From the bustling Sydney (Click here for the Sydney blog) we took a flight straight into the center of the Outback to visit the monolithic rock that we had heard so much about called Uluru (also known as Ayers Rock). Our flight was over four hours and we still only traveled about half the distance across the country/continent of Australia. (we really had no idea how big this country was before we starred this journey!) About an hour out from Uluru the clouds opened up, and we were able to see the Outback for the first time. It was beautiful, but nothing like we had ever seen before! The soil is a vivid orange/red color and the surrounding flora is incredibly scrubby, and unlike any desert or landscape we had seen previously. When someone visits this part of Australia, they definitely get a feeling of isolation. The only place that you find ‘civilization’ close by is resort found directly outside the national park which is where we stayed for the next couple of days.
- Getting Around – While it was not a huge blunder, once we got to the resort in Uluru, we realized that it would be expensive to try and see the things that we were interested in without a car. We were lucky enough to nab one of the last rental cars that a local company had available for the next couple of days. Not only was it more cost conscious, but it gave us the freedom to move at our own pace.
- Rain in the Outback – When we arrived it was RAINING… We thought that it barely ever rained in the Outback! Later we were told that we were part of the lucky three percent of visitors that get to see Uluru in the rain. While the storms that rolled across the landscape during our stay were impressive, it was hard to feel like we were the ‘lucky three percent’. However, we will say that the waterfalls created on these rocky outcrops are quite impressive and something that was truly unique to see.
- Uluru/Ayers Rock Hike – Uluru was, obviously, the big site that we (and everyone else) were here to see! It is the largest monolith (single rock formation) anywhere in the world. Even from afar, it is truly spectacular. Look in any other direction and all you see is flat, stretching desert, so such a massive structure jetting out of the ground makes for a stark and amazing contrast. As we slowly drove closer it began to dawn on us the sheer magnitude of Uluru….it is just huge! We decided to do the famous hike around the base, which is a little over 6 miles around. It took us about 5 hours, though some of that time was spent taking photos and waiting out a passing storm. The hike was incredible, since up close we could see all the cracks, caverns, caves, Aboriginal paintings, and other distinguishing features of the rock face.
- Uluru from Afar – After the hike we headed back up the road a few miles to watch the stunning sunset. It is better viewed from afar since you simply cannot see the entire rock up close. As the sun sinks low, Uluru glows with spectacular pink and amber hues. We were also lucky enough to get up early one morning and watch the sun rise over Uluru and the Outback. It may have been even more spectacular than the sunset! We had not planned to wake up that morning, but due to the high prices of the resort we were in a shared dorm room with a snorer and decided to cut our losses. (We were happy in the end that we had been woken up after all!)
- Kata Tjuṯa – Kata Tjuta is the other rock formation in the national park and is about 20 miles away from Uluru. It is not nearly as famous as Uluru, but it is impressive in its own right. While Uluru is basically one big bulge coming out of the ground, Kata Tjuta is several formations with a valley cutting between them all. We opted to do the full walk around at Kata Tjuta as well, and at over 4.5 miles it was still a pretty good hike. The walk is called the “Valley of Winds”, which is appropriately named as wind was whipping through the valleys the entire time.
It was so amazing to be able to see Uluru, as well as the Outback itself. Both are places that we have heard about our entire lives, and always wanted to visit. While we were only in the Outback a few days, it certainly made a lasting impression. We would have loved to stay a few more days, but we had to press onward to our next adventure in Australia – seeing the beautiful northern coast of Australia, and of course, the Great Barrier Reef!