Andrew’s nose was pressed up against the window as we flew over thousands of miles of red desert towards the heart of Australia. You can clearly see where ancient rivers once flowed over this now dry land. The vast flatness of the land is suddenly punctuated with an enormous red rock – Uluru.
We had arrived! Andrew, a sixth generation Australian has always dreamed of coming here. He rubbed his eyes. Dust perhaps? No? He surprised himself at how emotional he felt about finally being here. In the heart of this Great Southern Land – his home.
The dry heat hit us as we emerged from the plane and on to the tarmac. We quickly collected our luggage and Thrifty rental car and hit the road.
What is immediately apparent is the size of this huge rock. All the photos we had seen just didn’t prepare us for its size and presence and it felt un-natural to be driving in the opposite direction. We were heading to Kings Canyon for our first night in the red centre. A three hour drive away.
The other surprise was the incredible colours, the green – I never realised there were so many trees out here, and the colour of the earth is like nothing I have ever seen before. The landscape is wild and the sky is huge. There are large white shallow salt lakes dotted around as well.
As we drove along we passed Curtin Springs – about 100km from Uluru. This cattle station has accommodation, food, fuel and would be a great place to stop if we weren’t on such a tight time frame. The tabletop shaped Mt Connor sat proudly in the distance and the ribbon of road stretched for as far as we could see.
Further down the road we came across camels! These incredible wild creatures and their handlers were brought to Australia in the 1800’s to assist the early Europeans exploring inland. The camels were then used to transport freight from the end of the train line to the settlements that had been established in places like Alice Springs. Once the train line was completed, there was no longer any need for the camels, so they set them free to live in the desert. There are now estimated to be over 500,000 camels in the outback.
We arrived at Kings Canyon Resort and checked in to our huge room overlooking a tangled desert garden. We quickly changed our shoes and headed out to explore the Canyon – a couple of km back down the road.
Kings Canyon Resort is a lovely hotel. There is a variety of different room types to suit different budgets. There is also a small pool, a shop and petrol station, campground, a bar and a couple of restaurants. The people at the check-in desk are really helpful and give you tips on the best walks to do in the area. You could easily spend a couple of days here.
No trip to the centre of Australia would be complete without a visit to this stunning place. It was really hot, so we opted for the shorter 2km creek walk in the shady floor of the Canyon. The colours of the rock were amazing, and we wandered along the track through the trees and finally to a water hole at the end. Spectacular.
We saw a small wallaby bouncing across the track. It stopped in the bushes and watched us go past. The trees were filled with loud squarking birds.
Then we headed back to the hotel for a well deserved beer. We went out to the sunset bar platform with the other hotel guests to watch the colours change as the sun went down. Followed by camel burgers from the hotel BBQ, listening to some country music, and watching dingos scavenging around outside.
The following morning we were up before sunrise and we headed out to do the Canyon rim walk before it got too hot.
This 6km hike starts by climbing up a steep ridge. The steps are cut in to the flat rocks of the hillside. You climb up quite high all in one go, but once you are at the top, the walk is pretty flat from there on. The scenery of the canyon is so different up here to what it was in the valley below. The rock formations were so unusual, the views were spectacular, and we had a great time exploring. Half way around the track you drop down in to a hole called the Garden of Eden. There is another water hole in here and a perfect place to stop for a snack. Then you climb back up some stairs and around the other side of the canyon before gradually climbing back down again to the car park.
(Check out my travel tips post – to come – for more info about what to bring on the walk)
We finished the walk about 10.00am, by this time it was getting pretty hot, so we were quite pleased we had started so early.
We headed to Kings Creek Station. This is a huge camel farm that also has fuel, supplies, accommodation and a wee cafe. We stopped for a super expensive but actually really good cup of coffee, a huge apple & berry slice and a carrot cake muffin. Delicious after our hard hiking that morning.
Then it was back on the road to drive the three hours back to Uluru – Click here to read more.