Australia’s red centre is extremely inhospitable , yet intriguing. It is far from lifeless being home to humongous sandstone mountains, as well as unique rock formations. Many of which remain sacred sites for Aboriginals. While the Outback isn’t your classic weekend away, no cute B&B’s, a lack of boutique vineyards and artisan cheese shops. But what it does have is the slopes of Uluru, the sheer cliffs of Kata Tjuta and incredible skies for lush sunrise and sunset.
Prior to booking this trip I knew nothing about The Outback – Red Centre. Most backpackers tend to stick to the East Coast. A few of my friends told me about their plans to visit Ayers Rock and I jumped at the opportunity. Having booked our 4 day trip with Rock Tours we flew from Sydney to Uluru. Landing in the outback was an adventure in itself. Arriving in the desert with the red dirt, dried up plants and dusty air felt like we were landing on Mars.
After meeting our guide from Rock Tours and the rest of the crew our first stop was Uluru, the outback’s most obvious drawcard. Uluru, above ground is taller than the Eiffel Tower. Like an iceberg, two thirds of it sits below the surface. The best way to experience Uluru is the Mala walk around the base. During this walk we were made aware of the sites sacredness. It’s extremely disrespectful for individuals to climb Uluru. That being said, a chain was built to help guide hikers to the top!
Uluru is famous for its mesmerising sunrise and sunset. It’s a popular spot for eager tourists and enthusiastic photographers. We witnessed the sky change in colour from a radiant yellow to a deep purple, it was one of the most magical sunsets I’ve ever seen. As the sun went down we set off for our first nights accomodation. It consisted of a large patch of dirt sheltered by a man made kitchen. No beds, no tents, all we had was our sleeping bag and our swag. We set up our swags in a tight circle, conveniently warding off wild animals. Other members of the group sprinkled salt around their swags in an effort to poison curious spiders. Whatever you’re into I guess!! Luckily we had no encounters (that we know of) with any critters.
A 4.30am wake up call to an amazing sky full of stars, incredible! We rose and packed our belongings (some quicker than others) and drove to Uluru’s sunrise viewing area for breakfast. It was still dark out and we all huddled together for warmth while waiting on the kettle to boil. Getting up early was definitely worth it, experiencing the most unspoilt sunrise from start to finish.
Kata Tjuta, Valley of the winds:
We hit the road in spots as we travelled towards our next destination – Kata Tjuta National Park. Kata Tjuta (also known as The Olgas) is a massive group of domed rocks about 35km west of Uluru itself. Thirty-six huge boulders stand shoulder to shoulder, forming gorges and cut-off valleys, dotted with vegetation. This hike was beautiful through the valley of the winds. It took 3 hours to complete and was challenging at times, but the scenery was outstanding.
I’ve grown up camping but one thing I’d never done before was collect my own firewood from the side of the road. When our guide pulled over on the side of the road we thought we’d broken down. Were we having engine problems? Suddenly a file of criminal minds flashed before my eyes. Stuck in the middle of the outback with no mobile reception was the last thing we needed. Thankfully, our guide had just spotted the perfect area to collect firewood that would be our only source of warmth for the night ahead. I realised my firewood collecting skills were far from good enough to keep me alive if I ever found myself alone in the desert, although the experience was on for the books! After finally reaching Kings Creek Station we set up camp. A proper campsite, swags lined up around the fire pit. Dingo sightings were extremely common at this location. I’m not going to lie I was a little nervous to sleep, luckily with 6 nurses to accompany me we had Phenergan (a drowsy antihistamine) at the ready to help us slip into a deep sleep!
We made stir fry on the fire. All 20 of us had a role to play, whether it was cutting up the potatoes and carrots, digging holes and collecting embers to put the pots in. Once dinner was ready we all enjoyed it around the fire, sharing stories and drinking till our hearts content.
For a lot of travellers the highlight of their outback adventure isn’t Uluru, it’s Kings Canyon. The scenic walk takes about 4 hours and traces the rim of the canyon before descending down into the Gardens of Eden. I’d seen pictures of the canyon before, but nothing prepared me for the epic beauty of nature quite like it. The hike began with a 500 step climb to the top of the rim by torch light. This is the most strenuous part, once at the top we were treated to stunning canyon views. Having completed our hike we began our journey to Alice Springs.
You’ve probably seen millions of photos, postcards and TV commercials of the outback, but it’s a place you truely have to see for yourself. Sleeping out under the stars in the middle of the Australian desert is something I recommend everyone to add to their bucket list.