19 March 2017
At the beginning of September, we had our first visitor, Sophia, a friend of mine from college. We met when we studied abroad in England, and bonded over our love of travel and excitement to see the world. Since our study abroad days, we’d only been able to meet up a handful of times, but we both have continued traveling as often as possible. Finally, the stars had aligned, and she was coming to visit me in Australia!
We had a whirlwind agenda planned, meant to cram in as much of the Outback as possible. She flew in from SFO on Friday, and after scooping her up at the airport, we went back to the house long enough for her to put her stuff down, grab a quick shower, and then pack up the car. The plan was to head to Uluru Friday night, explore Uluru and Kata Tjuta on Saturday, and then on Sunday, drive to Kings Canyon and explore, heading back to Alice Springs on Monday.
Off we went.
We stopped at the various roadhouses along the way, filling up the fuel tank at every opportunity, just in case the next roadhouse was out of fuel (so far they have never let us down).
While headed to Uluru, about half an hour after the turn off for Kings Canyon, Mount Connor comes into view, which, to the untrained eye, looks like it might be Uluru.
Mount Connor, which is also known as Attila and Artilla, is 859 meters above sea level and 300 meters above ground level. Read about it more here.
Finally, after being on the road for just under 5 hours, we made it to the Ayers Rock Campground. There is every type of accommodation available at this resort/campground, from the non-powered tent site (which we chose), to the $400 plus a night rooms. There are outdoor grilling/cooking locations, as well as fancy restaurants. You can even book a number of experiences through the resort, from dinner in a Field of Lights to helicopter rides above Uluru.
After we set up our tent, and Sophia set up her swag, we grabbed our cameras and positioned ourselves to watch the sunset, which at this time of year was just before 7pm.
We walked from the campground to one of the resort food courts. On the way there, the path was easy to follow, but on the way back to the site, it was pretty dark, so I’d recommend you bring a light. Food was fine – we went to the Noodle Bar and enjoyed their large portions.
The next morning, we woke up before the sun so we could get to the the Kata Tjuta dune viewing sunrise area. The entry to the National Park is about 20 minutes away. The Park opens about half an hour before sunrise, so check when you’re there for those times. We got there just before 6:30 am. We chose the Kata Tjuta dune viewing sunrise area because one of Ayers Rock employees recommended that location, as you can see the sun rise over both Uluru and Kata Tjuta.
After the sun came up, we headed to Kata Tjuta. We chose to do the Valley of the Winds walk, which is 7.4 km if you do the full walk (about 4 hours). There’s two lookout points along this walk, the first one is 2.2 km return (one hour), and then the second one is 5.4 km return (2.5 hours). There are a couple of water points along the way, but it’s recommended you bring one liter an hour per person. (More on the walk here and here.)
There had been recent rains, so the wildflowers were in bloom and it made the landscape beautiful.
After this hike, we decided to check out Walpa Gorge. It was a quick walk, but worth stopping for, as the views are beautiful there too.
After that we left the park and went back to the campsite to take showers and to grab some snacks to eat for our sunset watching plans back in the park at the Uluru sunset viewing area.
We were not disappointed.
The next morning we got up early, but not before the sun, and packed up the campsite and headed to Kings Canyon, which is about 3 hour drive away.