The "Red Centre" of Australia
Ayers Rock – Kings Canyon – Alice Springs
At the end of June we were soaring over the red lands towards the hearth of Australia. Even the red colour of the ground was enough to excite us. Australia is a huge continent-country. The centre of this huge country is covered by this red colored terrain. The fundamental iconic and sacred formations of Aboriginal culture is taking place on this area. “Uluru”, Kings Canyon and Alice Springs are located here. Aboriginal people lived in these red and vast emptiness freely for thousands of years till the colonial settlement arrival in 1770's. These native people lived in a way isolated, primitive, natural or wisely depending on different paradigms. Nowadays they are recognized as the owner of this country and this is frequently phrased. But the story coming to date is a little bit complicated and different. In the following articles I will try to share some basics of Aboriginal culture but for now let's focus on our travel in Red Centre.
As I mentioned before "Red Centre" includes places such as "Uluru" (Ayers Rock), Kata Tjuta National Park, "Watarra" Natural Park in Kings Canyon and many gorges and ranges around Alice Springs. By way, the gorges were really gorgeous! 🙂 In Red Centre area there are some roads and road-like tracks by the road sides. To enjoy the adventure it is good to have 4WD here. Without a 4WD it is safe to be on the highway and not deviate from the road. If you wish to explore nature deeply and much safer better to have 4WD.
Sydney-Ayers Rock flight is 3,5 hours. Ayers Rock is a small settlement in the outback. In “Red Centre” region there are not many settlements. The land is vast and have many beautiful rock formations and a special plantation. It came a bit strange to me to understand to name this place as "desert" because of the widespread green happenings. Everywhere were full of plants in our visit in June. Maybe it was because of the season but the nature was apparently vivid with full of green and red.
We started our 6 days trip by renting our car.
About Rental Cars...
You may choose some tour options but renting a car does not restrict yourself doing additional tours. "Outback" is outback. Most of the time you may feel yourself in the middle of nowhere. To keep the tank full necessary. You must be aware and calculate the next gas station distance anytime. Having a safety margin in gas, drinking water and food will be a good precaution. There are 100 km or more distances between gas stations. If you plan detour from the main road, it is more critical to be well prepared for these. 4WD is recommended if you are a curious person who likes deviate from the main road. Main road is perfectly safe anywhere (except flooding season). We planned our route to be on the main road. Unfortunately our car was a sedan. When I wanted to see some places deviating from the main road, it was really forcing in some places and I do not recommend force the car and yourself a lot. Contrary if you have 4WD, the adventure on harder on the muddy routes, hilly, rough and harsh roads, it will be a perfect fun.
I recommend to rent your car before going Red Centre. It will be cheaper.
Keep an eye on roadside animals...
The other thing to keep in mind that you are in a natural environment. It includes risk of sudden jumps of animals to cross the road. With high speeds it is really a risk and may be harmful for the car as well. This necessitates a widely covered insurance package.
Best Time to travel...
August -September is said to be the best time for Red Centre. Some say that from the beginning of May, it is fine to come here. We spent very good time there before the last week of June except one rainy day. The vast view, the colours of green of the plants avoids me to use the term "desert" for here but the summer period can be drastically different.
One thing that disturbed me was the flies. If you are a person who is disturbed by the dense fly existence I can recommend to have a fly-net or bizarre designed hats while you are in Red Centre. One of the marginal design was a hat with corks hanging on the ten cm. strings around the hat (see photo on left).
I made a basic plan for 6 days including itinerary and some info. I can share that document with the ones who requests. In 6 days, we traveled in; Ayers Rock (Uluru - Kata Tjuta National Park), Kings Canyon, Alice Springs and surrounds.
Ayers Rock ("Uluru - Kata Tjuta" National Park)
Just after we got the rental car, we headed immediately to “Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park”. Yet we were in rush to use the time efficiently and be ready on the spot before the sunset. The sacred rock Uluru is 25 minutes drive away from the airport. We would do some of the Uluru Walks in this interval that we planned before to save time.
To watch the Sunset and Sunrise over this huge sacred rock definitely is a MUST. The very wide spectrum of red and dawn colour is like the parade of spectrum. You should forget about the morning sleeps in Uluru. Here, sun should follow you, not you the sun.
Sunrise and Sunset in Uluru...
There are very well chosen spots to watch the sunrise and sunset. Of course in opposite direction and places. For both spots, the road signs direct you.
An important remainder: "Be ready on the spots early enough before the sunset and sunrise to enjoy more". Just to remind: you need 25-30 minutes to reach these places from the Yulara (settlement near Uluru).
It is a good idea to have your snacks, coffee, wine, water etc. with you. Depending to the season it is better to dress accordingly for the morning cold. In our visit in June the mornings were really cold. After the sunrise you may not need jackets, pullovers etc but definitely better to have them with you before sunset. It is more or less in the same in sunset.
Don't forget to charge our camera, mobile phone, GoPro + your memory cards as common practices of travelers...
Uluru and Walks...
The complete circular walk (Base Walk) around Uluru is 10,6 km. It is a pleasure to walk around this huge rock. It takes 3,5 hours. Most probably you will be short in time generally, so be careful about your flight time if you do this walk at the end of your travel. The walks in Uluru are;
"Mala Walk" - Ranger accompanied. 1,5 hours (Stars at 08:00 or 10:00]
"Mala" Yürüyüşü - to Kantju Gorge, 1,5 saat
"Base Walk", 3,5 hours
"Lungkata Walk", 1,5 hours
"Kuniya Walk", to Mutitjulu Waterhole, 30-45 minutes
"Liru Walk", 1,5 hours
Info for Uluru walks> https://parksaustralia.gov.au/uluru/do/bush-walking.html
I recommend you to buy "Uluru - Kata Tjuta" National Park "YEARLY" entrance ticket/card. You may buy this card when you are entering to the Park. When you come back anytime in a year you may use this card. If you make a loop in the Red Centre and come back , you may use it again and avoid second ticket cost.
