Monday, May 23, 2016

Six Wonderful Days in the Red Centre

6 Days in the Red Centre – Is it enough? Yes? No?

Yes - Plan well and you can see all the major tourist sites in that time.
No - This amazing place is so stunning and dramatic you will wish you had many more days to do nothing but just immerse yourself in its sheer beauty and spirituality.

Our flight landed in Uluru on a very wet runway and I was soooo disappointed with the forecast of rain for the next two days; not for long.  As we checked into the excellent Sails in the Desert hotel in the Yulara Ayers Rock Resort, the hotel staff excitedly told us how blessed we were that it is raining on The Rock. Really?  Yes really!

The restaurant at Sails in the Desert Hotel

Sail In The Desert Hotel Foyer
There's a Rock in there!

We hopped into our rental and drove out to the Kata Tijuta National Park and witnessed this spectacular phenomenon and discovered The Rock with cascading waterfalls is a glorious site and very rare, only 5% of visitors to Uluru ever see this.  The rarity of rain on Uluru was evident with joyful locals along with tourists flocking there to see the waterfalls and the waterholes. The euphoria of the locals was contagious.   I was astounded. It was nothing like the Uluru images one usually sees in brochures. A low cloud hung over The Rock which was a chameleon that day.
Kata Tjuta (The Olgas) is the other natural wonder and cultural landmark in the National Park.  Can’t explain it but I felt an immediate affinity and fell in love with this wondrous area.
Kata Tjuta hidden in cloud
With a new day, along came the sunshine and there was The Rock in all its splendour as featured in the posters.   There is definitely a God; nobody else could have created this masterpiece.
The sun is shining on the rock

The Ayers Rock Resort is fascinating.  It is like a mini town, nothing is more than about a 15-20min walk or there is a free resort shuttle bus.  The resort was founded in the mid 80’s.  It is managed by Voyages and run as an Indigenous co- operative with all profits going into indigenous training.  Graduates from the Ayers Rock Resort’s National Indigenous Training Academy make up 35% of the workforce.   Voyages are aiming to increase that to 50%.
The Town Square
The small town square has the tourist bureau, art markets, art gallery and museum plus cafés, noodle bar plus the usual everyday stores.

John enjoying lunch at the popular Kulata Academy Café which is staffed by the Academy trainees.  I can thoroughly recommend the tasty toasted sandwiches with a pot of tea.
With the rain stopped, the road to Kings Canyon opened after flooding of the King’s creek subsided enough to let traffic through, so we drove in sunshine 306km on sealed road to King’s Canyon Resort, set in the sprawling  Watarrka National Park.
The  road to Kings Canyon

Curtin Springs
John getting up close and personal with a camel

The hotel rooms here are like little villas set in outback bushland. We had a lovely deluxe spa room which looked out on a rocky escarpment.  The new breakfast room is a fabulous building as was the breakfast buffet.

 Kings Canyon Resort accommodation
Our deluxe room
Fabulous spa with fabulous view
Colourful carpet in the breakfast room
Kings Canyon is stunningly beautiful and even more so with recent rain highlighting the colour of the walls of this sandstone chasm and with water glistening in the creek bed. One could almost hear the plants and tree singing their thanks for the rain.  There are a variety of walking tracks, we chose the less strenuous Kings Creek Walk which meandered along Kings Creek and ends with a view of the sheer Canyon walls.  Because of the road closures, there were only a few other tourists at the Canyon. What luck; to have the walk almost to ourselves and experience the beauty and solitude of this magic area.
Easy choice


From Kings Canyon to Alice Springs is a 5 hour drive on sealed roads, I think we did it in 4 1/2– without speeding of course!   
Here we stayed at the Chifley Alice Springs Resort located just over the Todd River Bridge. This is a very nice place to stay if visiting the Alice.. I expected The Todd River, which has zero to low flow 95% of the year, would definitely have a flow given the recent rain, but no, it was waterless.
The Todd River!!
In Alice we did the tourist bit, which was more than just interesting.  Our visits included  The National Pioneer Women’s Hall of Fame situated in what was Her Majesty’s Gaol and Labour Prison from 1938 – 1996, The Alice Springs School of the Air (ASSOA) and The iconic Flying Dr Service.
School of The Air

From this
to this
The Anzac Hill lookout named as a War memorial to the Australian New Zealand Army Corps who served during WWI is now a memorial to all those who have served during all the wars Australia has participated in. From Anzac Hill, one is rewarded with a panoramic view over Alice Springs and the West MacDonnell Ranges.
Anzac Hill
There are many galleries and shops with Aboriginal Fine Art, handmade gift items and Aboriginal fabrics and dining; everything from fine dining to fast food outlets. 
I enjoyed the best Beef Vindaloo ever in the Hanuman restaurant located in the  Hilton Double tree Hotel.  Hanuman offers delicious Thai-Indian cuisine, has a great atmosphere, friendly service plus a good wine list.  Not inexpensive but worth every dollar.

During the flight home from Alice Springs, I revelled in my astonishing feelings of good fortune and happiness at having been so moved by the sheer beauty and the spirituality of Uluru and Kings Canyon.
Would I go back to the Red Centre?   You bet I will!  I still have to see those amazing sunrises and sunsets and experience the Sound of Silence Dinner under the stars of the outback sky as the Field of Light illuminates the majestic silhouette of Uluru.  Can’t wait!