you were actually inside the formation that to my opinion no camera could really give the proper impression, I had to settle for a mental photograph with a few less impressive ones to keep jogging my memory.
After our walk we drove to our next campsite at a camel farm called Kings Creek Station with a swimming pool. That night after dinner sitting around listening to music and having a few drinks, I went out from under our shelter and saw the stars. I shouted to the group- “come look, they are amazing” I can honestly say, I’ve never seen so many stars, they were wonderful, it was the Milky Way and I felt like we were seeing it all but apparently it was just a part and we wouldn’t never be able to see it all. The stars twinkled and glistened, we stood in awe for a long time. Still I didn’t see a shooting star and I have never seen one, every time someone saw one, I was looking the other way or talking, what a surprise.
The final day, this time 4.20am wake up breakfast with a few stars and off to Kings Canyon to climb heart attack hill- we have to get up so early so we are walking with the sunrise and avoiding the high heat to make sure we are safe but also making the most of our day. The hill at the beginning of the walk is known as heart attack hill because it happens and it happens in the middle of the day so at 6.30am it’s not so bad, I managed and wanted to do more which is a good sign. Kings Canyon was my favourite walk because you felt so involved, a part of the rock and you could wander through the nooks and crannies. But again I feel my photographs are disappoint, they don’t reflect the true beauty or the grandness that was laid out before us. After a 4 hour walk we returned to the bus for our drive back to Alice Springs.
I really don’t feel that I will appreciate everything I’ve done until I am home, even then it might take a few weeks, months maybe even years. I hope when I am showing photos and talking through it will bring it to life and not feel like it was a dream.
A few tips if you fancy going:
Go with a tour- they will get you up at 4.20am, snooze isn’t an option.
It’s safer- The Tour Company will know when you are due to arrive places so know if something has happened, you are going really long distances without petrol or shops or people.
They know the way- the guide will explain the geology and culture behind what you are seeing.
If going on the Rock Tour- go the opposite way from advertised which means you go to Uluru first, this is the easiest walk and in the heat, you can manage, if you go to Kings Canyon first then you can’t climb heart attack hill because it’s closed. You will do a walk but it’s on the flat ground, you don’t get to climb over the top and get the same tremendous views.
I wouldn’t recommend the hostel The Rock Tour recommend, the YHA sounded nice.