Red Centre Holiday 2016: Day 8 – Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, Northern Territory


It was a much later start today, with just some short walks to knock over before a fairly relaxing afternoon. Before I started the walks I stopped at the Uluru Sunset Viewing Area to collect a couple of shots of Uluru.

ABOVE: Uluru in the Early Morning

The first of the two walks for this morning was the Liru Walk. The Liru Walk connects Uluru with the Cultural Centre and can be walked from either location. I started at Uluru because it would also be the starting point for the Mala Walk, the second walk I would be doing this morning. The Liru Walk is a 4 km return walk which is flat and easy, making its way through the low woodland and wildflower covered region between the Rock and the Cultural Centre. It was a visual feast of wildflowers during my visit.

ABOVE & BELOW: Wildflowers of the Liru Walk

With the Liru Walk completed, I headed off to repeat the Mala Walk, which I had completed as part of the Uluru Base Walk 2 days before. I wanted to do the walk again because it was very crowded on the previous occasion and Uluru seemed much quieter at the moment and it indeed proved so. Still, there were some ‘yahoos’ about and I did mention something to someone about how all that spoiled the experience of the place. Little did I know at the time that the woman I mentioned that to was the mother of the teenagers carrying on like idiots and they were soon told to quieten down. I think all present were pleased with the result. I suspect the Mala Walk is probably the best part of the area around Uluru itself, with its natural beauty and its cultural importance also, it being an important location for the Aboriginal people.

ABOVE: Scenery from the Mala Walk   BELOW: Rock Art on the Mala Walk

ABOVE & BELOW: Kantju Gorge – Part of the Mala Walk

The distance travelled on this day was 43 km – giving me a total of 3125 km for the whole trip to this point.

When it got dark, once again, it was the usual ‘house keeping’ before bed – updating the daily journal, reviewing the holiday budget, checking in on social media, and editing and uploading photos. Then it was off to bed for an early start the next morning, with the trip over to Watarrka National Park and the Kings Canyon Resort.

View the Photos at:
https://flic.kr/s/aHskHi3m6g
https://flic.kr/s/aHskFKZjYJ

Visit the Red Centre Holiday 2016 web page at:
http://kevinswilderness.com/NT/redcentre2016.html

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Red Centre Holiday 2016: Day 7 – Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, Northern Territory


ABOVE: Sunrise at Uluru

It was an early morning yet again as I prepared for a sunrise viewing of Uluru. This morning I was heading off to Talinguru Nyakunytjaku to catch the Uluru sunrise at either the Minymaku platform or the Watiku platform. When I arrived I was a little surprised by the number of people that turned up (not that I should have been really) and both platforms were soon packed like sardine cans. However, I soon found what I thought was a much better spot anyway, on the edge of one of the trails below the Watiku platform. Then I discovered that I had forgotten to put the battery for my camera in the camera after I had recharged my camera overnight. Thankfully the batteries were in my car so I was able to quickly correct the problem and return prior to sunrise. It wasn’t long though before other people decided I knew a thing or two about location and decided to relocate to my general position. Before long it was a case of people trying to push their way in front of me and generally bustle me – not that they got too far with that approach as I refused to give ground to them. It was actually beginning to become ‘unpleasant’ between some leading protagonists. In the end most of us got the shots we were after without the need to resort to overt rudeness.

ABOVE: Sunrise at Uluru   BELOW: Wildflowers at Walpa Gorge

With sunrise done, it was off for the drive to Kata Tjuta, or as they are also known, the Olgas. It’s about 50 to 60km from Talinguru Nyakunytjaku, but well worth the journey. Indeed, in my opinion Kata Tjuta is a far better experience than Uluru. But as I have said before, every location has something different to offer and I enjoyed every one I went to over my holiday.

ABOVE: Early Morning at Walpa Gorge

First stop at Kata Tjuta was Walpa Gorge, which is a fairly short walk overall and quickly completed. It is a 2.6 km return walk, in and out of Walpa Gorge as the name probably suggests. It was still quite cold when I arrived and still early in the morning. There were very dark shadows being cast over the gorge by the massive domes that are Kata Tjuta. On the walk however, the heat that was being radiated from the domes was quite noticeable, having obviously retained heat from the previous day. A beautiful spot and well worth the visit – though I was keen to get onto the next walk, which is my favourite at Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park.

