Back to Uluru

Our last visit to Uluru was just under 3 years ago and who knew we’d be back so soon!

Last time we visited was as part of our honeymoon which saw us travel up to Cape York and then across the Northern Territory.  It wasn’t long after Shelly’s mum had passed away so Shelly’s dad and her sister flew in to Alice Springs and joined us on our visit to Kings Canyon and Uluru.  It was the first visit to NT for all of us and it was great to be able to share it together after the not so great year beforehand. At the time we remember how we were all amazed at the sheer size of this huge rock sitting in isolation in the middle of nowhere.  From that first glimpse, to us actually visiting the rock, we were awe-struck.

Well I can tell you that it doesn’t change just because you’ve seen it before! When we arrived a few days ago and caught our first glimpse of Uluru again, it was still amazing, it really is something else.Once you actually drive into the park and get close up, you really see how large Uluru is, it’s quite overwhelming.  To see the caves and holes and ridges all around the rock is also quite something, you don’t really understand what it’s like from photos as they tend to show it as a relatively smooth rock.Uluru is 348m high, but more than 860m above sea level. It is over 9km in circumference and also apparently continues up to 5km or so down into the ground.

Uluru was actually formed by a type of sandstone, which came from compressed sediments laid down on the sea floor about 600 million years ago. Many years ago the Peterman Ranges to the west of Kata Tjuta were much taller than they are now. Over time sand and rock was eroded away and deposited into the surrounding plain. Later the whole area became part of an inland sea and sand and mud fell to the bottom of the sea, the weight of the water turning the ground beneath it into rock.About 400 million years ago, after the sea had disappeared, the area was subjected to massive forces and earthquakes. This caused some rocks to fold and tilt and you can see this through the sandstone layers of Uluru. The whole rock basically uplifted and tilted on its side.   Over the years, millions of years, the softer parts of the rock has eroded away, leaving caves and holes all over it. This time we did the guided Mala walk with one of the Rangers. This is a free 2km tour which went for about 2 hours. Our guide was great, he was of Aboriginal heritage and it was interesting to hear his stories. We learned the story of the Mala people and the history and traditions associated with Uluru. We saw some aboriginal rock art and heard all about Tjukurpa (pronounced chook-orr-pa), which is their creation time. These are stories passed down through generations to teach the way of life or law.We learned of the Anangu culture and the significance of Uluru to them. To Anangu this isn’t just one huge rock, it’s a lifetime of creation stories, it’s where they lived and learned their ways of life and laws, it’s home to creation beings which have left their mark around the area. Anangu have cared for the land for thousands and thousands of years and it’s a very spiritual and significant place to them.To Anangu, the holes and valleys and caves etc are as a result of the journeys and actions of ancestral beings across the landscape.  These creation stories tell the travels and actions of Kuniya (Woma python), Liru (poisonous snake), Mala (rufous hare-wallaby) and Lungkata (Centralian blue-tongue lizard).  We were shown a couple of places where you can see the evidence of their activities and actions.

On 26 October 1985, the title deeds to Uluru and Kata Tjuta were handed back to the traditional owners, the Anangu (meaning Aborignal people of western desert). It was then leased back to the  federal government for 99 years. The park is now jointly run by Anangu and National Parks and both work together to preserve the heritage and also educate people on the area.Clearly the place is very important and spiritual to Anangu and they have requested that people do not climb the rock, but unfortunately at this stage the ultimate decision on that comes down to the government and for that reason it is still open for climbing. Hopefully this will change at some point in the future. Last time we were there it was closed for climbing due to high winds and high temperature but this time it was open and there were plenty of people climbing. That’s their decision and they currently have every right to do so, but personally we wouldn’t purely out of respect to the traditional owners (and the fact that it’s one hell of a steep climb and I doubt we’d make it!)We were talking to the ranger about the climb and he told us a few stories of rescues he’s attended and also told of how people leave rubbish up the top or go to the toilet up there, cannot believe people could be so disrespectful. Of course then when it rains all of this is washed down into the waterholes in and around the base of Uluru that are a source of water for many animals in the area. It never ceases to amaze you to see the different colours of the rock. Last time we did the sunrise tour and it looked almost pink, but by later in the day it was a dirty rusty colour. Sunset turns it this really red colour which is like a scorching red. This time it was a little cloudy at times and this too added its own twist onto the colour.

