Epic Tour of Uluru – Ayers Rock
Saturday 3rd September to Monday 5th September 2011 – Uluru, Australia
For the next 3 days and 2 nights I would be embarking on a fantastic tour of Ayers Rock (Uluru) and surrounding area, together with some of the greatest people I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. It was truly one of the highlights of my trip to Australia, full of memories that I will always treasure.
The day began at 5:00am which was no problem considering how excited I was. I showered and had breakfast before joining a small group of people gathering in the garden ready for the tour. There was a group of 4 from Germany, including Lukas from the Ghan journey, and it was these incredible people that I spent the next few days with. We made our introductions and set off on the tour.
Max was our guide for this 3 day trip around the heart of Australia. Despite being young, he seemed to know his way around, and had a knack for making people feel welcome and at ease. We each had to take turns to sit at the front of the minibus and tell everybody a few things about ourselves. We had to begin by telling our names and where we are from, also our favourite music album, what super power we would like, what animal we would like to be, and our first and last kiss. There were some funny comments, as well as some strange, but all in all a great way to break the ice and to get to know everyone. Max had his ipod and was playing some great music whilst we witnessed the sun rising over the red sandy horizon, which somehow now looked even more red.
We stopped for a fuel break at a place regarded as being the dead centre of Australia, a place called Erldunda. From here we traveled onto Kings Canyon for our first big stop of the tour. Kings Canyon was a two and a half hour walk through a mixture of harsh desert and lush greenery. We started up Heart Attack Hill, named for its many steps, though the view from the top was heart stopping in itself. The heat played its part, but the water bottle in my hand was my most welcome companion. We learnt a lot about the local plants, and saw fossils in the ground, all very cool, and very interesting. The pathway led us to a water hole where others had gathered for a swim and a sunbathe. We only passed on through as the water looked a funny colour. Once back at the coach, we had lunch and stocked up on water before heading off again.
The scenery around these parts was all pretty similar, though this had been their wettest wet season on record, and the green of the trees and bushes far outweighed the red of the sandy desert. In fact, it was the greenest it had ever been in these parts, and the greenest I had seen of all Australia up until now. There was plenty of evidence of controlled bush fires, absolutely necessary in this part of the world, to avoid the real threat of wildfire eliminating large areas. The stories Max had of the devastation a wildfire could cause were frightening enough. Wild Horses and Camels could be seen on occasion, roaming free, and probably enjoying all the lush vegetation. We also stopped to watch a Kangaroo at one point. I’m sure it must have realised we were watching, as whilst our eyes were upon him, he slipped and fell on his arse, which brought with it an outburst of laughter from us all, followed by sympathy of course. I had to feel for the Kangaroo, as it’s the sort of thing I would do, especially in front of a group of people.
Unfortunately we had a group of young Irish guys on the tour with us who seemed hell bent on ruining the tour for others by making as much noise as they could, swearing constantly, and refusing to take part in any activity. They only seemed interested when we stopped at a local store for some alcohol. Either way I was able to block them out, and it didn’t ruin anything for me, though Max was visibly irritated. They sat on the coach as we stopped to collect firewood, whilst the rest of us were getting our hands dirty. We used a patch of burnt woodland to collect as much wood as we could carry for our camp fire, and by the end of it our hands were black. Surprisingly, a little water on the hands, followed by rubbing in some red sand, then rinsing with a little more water, was enough to get rid of all the charcoal.
We saw out the rest of the day at our first campsite whilst eating and drinking, and sharing a lot of laughs. It’s great how close we had all become at this early stage, with all people on the tour (aside from the young lads at the back). As the sun set and night drew in we all climbed into our swag bags to sleep under the stars around the warmth of the fire. And what a view the sky was! It is said that out here in the middle of Australia away from all the city lights, you can really see just how many stars there are in the sky, and they are not wrong. The sky was alight with countless burning stars, all jostling for a place inside the black canvas of space. I could see the Milky Way, as well as shooting stars. I could have looked up into the sky for hours, and as it turns out, I did.
There was not a lot sleeping had by me this night. I struggled to get comfortable, and could hear the mice running about around our heads, squeaking and squabbling among themselves. These mice hop on their back legs, and can jump pretty high we were told, so I was waiting for an unwelcome visitor to my swag bag. It never happened though, and neither did sleep itself, but I just didn’t care. I was out in the middle of earth itself, looking out into infinity, away from all the stress of life, surrounded by friends. It doesn’t get much better than this.
One of the Irish guys who was scared of the mice, decided to sleep in the coach. That was until a mouse had entered the coach. We all heard the banging as he threw things at the mouse during the early stages of the night. He then climbed up onto the trailer and slept there the rest of the night. It was funny for the rest of us.
