Once you get away from all the cities and towns huddling close to the coast of Australia, there isn’t a whole lot going on. Just a whole lot of nothing. In the middle of that nothingness is a giant rock. You might of heard of it.. Ayers Rock/Uluru, and what a rock it is!
Standing proud in the middle of the Uluru – Kata Tjuta National park with only the Olgas/Kata Tjuta to keep it company on these flat plains. It makes you wonder how these amazing red rock formations came to be. Everything else is so flat, no mountains or big hills just the occasional raised sand dune. The surrounding area is littered with spinifex grass and Australian Bush trees providing a nice back drop to truly appreciate these natural wonders.
If the two names for these giant rock formations confuse you, Uluru and Kata Tjuta are the cultural and traditional land names. Ayers Rock and Mount Olga (or the Olga’s) was given to them by European explorer Ernest Giles in 1872.
It becomes apparent you are in the middle of nowhere as soon as you arrive at Ayers Rock/Uluru airport. Flying directly here is as great option, otherwise the next closest airport is Alice Springs which is 468 kms away – a five and half hour drive or 50 minute flight.
Direct flights from Brisbane only became a thing last year which is such a great option. One of the reasons I didn’t come out here sooner was it seemed like far too much hassle to fly to Alice Springs, then fly or drive down. Or go via Sydney or Melbourne.
Jetstar fly out from Brisbane on Monday, Wednesday, and Fridays. We flew out early Friday morning, returned on the Monday just after lunch. This gave us three full days to explore as we arrived in by 9am. Is three days long enough to see Uluru and it’s surroundings? In my opinion, yes!
Once on the tarmac it’s a short walk to the terminal to pick up our hire car.
YAY! Scored an upgrade from the Toyato Camry we booked to a Rav 4. Get given some maps and a briefing on how to get to Ayers Rock resort. Considering it is the only piece of civilization for hundreds of kms and the only road goes straight past there, it shouldn’t be hard to find. Our suspicions were correct, not hard to find at all. The drive from the airport to the resort hub is less than 10 minutes. If you don’t want to rent a vehicle don’t worry you can still get around. Ayers Rock resort offers free airport and resort shuttles to get you around.
Ayers Rock resort at Yulara is made up of a cluster hotels, hostels, lodges and one campground. There is an IGA supermarket, ANZ branch, post office, souvenir stores, restaurants, cafes and bar all on site.
Since there were four of us, we stayed at the campground, in one of their air conditioned cabins. Hotels were a bit expensive and didn’t think Gs mum and uncle would of been keen to stay in dorm style rooms at the hostel haha. Our cabin with no bathroom (had to use camp toilet/shower block) was definitely the right choice. Had two bedrooms, a little kitchenette, patio area and did I mention it was air conditioned?
We went in the middle of summer which is low season. You see not many people want to travel to middle of the Australian outback in summer!.. Lucky for us the weather gods were kind to us and we had nice sunny days, with a cool breeze sitting around the 35 degree mark. Much better than the 43 degree days they had leading up to us arriving and the ones that followed after we left!
After having a bite to eat in town and checking into our cabin we head off for our first day of exploring. Entry and ticket office to the Uluru – Kata Tjuta National park is another 10 minute drive from the resort. A three day park pass (exactly the right amount of time for us!) will cost $25 per person. Once we get our passes at the gate we are on our way.
If you don’t have your own vehicle you have the option of booking a tour or the hop on/off bus to take you in and around the park.
First stop is the cultural centre where there is plenty of info on the area and the Anangu people. When we finish here it is just after 12pm, so it’s a little late to do most of the walks. In summer alot of the tracks close after 11am or when the temperature hits 36 degrees. Instead we drive around the rock, stopping along the way to check out the sunrise/sunset locations as well as the waterhole.
Once we have driven the looped road all the way around, we head back to Yulara, we are all super hungry. Have some burgers and sandwiches, washed down with some ice cold beers and ciders at the Outback Pioneer Kitchen. Here we also get the most overpriced six packs to takeaway. Spend the rest of the arvo poolside before our sunset camel ride.
Our camel ride starts approximately an hour and half before sunset. We get acquainted with our camels – ours is named Spinifex (like the grass). Then we all climb aboard our camels, starting from the back of the line. Some camels are more vocal than others which is pretty funny.
Once we are all aboard, we head off on our camel convoy. It’s a nice leisurely ride as the camels dont like to exert too much energy. We stop and take some pics with Ayers Rock in the background. Then head up a dune to watch the sun slip below the horizon near the Olga’s.
After the sun has fully set we ride back to the camel farm for some bush tucker and drinks.
After yesterday’s early flight we have a much needed sleep in. Load up the RAV with water and snacks for our day trip to the Olga’s. First stop is the Valley of the Winds. Walk to the first lookout – Karu, a moderate 2.2km walk from the carpark. Since it’s before 11am and still under 36 degrees we head to the next lookout – Karingana. This 5.4 km walk is classified as difficult but we found it quite easy. Rewarded with a nice view of the valley below.
G’s mum and uncle turned back after the first lookout and were waiting at the car, so we didn’t continue onto the next leg of the walk. Returned to the carpark the way we came, then drove onto Walpa gorge. There was hardly any water as the last rains were months ago but still a nice walk no less.
By this stage we have walked up quite the appetite, so drive back into Yulara and have lunch at Gecko’s cafe. Naps in our air conditioned cabin are next on the list, followed by a night at the Field of light.
Once the sun has set, the Field of light lights up more than seven football fields of land. It’s an art installation by Bruce Munro that features 50,000 spindles of colour changing lights. Such a pretty sight to behold, gives you the feeling you are in a night time field of flowers.
Check out our post for more on the Field of Light
Tried to get up in time to climb Ayers Rock (has to be done before 8am) but no luck. Slept in again! Was probably for the best though, as technically you are allowed to still climb up the rock until October 2019, but the Anangu people ask you to respect their wishes not too.
We walk the 10.6 km base walk instead. Do it well under the 3.5hr time the sign said it would take and was a nice way to see the whole rock at different angles.
Head back to the cabin for some pool and chill time before heading out to the Talinguru Nyakunytjaku viewing area for sunset.
For our last night we decide to eat out for dinner. Still have to cook our own meat though, as we were eating at the Pioneer BBQ and Bar. How it works is you choose your meat, pay for it, then cook it yourself on the BBQs provided. Full salad bar included with as many helpings as you like. We went with two t-bones and two porterhouse. The t-bones weren’t the best looking steaks we have ever seen but proceed to the BBQ station. Try and cook our steaks as expertly as we can. If we don’t its not like we can complain and send them back “to be done right” haha.
However after the guys take one bite of their t-bones, they are definitely getting sent back! Not only did they not look best but they are off. Replacements were offered up with no problem but the laid back attitude of the staff about the issue (especially since their were still t-bones on display that looked exactly like the ones we first got!) was a bit of a worry.
Not much of a sleep in, as we have a mid morning flight home. Been a great few days with plenty of walking, litres of water drank and thousands of flies. The red centre didn’t disappoint! So, as you can see, three days was long enough to see Uluru/Ayers Rock. Of course if you would like to stay longer, I’m sure you would find plenty more to see and do 🙂