The Valley of the Winds is truly a magnificent experience and walk. It is a 7.4 km challenging circuit walk that takes about 3 hours to complete. There are two lookouts along the trail – the Karu Lookout (after 1.1km) and the Karingana Lookout (after 2.7km). Both provide incredible views, yet it could be argued that the entire walk is one great vista. I enjoy almost every bushwalk I embark on, but there are some that really rank highly in my estimation. There is the Grand High Tops Walk in Warrumbungle National Park, especially if you are able to tie Bluff mountain and Mount Exmouth into it as well. Actually, the more I think about it the more walks I want to include in my ‘highly estimated’ walks, but the Valley of the Winds has to be up there as well. I would have to include Kings Canyon Rim Walk and Ormiston Gorge among those walks also now I guess. Those brilliant walks were yet to come on this holiday.

ABOVE: View from Karingana Lookout – Valley of the Winds

As breath-taking as the Valley of the Winds is, it would probably be a terrible place to be in the height of summer. It was late winter and already very hot. I did see a couple of people not really coping with the walk. I can just imagine how many people come to grief to some degree in the hotter months. I found the walk to be a very pleasant and comfortable one in itself, let alone with all that there was to experience while on it around about me.

ABOVE: Valley of the Winds Walk   BELOW: View from the Kata Tjuta Dune Viewing Area

After the Valley of the Winds it was a short drive to the Kata Tjuta Dune Viewing Area, which provides some spectacular views of Kata Tjuta and of Uluru in the distance. There is a short 600m walk up to the viewing platform – all very easy. A visit to Kata Tjuta should always include a visit here.

The day’s activities were all over fairly early in the afternoon for me, so it was back to camp to enjoy some quiet time and relaxation, get a bit of washing done and generally rest, read and the like.

The distance travelled on this day was 150 km – giving me a total of 3082 km for the whole trip to this point.

When it got dark, once again, it was the usual ‘house keeping’ before bed – updating the daily journal, reviewing the holiday budget, checking in on social media, and editing and uploading photos. Then it was off to bed for a later start the next morning, with just the Liru and Mala Walks on the agenda.

View the Photos at:
https://flic.kr/s/aHskFqx3dU
https://flic.kr/s/aHskCsK6bi
https://flic.kr/s/aHskFr98bE
https://flic.kr/s/aHskFrmcWC

Visit the Red Centre Holiday 2016 web page at:
http://kevinswilderness.com/NT/redcentre2016.html

Red Centre Holiday 2016: Day 6 – Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, Northern Territory


It was once again an early start, but this time it wasn’t because I had a lot of driving to do. In fact, it was a short drive from Yulara to Uluru this morning. So I was up at 6am and off quite ealy to get the day’s main activity under way – The Uluru Base Walk.

Once I arrived at Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, it was a case of paying my $25.00 for a park pass, which gave me three days of consecutive entrance to the park. There is a ticket station there and when you have a pass, you can enter fairly quickly via the boom gate entrance while the ticket remains valid.

The Uluru Base Walk is a 10.6 km circuit walk that is generally started at the Mala Walk Carpark (which is also the starting point for the Uluru climb and Mala Walk). The walk is said to take 3.5 hours, which may or may not be close to the money as it really depends on your interest level in the walk. It can take less or a lot more, depending on your enthusiam for what you’re doing. It is really quite an easy walk as it is all flat. I imagine it would be more difficult if there were higher temperatures, like in the middle of summer for instance.

The Base Walk covers the same territory as several other walks that are interested in particular features around Uluru, incorporating the Mala Walk (which I returned to do as a separate walk on day 8) which heads into Kantju Gorge, the Lungkata Walk and the Kuniya Walk, which heads to Mutitjulu Waterhole.

