BootsnAll Travel Network


My last week in Australia was a fairly busy, and expensive one. After spending a large amount of time lounging around Darwin, I realized that I needed to go to Ayer’s Rock, or Uluru as it is known to the Aboriginal people, since it is one of the biggest tourist attractions in Australia. I had considered not going there, but Lora convinced me that it was worth it, so I booked myself on a 3 day camping trip, and arranged my transportation to Alice Springs, the closest town. In my lazy stupor, I insanely decided to take the overnight train, The Ghan, from Darwin to Alice Springs. It was only 24 hours, and was the same price as flying, so I thought I might see some interesting things along the way.  I left Lora Monday morning, as she was staying in Darwin for the duration, and boarded the train south. As I continue to learn, but apparently not remember, in Australia, the road anywhere is almost never interesting scenery-wise. The one place we did stop, Katherine, I had already been. Our 4 hour stop in Katherine was uneventful, as they were still pulling salties out of Katherine Gorge and weren’t allowing the canoe trips, and I didn’t want to take an expensive cruise. So I strolled through the town again, and browsed the art galleries and shops, just trying to kill time. We were back on the train again at 7pm, and after dinner a movie was put on and we settled down for the night. Unlike the Indian Pacific however, the seats were fairly comfortable, and the train was almost empty, allowing me 4 seats to myself to sleep on. It was an uneventful trip, as we arrived in Alice on time with no problems. My hostel had a pick up at the station, and I was quickly whisked away, checked in, confirmed my tour for the next day (which was run by the hostel), showered and off I went into town. My one main goal in Alice would be to find some Aboriginal art, and I was on a mission.

Alice Springs is supposedly the best place in Australia to buy Aboriginal Art, as a lot of it is made in and near Alice. And the galleries were numerous and amazing. I spent the better part of the day just looking through all the galleries and enjoying the brisk weather, as Alice was a pleasant 23 degrees and sunny. But like many things, the more choices you have, the harder the decision, and the amount of art was just overwhelming. I realized that I would just be buying something just to have it, and there wasn’t really one painting that I loved, at least one that I could afford. But it was a nice day to just walk around and window shop, and I made my way back to my hostel in the early evening. My bunkmates were all back in the room when I arrived, and after some settling in and chatting, we went to get some dinner in the hostel bar. It was an early night for me, since my tour left the hostel at 6am, and the other girls had an early morning as well.

The next morning, it was absolutely freezing cold. I never did find out the exact temperature, but I would guess about 12C. Luckily I was prepared, and had my fleece and jeans and long underwear with me, and after a quick breakfast and storage my luggage at the hostel, I boarded my tour bus. It was a bigger tour than I normally like, 24 people, but it was the cheapest by far in town, and I couldn’t justify a more expensive trip, especially because the transportation roundtrip to Alice was quite pricey. Uluru, and the other sights on the tour, were actually quite a ways away from Alice, and we settled into our seats for a long ride through the desert. Our first stop was at a camel farm, where for $5, you could take a 15 ride on a camel. I decided to take a pass on that, as it just didn’t seem worth all the fuss and bother, and stood huddled next to the other non-riders, waiting for the sun to come up and warm us. It eventually did, but by then we were on the road again, another couple of hundred kilometers, a stop at a roadhouse, and then to our first activity, which was a hike through King’s Canyon.

King’s Canyon is a large canyon made of sedimentary red rock in the middle of the desert. While not on scale with the Grand Canyon, it was beautiful in it’s own right, and our two hour hike around the rim and down to the “hidden” waterhole called the Garden of Eden, was a nice hike. I was really happy I decided to go to the Red Center in May, as it was much cooler during the day, and the hiking was not so hot as it could have been in the summer. But we were still in shorts and tanks, and it got very warm while hiking over the rocks. Once we reached the Garden of Eden, as with Kakadu, we were able to go for a swim, but surprisingly, it was in the shade and actually quite chilly. A few people hopped in and seemed to instantly regret it, as the water was very cold, and there wasn’t a very hot sun to warm them up. Since we hadn’t eaten since 6am, we were all starving, and it was almost 2pm. We quickly devoured the sandwiches our guide had for us, and relaxed for a while on the rocks near the water. It was a weird little swimming hole, not on par at all with Kakadu waterfalls and such, but interesting in it’s own right, as it was surrounded by sand and dusk, and then all of the sudden, here was this beautiful cold water, palm trees and grasses. So the name Garden of Eden was a in way more fitting than the one we saw in Kakadu.