We’ve been told that when it rains, there are waterfalls all over the rock and colour wise it can be purple or even a greenish colour. Would love to see it in full rain or storm one day, but of course rain is pretty scarce in that part of the country!The one thing we have noticed on both of our visits is just how many foreigners there are there in comparison to Australian’s. They are so excited to be seeing this icon and taking home the memories, yet most Australian’s haven’t even visited. It really is sad that Uluru is the most recognisable icon for outback Australia, yet majority of us are happy to just see it in photos. We are both so glad we have the opportunity to explore our great land.We didn’t have time for camel rides this visit but we did pay a visit to the camel farm. They’ve done a lot of work on this since our last visit and it’s looking great. We chatted with some of the workers and animals! They have a water buffalo and emu living there now aswell.All of the camels in this farm are wild animals that they catch and tame up. Every now and then they go out on camel hunts and catch some to bring back. It takes about 8 months to train them up and ones that aren’t trainable are let back free into the wild!

At present there are a few wild camels hanging around the place that they are trying to catch, the day before we were there they had caught the baby one. 
When we first saw her we thought she was just grumpy as she kept crying out, but after we heard the story we felt really sorry for her, she’s obviously calling out to mum, so sadūüėě‚Äč‚Äč

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A Night at Field of Light

After visiting Uluru only three years ago, we never thought we’d be back so soon.¬† But we somehow came across information on this ‘Field of Light’ installation and it was something we didn’t want to miss, so we detoured via Uluru on our way home!

 

The Field of Light art installation is a global phenomenon by internationally acclaimed artist Bruce Munro.¬† He has done this in numerous places across the world, but it was a visit to Uluru in 1992 that inspired him to undertake it, so it’s only fitting that it’s now on display at Uluru.It really is¬†such an amazing sight to see, more than 50,000 slender stems crowned with frosted-glass spheres that appear to bloom as darkness falls.¬† Taking a walk through the dainty colourful¬†lights under¬†a¬†sky full of stars at such a spiritual place is like nothing else we have ever experienced.

The installation is named Tili Wiru Tjuta Nyakutjaku by the local community and this means ‚Äėlooking at lots of beautiful lights‚Äô in local Pitjantjatjara language and that’s exactly what this installation is all about.

There are numerous packages available to look at the lights,¬†ranging from viewing from above on a dune, walking around amongst the lights, sunset viewing etc.¬† We chose¬†the ‘A Night at Field of Light’ experience.¬† Yes it wasn’t cheap, but it was an experience we won’t¬†undertake again and we like to make the most of the locations we are in and immerse ourselves into the¬†surroundings.Our ‘A Night at Field of Light’ experience began with us being picked up from the caravan park at 5.40pm and driven to a remote desert location with unbelievable views of Uluru, which would have been about 15km away.¬†¬† We were led from the bus up onto the dune to watch the sunset with a glass of sparkling wine and beautiful canap√©s of¬†Kangaroo and bush tomato crostini, Balsamic roasted onion and Australian feta filo cup, Paperbark smoked crocodile frittata & Poached prawn, native finger lime.¬†

 

Watching the sun set over Kata Tjuta and seeing the colours changing on Uluru is a sight we were more than happy to experience again ….. on our last visit we experienced this from atop of a camel!

Just as darkness fell we were led to another area where our tables were set up for dinner and as we sat down we were served an entre of Pumpkin and lemon myrtle soup, which was amazing and I don’t even like pumpkin!

 

By now the coloured lights were starting to come to life and it was truly a sight to see.  We could look down over the field of lights as they started to sparkle and change colour in the night sky.

