For the next three days we toured the surrounding area and discovered that squashing such a big trip into a short timetable has a few disadvantages, namely, coach travel. No offence, but this really is not the best way to see some of these incredible sights, and we got peevish very early on with old duffers who seemed to have forgotten how to tell the time, resulting in spending too long at road side stop offs for the loo and a quick cuppa, and not enough time at the main events so to speak.
Thankfully the driver was full of interesting information, anecdotes and insults for the slowest and most irritating passengers. He was Scottish and had probably been out in the sun too long which made for an interesting travel experience to say the least.
To cover the vast road distances we stayed at three different accommodations over three days, Alice Springs, Uluru Resort, and Kings Creek. Some days we had less than half an hour to get changed, pack up, return to the coach and move to the next destination. In the end we abandoned the Italian Quarter (who didn’t want to sit with any other nationality), and the most annoying of the blue rinse brigade, in the outback with a billy can of water and a camel and left them to fend for themselves. Well, I wish we had. But to be serious for a moment, Uluru (Ayers Rock) was breathtaking both at sunset and sunrise and deserves a post of its own so I won’t cover too much of it here; The Olgas were also stunning, and Kings Canyon won hands down as the highlight of this section of the trip.
They are all almost within sight of each other, though being massive and the only thing visible on an otherwise flat landscape that is not exactly hard to achieve.
We travelled approximately 1500 kilometres in three days between them all.
Kings Canyon was like nothing else on earth, a very steep ascent to what is the top for us, but what was actually the sea bed, there are ripples in the rock and fossilised sea shells. It’s astonishing to stand there and look out for thousands of miles in each direction at the desert and try to imagine all of it under water.
In the gorges there are mini eco systems with water, palms, 800 year old cycads, flocks of budgies and parrots. One oasis is called the Garden of Eden. A bizarre mention is that if you’ve ever seen Priscilla Queen Of The Desert, there is a scene that was filmed in the part of Kings Canyon that is called the Lost City; the three main leads, in full drag, were helicoptered up to Kings Canyon with the entire film crew and all their paraphernalia.
Our tour guide Helen merrily informed us that this was at least a three and a half hour rim walk but that we only had three hours to fit in with the schedule. Good grief. Yet again we felt like we should go back at some point and hire a car ourselves and spend longer there. Its no wonder that there are always so many back packers on gap years hanging around the NT.
Uluru resort is lovely and modern, but the little motel we stayed at in Kings Creek was a bit more authentically ‘outback’; older and very basic accommodation of tents and motels. We had views of the Carmichaels (a mountain range) and wild dingoes frequented the camp on a night!! Eek! These animals do have an endearingly domesticated look about them, but please don’t be fooled. They are a wild animal and have been known to attack, particularly young children. Trust me, there is nothing like being stalked silently by two or three through a dark campsite, when you can’t find the key to your motel room, and a pack are howling somewhere in the distance as if to egg on those that are on the prowl. We felt like we’d been surrounded, and as dingos don’t bark (I’m not even sure whether they growl) it’s very difficult to read their body language like you can with other breeds of dog, and to know whether you should be panicking, running, screaming or all three. We had a great night here though, relaxing after a busy day with kangaroo steaks and some beers out under the stars. The sky is so unpolluted by electrical light out there that the night sky is incredibly clear; I have never seen so many stars. The next day we visited a camel farm (cue Neil’s first tick on his ‘eating all of Australia’ list with a camel pie for lunch, and emu for tea) and we made friends with a very tame and affectionate dingo that lived there and was domesticated; he just wanted a belly scratch like our own dog, and as he was on a long leash and chained up I’m guessing that he’d been hand raised from an abandoned pup. His demeanor was completely and utterly different to the wild dingoes we’d encountered the night before.
Next time I’m going to cover Uluru and a bit more of Alice Springs before we got back on the Ghan for the next leg to Katherine……toot toot!