Another few kilometers brought us out of the canyon, and back on the rim again, and we were able to lie down and look over the edge of an almost completely straight rock face. It was a little vertigo-inducing, and while many people posed for pictures, precariously balanced on the edge, I couldn’t bring myself to do it. After all the photos were taken, we finished our hike and made our way back to the bus. We had another long drive after that to our first campsite, which was a bush campsite on a cattle station. There were no toilets, but we had a storage locker where they kept our swags that we would sleep in. Unlike tents, a swag is for one person, and is basically a huge canvas sleeping bag with an attached mattress. You put your sleeping back inside, zip yourself up, and are now protected from creepy crawlies, animals and dirt. Unfortunately for us, a swag isn’t as warm as a tent, and since we were 25 people, we weren’t able to get that close to the campfire. After a quick dinner of pasta with camel carne, a chili con carne made with camel meat (tastes like beef), we settled down with a few drinks around the fire. It was a beautifully clear night, and the stars were out in full force, which is another great thing about sleeping in a swag, is that you fall asleep under the stars. As the darkness quickly surrounded us, we all were pretty tired from our early morning wakeup and hike, and all went to bed pretty early. The advertised “sleep in a peaceful campsite under the stars by the fire” was not meant to be, as about 5 people snored loudly all night. As the fire died down, you realized how absolutely freezing it was outside, and while the part of my body that was in my bag and swag was toasty warm, my head and face were not. It was a cold, largely miserable night, and I longed for a little two person tent to sleep in.

Up early at 5:30am the next day, it was even colder than the previous evening. There was no fire left anymore, and we rapidly packed up camp and got on the bus. We would be heading to a small lookout of Uluru for sunrise, which was still about 100km away, and had breakfast at the rest stop after sunrise. Instead of going to Uluru, we made our way towards The Olgas, or Kata Tjuta, meaning place of many heads, in it’s Aboriginal name. There are 36 individual domes of red rock, the tallest which is 200meters taller than Uluru, surrounded by valleys and grasses. We started on the walk around and through the Olgas, called the Valley of the Winds. It was a pleasant 7km walk around a few of the domes, and up through a sort of valley in between two of them. The scale of these huge domes was impressive, and walking through them really made you feel very small, like a giant red face looming over you. It was easy to see why this place was sacred to the Aborignals. It took a few hours to complete the walk, and afterwards, we were again starving and decided to eat lunch at a nearby rest stop instead of at our next destination, another hour away. Following the Kata Tjuta walk, we boarded the bus and made our way to the visitors center for a few hours to look at the exhibits and see some more artwork. Only two people on our bus chose to climb Uluru, which is a grueling, steep climb up the rock face while pulling yourself up by a rope. The Aboriginal owners of Uluru ask people not to climb it, as they believe their ancestors live in the rock, and you are “ants” climbing over their ancestors. Many people do get the message and don’t climb, but many still do, and since the land is technically “leased” to the National Parks, you are still able to legally.

After picking up the two climbers, we headed to the parking lot to see Uluru at sunset, or what the local guides and bus drivers call The Circus. Hundreds of cars and tour buses line up in the parking lots, some complete with champagne and BBQ’s, to view the awesome spectacle of sunset at Uluru. At certain lights and positions of the sun, the huge red rock monolith of Uluru is said to take on many different colors, from orange to red to purple, and various shades in between. Because we were the ultimate budget tour, unlike the luxury tour buses full of people who shower everyday, we didn’t have champagne but cheap beer, and didn’t have lounge chairs and tables to sit at. What we did have was fun however, and entering the parking lot, the tradition of my tour company is to make as much noise as possible to frighten the luxury tour bus participants, make the other budget tours jealous. I don’t think it worked very well, but we did get a lot of laughs and waves as we strolled in. We also seemingly brought the clouds in with us, as the sky darkened, and the sun started to become less intense as it hid behind the clouds. As sunset approached and Mark was off cooking for us, you couldn’t even see the sun anymore, much less it affecting the color of Uluru. It was completely clouded over, and almost no sunlight hit the big rock as it became dark. Score: Mother Nature-27 Kirsten-2. Seriously, this is one of the main tourist attractions in all of Australia, and some people watch sunset at Uluru for more than one night to get the “perfect shot.” We would have no such option, as we ate our dinner, and made our way to our next campsite, which was inside the town and resort of Yalara, complete with showers and toilets. We didn’t have another night to try for a good sunset, but it was still a beautiful day all around. I would have to settle for a nice postcard of the colorful big red rock.

