Saturday, 10 May 2014

Red Centre Summary

To say we have been lazy and not writing our blog would only be half right as we have been working really hard. We scored jobs as tour guides conducting 3-4 day tours in the Red centre and have been here for nearly 9 months! It is about as far away from the ocean as you can get in Australia, 1500km North, and 1500km South. It has been a very interesting experience and we have both learnt so much.

Uluru (Ayres Rock)

Most people think of Uluru (Ayres Rock) when you mention The Red Centre. The big red rock in the middle of Australia somewhere in the desert located roughly 450km SW from Alice Springs. Well the first thing I learnt of my 6+ weeks training is that in the centre it is not actually desert, rather a half desert (semi arid area). The amount of greenery that is out here is amazing. The rock itself is also amazing, made of Uluru Arkose sandstone the hardest type of sandstone in the world, 348m high, and the largest monolith in the world. There are so many photos of it that people know what they are expecting when they see it, so I won't bore you with that.

Mount Conner

As you drive to Uluru, don't be tricked. 150km before you get to Uluru on the drive, you will see a rock formation that, from a great distance, looks like Uluru. Named Mount Conner, it has a nickname of Foolaru because people are tricked by it. There is a lookout and rest stop for one of the smelliest drop dunnies around, but when you have got to got, you have got to go. Not able to seen from the car park, but if your cross the road, and climb the red sand dune, there is a glistening white salt lake. Rarely water in it which either evaporates or goes into the water table beneath, the salt gathers during the heavy rainfalls, then is left behind once the water goes.

Kata Tjuta (The Olgas)

As I mentioned, people know what they are expecting when they come to Uluru but Kata Tjuta is often only visited because it is part of a tour, or because it is only 50km from Uluru by road located in the same National Park. Because of this, it is what us tour guides call a secret beauty. Once people are there, they are often blown away at the beauty found here as well. Many say it is just as, or more spectacular than Uluru and I would agree. Kata Tjuta  means “Heads Many” in the local Aboriginal language of Pitjantjatjara spoken by the Anangu people. There are 36 domes made of conglomerate rock, and the highest dome; Mount Olga, is 546m high, nearly 200m taller than the highest point of Uluru!

Kings Canyon

Kings Canyon is by far my favourite out of the places we go to on tour and even more secretive and less publicised than Kata Tjuta. Located in Watarka National Park, at the end of the George Gill ranges also about 500km from Alice Springs (or a bit less if you go via the Mareenie Loop via the West Macs). It is hard to summarise the canyon as every corner that you go around is such a different, spectacular view. Made of mostly Carmichael and Marinee sandstone sheer cliffs and domes. The 6km rim walk is superb with the optional extras of going to Cotteril's Lookout, and the Garden of Eden. The main cliff faces show off a rainbow of colours; red, orange, yellow, white, black. Be warned though, the first section of the walk is called Heart Attack Hill and for good reason.


There is no free camping at either of these places but there are overnight rest places between Alice and the destinations. Camping has not been permitted in Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park since the 1980s, but there is a public campground at Yulara about 20 minutes away, a free campsite at Curtain Springs,100km away from Uluru. There is accommodation at Kings Creek Station 50km from Kings Canyon and also at Kings Canyon Resort 10 minutes away.

MacDonnell Ranges

Closer to Alice Springs are the MacDonnell Ranges (Macs) that go for about 600km East to West which give you a whole new view of Central Australia, amazing waterholes and some spectacular lookouts. You can check out the natural ochre in the earth at the Ochre Pits, see rare shrimp, fish and other animals in Serpentine Gorge and go for a swim at Ormiston Gorge or Ellery Creek Big Hole, which in the middle of summer remain nice and cool even if the outside temperature is 45 degrees! If you are really keen you can walk along the Larapinta Track, taking you from Alice all the way out to Mount Sonder, this is about 230 kilometres. Further around Namatjira drive there is a huge meteor crater called Gosse Bluff, really cool to check out too! Most people are not aware of the beauty that the MacDonnell Ranges hold and book flights out of Alice the day after their tour. If this is you, hold up there are two things I highly recommend that are close to Alice. Follow Larapinta drive out of Alice Springs 7km to Flynn's grave, then walk the gravel path up to the right. It will take you about two hours return. Once up the top a view of Alice North and South, East and West Macs. On your way back into town there is Desert Park which has daily birds of prey shows, a chance to get a photo with Australia's Largest Bird of prey the Wedge Tail Eagle, and a local Arante Aboriginal speaks of bush tucker and medicine.

Rainbow Valley

100km South of Alice Springs is Rainbow Valley. Another of my favourite unheard of places. It is not on any tour itineraries but worth visiting if you own your own vehicle. To me the rock formation looks like an eagle again showing off the reds, yellows, whites and a large clay pan is in front of it. When we went there, ironically there actually was a rainbow shining in the distance. We were not lucky enough to get a photo of the rainbow. We camped there the night. It only costs $7 per person. 4X4 is recommended but not essential just watch out for some sandy washout areas.

I never imagined I would spend so much time away from the ocean as I am a coastal girl by heart, but it is such a beautiful place out here. Some of the best experiences out here were sleeping in swags under the glorious stars, speaking with the local Anangu people and hear them speak about Uluru and tell their stories, and getting paid to see the wonderful places. But for now it is time to continue our travels once more.

 - Jeni.

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