ABOVE: Aboriginal Rock Art at Mutitjulu Cave   BELOW: Mutitjulu Waterhole

One of the things that really annoyed me early on were the tourists. Early on there probably weren’t that many, but as the morning went on more and more arrived. It wasn’t the number of tourists (though the Rock obviously draws a lot of people from not only Australia, but from around the world) it was the volume of the tourists. By volume, I mean the noise many of them created. They just couldn’t help themselves but had to be ‘yahooing’ all of the time, making as much noise as it seemed un-humanly possible to create, doing who knows what in order to create it.

ABOVE: A View of Uluru   BELOW: Wildflowers

ABOVE & BELOW: Wildflowers at Uluru

ABOVE & BELOW Wildflowers at Uluru

ABOVE: A View of Uluru

I was also amazed at how many people would walk great distances around the Rock without even looking at what they were walking around, seemingly only interested in talking with one another, completing the walk to move on to their next ‘accomplishment’ and the like. Right under their noses was a world of delight, with great open wild spaces of wildflowers and wildlife of all manner of varied descriptions to behold and be amazed at. The odd person (and perhaps we were odd) shared my fascination and joy at being in such a place. One woman described to me how she was brought nearly to tears by what she was able to see and experience in this place. But I fear we were the odd exception to this mass of disinterested humanity wandering about the place.

So there I was, wandering about the place enjoying my every experience and imbibing everything that I could with the little time that I would be there. Still, as great a place as this was and is, I knew that in my own opinion Kuta Tjuta always impressed me more and that was yet to come, plus new experiences in places I had never been before at Watarrka National Park and in the West Macdonnell National Park. Still, this was a very special place and for me, every wilderness location is impressive, having its own reason for being there and its own reason for being impressive. There is always some wonder to be had at whichever place you are currently visiting, if you only take the time to listen, to smell, to see, to touch (umm… maybe not taste).

ABOVE: Always Something to Experience in the Wild

I think I was out on this walk for at least 4 hours and possibly a little longer than that. It all went by fairly quickly and every bend of the walk brought something new. The highlights of the walk were of course Uluru itself, the wildflowers, Mutitjulu Waterhole and Kantju Gorge. However, there are plenty of other sites and objects to maintain one’s interest on the walk. There are various insects, birds and sometimes other forms of wildlife, some ‘minor’ landform associated with the Rock, some feature away from the Rock – a glimpse of Kata Tjuta even. It is just an amazing place that you feel priviliged for being able to be there, let alone being able to enjoy it on more than one occasion.

ABOVE: Kantju Gorge

The distance travelled on this day was 60 km – giving me a total of 2932 km for the whole trip to this point.

Once again it was the usual ‘house keeping’ before bed – updating the daily journal, reviewing the holiday budget, checking in on social media, and editing and uploading photos. Then it was off to bed for an early start the next morning, with the goal of Kata Tjuta set for the next day.

ABOVE: The Mala Walk

View the Photos at:
https://flic.kr/s/aHskH7CHaQ

Visit the Red Centre Holiday 2016 web page at:
http://kevinswilderness.com/NT/redcentre2016.html

Red Centre Holiday 2016: Day 5 – Marla, South Australia to Yulara, Northern Territory


I was probably up a little later than I had expected to be, but was still away just as dawn broke. It had been a cold night, I was still ill with the flu, but at least I had been nice and warm in the sleeping bag and under the covers in my little tent. Having experienced a very cold night in central Australia many years ago, I have never gone camping again without all that I need to keep comfortable and warm. I now go prepared for all possibilities as far as cold nights are concerned, as the previous cold night in central Australia (18 years ago) was terrible and was in fact less than 100km from Uluru in June 1998. So now I have a sleeping bag I can be comfortable in (one I can fit comfortably in too – no pathetically small single-sized sleeping bag), the doona that I throw over the top and an inflatable double-sized mattress (which helps not only with rough surfaces, but also the very cold ground, which was the real issue 18 years ago). I speak of all this with car-based camping in mind of course – there is no way I would carry this sort of gear for multi-day walks and camping.

Before I could leave Marla I needed to fuel up and had a quick chat with the girl who was serving in the service station – she had been on duty all through the night. She had suggested to me the night before that I come up to the store and be in the air conditioning if it was too cold in the tent. Thankfully I didn’t need to do that, though it probably sounded as though I did – I was pretty ill with the flu and it was very easy to tell.

