Janice is a Mother-Daughter Coach, a traveller, a writer, loves meeting people and experiencing foodie places.
Published November 5th 2015
Exciting short holiday in Central Australia
Our exciting holiday had finally begun. We flew from Sydney to Alice Springs and hired a car which would transport us to some remarkable places and witness some incredible sights. It would be an extraordinary time in The Red Centre.
There's a lot to do in Alice Springs and the surrounding area. We visited The Old Telegraph Station which was the first white settlement in Central Australia then to The Royal Flying Doctor Service which exhibits the history of the RFDS and has an informative audio visual presentation. The highlight of our visit to Alice Springs, though, was The School of the Air which offers education to children in remote areas. This unique school covers an area of 1,300,000 square kilometres. We were fortunate to observe a classroom "in action" as one of the teachers instructed her students via the internet.
Afterwards we visited the Olive Pink Botanic Garden which specialises in native Australian plants in the Central Australian area. We strolled through the botanic gardens and recognized a bower bird near its nest.
The next day we drove through the West MacDonnell Ranges towards Simpsons Gap and briefly stopped at Flynn's Grave, a memorial that contains the ashes of Rev. John Flynn who established The Royal Flying Doctor Service.
After a short 15 minute drive, we arrived at Simpsons Gap. The Gap is stunning with its weathered red rock on either side. As we walked along a dry river bed towards a waterhole, we spotted Black-footed Rock Wallabies (which were too quick-footed for a photo). Simpsons Gap is surprisingly peaceful and undisturbed and had the aura of a sacred place.
After Simpsons Gap, we drove to Standley Chasm with its narrow, high, imposing red walls. We took the easy 20 minute walk to the Chasm arriving just as the sun shone on one side of the rock face. It's advisable to arrive around midday to see the full effect of the sun on both sides of this massive red rock that dwarfs its inhabitants below.
Our last day in Alice Springs was marked by my determination to find the elusive sign that indicates the Todd River. I had heard of the well-known Henley-on-Todd Regatta (or the Todd River Race) and I was determined to seek a sign for this illustrious dry river bed. We drove parallel to the river bed and crossed bridges but no sign was to be found until finally my resolve (and my family's patience) paid off.
From Alice Springs it's a 4 – 5 hour drive to Kings Canyon via the Stuart Highway, then Luritja Highway. This route is the best for 2WD's. The roads here are flat and the earth is a deep, rich red colour. The Red Centre is an appropriate name for this expanse. The larger 4WD's can take the cross country route via the Larapinta Way but beware, mishaps occur. One man told us that he drove his 4WD along the Larapinta Way with his caravan attached. Ten kilometres into his journey, one of the caravan tyres shredded. He changed the tyre and made the decision to use sealed roads from thereon.
Oh, and did I mention flies; persistent fiends designed to irritate. It seemed like a squadron of flies were assigned to each individual in the Red Centre to sadistically annoy us and mercilessly watch us flap our arms wildly about the air. Netting over the face is a requirement in this region.
Two hours from Alice Springs, we arrived at Erldunda Roadhouse. The Roadhouse has an emu farm and is a stopover for food and fuel. Cars, vans, mini buses waited in the queue for that highly sought-after liquid gold - petrol.
Next stop was Mt. Ebenezer Roadhouse, 55 kms from Erldunda, to admire and purchase Aboriginal art. The art gallery displays works by the Imanpa Community who also own and run the Roadhouse. The interior of the roadhouse is fascinating as your eyes are drawn towards the colourful work of art on the wall. It is then that the signs become obvious. What is it about the humble restroom in outback roadhouses that people feel grateful to label them with a nom de plume?
Back on the road again, we spotted three eagles on the road, one of them tearing at a kangaroo carcass. It was thrilling to see these large birds of prey up close but I was not sure how aggressive eagles are when humans get too close to their prey. The eagle appeared nervous as it jumped around on the carcass and kept a close 'eagle eye' on me. I felt uneasy when another eagle landed nearby - its large curved beak, mighty talons and its piercing eyes - as though it was warning me to back off. Yet the size of this incredible creature was astonishing.
