Travel Diary 101 : Kakadu Missed, Litchfield Take Over

I planned my adventure in northern and western part of Australia before my visa expired last February 2017. I returned to Australia after 1.5 years and had my last travel in the said country. After having a free tour in Singapore last September 29, 2016 as my worthwhile layover which described in my post entitled Free Transit Tour in Singapore , when  I was on my way to Australia I thought everything that I planned as my adventures will be happening until something went off on that day. I arrived in Darwin, the capital city of Northern Territory on September 30, 2016 few minutes earlier than its scheduled arrival time of 5:25 AM in the morning. The plane was not full of passengers, it was not the same of my previous flight to Sydney nor my previous flight to Melbourne. From the time that I disembarked the plane until I retrieved my luggage, I kept looking in my watch because I need to catch-up my tour around 6:20 AM in Darwin Transit Centre.

It still dark when I left the airport past quarter to 6 AM in the morning and I felt at ease while inside the taxi as I thought that I will be able to catch my tour. The cab driver dropped me off in bus terminal in the city. I asked the driver if its Darwin Transit Centre and he said it was. So I got off the taxi and waited a bit. I looked around and I felt there was something off in the terminal where I was at that time. I knew that I was in bus terminal but there were no people around. Time was passing, I felt uncomfortable and suspicious. I had a feeling at that time that I was in a wrong place. Since I don’t have internet in my phone yet as I just arrived in the city less than an hour ago, I was not able to verify if I was in the right pick-up point based on the GPS of my phone.

I was alone in the terminal and I waited, hoping that it was the right one, but the time of pick-up point was approaching and it’s almost 6:20 AM. And when I saw two Asian women, I approached them and I asked them if the bus terminal is Darwin Transit Centre but they responded to me that they were not sure as they were new in the place too. There was a tourist vehicle stopped near where I was standing, a guy got off the vehicle and he looked liked a tourist guide because of what he was wearing and I approached him and asked him if the terminal was Darwin Transit Centre and he responded to me that it’s not and its few minutes drive from where we were. I felt desperate because I knew that I will be left behind by the tour that I booked since I was not at pick-up point yet. The man who I asked offered me to dropped off at Darwin Transit Centre. An old man approached us and he asked which place I was looking for and I said to him the same place I responded to the first guy. They seem to know each other and the second man instructed the first guy to dropped me off in Darwin Transit Centre. I learned from them that the terminal I was dropped off was Darwin Bus Interchange Terminal, at that time, I thought that the cab confused it with Darwin Transit Center terminal. I also learned that I need to walk at least 10-15 minutes to reach the transit center.

At that time, I was sad because of what happened of my first day adventure after I returned to Australia. After the conversation with two men that I barely knew, I trusted them and accepted the help offered of the first man who I talked to. I hopped into the front seat of his vehicle and my luggage inside the car. On the way, we talked a bit and we conversed how the cab driver didn’t even knew or familiar with Darwin Transit Centre where in fact the said terminal is tourist affiliated center. We drove few minutes, then we reached the said location and I was very thankful to the man who helped me. After I got-off the car, I looked around and I saw the tour company office that includes in my email from Viator. I went inside and I asked about the tour that I suppose to join though the pick-up time has already passed, it’s almost 6:45 AM at that time. They told me that the bus already left which did not surprised me at all. They asked my name and they mentioned that they were actually looking for me. They received some of my updates in the email about my pick-up location. I explained to them what happened. They talked to me and told me that they don’t reimburse payment of any tour. They asked me if I was available the next day and I told them that I was not. My only option that will be a bit fair for me was to join their another day tour. I asked what are available options. The tour that I booked was higher than what they were offering me and the famous one but at that time I didn’t have a choice but to choose a tour that I can still join to maximize my first day in Northern Territory. The tour that I chose to avoid ruining my day was Litchfield National Park Day Tour.

Until then.

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Trekking Kata Tjuta (The Olgas)

At camping area in the nearby village Yulara not far from Uluru / Ayers Rock where we chose to sleep for the first night of our camping tour, we helped our tour guide in dinner preparation. To be honest, I was not really good in kitchen and food stuff but still I tried my best to be useful, like helping the group in washing the dishes. After dinner, our tour guide announced that our wake-up call was 6am the next morning.

I washed-up myself before I get in the swag. When I was inside the swag, I got a chance to enjoy the sky at night and tried to listen to my surroundings. While I was in that moment, I was also checking my other group mates and found some were snoozing, some still talking and some were just quiet like me.

Overnight in an open space and sleeping in swag was one of the first unique experience I had in the Outback. Yes, as mountaineers, I usually sleep in sleeping bag inside the tent but it was first in swag which quite different. Swag is like a self contain sleeping bag, I never felt cold over night which was really surprising but good as well. Before I totally passed out for day, I was with a thought of happiness and satisfaction with my first day with Uluru / Ayers Rock specifically the base walk experience. That night, I felt excited again and I was looking forward for the next adventure.

Second day at the outback, I woke-up early in the morning. I organised my swag, I tried to roll it to be like it was before I used it, but it’s kind of difficult to roll, so I just fixed it as much I can.  I joined my group in preparing our breakfast. Since I had shower the night before, I was ready for the day’s event. It was still dark when we left the camping area, I felt like it was still early in the morning. As we were catching the sunrise we drove back again to Lasseter Highway from Yulara and visited a lookout area called Kata Tjuta Viewing Area (or Kata Tjuta Dune Viewing). We waited a little, in few minutes we witnessed the sunrise while watching  Kata Tjuta from a far. While observing The Olgas , from a distance at our right side while facing The Olgas, Uluru / Ayers Rock was also visible, the sun was actually behind it. It was a spectacular moment for me. We watched how great sceneries that Kata Tjuta shows because it is a rock dome ranges, it was called t that moment with the sun rising, I felt really alive, I felt really good. It was a moment that I was content and loved my life. It was one of the effect of the Outback to me. Sometimes I can’t explain why, because to other people maybe it’s just a places of rocks with probably no meaning to them, but for me it was a world of amazing things and serenity.

