The top on my list of places that I dreamed to visit when I was in Australia are places they usually called “Outback”. When I heard this word in relation to places I tried to understand what it mean. One case is, it is a place with nature which far from civilizations, another definition I think is, it is like a safari places similar to a natural zoo and a remote jungle or forest in the mountain ranges.
For me “Outback” is a place where you feel you’re one of the few person exist in earth because you will feel isolated from metropolis. It is a place where you don’t need mobile phone and you will experience to be disconnected to the world. It is a place where you can enjoy bonfire at night while talking to someone with you or while your mind are wondering somewhere. It is a place where you can sleep in tent or swag while enjoying stars at night or while listening to cricket sound. It’s a place where you can listen to your breathing and heart beat which in rhythm to your own pace while drifting around. It’s also a place that gives inspiration to anyone and reminds oneself that it is worth to live in our world again.
There was a long weekend in Australia during the time I scheduled my “Outback Adventure” because it was coincided with the Holy week being celebrated worldwide and the whole country of Australia has two public holidays for it (Friday and Monday) which I put together with the weekend with the additional one day vacation leave to have a chance in a lifetime to experience the outback adventure. This was happened between March 29 to April 02, year 2013.
I booked my flight from Melbourne to Alice Spring through Qantas domestic flight. Because the available flight to Alice Spring from Melbourne were just few times in a day and I need at least four hours air travel to reach the town, I already allotted the first day of my holiday for my travel from Melbourne to Alice Spring. And because I was on a tight budget, I chose a flight with layover in Adelaide for few hours on the way to Alice Spring.
— Adelaide Airport (waiting for my connecting flight to Alice Springs)
I left Melbourne early in the morning as my flight was around 7AM to Adelaide. Then, I arrived in Adelaide past 8AM (Melbourne is ahead of 30 minutes) and I reached Alice Spring after 12PM in the afternoon. Because it was my first Outback travel in Australia and it’s happening in Red Centre, I felt deep excitement within myself.
From the airport I took the available shuttle bus service (which I booked in advance to secure a seat) to my hotel which served by Alice Wanderer. Going around a few streets in the town proper of Alice Springs from the airport, I observed that it is a small town and along the roads we passed, we saw some Aboriginals (the race group of first people in Australia). The shuttle driver care to comment that there’s organisation who cares to train them to live properly with community but still it’s not easy, so they built home centers in the town for their needs. After few more minutes in the road when lunch time was almost over, I arrived in Chiefly Alice Springs Resort where I spent my first night in Outback.
Because I still have vacant time in the afternoon in Alice Spring, at the hotel I tried to call few tour companies to inquire if there were still half day tour or evening tour that were available around Alice Spring and nearby area, but unfortunately my inquiries were not successful because there was no available tour and if there was one, I verified that the tour meeting time was over. I was a bit disappointed because I spent my afternoon time in the hotel without discovering anything just the simple interior of the hotel room and doing nothing. The only thing I did was dinner in the hotel.
I rested early in the evening that night as the next day was start of my exciting adventure. I booked three-days tour camp in ntstandby.com.au website and selected an Emu Run Tours with a package of “Alice Springs to Uluru, Olgas, Kings Canyon – 3 Day Camping Tour – All Inclusive” in Red Centre and the major itineraries were: Uluru (Ayers Rock), Kata Tjuta (Olgas) and Kings Canyon.
Day 1 – Uluru / Ayers Rock
I woke-up early in the morning, most of my stuff in my backpack were still intact because I never pulled out most of my things since I only spent overnight in the hotel. I left my room and I was checking out the hotel when the mini tour bus arrived at the front of the lobby. The tour guide was looking for me and I mentioned I was only processing my check out in the hotel. Then, after completing my check out I jumped in to the bus and sat comfortably. Inside the bus there were other tourists aside from me. We picked-up the other tourist until the bus got full. We stopped in an open market that morning to buy few stuff like water and food. Next thing happened, we were leaving the town. While leaving the town, I tried to checked in my phone’s GPS the location we were which I usually does most of the time of my travel.
— Some shots early in the morning along Stuart Highway just after leaving Alice Springs town.
