The Red Centre

Trip Start Oct 13, 2011
Trip End Jun 07, 2012

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Flag of Australia  , Northern Territory,
Sunday, January 22, 2012

Annabel: It is very hot, very sandy and very, very dry. It is also has to be one of the most incredible landscapes I have ever seen in my life.  Flying over here from Cairns it was amazing to see the scenery change from built up city and greenery to baron plains of mountains, dried up rivers and no buildings bigger than the very occasional small bungalow for as far as you can see.  Welcome to the Outback!

We met my parents at the airport (after the crowds of Chinese tourists had cleared from the first ever chartered flight from Hong Kong to Ayres Rock) and it was all very exciting!  Me and Conor hung back and let my Mum sort everything out with the bus transfer and hotel, it was so nice not to have to sort anything out for a change.  After we were all settled, in what me and Conor considered the most amazing rooms we have seen since we left England, we went into the main area of the resort for some lunch.  All the accommodation in Uluru (the town/resort where you stay to go to Ayres Rock which is about 20 minutes drive from it) is in a sort of resort and is all run by the same company.  There are quite a few hotels, a few restaurants and cafes, some gift shops and a small supermarket.  We had decided that the best use of time, and money, would be to hire a car for 24 hours from the next morning so that we would be able to spend the whole day at Ayres Rock, and then go to another set of rocks, called Kajulu (or The Olgas), in the morning for sunrise before we left.  As we were all really keen to see the rock we took a walk up to a lookout point in the resort.  It was really an incredible sight.  We had all seen the rock when we had flown in and been way more impressed than we thought we would be.  This meant that we were a little bit worried that we wouldn't be quite so impressed when we saw it from the ground, as we had had a similar experience with the Sydney Opera House.  Luckily this was not the case.

We had initially planned to go to a thing called the 'Sounds of Silence’ on our first night, which was a dinner out on a sand dune, overlooking both Ayres Rock and Kajulu.  But unfortunately this was fully booked for both the first night and last night we were there.  We were all pretty gutted about this as it was meant to be a real highlight of a stay at Ayres Rock, but they said they would put us on the waiting list for the second night in case there was a cancellation, although the girl at the desk didn’t seem overly confident about this happening.

Conor: Getting over this disappointment, we headed out to take a look at the facilities on the resort (feels very odd saying we were on a resort!) and investigated what we would do for dinner. One of the options we found out about was the ‘Pioneers BBQ’. The guide book said this was basically a BBQ set up, where there was an unlimited salad bar, and where you bought and cooked your own meat. Annabel was keen to try a veggie burger as part of her new eating and both me and Steve were happy with any situation involving BBQ meat! As it turned out Annabel’s veggie burger was pretty disappointing (effectively meg mixed up in mashed potato), but I had the chance to try Kangaroo (excellent!), crocodile (kinda like squid) and emu (basically a normal sausage). It was a really amusing setup, and would have made a British health and safety inspection go spare! The idea of giving customers raw meat and access to piping hot cookers with no supervision would not go down well back home! 

The icing on the cake was that during the first day we had a call saying there had been a cancellation for the sounds of silence dinner, meaning we could go on it the day after. We were all very chuffed!

The next morning we awoke to another blisteringly hot day and got the car hire sorted. Once we were all ready we drove off to the rock. Again I was worried it might get less and less impressive as we got closer, but luckily it remained as amazing a sight as ever. It’s one of those things you can’t really describe well, but the scale and the solitude of the rock just keeps on amazing you.

Annabel and I really wanted to do the base walk, around the whole circumference of Ayres Rock. This is meant to take 3 hours and shouldn’t really be attempted after 11am due to the heat and real possibility of dehydration. Luckily that day was pretty cloudy (it even rained a little when we pulled up!) so we thought we would risk it. Even being cloudy the heat was amazing, as was the dryness. You don’t really sweat in the outback, as the moisture dries before you can really feel it, which is part of the reason why it’s so easy to get dehydrated.

