Day 1: ARRIVAL
We arrived on a 10 am morning flight and hopped on the free AAT shuttle bus offered by Ayers Rock Resort that takes you straight to Yulara – just follow the beeline of people! We had a couple of hours to kill so we checked out the free activities offered by the resort. It’s fantastic to see how Anangu culture (the Aboriginal people who live in this area) is incorporated into this. There are a few art galleries to check out, and talks – Bush Yarn, to learn about First Nations weapons, Bush Food, to enlighten us to the delicious native delicacies on offer (including a recipe incorporating Australian wattle seed into shortbread), and a didgeridoo workshop in the Town Centre.
In the afternoon, a sandstorm blessed us with its presence, leaving the town in a hot, swirly and hazy mess but luckily we escaped on our rental vehicle (from Hertz) to the 3 hour drive to Kings Canyon where we stayed in Kings Canyon resort for the evening.
Day 2: KINGS CANYON (READ HERE)
Uluru Sunset Attempt # 1: Uluru in the Rain
Our originally planned sunset at Uluru tonight was a complete WASHOUT – but in a stunning, rare way that left us in a state of WOW. It was ABSOLUTELY pouring and we were “extremely lucky” as the locals told us because it had not rained like this in 3 years.
Excited but confused at this torrential dessert rain, we made the 20 minute drive into the famous rock itself. With poor visibility, it meant we didn’t even SEE this towering mega until the grey and gloomy rock face loomed right over our humble car. Mother Nature had swapped out the rock’s classic reddish orange hues seen in every tourist photo, for a weeping, ash-grey façade.
We made the 15 kilometre drive around the rock itself, stopping in every area with all the other cars to watch the magical thin cascade of waterfalls coming down its crevices that reminded me of Milford Sound in New Zealand. Stopping lastly at the beginning of the Kuniya Walk at the Mulitjulu waterhole – the apparent “45 minute return walk” was just a quick 10 minutes.
The rain drizzled down on us and the wind had no reservations, but we were blessed with a small and serene waterhole at the end of our hike, with a gentle waterfall lapping into the pool.
Day 3: KATA TJUTA (READ HERE)
Uluru Sunset Attempt #2: Foreboding Uluru
We made our way back into Uluru our planned sunset once again… except that the gloomy, ominous clouds rolling endlessly across the expansive skies veiled any hope we had of seeing a glimmer of light. After a visit to the informative Cultural Centre, we stopped at the Car Sunset View Carpark on the way back. Although we didn’t get the multi-layered fiery orange purple hues of the sky, we got, an interestingly, ambivalent and moody side of Uluru.
The vibrant coloured rock had instead donned a dull, stern orangey brown, with a glossy shine from the remnants of the spluttering rain that had sprinkled it throughout the day. It was as if the rock itself was responding to the devastation of nature that had been wrecking across Australia with the catastrophic bushfires these past few weeks. A quick snaps of this foreboding landscape and we sped back home, keen to rest in our heated cabin.
Day 4: ULURU
Uluru Base Walk
We followed the fleet of cars to Talinguru Nyakunytjaku at the Sunrise viewing area but it was a cloudy morning at 6am, with the sun devilishly hiding behind the clouds AGAIN and robbing tourists who had travelled far and wide of the spectacularly coloured sunrise that pictures had promised. Nevertheless, it cleared up during the day and we did the famous 10.4 kilometre Base Walk in perfect conditions.
With the thermostat barely reaching 30 degrees in the middle of January, there would be no stress in having to complete the walk before midday. We waited for the ranger guided, free Mala Walk at 8am, lead by an Anangu park ranger. Learning about their stories of Creation Time embedded in the shapes of the rock, it was a snippet of insight into Anangu culture and their sacred beliefs surrounding Uluru and Kata Tjuta – making one appreciate the importance of banning the Uluru climb in late 2019.
The base walk was easy enough to complete, flat ground promising spectacularly new angles and vistas at each step circumnavigating Uluru. Half way through our walk, the blue skies had finally APPEARED and in a MERE hour, we were already sunburnt so stay PROTECTED. Thank you Uluru – you certainly kept us waiting.
Having only seen distant photos, I had never expected the rock to be so varied close up – there were crevices here and there, long black streaks running down the sides appearing as if Uluru had permanent tears on its façade, sharp cliff faces and hidden caves. It was as if the rock itself was challenging visitors to find a new pattern or shape to liken each random obscurity to.
We had to take advantage of the blue skies and check out Kata Tjuta again in this weather. The Dune Viewpoint offers a panoramic 360 degree view with Uluru in the back drop!
Day 5: DEPARTURE
Thanks to days of waking up at 4am for sunrises, today’s “late” start was abruptly shortened by my natural inkling to wake again at 4am and wow was that lucky!! We had no car anymore but I scrambled up to Immalung lookout – a small hilly vantage point in the smack centre of Yulara and by 6am, dawn was breaking.
The vivid colours of an Australian outback sunrise finally graced my phone screen – and the dark silhouette of Uluru in the background just made everything more surreal. Wow. What a way to end the trip. (Except for the flies buzzing around that made my timelapse look super shaky)
We squeezed in an EXPRESS 45 minute Camel Ride at 8:30 am (the earliest session), at Uluru Camel Farm, which is apparently Australia’s largest camel farm. This was a perfect amount of time without your glutes getting too sore or bruised! We trekked up several sand dunes on our camel train, as you get to share one camel between 2 people (Hugo was the name of our camel and was supposedly quite aggressive, known to chase camel keepers around when trying to put a muzzle on him). At $80/head it’s a reasonable price compared to all the other activities in the area. The best part is seeing the towering monolith of Uluru and the domes of Kata Tjuta in the background for most of the ride.
Our experience at Uluru Kata Tjuta National Park 110% was made memorable by the weather. We got it all. The rain, the sandstorm, the wind, the scorching outback sun all in 5 days. We saw Uluru as a giant silhouette behind the desert haze, weeping tears in its funeral grey, ashen and sombre after the tears had faded, before it stood up tall and revealed to us its truly fiery nature, well and truly establishing itself as the Heart of Australia.