As we headed into the mountainous area towards Kings Canyon, brumbies suddenly raced out of the bush in front of our car and tore through the bush on the other side. It happened so quickly, we shook our heads in disbelief. Being a city inhabitant, I am not used to brumbies galloping across roads or eagles circling nearby - I need to get out more often!
We arrived at Kings Creek Station for our overnight stay. Kings Creek Station is a cattle and camel station, 36 kms from Kings Canyon, or 300 kms from Uluru. Due to its remoteness, there is no internet access.
Attempting to explain a lack of internet to Mr. 15 year old, I tried to put a positive spin on it – there are helicopter rides, quad bikes, feeding the cows and camels, trying a camel burger at their café (which was very tasty), smelling the fresh air, feeling the sun on your face (as well as those dastardly flies), etc. etc. I have written a separate article on Kings Creek Station.
The next day, we set off early so we could walk the Kings Canyon rim. The Rim Walk can take about four hours but there is also an easier walk down on the Canyon floor. I recommend a reasonable fitness level to do the Rim Walk and to start early in the morning. The first sector, which is the toughest part, is a 500 step uphill climb which takes 20 - 30 minutes.
Once at the top, though, it is truly breathtaking. To look out across this spectacular canyon and down into its ravines is unforgettable. Visitors to Central Australia place this stunning canyon on their list of top things to do.
After Kings Canyon, it was a four hour drive to our final destination, Uluru. We took the Luritja Road, then the Lasseter Highway. En route, we sighted Mt Connor in the distance. This mountain is often confused with Uluru as the size and shape of Mt Connor is similar. As we drove towards our accommodation, in the distance we could see the massive red rock, that familiar symbol that beckons visitors to its sacred ground and is the spiritual home to the indigenous Anangu people.
We stayed three nights at Ayers Rock Resort's Emu Walk Apartments. The resort has a variety of accommodation options and our apartment did not disappoint. A two bedroom spacious apartment with a fully equipped kitchen, lovely bathroom, washing machine (yay for clean, sweet smelling clothes) and a dryer. Plus a TV and free wifi – but, hey, who wants to stay indoors when there's lots to see outdoors in this great big land.
One night we watched the setting sun bring forth the deep red of Uluru. This is something not to be missed when visiting this area; to see the changing colour, the depth and transformation of the shadows in the crevices of this magnificent icon.
We later joined a free 90 minute ranger-led walk around a part of the base of Uluru. The ranger was exceptional in pointing out Aboriginal art, sharing information with our group and answering questions. After the guided walk, we wandered around admiring caves, crevices and rock paintings. It was a fabulous day.
While he spoke, a shooting star unexpectedly burst through the sky. The trees were an eerie backdrop as the sun set and the sky became gradually redder. It was a full moon which is not ideal to observe the stars and the Milky Way but it was a calm evening where visitors could look through a telescope to see the wonder of Saturn and marvel at our solar system.
The next day we visited Kata Tjuta (The Olgas). Kata Tjuta is impressive to see at a distance and awesome to see up close. The size of those 36 large red domes is breath-taking. We decided to do a short stroll as we couldn't bring ourselves to do another hike, like Kings Canyon, in the heat and with those persistent flies.
On our last day, we strolled around the resort then dropped off our car at Ayers Rock Airport. We were surprised to see local artist, Heather Duff, painting a mural inside the entrance to the terminal.
She has been commissioned to paint 'Desert Spirit Mural' to introduce visitors to a "remarkable part of the world", which sums up our remarkable visit to this fascinating and special region of Central Australia.
Have been to ALL those places in your fabulous photographs. Climbed Uluru (please don't dob on me) in 1995 with hubby who was post one year after quadruple by pass operation - he was on a mission to equal my 75 year old father's effort in 1975. I recommend every Australian visit the Red Centre and take an overseas visitor with you. Show what a beautiful country we live in. Thanks Faye for reigniting my memories.
Reading your article makes me want to go back. My husband and I did the trip last year but had limited time so could only do the city stuff at Alice Springs. We drobe up from Melbourne. It was our first outback trip and we caught the bug. We have since done two more short trips and in March this year set off on a three month drive through outback NSW and QLD. Absolutely awesome. You article is giving me itchy feet.