The other real irritation was the flies. Jan had bought fly nets and hats for everyone, and at first we took the mickey out of them massively as, let’s be honest, they look pretty stupid. However, after 5 minutes out of that car we were pretty much begging her for them as the flies were horrific! Anyway, loaded up with water we set out, and ended up doing the walk in just over the 3 hours. It was being able to take your time to look at the rock, and all the different formations and caves. Annabel described it like the rock was melting from the heat, and we discovered some of the rock sounded like it was hollow. It was really interesting as there were areas of the rock you couldn’t photograph as they were sacred to the local aboriginals. We were allowed to take photos of some really cool bits, such as the hollow that looked like a head, the water whole, some cave paintings, the echo cave (as we named it) and the cool mix of trees and greenery that was around and on the rock. We also saw some local aboriginal kids zooming around on BMXs, so they evidently still use the thing! The whole place was really quiet, which made it really special. We only passed maybe 8 people over the whole 3 hours.

Eventually we made it back to the car park and met Annabel’s parents, who then took us back to cultural centre next to Ayres Rock which had some interesting stuff in it. We had a well deserved ice cream and the drove around the rock to get a different view. We then had to leave Ayers Rock in time to get back in time to prepare for the dinner. This of course involved having a quick swim!

Annabel:  After our swim we all got dolled up for our posh night under the stars!  The evening started with sparkling wine, canapés and a man playing the didgeridoo while we watched the sunset.  It was really lovely, and I was sure to make the most of the free wine..!  After this little pre-dinner drinks and nibbles we were taken over to where the main event would be happening.  It was a really stunning location on a sand dune where you were able to see Ayers Rock one side and the Olgas the other, well, you could at the very beginning but it was soon too dark!  The dinner consisted of a three course buffet and a star gazing talk.  The food was really really good, especially the deserts!  But as usual at buffets I think we all indulged a bit too much due to the amount on offer, and I was certainly done with the free wine by the end of the starter!  Between the main course and the dessert was when we had the star talk.  This was fantastic.  We were really lucky because earlier in the day it had been pretty cloudy and we didn’t think we would be able to see anything, which I was particularly gutted about.  Then amazingly the cloud cleared and we had a fantastic view and were able to see constellations like Arians Belt and the Southern Cross and well as the line of the Milky Way and two other galaxies which we all thought were just wisps of cloud.  It was the most incredible night’s sky I have ever seen.  And it got better..!  After the talk we were able to go down to a couple of telescopes and have a look through them at a section of Arians Belt and at Venus, I was so excited that I almost ran down there!  After all our bellies were very full, and I was not content with my star gazing but had to leave, we got taken back to our hotel at the resort and were all asleep rather quickly.

The next morning was an early one, as we had all decided that we would get up for sunrise over the rocks and to see The Olgas before we had to leave.  It was well worth the early call as the sunrise was quite something to see and we had a really good location by The Olgas where you could see both them and Ayers Rock.  The only down point was the three bus loads of tour groups who were also there!  We decided that rather than wait for the sun to rise too much we would head off to our first destination, The Valley of the Winds, in order to beat the groups.  And what a good decision that was!  Our walk up to the view point in the Valley of the Winds was absolutely stunning.  There was no one else around apart from a couple far in front of us who had set of for the difficult walk around the valley, and a wild camel!  It was so lovely to hear the sound of the birds and the wind in the trees, a really experience.  Amazingly we managed to leave here just as the tour groups were arriving, then repeat our luck at the Gorge we went to see next!  After we had finished looking at the rocks we drove back to the resort to checkout of the hotel and have a look around the souvenir shops before we got our bus transfer over to Alice Springs.

Ps.  Sorry for how behind we have got with writing this, we hope to be caught up soon!  Or else we will be writing about the Inca Trail when we are already home!

Hope you are all well.  Lots of love. X x x
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