Not farm from town, while we were in Stuart Highway I saw Macdonell Ranges, the first mountain ranges I saw in the outback and one of its end is just beside Alice Spring.
— Snapshots along the Stuart Highway before reaching Camel Farm
After leaving the town, we took four hours or more to reach Uluru / Ayers Rock. And we were 17 in the group including our driver tour guide.
In between that travel, we stopped at Camel Farm (Camel Australia) which located near in Alice Springs and beside Stuart Highway around Hugh area, a place where we experienced a camel ride. At first, I was hesitated to try it, but after I saw my group in the tour enjoying the camel ride, I decided to try it as well. There were two camels available for the ride in the farm at the time we arrived, having two camels was an advantage for me because it reduce my nervousness because of the idea of having someone together in the riding adventure. We queued and waited few minutes before our turn. And my apprehension grew as I saw other riders screamed and surprised during the entire adventure rides.
When it was our turn, I felt nervous. We approached our camels which already in sitting position where it’s four knees bended and its stomach bottom laid in the ground. I climbed on its right side, seated on its back, just after the highest tip of its curve on its back. While sitting on camel’s back I immediately noticed the difference between the horse’ back and camel’s back, the seat location is higher and incline for the first one while its lower and straight for the latter one.
— The camels
The camel guide started to direct our camels and we strode a few distance. Then, in the middle of the track our camels run a bit faster which was the most exciting experience we had during the ride. In few minutes our camel slows down to walking mode until we reached the point where we started. When I tried to get off to the ground the first time, my camel moved surprisingly, I sat back again and waited until my camel settles down. Overall it was a great experience not to forget.
— Camel Ride Adventure
My partner in camel ride and I walked back to the farm station where we paid the camel ride ticket, we both looked around to see if we can buy something. Then in few more minutes, our guide announced that we were leaving the camel farm.
— Snapshots capture along Stuart Highway after coming from Camel Farm
— Passing Hugh River along Stuart Highway
— Looking towards Titjikala
— Captured while traveling along Stuart Highway
We were back in the road. It was a longer trip compared from what we had before reaching the camel farm. We sojourn the huge desert plain. It was the first time I experienced traveling in an outback desert. The desert we traveled upon was dry, red sandy dunes with combination of dry grassland desert. It was not a desert similar to Middle East or Africa which majority of it are perfect sand dunes. During the road trip, we either slept or ate to make the time passed by. During that time, I felt we traveled so long. But it was surprising that only two hours had passed. I reminisce my travel time back home which I used to do, I commuted two hours or more to work but I never felt it was so long, I just thought that maybe because in the desert there is really nothing to see aside from few highlands from afar and a vast empty plain. I was not really bored during the trip, it’s just the feeling that the travel felt too long to bear.
We did stopped over in one of the store to be found along Stuart Highway. It was a store where we can buy drinks, food and some souvenirs. Our tour guide prepared something for our lunch and he gave it to each one of us. We took sometime for our lunch and after spending time at the store we returned to our tour bus and traveled the road again.
We did another stopped in Erldunda, a small town to passed by before turning right to Lasseter Highway coming from Alice Springs where we refilled our tank. I can imagine passing gas station without refilling and traveling in a remote desert where the nearest town that can immediately get help is very far and more if no mobile signal available. While we were waiting to refill our tank, there were two huge interesting animal figure display around Erldunda, a huge echidna and frill neck lizard. While taking Lasseter Highway, along the road I saw a table mountain from a distance wherein later I learned it was Mount Conner.
— Mount Conner from a distance
As we were getting closer to the place where we intended to be, I noticed between the road we were driving are red and sandy ground which become orange or red-orange. When I witnessed it, I realized that it made sense to me why the place is called Red Centre, it’s not only because of Uluru / Ayers Rock which become red, orange or purple depends on the time of sun rays struck on it but also, because of the color of the land itself. We continued our trip and I felt excited when I saw Uluru / Ayers Rock from a far. Seeing it, felt like realizing one of my greatest travel dream. It’s the reality of being in the Red Centre – The Outback of Australia.
