17.12.2012 - 17.12.2012
Yesterday I set my alarm clock at about 5 AM, this is just too early to get up, but we have no choice, otherwise we are going to miss our ride towards the red centre.
Shannon, our driver and guide for the next 3 days is on time and exactly at 5.55 AM she stops at the entrance of our hotel, talking about good timing!
When we go inside the bus and find ourselves a place to seat, we notice that there are already a few people on it, a German and Swiss couple. We say our good mornings and then it is off again. We stop at a few more hotels and when our group is complete we are with 13 people. What a difference compared with the Topdeck group and this time around we have a nice selection of European countries like Germany, Switzerland, The Netherlands, Poland (but living in Australia), Belgium of course and 1 girl from South Korea.
Shannon introduces herself for the last time and tells us that there is a selection of fruit we can use (me like this very much). There’s even a big eski filled with water, she has games and magazines on board for the very long drives, so in a nutshell … we are well equipped to hit the Australian Outback!
But first we need to go by the office of Adventure Tours to hand in our vouchers and pay our park fees. For the people who don’t have a sleeping bag with them, they also have the opportunity to rent one and in the same time for the once who needed one, we also have a toilet break.
When everyone is ready we can go and hit the road or to be more precise, hit the Stuart Highway, which is also known as The Track or The explorers Way and is named after John McDouall Stuart, the first European who crossed the country from the south to the north.
Our first stop on the Stuart Highway is at Stuarts Well Roadhouse about 90 kilometres south of Alice Springs. We have our toilet break here and for the once who wants to give it a try, you can also have a camel ride of a few minutes in a paddock. Besides being a camel farm, Stuarts Well houses a few emus and kangaroos as well and they also have a rescued dingo called Daisy.
When we are good to go, we drive further down the highway and I try to keep my eyes open and enjoy the most of the beautiful red scenery, but in the end mister Sandman wins and I fall asleep.
I wake up at the next stop in Erldunda. The roadhouse is situated at the intersection of the Stuart and Lasseter Highways and offers home made food such as an huge blueberry and white chocolate muffin which Tania and I end up buying and sharing because the size is just enormous. It tastes good though.
When Shannon is ready with filling the tank of our bus and everyone has had his / her toilet break we are on the road again towards our campsite for this evening at Yulara (Ayers Rock Resort).
We are all quite awake now and Shannon makes use of the situation by passing the microphone, so that we all get the chance to introduce ourselves. We all need to tell a little bit about ourselves together with a small lie, which in turn, the rest of us has to figure out what that lie is. It’s quite fun and bonding at the same time.
Afterwards we all get a cardboard plate and a few boomerang texters (this is Aussie slang for saying that the markers will always return to their owner) and the idea of it all is to write our name on the plate together with a funny drawing. This would make it easier for all of us to remember each others names and in the mean time it colours up the bus. There is a bit of a competition as well because the best “name” plate receives a price. Shannon will be announcing the winner later on this afternoon!
When we are almost at our next stop we see a large mountain in the distance and we all get excited because we think we see Uluru, but Shannon tells us it is “Fooluru” a.k.a. Mount Conner or Connor (how you like to pronounce it, is up to you!). We were hoping for a photo opportunity, but Shannon tells us we got a chance tomorrow, so we drive further along the Lasseter Highway. We make a quick toilet stop at Curtin Springs, where we also have a chance to stock up on alcohol or other beverages because at the campsite there’s no chance to buy drinks.
And then we are off again for the last stretch of road towards Yulara, our campsite which is situated just outside the Uluru – Kata Tjuta National Park, where we arrive early in the afternoon.
As soon as we find our campsite, we help Shannon unload all the food and stock it up in our fridge and than it is time to make some food. Some of us get appointed to prepare the food, the rest of us will do the dishes afterwards.
While we have lunch, Shannon drives towards the airport of Uluru to go and get our last member of the group, who turns out to be English.
When we are all ready and cleaned up the place, we drive towards Kata Tjuta or the Olgas for our Valley of the winds walk.
Earlier on, our new member of the group has installed all his stuff on my seat so I had to change seats and because I don’t like to sit in the back, I go for the seat next to Shannon, which turns out to be the best one in the bus, so I am not going to loose this one again!
Even our Englishman has to introduce himself and draw his name on the cardboard plate and than it is time to announce the winner and I must say, it was no surprise … the winner was Tania and she deserved it. She made her plate with drawings of all the local Aussie wildlife and quite good if I may say so! I was more than pride to handover the price box and she in turn chose a cute kangaroo keychain. Well done girl!
When we enter the National Park, we each get our permit which we have to show at all times when asked and therefore we can’t loose it, otherwise we might get fined and we learn that the fines are like everything else here in this country … huge!
We first make a quick stop at a lookout point from where we have a nice view on Kata Tjuta, which means many heads in aboriginal language. We are now on Anangu land, which belongs to the Pitjantjatjara tribe.
It is a pity that it is cloudy today because now the colours don’t come out so clearly, but still, the rocks are quite amazing to look at.
When we arrive at the parking lot, Shannon makes sure that we all have our liquids with us. We need to carry almost 1.5 liters of water, otherwise you can’t come on the walk and she is very strict with all of this. If you don’t carry it with you, you have a chance you get dehydrated with this hot weather and this is the last thing everyone wants.
We walk towards Karu Lookout, our first viewpoint of the day. Shannon takes some group pictures and than we are off again to the next view point called Karingana Lookout and what a view it is! We first have to climb a steep hill to get there, but the reward is more than worth it.
After a 5.4 kilometre hike we are back at the parking lot again and the weather has changed from partly cloudy to full clouds and we are scared we are going to miss the sunset.
From here we drive towards the spot to watch the sunset on Uluru and we soon notice that we are not alone. Lots of groups arrived a bit earlier than our group and settled at the best spots to watch the sunset, but Shannon finds a nice spot as well and while she gets some snacks and drinks from our trailer, me and Tania check out the neighborhood to find a nice place to shoot some jumping pictures, but because it is getting dark fast, they don’t come out so good.
When we get back, we receive our mug with champagne just like the rest of our group and although we make a toast for a nice sunset, the sun was setting soon, but you couldn’t call it a real sunset. Oh well, we had a nice day and there is always tomorrow!
It’s getting darker real fast now and we head back to the campsite, but it isn’t going to be a dull drive back. Shannon brought some finger flash lights with her and together with some dance tunes we head back to our campsite in style! Even our wonder hit Gangnam Style turns up again and Soo, our Korean girl gets all excited … not so surprising, after all she knows the lyrics to the song.
Once back in the camp, Shannon points out some people who are on duty to prepare the food. Me and Tania are in the group who have to do the dishes. This means we have some time left to go and have a well deserved shower and to my surprise we even have hot water, I didn’t expect so much luxury in the desert.
Tonight we are going to have an Australian BBQ. Food tastes twice as good when you prepare it yourself and this is true, but I still don’t like the camel sausages … luckily the kangaroo meat is still delicious.
When we all get tired, Shannon gives a quick explanation of the swag and the ones who want to give it a try, each get one. But as soon as we all get to our tent or swag it starts to rain, so we all take cover and call it a night, after all … our wake up call for tomorrow is just insane if you ask me!