Heading west from the Stuart Highway along the Lasseter Highway we turned off to visit Kings Canyon. Along the road we were stopped by a huge black wedge tailed eagle having its breakfast of kangaroo road kill. A new variety of vegetation appeared, numerous short and very thin trees alongside tall beautifully formed bushy canopied trees with cones over them Later we were informed these are the wonderful central Australian Desert Oak trees and the smaller thin ones are the youngens!
Driving on, we found, without too much difficulty, the free bush camp at the foot of the Parana Hills, a reasonable driving distance to the canyon. Next morning, leaving the van at the bush camp, we made an early start on the rim walk around the top of Kings Canyon. As expected, the first 100 metres was practically vertical rocky steps. It was straight up, but the steps were well made and we had plenty of stops to let the heart rates settle and get our breath back. The views walking through the ancient rock formations (with ripples in the rock left behind from the ancient central Australian seashore) and all along the rim were fantastic. The 450 million year old ancient rock formations and dome shaped layers of sandstone created a uniquely Australian landscape. We kept well back from the sheer drops of several hundred metres straight down, unlike many of the younger and more foolish tourists who made us shudder with how close they were willing to venture for their holiday happy snap! Lunch at around the halfway mark was a very welcome break and we made it back feeling a little sore and very tired after an inspiring 5 hour and 6km walk.
After another peaceful night at the camp we headed back to the Lasseter and made for Uluru doing a double-take as we spotted what we thought was the iconic rock and getting briefly excited until realising it was actually the table top Mount Connor we had seen. After an hour the unmistakable shape of “the rock” appeared through the windscreen. As we got closer and Uluru grew larger we were even more excited to be finally seeing the famous Australian icon. Pulling into the Ayers Rock Resort (and returning to the reception three times to get a powered site wide enough, many are very small) we decided to stay 8 nights and take advantage of the pay for 3 get one free rate which made it more reasonable. We knew we had a lot to see and do and the excellent resort with hot showers and power for the aircond – running on heat though as it was still quite chilly in the mornings – was just what we needed to make our stay perfect.
We wanted to see Uluru as many times as we could, so we had an early start the following morning and paid the extra $12 for annual park passes rather than the 3 day one at the park entrance and drove to the cultural centre and then Uluru in the crisp, cold morning. There had been rain overnight so luckily we were able to see the uncommon sight of cascades of water down from the rock and into rock pools below. We also drove out to find the best places for sunrise and sunset photos later before heading back to the resort. After a couple of days of rain showers, the skies cleared to a beautiful bright blue. We headed for Kata Tjuta.
Kata Tjuta (meaning many heads) National Park is a sacred men’s site for the indigenous, traditional owners and is a World Heritage area managed by Parks Australia and the Anangu people. There are about 36 domed heads. KataTjuta proved very interesting and photogenic and the Valley of the Winds certainly lived up to its’ name!
Taking a day off after the previous days’ efforts to the lookouts of Karu and Karingana, the bikes were loaded onto the back of the car the following morning and we headed out very early to ride the 10kms around Uluru. It was a cold and shaky start for us both as we hadn’t ridden in months but after the first half hour it went fine and we stopped often to take photos of all the interesting facets of the rock, aboriginal sites, rock art and waterholes. Uluru has a number of sacred women’s sites and although people are allowed to climb it the Anangu people request that they don’t climb the rock. It looked very dangerous and high. The only reason people are still able to is because the Federal government had it as a condition in the 99 year lease they required for handing ownership back to the traditional owners in 1995. A lunch stop at the halfway point was disturbed by a lone dingo who was very interested in our curried egg sandwiches! Eventually he flopped down on the ground close by so we could take plenty of photos of him.
That evening we slept very soundly and happily having achieved something we had always wanted to do. After visiting Uluru again at both sunset (on our wedding anniversary) and sunrise, we hooked up and headed back to the Stuart Highway turning northwards towards Katherine.