ABOVE: Wildflowers Just Inside the Northern Territory   BELOW: Just Inside the Northern Territory

The journey today would once again involve a lot of driving, broken up by the odd geocache here and there along the way. However, the main drawcard was always going to be Uluru and I would get some tantalising glimpses before the day was out. I was very keen to reach my destination and the goal of the holiday – the red centre. So today the main stops along the way were the South Australian – Northern Territory border, Erldunda for fuel (just where the turnoff for Yulara and Uluru is, from the Stuart Highway and onto the Lasseter Highway) and also Curtain Springs for one last fuel stop before hitting Yulara. There were a few stops on the Lasseter Highway along the way for a bit of sight-seeing, especially for wildflowers, views of Mount Conner and some early glimpes of Uluru and Kata Tjuta.

ABOVE: Mount Conner in the Distance   BELOW: Mount Conner

ABOVE: Mount Conner   BELOW: Uluru in the Distance

On arrival in Yulara I booked in to the Ayers Rock Campground for four nights and set up my tent on a powered site. I chose to exercise restraint and not head off to Uluru straight away, choosing to both rest up for the following day and to wait until I was able to use the full 3 days that my Uluru pass would give me when I purchased it at the entrance to Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park ($25.00 for an adult for 3 days). So it was a case of resting up and being ready for the base walk around Uluru the next day.

The distance travelled on this day was 503 km – giving me a total of 2872 km for the whole trip to this point.

Once again it was the usual ‘house keeping’ before bed – updating the daily journal, reviewing the holiday budget, checking in on social media, and editing and uploading photos. Then it was off to bed for an early start the next morning, with the excitement mounting, as I would arrive in Yulara the next day and be within sight of Uluru – the main goal of my holiday.

View the Photos at:
https://flic.kr/s/aHskFHygxC

Visit the Red Centre Holiday 2016 web page at:
http://kevinswilderness.com/NT/redcentre2016.html

Red Centre Holiday 2016: Day 4 – Woomera, South Australia to Marla, South Australia


It was a much later start in the day for me today, departing Woomera at about 7.15am. Being as ill as I was with the flu, I felt I could use the sleep-in. Once I was on my way, it was just off to Pimba for a quick fuel pit stop – Pimba is only a very short distance up the road and took only a matter of minutes to get there. This also marked the beginning of the more expensive fuel prices, with ULP coming in at $1.60 a litre at Pimba. It would be $2.02 at Kings Canyon Resort.

ABOVE & BELOW: Wildflowers Along the Stuart Highway

Once on the road proper, I again searched for a number of geocaches along the way. These helped to highlight the land that I was travelling through and allowed for regular leg stretching, which always helps when on the road for long periods of time. Another thing that helped to break up the day were the wildflowers, with a number of short breaks taken throughout the journey to take in the spectacle at close quarters. The wildflowers were really something that struck me during my holiday travels. They were really something throughout central Australia.

ABOVE & BELOW: Wildflowers Along the Stuart Highway

Coober Pedy was my first major stop as I headed north towards Marla and as I drew closer to the Opal town I visited two monuments along the Stuart Highway – a monument marking the discovery of opal at Coober Pedy and another the explorer John MacDouall Stuart.

ABOVE: The John MacDouall Stuart Monument Near Coober Pedy

Coober Pedy has never really appealed to me and once again I found myself wanting to get my business in the town settled and to be on my way again. There was a fuel stop and some grocery shopping in the local IGA, knowing that prices would become much higher the further inland I headed. The prices in the shop at Kings Canyon Resort took my breath away, and I for one believed it was little more than price gouging given that there was nowhere else to go. But Kings Canyon was still several days away and so that shock was still to come.

ABOVE: Welcome to Coober Pedy

From Coober Pedy it was a pretty straight-forward run to Marla and my first night in the tent at Marla Traveller’s Rest. It was quite a cold night and with the flu I wasn’t really looking forward to it. However, my car-based camping set-up allows me a very comfortable and warm sleeping environment, so there were no real dramas. It was however a very cold night when out of the sleeping bag and out from under the covers. It was probably close to zero.

