Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, Australia
For most visitors to Australia, the Sydney Opera House and the Harbour Bridge are probably the most iconoclastic site in Australia, along with kangaroos and koalas. For Australians, I think Uluru has the edge. It used to be a pilgrimage when I was growing up – visiting and climbing the rock made you an inch more Aussie.
Anyway, to see it on the horizon was definitely special. Right in the middle of the desert! It was quite epic. It almost looked like a film set or a Photoshop image stuck behind the deep blue sky.
My parents visited years ago, and it seemed like the whole operation was rough edged, with camping and drop toilets and not much else. Now it has a swanky village built up around the park. We stayed in the caravan park, but looked at the hotel anyway. Great pool!
The Rock isn’t quite as epic up close. It’s nicer from a distance. It was closed for climbing. The rangers use any excuse to close it. This time it was the distant threat of rain. It had been closed a week after three men had to be rescued after trying an alternative route home. I wouldn’t have climbed it anyway, with the guilt Jo and Rosa put on me and the wishes of local Indigenous tribes not to climb. They stand at the base handing out leaflets on the days when it is opened.
We were pretty tired so just managed the guided tour around part of the base, though we still made it back for the sunset.
Perhaps more impressive from a walking perspective is Kata Tjuta. I could never remember the name of it, so still called it the Olgas. We took the longer than expected Valley of the Winds walk. Didn’t take enough water, I was wearing sandals and it was hot. Probably not ideal, especially with Aidan complaining half the way, but we made it to the lookout and back. Tough walk, but totally worth it.
The Indigenous art gallery and centre was a good stop off. I don’t mind Australian art at all, but the cost of the holiday was already sky high and I couldn’t quite drop another $300 on art. Sort of regret it, but I had my eye on a didgeridoo back in Alice Springs. Balked at that too in the end! Now I know why ****** souvenirs are so popular.
There was a calming effect in the desert here. Nothing moved too quickly. The local Indigenous people look more contented (having possession of the park) and friendly than in Alice Springs. It had a better feel. The sand was warm and red, the stars just a bit brighter. It was a good place to spend a few nights.
It was busier than I expected though. Cars turned up and I saw more than one sleeping overnight in the back seats, as the budget hotels and hostels were all full. Glad we had the luxury of the van, especially as it got particularly windy one night.