Touring the Red Centre

John Spy on 05 June 2010

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I was in Australia to attend the Australian Tourism Exchange, held in Adelaide this year and after 90+ meetings in 4 days and several functions, I was ready to get into the outback.

The flight from Adelaide took about 2 hours and landed at Alice Springs just before lunchtime. I hadn’t visited The Red Centre for 19 years and I was very keen to see if it was as I remembered. The first thing that challenged my memory was the location of my hotel, The Chifley Alice Springs. It was further out of the town centre than I thought, still a simple 10 minute stroll though, crossing the dried up River Todd into Todd Mall, the heart of the town. The rest of the day was spent exploring and getting used to the heat. In the evening I tried to get some cash from a bank without any joy – it pays to tell your bank where you're going. After a call home everything was sorted and it just proves that even Travel Counsellors can get caught out!

I had arranged a tour through APT and the next day I was collected by the bus and hit the road. Mid-morning we stopped at a camel farm where there was an excellent breakfast and great cup of tea and some passengers took the chance to ride a camel. Back on the bus we headed off along the Red Centre Way. My home for tonight was Kings Canyon Wilderness Lodge and I got dropped off at a roadside junction where my transfer to the lodge was waiting. On arrival at the lodge the first thing I saw was a huge bank of solar panels that tracked the sun and powered the camp. The ‘cabins’ were excellent – air conditioned, lots of space and really comfortable beds. In the afternoon I explored the base of Kings Canyon and while many people opt for the climb and walk around the rim, the base walk offers an equally great experience. Dinner that evening was around the camp fire and a chance to meet some of my fellow guests. Stories were told, beer was drunk and the 3 course dinner was fantastic.

After breakfast the following morning there was a tour of the grounds with some ancient aboriginal rock engravings and some great views. Back at the lodge I made my goodbyes and promised to return before heading off to meet the bus to take me into Yulara, which is a purpose built resort at the red centre. Arriving at lunchtime and I got dropped off at The Desert Garden Hotel and was lucky as my room had a great view of Ayer’s Rock, or Uluru as it is more properly known. After settling in I met with someone from the resort that was showing me around the different hotels on offer. Unfortunately my planned “Sounds of Silence” dinner was missed as the afternoon tour of the resort hotels took longer than expected, but I did see a great sunset and took some fantastic photos. Later I was lucky enough to have dinner with the resort manager and a couple of drinks before heading to bed after a long day.

Bright and early the following morning I got picked up by the coach and taken to the viewing platform for sunrise over Uluru. When the sunrise came it was simply stunning! This huge monolith simply changes colour with the sun and despite actually being grey it has the ability to turn several shades of orange. I was grateful that I had an electronic camera so I couldn’t run out of film. Once the sun was up we toured the circumference of the rock stopping to learn about the cultural significance of Uluru and also visited the cultural centre where we learned about the dreamtime and saw some original artwork. Next we travelled to Kata Tjuta, otherwise known as The Olgas, and walked into one of the gorges. This remarkable formation of 36 domes has some sheer walls that flank you and some of the plants are so rare they can only be found here.

After the walk it was time to head back to the resort, settle up and head to the airport. As I looked out at Uluru and Kata Tjuta from the plane I was sorry to be leaving this incredible place, but very glad that I came back and vowed I would not leave it so long till I returned again.

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