Well, even though a car isn’t my preferred mode of transport, I’m really pleased we had the opportunity to hire one. It was more economical and we got to see way more stuff than we would have on an organised tour, and we didn’t have to put up with an annoying tour guide! It worked out at AU$257 each for car hire, petrol, park entrance and camp fees over the 4 days. In that time we travelled around 45km on foot and approximately 1700km by car, it would have added more than 2 weeks to travel that by bike and I don’t have enough visa time for that.
First Stop Uluru.
We began the long drive to Uluru, first driving the 200km back along the Stuart Highway to the Lasseter Highway, whizzing along the road it had taken us two days to cycle. Simon and I shared the driving, and with an automatic car that has cruise control it wasn’t exactly difficult. Set the speedo at 110km, hold the steering wheel straight and avoid the road trains. My only problem is braking because my left leg still searches for the clutch. On one particularly ridiculous occasion I was just pulling out of a campsite when Simon noticed a warning light on the car and I panicked and tried to stop quickly. My left leg looked for the clutch and found the break pedal which it pressed hard and shot us all forward so I beeped the horn with my boobs. We had only gone about 2 metres!
On our way we saw the Korean cyclist we had heard about and stopped to give him an orange and check if he was ok for water. His English was limited but from what I understood he has been on the road for 6 years now, he’s been all over the world with his bike, and it’s certainly fully loaded.
Uluru at Sunset
After setting up camp at Yulara, which is basically a town built specifically to accommodate tourists to Uluru, we had a little wonder about and took a trip to the cultural centre to learn a bit more about the Aboriginal way of life. I mostly learnt that I couldn’t live like an Aboriginal, not only would I be burnt to a crisp I would definitely die of dehydration – in times when water is scarce they dig up frogs and squeeze the water out of them. Although I think it’s questionable whether anyone actually still lives the traditional way of life now.
We joined the crowds of people gathered in the sunset viewing area. It was weird being here. The rock is so iconic to Australia and I’m sure everyone can conjure up the image of it even if they haven’t seen it in real life. I’m not sure why, but I never thought I would be here in my life, it always seemed so very far away from anything, in the middle of a vast country on the other side of the world. But there I was and it all felt a bit surreal.
Some people say they can feel an energy from the rock, or a spirituality. I felt nothing like that, but it did turn a beautiful colour as the sun set.
Uluru at Sunrise
So if you ever get to go to Uluru and you have to choose between sunrise and sunset, definitely choose the sunset. Sunrise was a bit of a damp squib. We woke at 5am (which is basically still the middle of the night) and it was absolutely freezing. I left my sleep clothes on and wrapped up in all my warm layers, we cranked up the heater in the car and drove to the other side of the rock.
I thought there would be fewer people than there were for sunset, but I was very wrong. There were so many people in a much smaller space, all fighting and jostling for a position. It was pretty hard to take a picture that didn’t contain a person, a selfie stick or an iPad. Definitely one of those Instagram vs reality situations.
Although it was nice to watch the sun rise and feel its warmth, the colour change was a lot less spectacular than it had been the night before.
The Base Walk
I really wanted to climb the rock, there was a rather steep looking path and some chains leading to the top, but the climb was closed due to cultural reasons. So after sunrise we did the walk around the base.
The formations in the rock were fascinating, and it is incredible to think that this giant bit of rock has outlasted all the other bits of rock around it. There were stories along the way, the Aboriginal version of ‘creation’, stories of giant pythons and the lizard man among others. It was a nice walk of about 11km, and it was great to be able to get up close to the rock.
After we finished with Uluru we drove the relatively short distance over to Kata Tjuta (also known as the Olgas), which are more lumps of rock! We did the Valley of the Winds walk and it was beautiful, but you don’t need to spend a lot of time there.
After the Olgas we drove around 350km over to the edge of Kings Canyon. The next day did the Rim Walk. OH BOY OH BOY! It was so good!
As you know by now, Priscilla Queen of the Desert is my all time favourite film, and in the end they climb Kings Canyon dressed in drag, a lifetime ambition of Felicia Jollygoodfellow. I felt quite emotional on the climb up, like I too was fulfilling a lifetime ambition I never knew I had. Unlike Uluru I felt a real energy about this place, or maybe it was just reflecting my energy.
I am enjoying being a biker, but getting to hike again felt so good. I felt so sore, I have no hiking muscles anymore and I huffed and puffed my way to the top of the 100m climb, but I felt so alive. I loved being able to throw on my backpack again and feel so connected to the earth.
The Canyon is beautiful, the rim walk gives great views and it also drops down into the canyon where you can take a little side trip to the Garden of Eden. After quite a baron rocky landscape, the Garden of Eden was a little tropical oasis with ferns and palms and a water hole. We really took our time, stopping often and taking a lot of photos, and we still were quicker than the suggested time. This has definitely been one of my favourite things so far.
The MacDonnell Ranges
After Kings Canyon we drove back to Alice Springs to stay with Clare and the next day headed out to the MacDonnell ranges. This is where the Larapinta trail is and I would have loved to have had more time to be able to hike it, as it is I was able to hike about 1km of it!
We drove out to Ormiston Gorge where we did the Pound Walk which was really pretty. on the way back we stopped in at some of the touristy areas including Ellery Creek and Simpsons Gap. I was really glad we weren’t on the bikes this time because the road was really hilly. Although the hills were short they were pretty steep.
So after coming back from a very busy 4 day ‘break’ I felt completely exhausted and we decided to take two rest days rather than one in Alice Springs. Clare was super cool and said we could stay as long as we liked.
We did all the usual chores, plus we met Sigrid for a coffee, I worked into the early hours on Love Her Wild (and the new website is now live – loveherwild.com – check it out and let me know what you think!).
I picked up Priscilla from the bike shop. it was $46 for the repair and some replacement spokes which I thought was reasonable, but they did a really shoddy job. Even I – someone who doesn’t know anything technical about bikes – could see that the wheel was not true and was still wobbling about all over the place. When I got it back to the house Dominik looked at it and pointed out that they hadn’t replaced the nut or the cap on the tube valve. They hadn’t even reconnected the back break which I found out shortly after leaving the shop.
I should have taken it back and complained really, but it was so hot and Dominik said he would true the wheel so he could show me what he was doing at the same time. I also had a few lessons on how to fix common problems, I got loads of advice on how to pack my bike for a flight and I have a list of spares and tools that I should be carrying that I will pick up in Darwin ready for the next bit of the journey…
I also booked a flight to Bali! I thought I may be able to sort out a boat leaving from Darwin that I could join as crew, and there was a perfect one but it was leaving a month too early. Now I don’t have enough time on my visa left to sort it out. So I’m flying to Bali at the end of the month…eek.
I continue to raise money for Just A Drop – they bring sustainable clean water, sanitation and hygiene projects to communities around the world.
663 million people across the globe are living without access to clean, safe water. That’s 1 in 10 people. A child dies every 90 seconds from a water related disease. One third of the worlds population – 2.4 billion people – don’t have access to adequate sanitation.
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