Morning broke and the campfire was nothing more than a pile of ash. After breakfast we set out again to Kata Tjuta, a group of rock formations not too dissimilar to Ayers Rock itself in appearance, though this rock is more brown in colour. We took a walk around the edge, and up onto the rocks where we witnessed another incredible view. It should have been all red, but all we could see was green, again, very uncharacteristic in these parts. I felt quite honoured that I was able to be around at this time to see everything in this way. Somehow it makes it a little more special knowing I have seen it a little differently to everybody else who comes here. Our guide taught us how the Aboriginal people used different coloured rock to paint with, it was all very fascinating. On the walk back I managed to fall head over heels onto the sand in front of all the girls on the tour, much like the Kangaroo a day ago. I was expecting laughter but was surprised how concerned everyone was. The laughter came when we all realised I had held onto my camera with one hand and water bottle with the other hand the whole time, not daring to drop either. And my hat was still rooted to my head. It meant I had landed very inelegantly in a heap on the ground, but at least my camera and water bottle were intact. I had to laugh at myself. My legs and arms had taken a good scraping, but nothing more. The embarrassment could have killed me though.
After lunch we moved onto Uluru, but first to an information place where we learned a great deal about the rock and the link with the Aboriginal people. It was an optional part of the tour as Max was keen for us to know more about the rock before we decided if we would walk up it or not. He was very passionate about the sacredness of Uluru, and wanted us to make our own minds up about how we felt about it. I was glad I had taken the time to read the information in front of me. I had every intention of climbing Ayers Rock, but not now I had realised just what it means to the local people. I am a firm believer in the free world, and how the earth belongs to nobody. I don’t share a belief in any religion, nor do I challenge anybody who does. But being at this place at this time, it could only be hugely disrespectful to climb the rock, and I was happy just to walk around the perimeter.
Max took us around a small part of the rock to show us the waterfall, or where the water would fall in the event of rain, after which we headed for the lookout point to watch the sun setting over the rock. The colours were impressive, and there were ample photo opportunities. The lookout point was awash with expensive tour buses, tables and wine, and here we were with our cans of beer and plates of finger food. It struck me as being particularly surprising watching the tourists on these buses eating their food, drinking their wine, and not even paying the slightest bit of attention the the massive rock to one side of them. Brilliant!
We spent the night at another campsite, this time with proper facilities. After a nice shower and a great night around the campfire, we got back into our swag bags for another night of not much sleep. The Irish guys had decided to go off in search of some pubs, much to the annoyance of our tour guide who basically told them that he wouldn’t be responsible for anything that happened to them. They didn’t care one bit though, and sadly have now alienated themselves from the whole tour group. I was actually pleased they went as we were now able to enjoy the evening without them.
The final day was upon us. The Irish guys had made it back, and we headed for the Grande Finale, Uluru itself. First stop was back to the lookout to witness the sun rise, then off to the Rock for a base walk around the perimeter. I was shocked at how many people were climbing the rock to be honest. I don’t know how I feel about that. Max was very vocal about his disgust, which probably influenced our decision not to climb it, and although I was happy not to climb it, I could see why some people would, having come all this way. Personally, I didn’t need to climb it to see it for all its beauty. Unsurprisingly, the only people from our group who did decide to climb were the Irish lads. As it turns out, when they got to the climb, they had just closed the rock due to incoming strong winds. The lads had to follow on behind us around the base walk.
The day in all was a lot of fun, and a great chance to really get to know my new friends. We laughed about everything, and shared so much in common. It remains true that some of the nicest people I have ever met in all my travels often come from Germany. The views around Uluru were impressive, but the company was priceless. Back at the coach we waited and waited for the Irish guys to turn up. Eventually they did after an hour passed, and I think it pleased us all to learn they had not been allowed to climb the rock.
Sadly, having had to wait so long, we didn’t now have time to fit in the last couple of things on the tour, much to everybody’s annoyance. This made the young lads vocally pleased with themselves. Part of me wished the back of the coach would open up and eject the lads from their seats, but I was too tired to care anymore. It had been an epic few days, and I was now very sleepy as we drove back to Alice Springs. We had one last stop that we did have time for, which was a Camel farm. Here we rode a Camel around a track. Great fun, but brutal on the man jewels. I found it hard to walk afterwards. It was a great end to a great trip.
When we arrived back at Alice Lodge, myself and Steffi jumped into the freezing hostel swimming pool to cool off. It took my breath away but it was much needed. We showered and headed back into town to the Rock Bar where we met up with the guys from the tour, and Max, and had a few drinks and a meal, then danced into the night. Max has really looked after us this whole trip, and has helped – along with the other people on the tour – in making this 3 of the best days of my life.
Written by Daniel Stevens,