The next morning, we awoke early again, and went for sunrise at Uluru. Most people wait on the one side of Uluru where the sun would hit, but our guide convinced us that is was total mayhem, and it would be nice to be alone and have the sun rise behind Uluru. So we made our way back to the “sunset” viewing spot for breakfast, and were much luckier this time, as the sunrise was full of beautiful colors and we were the only people at this location. After breakfast was put away, we drove to Uluru itself to do the basewalk. A 9.4km flat walk around really gives you a great view point of many parts of the rock, and while many of the spots around are sacred to the Aboriginals and you are not allowed to photograph certain areas, it did allow for some great pictures and color contrasts. Since we did the walk very early in the morning, we had large parts of the path to ourselves, and I quickly started walking to keep ahead of the group. I was able to have certain parts of the path completely to myself, and it was a nice peaceful end to the trip. By the end of the walk, the sun was out in full and I was hot and sweaty, but it was a ncie energizing way to start the day. After everyone had finished the walk, we realized our tour was basically over, and we settled wearily in for a the long 500km drive back to Alice. Along the way, we stopped off for a view of Mt. Connor, a large flat-topped plateau off in the distance. Much less popular than Uluru because it sits on private land, but no less spectacular in my opinion, Mt. Connor glowed purple in the distance from our viewing spot. You are able to climb Mt. Connor, but because it sits on private land, you need to take a tour from a small town along the highway. One small saving grace during our drive was the sight of wild camels roaming in the distance. Because of the sun setting behind some hills, the animals were black sillouttes against the terrain, and they looked fake almost as we sped by, too quickly to take a photo.

After the grueling drive back to Alice, we arrived back at the hostel, tired, dirty and happy. Desperate for a shower, since I hadn’t taken advantage of the showers at the second camp, I relaxed until dinner where our group would meet for one last meal. Because it was such a large group of people, I didn’t have a chance to talk to everyone on the tour very much, so it was nice to be able to chat with them more at dinner. After a serious debate of whether to experience the Alice nightlife, I decided to go to bed, exhausted. Luckily, my whole dorm room did the same,  and we all went to bed for a good nights’ sleep. My flight back to Darwin left at noon on Saturday, so I didn’t have much time to do anything that morning. After a short shuttle ride to the airport  and an uneventful 2 hour flight, I was back home, in Darwin, almost like I had never left. Lora was waiting for me at our hostel, apparently bored out of her mind for the past week. We went out for a few drinks and dinner that night. We both had a lot to do the next couple of days, me to get everything ready for my flight to Singapore and trip to Asia, and Lora was frighteningly going home to Vancouver in about a week. We spent the better part of yesterday doing nothing, and then made our way for our last touristy place, the Northern Territory Museum and Art Gallery, which housed a great display of Aboriginal art, and it’s biggest attraction, Sweetheart, a stuffed 5.6 meter long crocodile which was caught near Darwin. Our last visit to the night market at Mindil beach, and then went to see The Da Vinci Code, which was fairly dull except for a few parts. Tom Hanks I think was miscast as well, but it was a fair interpretation of the book, from what I remember.

Tomorrow, I am shocked to say, I leave Australia and head to Singapore, for my first ever visit to Asia. I’m so excited, as I’m ready for a new place, new experiences and new cultures, but scared too, for it means new languages, new fears and worries and new friends. I will start what I’m now calling my ‘real travels’, as traveling in Australia and New Zealand was wonderful and interesting and exciting, but it was easy, almost too easy, and has seemed at times more of a long vacation than traveling. I have nothing else planned for my time in Darwin and Australia, except to prepare to leave.


3 responses to “Bulls-Eye”

  1. admin says:

    Hi Tim,
    What did you think of Sabah? I’d like to go there, but worried about the rain, might have to put it off for a while?
    Let me know when you are in Bangkok, I’m heading up there overland from Singapore.
    Thanks for reading!

  2. Bubba says:


    The gf and I may be in Cambodia/Laos in July or August, please update us with more info as schedules become more apparent. Ok, I know thats asking for future planning which is aenethema, but whatever you can do.



  3. tim says:

    Sabah was great, and thankfully we missed the rain. The weather was great while I was there, but it was starting to rain pretty hard the night before I left. If you have some time check out my post on Sabah here:

    I’ll be arriving in Thailand around Jun 1 and plan to stay a couple of weeks, hopefully making it up into Laos as well. I’ll keep checking your blog and drop you a line when I get there.


  4. admin says:

    I’ll still be in SEA in July/August, not sure exaclty where, but let me know your plans, and I’ll try to maneuver to meet you.
    I’ll be in Thailand during that time, hopefully we can meet up somewhere. I’m in Singapore now, heading to Malaysia soon. Watch out, I heard of massive flooding from Bangkok to Chiang Mi.

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