Dinner was a buffet of the following:- Moroccan chickpea salad, Rigatoni and bush tomato pasta salad, Garden salad, Chilled prawns, Smoked salmon platters, Native thyme roasted beef porterhouse medallions, roasted root vegetables, red wine jus, Dukkha seared kangaroo loin on Quandong cous cous, native mint yoghurt, Atlantic Salmon on bok choy and seasonal greens, creamy lemon myrtle sauce, Mushroom and Warrigal Green Risoni & Glazed seasonal vegetables.By the time dessert arrived we were all full from dinner, but managed to fit in a little!  Dessert was also a buffet of Warm flourless chocolate and wattleseed slice, Warm pear and lemon myrtle pudding, Desert lime curd tartlet, Davidson plum baked cheesecake  & Seasonal fruit platter.Of course all of this was topped off with tea/coffee/hot chocolate and a glass of port.

 

During the meal we were also treated to¬†Aboriginal dancers, a didgeridoo performance and an informative talk on the stars and the night sky.¬† We couldn’t fault the meal, the entertainment or the staff.

After dinner it was time to take a walk down amongst the lights.¬† We can’t explain what this was like and no photos can do it justice, it was just beautiful.

The lights changed colour from red to blue to yellow and other colours in between, we understand that Bruce Munro had tried to capture the vibrant, rustic colours of the Australian outback and Uluru.

As we walked along set pathways between the lights, it was almost a magical experience. After about 20 minutes or so of exploring the lights, we made our way back to the coaches to drive us back to our accommodation.  What an amazing night full of great food, great company, laughs and just an overall amazing experience. The art installation is on display at Uluru for 12 months and closes on 31st March 2017.  Definitely worth a visit if you are in the area or looking for a mini holiday.

 

The best holiday we’ve ever had!

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The Tip of Australia! Cape York

We have recently been reliving part of our trip to Cape York with our Instagram and social media followers, it was great to go back over the photos and be able to share them with others.  It was just one small part of such a great holiday we had.

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Weipa Eco sunset tour

For those that don’t know, back in 2013 we embarked on our honeymoon, a 7 week trip from Sydney to Cape York and then to the Northern Territory, South Australia and back home again.

Now 7 weeks of camping and 4WDing around Australia is probably not everyone’s idea of a great holiday, but for us it was perfect.¬† We wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.

Below is a basic outline of our itinerary

  • Margate, Qld
  • Rockhampton, Qld
  • Townsville, Qld
  • Mareeba, Qld
  • Laura, Qld
  • Archer River¬†Roadhouse, Qld
  • Weipa, Qld
  • Bramwell¬†Station, Qld
  • Eliot¬†Falls, Qld
  • Seisa, Qld
  • Thursday Island, Qld
  • Captain Billy Landing, Qld
  • Chili Beach, Qld
  • Musgrave¬† Roadhouse, Qld
  • Kalpowar¬†Crossing, Qld
  • Cooktown, Qld
  • Lions Den¬† Hotel, Qld
  • Cape¬†Tribulation, Qld
  • Cairns, Qld
  • Innot Hot Springs, Qld
  • Undarra, Qld
  • Hughenden, QLD
  • Mt Isa, QLD
  • Tennant Creek, NT
  • Wycliffe Well, NT
  • Alice¬†Springs, NT
  • Palm¬†Valley, NT
  • Kings¬†Canyon, NT
  • Uluru, NT
  • Marla, SA
  • Coober¬†Pedy, SA
  • Port Augusta, SA
  • Broken¬†Hill, NSW

IMG_1624We had our share of drama’s though, our mates who were meant to join us on part of the trip had to pull out after their engine died in the first few days.  All that hard work and planning was gone so quickly.  Luckily we managed to meet up with them for a few days on the way back from Cape York before we headed over to NT.

We had a frantic phone call from Weipa to our mechanic back in Sydney when the 4WD wouldn’t engage in our car and he instructed us over the phone as to how to fix this.

At different times throughout the trip we also had a badly cut hand, a dislocated thumb, a bad case of heat stroke and a few episodes of car sickness!.

We had our alternator die about 400km out of Alice Springs and we limped our way there watching the voltage drop in our batteries.  We watched as the radio, lights, taco, speedo all started IMG_1147gradually shutting down one by one!  Luckily by the time we car eventually stopped, we managed to coast into a servo in Alice Springs, just 5 min from our pre-booked accommodation.  We also had a few suspension issues and this all required us to beIMG_1212 stranded in Alice Springs for a few days while repairs were done.