Views from Uluru...
Kata Tjuta (Olgas)...
The rock formations with the name "Kata Tjuta" or "Olgas" are enchanting as Uluru. Distance from Uluru to Kata Tjuta is 53 km. Road is perfect and 40 minutes is enough to reach there. You must spare at least half day maybe a bit longer around these dome shaped rocks, gorges and the environment.
While you are wandering in Red Centre you keep going in long and straight roads. In these long lying roads it is very easy to lose concentration because of moving nearly with no return for miles. This brings risk of late reaction when an animal hurtle on the road. Good planning is must here. Gas, water, food and whatever you may need.
Another rare thing you encounter on these long roads are cattle stations. On the way to Kings Canyon to Yulara we stopped by one of them namely "Curtin Springs Cattle Station". This is one of the very rare spots to eat, buy things and have a very limited accommodation capacity. Most probably you may find cattle stations when you deviate from the road towards inner parts. If you want to have some more idea how Australia, Red Centre and Cattle Stations were like in the second World War, you may watch "Australia" I learned that Japan bombed Darwin after Pearl Harbour in this movie. The movie gives idea about terrain at that time, life, culture, treatment against aboriginal people, assimilation efforts, cattle traders. The love affair between Hugh Jackman ve Nicole Kidman is another flavour. 🙂
Kings Canyon is 310 km far from Uluru. It is an open exhibition area of 400 million years. It has its messages in the rocks, formation layers and colours coming from the ocean minerals and other geological details. You enjoy the view of red mountains, beautiful red rock formations and terrain. The place is also called as "Watarrka National Park".
There is a big hiking trail in "Watarrka National Park". The trail that includes steep cliff edges and different formations takes 3,5 hours in normal pace. But with a lot of stops of gazing and taking photos, we finished this walk exceeding 5 hours. Along the trail sometimes you see different type of plants, water ponds such as "Garden of Eden", plateau-like plains, segments and layers of rock history. In this trail every quarter hour exhibits different views. But the permanent red colour makes you feel you are in another planet.
The billboards that are telling the scientific facts about the place can be found in the entrance and on trail. Regarding these, 400 million years ago;
There were no ice in the polar regions,
Australia was covered with water from east and west,
Nowadays Watarrka National Park was a shallow sea,
Famous "Carmichael" ve "Mereenie" sandstones here arose because of the big movements in the crust 350 million years ago,
West Macdonnal Ranges are formed at this time as well.
What a time! Even it is hard to imagine.
The mortals who are crazily occupied with the instantaneous incremental changes in the stock exchange and see this momentarily actions as the basis of their being, are you aware of how we came today? Anyway, before getting into the sky and galaxies issues lets turn back to Kings Canyon.
Views from Kings Canyon...
Alice Springs and West MacDonnal Ranges
Alice Springs is the biggest settlement in Red Centre and has a lots of hotels and accommodations. Alice Springs is the starting point of "West MacDonnal Ranges". There are numerous beautiful places on the road more than 100-160 km distance from the city. If you start early enough you may see most of the gorges, gaps, creeks, chasms... If you have plenty of time, you may spend a full day in one of these places with picnic, hiking, swimming and more...
We did not do but Larapinta Trail that is one of the best hiking trails in the world is here. In total it is 223 km long. You should keep its name in your mind if you plan to come here. Many places we stopped on the way West MacDonnal Ranges includes Larapinta Trail as well.
West MacDonnal Ranges
West MacDonnal Ranges National Park lays from Alice Springs to 160 km to the west. Even you try to do this excursion in one day you may see a lot of spots. My suggestion is 3 days for Alice Springs. These places are hot during summer that why it is better to come here between April and September. Here is down-under, the other part of the world. If you have to come here on hot seasons please remember to drink a lot of water and using hat, sunscreen, suitable clothing. It is good to keep yourself in shady places.
In most of the "gorges", "gaps", "creeks", "chasms", there exist government installed barbecues and gas provided with them. This is an Aussie classic. Have the other needed stuff with you.
Itinerary List starting from Alice Springs;
Simpson's Gap (24 km - 25 minutes from Alice Springs)
Standley Chasm (39 km - 39 minutes from Simpson's Gap)
Ellery Creek Big Hole - (57 km 48 minutes from Standley Chasm) Big waterhole. Swim is possible but be careful about hypothermia in any season.
Serpentine Gorge (10 km - 7 minutes from Ellery Creek Big Hole)
The Ochre Pits (13 km - 9 minutes from Serpentine Gorge) Here is the place where Aboriginal People provide the natural material for dyes. Be aware there are a lot of flies.
Ormiston Gorge- (37 km - 26 minutes from Ochre Pits) Here there are some simple hiking tracks. 15 minutes, 1,5 hours or 3-4 hours...
Glen Helen Gorge - Spot for simming in Finke river. Glen Helen Resort provide basic lodging and food.
Finke River Two Mile - Suitable for camping.
Mt Sonder Lookout - A place suitable for sunset and sunrise views.
Redbank Gorge - (30 km from Ormiston Gorge)
Views from Alice Springs and West MacDonnal Ranges...