The first day of our NT Adventure – Just before starting our descent into Ayers Rock Airport we were treated to our first view of Uluru out of the left side of the plane. If possible, I recommend flying into Ayers Rock rather than Alice Springs, not only is it cheaper but you get this amazing view without the cost of a helicopter ride!
Stepping out of the plane, the 36 degree heat hit us in the face like opening an oven door. AYQ is a small airport with only one baggage carousel and a wall full of car hire desks. After collecting our suitcase full of camping gear, we picked up the keys from Hertz to an economy sized Toyota Yaris – our wheels for the next 3 days. We had managed to find a good deal on the rental through VroomVroomVroom.com.au
with no one-way fee and unlimited km’s.
It’s a short drive from the airport to Ayers Rock Resort area – about 10kms. Our first stop was the “Resort Shopping Centre” to pick up some food. Surprisingly, the IGA there is stocked quite well and not as expensive as I thought it would be. I noticed that they even had tofu and a range of Asian groceries. We grabbed a few things for lunch, water and snacks and then went to the Campground to check in and set up our tent.
We pitched the tend in a shady spot beneath a tree, refilled our water bottles and set off for Uluru at aporox 1:30pm. Not the most sensible time, being the middle of the day and the temperature hitting 38°C but with the amount of days we had to work with for this trip, it was the only time to do it! Entry to the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park is $25 per person for 3 days entry.
With a suitable amount of 50+ sunscreen, hats, light long sleeve shirts and bottles of water, it wasn’t too bad. (And I didn’t get sunburnt!). We didn’t do the full base walk, instead choosing to do the Mala Walk first and then drove around to the Mutijulu Waterhole.
The heat was pretty oppressive but we managed to do it without getting sunburnt or too worn out by the sun! Though everything was covered in the beautiful red dust of the Red Centre.
After a quick trip back to the campground for a swim and rest we went to get a good spot at the sunset viewing area- sunset was to be at 6:53pm and we got there at around 6pm – everyone else had the same idea as there was already a crowd growing. We stayed till around 7:30pm, watching the wonder of the Rock changing colours as the sun set.
During my planning of our camping for two nights I had the assumption the shared kitchen facilities would have pots/pans/plates etc to cook with, like a hostel..which of course they didn’t. Oops! Instead we dined at Geckos Cafe, ordering a vegetarian pizza and garden salad to share. The bill came to $49 with a glass of Sangria and glass of Coke – not too bad for a very touristy area!
It was an early night for us after a long hot day. We planned to get up at 5am the next morning to see the sunrise at Uluru and then onto Kata Tjuta and the Valley of the Winds walk before the mid day heat hits.
Waking up at 5am wasn’t as difficult as expected. We drove back out to the park to the sunset viewing lookout. This meant we would get the view of Uluru silhouetted as the sun rose.
Most other cars drove past us to the other viewing platform, so there was only us and 2 other cars. It was another beautiful experience watching the sun rise, the sky change colours and the rock come out of hiding.
After packing up our tent at the campground we drove out for the 4th time to the Park, turning off before Uluru towards Kata Tjuta – a slightly longer drive. There’s a viewing platform halfway where you get a panoramic view including Uluru off in the distance to your left.
We continued the drive to the start point of the Valley of the Winds walk. We didn’t choose to do the whole circuit but did the walk to the Karingana lookout
– 5.4km return.
We drove back to the resort and had lunch at a cafe, picked up some snacks/drinks, refueled ( at $2.075 per litre!) and started the 300km drive to Kings Canyon at 12:30pm. We stopped at the Mt Conner look after about an hour driving, then continued the fairly uneventful drive to Kings Canyon Resort.
We chose the Resort over Kings Canyon Station as it is closer to the Canyon itself and we wanted to get up at daybreak to do the climb/walk. Our campsite cost $39 for the night.
We used at the resorts dining options again that night due to not having any cooking equipment and ordered a vegetarian pasta and mixed greens to share ($31.50) & two ( expensive) Coronas ($21).
Walking back to our car and tent after dinner we noticed our little Yaris had a flat tyre.
We did have a spare but we also had 450+ kms to drive the next day! Luckily the guy at the service station said the resort maintenance team would most likely be able to fix it but didn’t open till 830am the next morning. We put the spare on and left the tyre & a note at the maintenance shed, saying we’d be back by 9:30 (after doing the rim walk) and hoped for the best. I was a bit nervous that this may throw off our itinerary if we couldn’t get to Alice Springs in time to pick up the van but there was nothing we could do so I tried to forget about it. Another early night in preparation for another early start!