Even with all of this, it was a great trip and we made it and that’s all that matters!  If anything, we learned exactly what type of people live in Alice Springs, the most friendly, helpful, genuine people.  We couldn’t have been happier with the service we received there.

Here is a small extract from our previous blog posts about this amazing trip.

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Fruit Bat Falls, Cape York

So what can we say, what an amazing holiday. Couldn’t have asked for a better way to spend our honeymoon. We are so IMG_1566privileged to have been able to spend time in some of the places we did, it truly is a blessing to have been able to travel our great country. The people of outback Australia are some of the kindest, laid back and most genuine people you could ever meet. It really is a totally different world out there. You could not get any further from the hustle and bustle of Sydney if you tried. We met some amazing people on our travels, both in the towns and our fellow like-minded campers. To think that we set up camp and then spend the whole day out exploring, leaving to tent unattended, unlocked, suitcases and belongings inside, chairs and table outside and you come back at night and everything is how you left it. There is a mutual respect and no-one would even think to touch your belongings. Yet at home we close the windows and deadlock the door before driving to the shops for 5 minutes! It really was refreshing being able to live in a world where everyone looks out for each other and respects others and their property …. even if it was unfortunately only for 7 weeks.

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Sunset over The Olgas (Kata Tjuta), NT

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Camel rides at Uluru

Everyone is amazingly friendly, you rarely pass a car without getting a wave (even from the truckies and coppers!). We even had a truck driver stop his truck and get out to warn us about a huge pot hole on one of the dirt tracks we were travelling on. The road train drivers are equally courteous of fellow drivers, a quick chat on the CB will often let you know if its safe to overtake or warn of any upcoming traffic/road issues. It really does remind you that there are still good people in this world, unfortunately in the city many people are just too busy to worry about anyone else but themselves. Each day we would set up camp and there was always someone walking by, beer in hand, ready to have a chat! Always someone who has been where you are heading and ready to answer questions or give advice and always someone waiting to hear stories of our adventures.

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Inside a lava tunnel

We visited some wonderful places, saw some amazing things and experienced so much. We stood on the northern most point of Australia, drank beer in Australia’s most northerly pub (on Thursday Island). IMG_1756We stayed in a refurbished train carriage and went on a tour through million year old volcanic lava tubes at Undarra Volcanic Park. We stayed in an underground motel at Coober Pedy (where 80% of the population live underground), we toured the Rio Tinto bauxite mines in Weipa, learned the history of the gold mines in Tennant Creek and explored an opal mine in Coober Pedy. We saw the sunrise over Uluru and watched the sunset over Uluru and Kata Tjuta from on top of a camel! We travelled in the footsteps of some of our early explorers, we followed the Old Ghan Railway line and we had the chance to drive some of the 4WD tracks on every true 4WDers ‘must do’ list. We drove through bushfires (and even had one surrounding our campground), survived gale force winds and major storm¬†at Captain Billy’s Landing and 120km winds at Port Augusta.

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Coober Pedy mine tour

We ate camel burgers at Kings Canyon and Crayfish pie at Thursday Island! We felt the magic and beauty of being at the Devils Marbles and we were overwhelmed by the sheer size and presence of Uluru. IMG_2320We saw more wildlife than you could ever imagine, birds, eagles, crocodiles, emus, camels, dingoes, lizards, cows, snakes, goats, horses, dogs, sheep, kangaroos. We even had the awesome opportunity to hold and play with a baby orphaned wallaby at Wycliffe Well.

We swam under waterfalls, bathed in the 43 degree natural springs at Innot Hot Springs and  drove through many croc infested rivers.

We were covered in red dirt, went days without a shower, toilets were few and far between at places. We encountered more flies than you could ever imagine (even one in George’s beer … nice surprise!). We got used to eating the odd bug in our dinner and having sand and dirt throughout the car, the tent, the sleeping bags and your belongings was just normal. We encountered a 2 degree night and 40 degree days, wild winds and torrential rain, had dingosIMG_2075 stalking us for our dinner and we had spiders living on our chairs. We wore the same clothes more than one day each and washing with baby wipes was the done thing. But we loved every single part of it, it is all part of the adventure! And at the end of the day, every single person you meet is in the same position as you so no one even comes close to caring! So to say that we enjoyed our time away is an understatement, we loved every minute of it and cannot wait to get back out there again.