— Uluru / Ayers Rock at dawn and early in the morning from Kata Tjuta Dune Viewing Area

Kata Tjuta (The Olgas) from Kata Tjuta Dune Viewing Area

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— On our way to Kata Tjuta

After, the sunrise, we went back to the bus and we drove towards The Olgas. We returned to Lassetter Highway and I knew that time, that the second day was the day to get up close and personal with Kata Tjuta. We arrived at the parking area where the “Valley of the Winds” trekking trail starts.

— Up close and personal with Kata Tjuta / The Olgas

— The trekking trail

— The first glimpse of Valley of the Winds from Karu Lookout

We jumped-off the bus and started our walk towards the base of The Olgas. At firs,t I thought that The Olgas are small hills until we were really close to it and realized how huge the rock formations and was like Uluru / Ayers Rock. Kata Tjuta is a unique kind of natural rock formation. I was reckoning, in such desert plain like Red Centre, that there such kind of rock formations like Uluru  / Ayers Rock and The Olgas existed. I was amazed how these were created and become what they are today. If we are living in a magical world like from a fantasy story, we can think of that someone may put Uluru and Kata Tjuta in the middle of desert plain and the most surprising, they are located in the almost center of Australia. I was still contemplating how these kind of rock formations evolved in the middle of the desert until I thought that it was some amazing geological miracle. The first part of the trail was Karu Lookout where we first witness the “Valley of the Winds”.

— The trekking trail

— The Olgas

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— Featuring the highest dome called Mount Olga

P1080011— Water Stream

We followed the trail inside The Olgas. I enjoyed the trek around the area. We passed a small water streams that looks like a natural canal or a petite river. Trekking in a natural environment such as The Olgas are one of the activities that I really enjoyed. Then, along the trail we saw the water falls which seems the source of the water stream that we just passed by. The same trail where the water fall is, we have to combine walking and hiking in an inclined part of one of the huge rock formation and there’s nothing to hold on. Honestly, that kind of trail made me felt really unsure to myself. I tried my best and we successfully passed the part of the trail until we reach the top area where the water falls came from.

— Trekking Trail

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— Getting inside The Olgas

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— The poop (captured this photo while our tour guide is telling something about the poop)

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— The water falls we passed by along the trail

— The top most area where the water falls came from

— Trekking trail

— Between The Olgas

We arrived at the top most area that we can reach in the trail and walk towards Karingana Lookout. There, I saw the “Valley of the Winds” again. At Karingana Lookout, “Valley of the Winds” was an amazing and a picturesque view. At the time of trekking, I was quite tired after taking steps upward to the area, though tired a bit, I felt it was worth to climb. At the lookout, I realized how lucky I was to witness such sceneries and such views  that cannot be appreciated down below.

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— Trail to Karingana Lookout for “Valley of the Winds” view

— Between The Olgas

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Valley of the Winds at Karingana Lookout

— Couple of shots on the way back to the parking area.

— Kata Tjuta / The Olgas

After spending sometime and after enjoying photo snapshots at Karingana lookout for the “Valley of the Winds”, we started to go back. We used the same trail going up to descend The Olgas. We passed the same water falls and slippery trail. After returning to the parking area, I thought that the adventure in The Olgas was finished until we drove back to Lasseter Highway and stopped at The Olgas Viewing Area.

Before we completely ended our adventure that day, after finishing Kata Tjuta trek, we returned to Uluru Sunset Viewing area because our tour guide considered that we experienced rain during the first camping day tour, it was good to go back for such wonderful day. And we spent few minutes to take photos and snapshots until we leave the premise.

— Kata Tjuta

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— Uluru / Ayers Rock (during our second day)

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Mount Conner

On our way to Kings Creek station, which was the designated place for our upgraded accommodation arrangement. Upgraded because from swag, we were about to sleep in Tent with two beds, which means one thing, a more comfortable bed are waiting for our group. Passing Lasseter Highway, we stopped at Mount Conner lookout area, where we saw how magnificent Mount Conner. I was amazed because the rock formation that Mount Conner has which stands around the area of Red Centre is another piece of huge rock formation in the middle of the desert and its  distinguished shape still notable compared to Uluru and Kata Tjuta.

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— Our Tour Guide

— Lasseter Highway

After enjoying Mount Conner from a distance, we crossed Lasseter Highway to enjoy the nearby desert with perfect sand dunes, we walked around the area and played the sands, we saw the lake as well and discovered a unique species in the outback desert called Ngiyari or Thorny Devil.

— Lake

— Desert sand dunes

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— Ngiyari (Thorny Devil)

The rest of the afternoon spent in the road while we were on our way to Kings Creek station for our third and last day adventure in Kings Canyon. It was another worth experience I had in the outback of Australia. And though I was quite sad that the adventure will be over soon, I was still excited for the next adventure.

Until then.

Uluru / Ayers Rock – An Island Mountain Rock With Sacred Significance And Australia’s Outback Landmark

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 Chifley 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 (Camels 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.

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— 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

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— Lungkata Walking Track marker

— Some snapshots at almost end of Lungkata Walk

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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.

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Some drawings created by Aboriginals