After our busy Kakadu tour, we relaxed at the hostel before catching an afternoon flight from Darwin to Alice Springs, which sits pretty much in the middle of Australia – and the middle of a desert! During the two hour flight, we passed nothing but desert and uninhabited land – shows how big and unpopulated Australia is!
We spent the night in Alice Springs which is the largest town in the “Red Centre” which is not much at 25,000 people. Being in a desert in the middle of winter meant the days are warm and clear, but the nights freezing cold!!! Our room even had a space heater to keep us warm under the blankets – we haven’t felt this cold in months!!
The next day we had a bus pick us up at 6:30 am and we set off on the 6 hour drive through the desert to make our way to Uluru (Ayers Rock) and Kata Tjuta (The Olgas). Uluru has to be the most iconic landmark of Australia and we were both excited to see it! The large bus stopped a few times for toilet and snack breaks, but one stop had a camel farm and and a kangaroo enclosure. Kathleen was excited as this was the first kangaroo she has seen!
We finally pulled into the Yulara Resort at 1 pm which is a self contained town with a few hotels, petrol station, grocery store and campsites. Outside the resort, there is nothing for miles – other than Uluru and Kata Tjuta! We rented a car at Hertz and then drove to see Uluru. It was another clear and warm day and we were struck by how amazing Uluru looks as we drove up to the rock. We parked right at the base and we went for a short 2 kilometer walk to view some impressive rock art that is painted on the side. For the local aboriginal people, Uluru is a very sacred site and it is part of their creation story. Since it was already late in the afternoon, we left and headed for the sunset viewing area. We came equip with a bottle of red wine we had been carrying around since buying it at Bali duty free. With some nuts and chips, we made a nice cocktail hour as we watched the sun go down and Uluru lit up in beautiful colors!
The following morning we woke up at 5:45 am and left the hostel at 6 to ensure we would make it to Kata Tjuta in time to watch sunrise. Like I mentioned earlier, it was freezing outside…literally! The thermometer in the car was reading 28 degrees F (-2 degrees C)! Kathleen and I had multiple layers of clothing on but with the wind chill, it felt much colder. We even filled our water bottles up with boiling water and placed them inside of our coats for warmth. Despite the cold weather, we had another amazing view of Uluru and Kata Tjuta for sunrise. Both were magnificent and well worth the early wake up!
We warmed back up in the car and then drove a few more kilometers to Kata Tjuta to go on a 5 mile hike called “The Valley of the Winds”. Unlike Uluru which is one solid rock, Kata Tjuta is many rocks in a cluster – the name even means “Many Heads” in the local language. With the sun still low and cool, it was a great time to set off on a hike. We had some fantastic views and for many parts, it was just Kathleen and I hiking. Among the highlights was seeing 4 wild kangaroos not very far from us. It was very neat to be in such an amazing and spiritual place and see these uniquely Australian animals!
We said goodbye to Kata Tjuta and Uluru and headed out of the park and back to the resort. We only spent about 24 hours in Uluru/Kata Tjuta National Park, but it was an amazing place! We were happy we rented a car to give us the freedom to travel around. Later that afternoon, we flew to Cairns in Northern Queensland and we had a great view of Uluru as we took off!