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17: Big Rock

Alice Springs to Yulara

sunny 19 °C
View Hinchinbrook and Centre on Farhorizons's travel map.

Henbury Metorite Craters (Ernest Giles Rd)

Henbury Metorite Craters (Ernest Giles Rd)

Ernest Giles Road and Allocasuarinas

Ernest Giles Road and Allocasuarinas

Mt Connor from the Lasseter Hwy

Mt Connor from the Lasseter Hwy

Uluru Cultural Centre

Uluru Cultural Centre

Uluru, trusty Subaru and John

Uluru, trusty Subaru and John

Corny and it takes a bit of elbow jostling!

Corny and it takes a bit of elbow jostling!


Kata Tjuta (The Olgas) at dawn

Kata Tjuta (The Olgas) at dawn

Valley of the Winds walk, Kata Tjuta

Valley of the Winds walk, Kata Tjuta

Valley of the Winds walk, Kata Tjuta

Valley of the Winds walk, Kata Tjuta

Valley of the Winds walk, Kata Tjuta

Valley of the Winds walk, Kata Tjuta

Valley of the Winds walk, Kata Tjuta

Valley of the Winds walk, Kata Tjuta

Valley of the Winds walk

Valley of the Winds walk

Cave on Mala walk at Uluru

Cave on Mala walk at Uluru

Kantju Gorge, Uluru

Kantju Gorge, Uluru

John has got the colours right! Uluru

John has got the colours right! Uluru


We had hoped to get to Yulara from Alice via King's Canyon as it's another of those places you have to see if possible. Advice was mixed about the Mereenie Loop route and it would have made the trip about 9 hours with no sight-seeing time, so we reluctantly decided to miss it. About 100k south of Alice we turned off the Stuart Hwy on to Ernest Giles Road to see the Henbury Meteorite Craters. The meteorite broke up and fell about 4,000 years ago and the craters are very clearly delineated still. The dry desert climate I guess. We had come 10k along Ernest Giles Rd, and it seemed pretty good for a dirt road, given that it hasn't rained for a while and the ruts are smoothed over by traffic. You'd probably prefer not to drive it when the mud is soft though. Anyway, we decided to keep going along it rather than go back to the Stuart Hwy - only another 90k. It was a good drive and we felt very adventurous, although Jane the GPS kept appealing to us to turn back until we were more than half way along! We stopped along the way to boil the billy and have a lunch of Vita-wheats and tuna. The atmosphere was slightly spoiled by encountering the only other travellers from the ACT for the whole trip so far.
The vegetation changed quite dramatically about half way along the red dirt road. Allocasuarinas of varying stages of maturity gave a very prehistoric look to the landscape.
Eventually we met the Luritja Road and headed south towards Yulara and not north towards King's Canyon (sigh). The day was wearing on as we joined the Lasseter Hwy, the main road to Yulara and Uluru, and like a lot of travellers before us no doubt, we were distracted by Mt Connor looming to the south. The Big Rock isn't the only thing which stands out in the landscape out here. The landscape continued as red as it is supposed to, but wasn't as flat as I had expected. Scrub-covered sand hills make it hard to spot anything in the distance, including Uluru and Kata Tjuta (aka The Olgas)
At Yulara, we almost checked into the posh "Sails in the Desert" before realising that we should be at the more down-market "Pioneer Hotel". There is nowhere but Yulara to stay for hundreds of miles around, and even the cheapest accom. is very expensive - ours was $275 per night and you have to book well ahead even so. This rock better be good!
We had time to pay the park fee and drive in to the Cultural Centre near Uluru itself. The Centre is very well done we thought, with lots of explanation of the cultural significance of the place and the local flora and fauna. We drove around to the Kuniya carpark and walked right into the waterhole - very atmospheric in the late afternoon and I must say the famous monolith is pretty spectacular close up. On the way back to Yulara we stopped at the "Sunset car park" to take the iconic photos - along with dozens of others all lined up beside the road (sigh).
The Bough Restaurant at our hotel did a pretty good dinner featuring some of the local wildlife and vegetation but with a free dessert buffet which was not such a good idea.
Next morning we arose in the dark to drive the 50k out to see Kata Tjuta by sunrise. We climbed the sand dune and found a smaller crowd of photographers gathered than last night. Everything is purple and blue in the soft dawn light.
At Kata Tjuta we set out on the "Valley of the Winds" walk. What can I say? We think it ranks near the top of half-day walks in the country. The Olgas are arguably more spectacular than Uluru itself, especially as you can walk right into and through them. The view of and from the gorges is breath-taking, and the walk long enough that at times you feel that there's nobody else there. We loved it.
Back at our hotel we were told that we'd need to change rooms as they needed to work on ours. In return we got a free bottle of bubbly and breakfast for tomorrow. Actually our new room was better. The TV worked and the outlook was more peaceful.
By the time we got back into action it was too late to hire bikes to ride around the big rock. Instead, we drove around it again and did the Mala walk into Kantju Gorge, with rock paintings and interesting caves, but we felt no urge to join the crowds taking sunset photos.
Dinner was at the same restaurant again pretty noisy tonight.
All in all, you HAVE to go there, but Uluru or Ayer's Rock seems a pretty much over-loved icon.

Posted by Farhorizons 21:49 Archived in Australia Tagged hinchinbrookandcentre

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Comments

Incredible colour Sue and bird watchers heaven by the sound of it.
Why is the GPS called Jane?

by Syl

Thanks Syl. I love getting comments! You have to go there to appreciate the colours - just extrordinary! There was a choice of voices when I set up my TomTom, and the voice called "Jane" was the one I preferred being ordered around by - gentle, English, ladylike, NOT a bossy bloke :)

by Farhorizons

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