Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Outback Tour: Darwin to Alice Springs

Get ready for pictures...because here they come.
We arrived in Darwin as a starting point to our Outback tour. This is a very small town and we only recommend going here as a stop over spot. There is a high population of homeless aboriginal people, but we found the locals to be quite nice – on the day we arrived we went for a walk around town and a woman driving her car stopped in the middle of the street:
Lady “Are you tourists?”
Us “Yes”
Lady “How do you like Darwin?”
Us “It’s nice”
Lady “Good, enjoy your travels”
And off she went.
The next day we were up early and off to start our trip. Two things that you need to know if you are going to do a trip like this:
  1. You start your days early to beat the heat of the sun. We were up most days by 5:00am.
  2. You will spend a lot of time driving. In six days we were driven about 2600 km.
Darwin à Katherine Gorge à Devils Marbles à Alice Springs à Uluru (Ayers Rock) à Kings Canyon
The company we did our tour through is called Adventure Tours Australia (adventuretours.com.au). The reasons we chose them was because we were able to see all of the sights that we wanted to see, they supplied the meals, accommodation was included, and we didn’t have to do any driving.
Katherine Gorge is part of the Nitmiluk National Park and was a hot, humid and lush destination. We paid $25/person to go on a short cruise of the gorge and then swim in a waterfall. About 20 minutes into the ride, our cruise driver pulled aside to let those of us off who wanted to go swimming. We were given no directions other than his finger pointing in a general direction, and “follow the blue arrows”. We hoped off and traversed over the boulders of a dry river until we found the oasis. Now they do have crocodiles that roam the gorge so many of us were a little hesitant to be the first to jump in. We let a kid be the first… he seemed fine and then we all joined in. What an amazing experience! We swam directly under the powerful falls and Jeff climbed the walls to do a canon ball. The water was a perfect temperature and we really didn’t want to leave.

As we drove on we saw less and less trees and more and more red earth. We were surprised however at how much vegetation we saw overall.
Two explorers arrived at the vast landscape of Devils Marbles many years ago and said:
Explorer 1 “What in the devil are those?!”
Explorer 2 “They look like marbles”
And so they were named. True story.
Half way through our journey we stayed in Alice Springs. This is another one of those stop over stays. Not a place worth staying too long.
Uluru (Ayers Rock) was our next destination and we were very excited to see this major attraction of the Outback. At a distance it is quite spectacular, but once we got right up close to it we were drawn by the details you can’t see from afar. We enjoyed an Uluru sunset with champagne, and a sunrise and base walk the next day. It was really worth the early wakeup call.
Some interesting facts that you might want to know:
-          Aboriginals didn’t become citizens of Australia until the ‘70s
-          Much of the Aboriginal land was not returned to them until 2012
-          Aboriginals do not want you to climb Uluru. This is a sacred sight and surprisingly they do have a trail open for tourists. Why would you want to climb on the only thing you can see for miles?
Another amazing destination was our short climb of Kata Tjuta (The Olgas). A brilliant red formation, but unfortunately Uluru takes all the attention of tourists. We found it to be nicer looking from a distance, where as Uluru is best seen up close.

One problem once the sun came out was the pesky flies – I received a head net from a friendly stranger in our hostel one night. She said I would need it, and she was done her trip so I could have it. Thank you kind stranger!
Jeff didn't need one, he had his beard.
One of the highlights of this trip was our experience sleeping under the stars in a SWAG (an aussie bedroll). As you can see from the pictures it’s just the red earth, the swag, and you. We did this on two nights and we are still alive to speak of it – no bugs, snakes, or any other crazy Australian creature you can think of visited us in the night. The outback sky was breath taking – something we have recently started labelling as “Things we can’t bottle”.
The other nights of our tour were spent sleeping in tents on beds. They were pretty hot and so the swag offered much needed fresh and open air flow.

On our last day we were up again at 5:00am and off to hike Kings Canyon. It was a 6km trek and due to extreme temperatures we needed to be done by 9:00am. It was a steep start, but otherwise easy to navigate. Jeff was most interested in this day and neither of us was disappointed
 A picture to scare the mom's

 We made it to the Red Centre!

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