"The Red Centre" Uluru National Park (Ayers Rock) by backpackerbaby
Uluru National Park (Ayers Rock) Travel Guide: 460 reviews and 1,271 photos
Ayers Rock has been a mysterious destination in my heart since my first visit to Australia in June/July 2005. Nearly all the people I met on the way planned to visit Ayers Rock. At that time, I didn't know anything about Ayers Rock and I even never heard about it.
"The big rock, you know? Or Alice Springs?" One Danish girl backpacker tried her very best in explaining where she's going next after Cairns but unfortunately, she was talking to one of the most ignorant human beings in the world.
"Australia is really huge! If that's really a must-see, do more research and get there next time!" the ignorant told herself.
The ignorant did read something about Ayers Rock and its surrounding and believed that the Red Centre would be an ideal adventure destination. She browsed different websites in order to know the best way of exploring the area within limited time. Everything seemed expensive and the best option might be joining one of those backpacker camping tours. Until one day, when she suddenly realized that self-driving might be a better alternative, things then started to look so different...
"With a car, we can go to more places, even to those the tours can't touch!" with this belief, she gathered different info from different sources and forums in order to plan the best itinerary.
OK, before figuring out the route in the outback, what were known to us include:
1. we would fly to either Alice Springs or Ayers Rock from Sydney;
2. we would fly back to Sydney from either Ayers Rock or Alice Springs;
3. we would rent a car or a camper van with one-way drop off;
4. we might go camping if a camper van couldn't be rented...
There were still lots of unknowns. The first question was: where should we land in? Alice Springs or Ayers Rock? This question was critical as I needed to confirm the air tickets. Many guidebooks recommend starting from Alice Springs but I couldn't see any particular advantage in this. Thus I put this question in a forum and hoped for some constructive advice. I was lucky enough to have met some experienced travellers sharing their tips with me. I learnt from them that a few places were not to be missed. Though nobody supported my plan of arriving in Ayers Rock and ending in Alice, though some travellers even recommended me starting and ending in Alice (yeah, a return loop!!!), I was still very confident that my target plan would do well. "OK, let's try something extraordinary. Let's make a reverse trip!" With my partner's support, we further studied the map and considered it totally no problem. So the first question was solved.
The second question was: where can we rent a camper van with one-way drop off? To get the answers, I sent emails to different car rental companies and the only answer I got was "Unfortunately, no companies rent out camper vans with one-way drop-off." What a bang!!! Without a camper van, we gotta go camping if we wanted to get rid of the expensive dorm beds out there in the Red Centre. "Is it really possible for me to camp under the low temperature at night?" I doubted. Yet, before figuring out where to sleep, the more important question was "Is a 2WD sufficient for our adventure?". I read some internet resources and studied the map together with my partner and we found out that "Oh, Rainbow Valley seems interesting! Oh, Palm Valley seems magical! Oh, driving off-road sounds fun!" Haha, our crazy discussions concluded that we should hire a 4WD despite the higher rent, afterall, it's somehow our 'trip of a lifetime'. So we proceeded to send emails to different companies to reserve a 4WD with one-way drop off, however, either nobody replied or replied with apologies "All 4WDs were out"; and that's only less than 10 days before we left HK. After sending several follow-up emails, finally we got a favourable reply from an agent on behalf of Thrifty (this was STRANGE as Thrifty replied us earlier saying that all 4WDs were out!... anyway). Then I confirmed with my travel agent our air tics and started to think about our beds.
That's another discussion. "If we go camping, we gotta borrow a tent and other camping equipment from friends. They're not light in weight. Also the temperature is quite low at night. Should we just sleep in a dorm?" I analyzed my partner's idea and provided some info," A dorm bed in Ayers Rock Resort costs AUD41 while in Kings Canyon costs AUD39; there are only motels in Glen Helen which costs too much for us. Also no accommodation available in Rainbow Valley. What do you say then?" "How about this: we sleep in Ayers Rock for the first 2 nights, then in Kings Canyon for 1 other night, for the remaining 4 nights, we base sleep in Alice Springs and do day trips to different areas." I further ananlyzed his suggestion, calculating the distance & costs to be incurred from basing ourselves in Alice, "OK, a dorm bed in Alice costs AUD16. Right, we must stay healthy and can't afford to catch cold out there. DEAL!"
And that's the development of our route.
23.05.2006: flew to Ayers Rock (aerial view of Ayers Rock!!!) from Sydney; base walk; sunset viewing; cooked dinner; star gazing– amazing!
24.05.2006: sunrise viewing at Kata Tjuta; hiking @ Olga Gorge and Valley of the Winds (AWESOME!); the Cultural Centre; sunset viewing at Kata Tjuta (the last one to leave the park… under the escort of the Park Ranger, haha)
25.05.2006: sunrise viewing at Ayers Rock; drove to Kings Canyon (I drove for the major part!); stopped at Mt. Conner Lookout; checked in Kings Canyon (got the whole room without sharing with others!); Kings Canyon rim walk; dinner and watched the Amazing Race (that episode was in Katherine Gorge!)
26.05.2006: sunrise viewing at the viewing platform; breakfast with some birds; check-out (met a handsome receptionist called Olivier (half-French))~headed out to Tnorala (Gosse Bluff) Conservation Reserve on the Mereenie Loop Road (met a car of lovely Aborigines); then to Palm Valley (an oasis & awesome 4WD ride) & Hermannsburg (chatted with some Aboriginal kids); headed to Alice (based in Annie’s Place); dinner at Annie’s Café (chili con camel and thai curry kangaroo, green salad and toohey)
27.05.2006: Woolworths for food (got a nice shot of a lovely girl) ->West MacDonnell Range: Simpson Gap -> Glen Helen Gorge (nice waterhole but impossible to cross) -> Mt Sonder Lookout (wonderful view) -> Ormiston Gorge (very gd hiking, met a German x Irish couple and 2 wild wallabies!!!) ->Orchre Pits (colour pigments used by the Aborigines) ->Serpentine Gorge ->Ellery Creek Big Hole (it must be a great place for chilling in summer! Viewed sunset here) ->Annie’s Place (cooking this night, funny kitchen)
28.05.2006: Desert Park (saw some funny animals/plants)->Rainbow Valley in the afternoon (it’s lovely!!!) -> Anzac Hill for sunset(unbelievable)->Woolworths for food (cooked again)
29.05.2006: Anzac Hill:breakfast & pic->Standley Chasm (must see it at noon) met a lovely 3-yr old girl Alicia at the carpark, she chatted with me; climbed some rocks ->East MacDonnell Range: Emily & Jessie Gaps (w/. some Aboriginal rock carvings)->Corroboree Rock ->John Hayes Rockhole ->Trephina Gorge ->drove back to Alice (lots of wild kangaroos crossing the roads at night! Also cows!!!) ->dinner at Overlander Steakhouse (tried a Platte of croc, emu, camel and kangaroo) ->back & packed
30.05.2006: explored Alice Springs city ->wrote a postcard ->flight to Sydney
Check out my tips for more photos.
- Pros:Lots of stories to hear, lots of paths to hike, lots of beautiful stuffs to see/feel; the sky's so blue, the air's so fresh, the people're so beautiful...
- Cons:The flies!
- In a nutshell:Don't say you've been to Australia unless you've been to Ayers Rock.
Our stay at King's Canyon Resort was interesting. Before leaving HK, I emailed them several times to reserve 2 dorm beds... more travel advice
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