The distance travelled on this day was 599 km – giving me a total of 2369 km for the whole trip to this point.

Once again it was the usual ‘house keeping’ before bed – updating the daily journal, reviewing the holiday budget, checking in on social media, and editing and uploading photos. Then it was off to bed for an early start the next morning, with the excitement mounting, as I would arrive in Yulara the next day and be within sight of Uluru – the main goal of my holiday.

View the Photos at:
https://flic.kr/s/aHskFFWHSE

Visit the Red Centre Holiday 2016 web page at:
http://kevinswilderness.com/NT/redcentre2016.html

Red Centre Holiday 2016: Day 3 – Broken Hill, New South Wales to Woomera, South Australia


The day once again started early for me, as I hit the road determined to make Woomera in good time – especially given that I intended to do quite a bit of geocaching along the way again. In fact, on this day I found upwards of a dozen caches as I travelled along. One of the reasons I enjoy geocaching (and believe me it isn’t for the goodies you find in the caches, as most is little more than junk) are the places it takes you to. Geocaching showed me some interesting sites as I travelled along, what is really quite a large and remote part of the country. It really helped to break up some of those vast distances I was travelling.

ABOVE: Arriving in South Australia  BELOW: Old Water Tower

ABOVE: Poor ‘Old Ted’  BELOW: Olary Railway Station

Other than the geocaching locations, one of the first stops of the day was at Cockburn, which marked the New South Wales – South Australian border. It was quite cold there, as it was for most of the journey across the southern stretch of Australia that I travelled on my holiday. But it was Olary that really caught my attention – a lovely old ‘bush’ type of town, seemingly lost in time. I loved the place, not that I saw a sole during the whole time I wandered about there – but to be fair it was cold and early.

ABOVE & BELOW: Morris Commercial at Olary

There were two main stops for fuel throughout the day. One at Yunta and one at Port Augusta – and these really were just quick pit stops to refuel. I then quickly moved on to Pimba and Woomera, staying the night in another cabin as I was still quite sick with the flu. This time I stayed at Woomera Traveller’s Village.

On this third day I travelled 600 km – giving me a total of 1769 km for the whole trip so far.

ABOVE: Concret Dice Near Yunta

Once again it was the usual ‘house keeping’ before bed – updating the daily journal, reviewing the holiday budget, checking in on social media, and editing and uploading photos. Then it was off to bed for an early start the next morning.

View the Photos at:
https://flic.kr/s/aHskH4YGLw

Visit the Red Centre Holiday 2016 web page at:
http://kevinswilderness.com/NT/redcentre2016.html

Red Centre Holiday 2016: Day 2 – Nyngan to Broken Hill


The second day of my ‘Red Centre Holiday 2016’ began early, with a 5.30 am departure from Nyngan. I actually tried to find a geocache out the front of the caravan park in the dark, but had to give up because of the waterlogged conditions. So it was on my way early to my next stop – another geocache along the way. In fact I searched for about a dozen throughout the day, finding most of them. So geocaching broke up the trip a little, getting me out of the car from time to time.

At this point it may not be a bad idea to explain geocaching – that way if you have no idea about what I’m talking about, you soon will have at least a rudimental understanding of it.

My first major stop of the day was at Cobar for breakfast. Following Cobar it was Wilcannia and then on to Broken Hill, where I spent the night at the Broken Hill Tourist Park. I stayed in a cabin again as I was still suffering badly from the flu.

ABOVE: Taking a Break

So there wasn’t a lot to report on for day 2. It was just another day of moving closer to my destination really – something which would take 5 days to achieve. On this second day I travelled 587 km (1169 km total for the whole trip so far).

ABOVE: On the Road

So once again it was the usual ‘house keeping’ before bed – updating the daily journal, reviewing the holiday budget, checking in on social media, and editing and uploading photos. Then it was off to bed for an early start the next morning.

View the Photos at:
https://flic.kr/s/aHskFnbSGY

Visit the Red Centre Holiday 2016 web page at:
http://kevinswilderness.com/NT/redcentre2016.html