–Some snapshots around the Red Centre where the land color is red-orange
As I laid my eyes to Uluru / Ayers Rock, heavy rain fell which was surprisingly happened in such kind of place. Based from our tour guide, raining is seldom to happen in the area but that day it happened, it’s not just drizzle, its heavy rain where you need to wear raincoat and umbrella. For me it was an extraordinary experience raining in a desert place. Before we went straight to Uluru / Ayers Rock, we drove around the nearby town named Yulara to choose our sleeping area because part of our camping tour for our first night was sleeping in an open space with our swag. While checking out places, we saw low-rise hotels which emphasized by our tour guide that a two storey house unit in the town cost too much like a luxury home in the desert. Few more minutes passed, we found a camping area and our tour guide made an arrangement. We found a vacant lot with kitchen where we can cook something for our dinner and breakfast the next morning.
— One of the accommodation to be found around the nearby town in Uluru / Ayers Rock
We drove back to Uluru / Ayers Rock and we were back to Lassetter Highway as we were getting closer, I realized it is a huge island mountain rock with more than 800+ masl (meters above sea level). It was amazing that in the middle of the desert, there is such kind of natural landmark like Uluru / Ayers Rock.
Since it still raining, from the nearby town, we bought rain coat as most of the group planned to walked around Uluru / Ayers Rock and I was one of them. First, we visited the park museum called Anangu Cultural Centre to look for some of the Anangu aboriginal material display as information about Uluru / Ayers Rock and their community. Initially, there were tourist in our group wanted to climb the summit of the mountain rock but because it rained that day, the climb was prohibited for safety precautions.
— Uluru / Ayers Rock from a distance while inside the bus
After looking around the museum, we started our walk around the base of the mountain which we completed within more than two hours. Our group walked wearing rain coats at first but, when the rain stopped, our adrenalin got high and felt great as we got freedom to stand and post anywhere around the base of the mountain for picture-taking. I enjoyed the walked as I saw different areas of the sandstone mountain rock. Up close and personal with Uluru / Ayers Rock, I was still amazed that I was at the base of this UNESCO heritage site. For Anangu aboriginal, the place is a sacred site and it was the main reason while the mountain rock is prohibited to climb its summit, but for tourism purpose it is allowed. These two policies about climbing Uluru / Ayers Rock are contradicting to each other and its up to the person which one to choose. For me as a tourist, I wanted to climb its summit too, but, when I learned that it is a request of Anangu not to climb the mountain, there is part of me that I prefer to respect Anangu’s request.
— Near Mala Car Park (Walking Point Area)
— Captured along Lungkata Walk
–Since it rained, we saw some water flowing from holes of the mountain rock
— Lungkata Walking Track marker
— Some snapshots at almost end of Lungkata Walk
— Kapi Mutitjulu (Mutitjulu Waterhole)
We jumped-off the bus at Mala Car Park. Our walk started at the Walking Point area of Uluru, we followed the Lungkata walking track. Within Lungkata walking trail we passed some significant part at the base of Uluru / Ayers Rock such as Mutitjulu Waterhole and the sacred site for Anangu called Pulari. Around the base of the mountain, we discovered some Petroglyphs as aboriginals drawings done long time ago. Next, we followed Kuniya walking track where we see the other sides and faces of the mountain rock. Then, we moved along the Base walking track where we saw Kuniya Puti, another sacred site for aboriginals.
— Some drawings created by Aboriginals
— Snapshots while at Base walking track
Our walk continues along the Base Walk, until we were near the parking area. Our tour guide picked us along the road as he had seen us quite tired walking. I thought, that the adventure ended in our walk until we drive towards the Uluru / Ayers Rock Lookout area where we had our snack break in the afternoon. At the lookout area, I saw the different colors of the mountain rock, I witnessed it became orange then purple. The scenery was really perfect for an outback break.
We returned to Yulara where the Uluru / Ayers Rock nearby village located and we got ready ourselves for dinner preparation wherein we helped the tour guide in food preparation as he can’t do it alone. And it was a great thing to do because each one of us in the group becoming familiar to each other like were one big family as we will spent two more days together to more adventures. That night was the first night that I slept in a swag. At first, I thought that I may be having issues in sleeping arrangement because it rained that day, I expected that it will be cold sleeping outside just with the swag. That night I had a good sleep because the swag is warm enough for me to help me get rested for the night.
Until the next adventure – Kata Tjuta Trek.