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Palm Valley, NT

So here is a bit of a summary of our trip.

Total KM travelled 13,367 km

Total time away 49 days (7 weeks)

Total amount of money spent on petrol $4,240.20

Average overall L/100km 18.49 (combination of weight, a batch of bad fuel, low & high range off road driving, highway driving, few days of bad headwinds)

What we missed the most while away The kids, the dogs, family and friends

Best Chips n Gravy Archer River Roadhouse, QLD

Best Coffee Cobar, NSW

Best Burgers Archer River Roadhouse, with Musgrave Roadhouse a very close second

Best Pizza Outback Pioneer Kitchen, Ayers Rock Resort & Alfrescos, Broken Hill

Best meal Loyalty Beach. Not just the food, the whole package …. Food, location, atmosphere and service

Biggest surprise How much we loved Alice Springs, could totally see us living there. Also the sheer size of Uluru.

Most Scenic Flinders Ranges, SA and Finke Gorge National Park, NT (Boggy Hole in particular)

Favourite campground (remote) Bramwell Station and Chili Beach

Favourite campground (city) Cairns Big 4 Coconut Holiday Resort – amazing service and awesome caravan park.

Most expensive petrol Jardine River and Bamaga (Cape York) – $2.55 / litre for normal 91 octane unleaded petrol

Most expensive beer $56 for XXXX Gold cans in Weipa1455152_10152148549311015_337035041_n

Most expensive place in general Ayers Rock Resort

Most expensive campsite Kings Creek Station ($19 per person).

Cheapest Campsite any of the National Park camping in Queensland ($5.45 per person)

Biggest rip-off Jardine River Ferry Crossing Ticket & Permit ($129 to cross the Jardine river – about 40 meters wide)! don’t have much choice though as the crossing is too deep and dangerous to attempt, and infested with crocodiles!

Biggest Adrenalin Rush Palm Creek, Old Telegraph Track (Cape York)

Best 4WD Track Old Telegraph Track, for its diversity. With the slightly damp CREB track a close second

4WD Tracks driven Old Telegraph Track, Frenchmans Track, Battle Camp Road, CREB Track, Oodnadatta Track (in part), Ernest Giles Road, Mereenie Loop (in part).

States travelled to NSW, Queensland, Northern Territory, South Australia

What exceeded our expectations Boggy Hole & Uluru

Strangest place Wycliffe Well, NT. Did enjoy our night there, but really is quite a strange little caravan park!

Where we wouldn’t go again Captain Billy’s Landing – the corrugations to get there were back breaking and the howling wind, crashing waves and pouring rain made for a not so fun night! Also the Pebbles (Kunjarra) outside of Tennant Creek – if you’ve ever been to Devils Marbles and also seen the Pebbles, you will understand!

Biggest disappointment That Stewy, Kristy and Rori couldn’t complete the Cape York portion of our trip with us, due to their car problems

What we wouldn’t take with us again The kitchen (our smaller table was sufficient and we never took the larger kitchen bench/table out at all!), the toilet/shower tent, so much food!

6806765_origBest Purchase before the trip Our satellite phone, SPOT tracker

Best 4WD modifications that have made our lives easier for off road travels Rear ARB Air Locker, custom made shelves to replace rear seats, CB radio, Raised King Springs/Bilstein Shocks on Bridgestone tyres & new touring seats.

Scariest Moment Camping at Captain Billy’s Landing – gale force winds, didn’t sleep at all! The severe weather warning of 120km/h winds while camping at Port Augusta, Palm Creek crossing on the tele track!

Nicest people Alice Springs in particular, but Northern Territory as a whole. Although while travelling we had many great encounters with people everywhere!

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The Finke River, NT

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River crossing in Cape York

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Cape York

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Chambers Pillar, NT

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Devils Marbles, NT

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Sunset over Alice Springs

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