Central Australia 2021

The plan … before the trip …

So it is eleven days until we head off on a week long adventure to central Australia. As I type this, Victoria and South Australia come out of their respective lockdowns tonight, while NSW reports its highest case numbers for the current, Delta outbreak. The Northern Territory reopen their borders to SA and Vic at the same time as the lock downs end tonight and my fingers are crossed that no one with COVID heads straight there. To say I am nervous is an understatement.

Anyway, here’s the plan. We leave here on an early flight to Alice Springs on Saturday 7th August. As soon as we get there we pick up a campervan (self contained) and head straight off to Uluru. We will stay one night along the way, maybe at Curtin Springs, before heading onto Uluru on Sunday morning. We have a star gazing tour booked for Sunday night, the Field of Light tour booked for Monday night and the Sunrise Segway Tour on Tuesday morning. We are also planning to walk the base of the rock and walk the Valley of the Winds at Kata Tjuta. So we have 3 nights in Yulura to tick these things off.

On Wednesday we head for Watarrka to walk Kings Canyon on Thursday morning, before making our way back to Alice Springs on Thursday afternoon and Friday. We are staying in a hotel in town, with a small hire car on Friday and Saturday nights (Mr Perspective’s birthday is Saturday), before heading home on Sunday.

It’s worth mentioning that if the NT locks down for any reason to Perth, we will be heading out to explore our own state, particularly the area around Cue and potentially as far as Mount Augustus. Let’s hope we don’t need to activate Plan B. …

Saturday 7th August 2021

How amazing it is to be able to travel at this time in the world history. But first, it’s amazing to travel as winners after our fun Quiz night last night for Lionheart. We won two years ago and now we’ve got to win next year to keep the streak alive.

So after a short night’s sleep we jumped in our Uber this morning and headed off to the airport. For the first time in many months. I wasn’t even allowing myself to believe it right up until we got in that Uber. Given that the East Coast of Australia is essentially locked down thanks to the Delta variant, no one’s going anywhere. But everything went without a hitch and according to plan and on time. Bound for Alice Springs we flew across WA in a diagonal line, with a great view of some of the places we’ve been before like Lake Ballard, before venturing over previously unseen territory. I was watching on flight tracker so I could see when we crossed out of WA and into the Northern Territory. SA was out the window to my right.

The pilot announced that we would fly directly over Uluru, and those of us sitting on the right hand side of the plane would have a great view. Because the plane was less than half full he suggested people move to the right hand side of the plane and those of us on the right give others a chance to have a look when the time came. To say I was thrilled would be an understatement. We had an awesome view straight down over Uluru and even offered our seats so somebody else could have a look. The further east we went, I kept looking out the window and I knew that if I tried hard I’d be able to spot Mount Conner. Sure enough. It was easy to see Fooluru, just under the tip of the flying kangaroo. It took Mr Perspective a while to see it, but eventually he worked out what I was referring to and I’m sure he’ll get many more views of it as we drive past it in the next few days.

Safely on the ground in Alice Springs we had a little bit of a delay to go through border control and clearing the process to get our baggies, before we jumped in a taxi and headed out to the Maui / Britz / Mighty rental yard to pick up our Deuce Plus camper for the next few days. That process was largely straightforward and after a bit of an orientation to the camper, including how the handbrake works, we headed off into town to grab some food from Coles, some alcohol from Liquorland and then hit the road South, very excited about actually being on holidays in the NT, in the sunshine, in the dry. Perfect.

Our first stop was The Cannonball Run Memorial site where the lives lost in the Cannonball run, the race from Darwin to Adelaide in solar powered cars are remembered. A sobering place but no doubt their efforts are progressing travel in Australia towards renewable energy.

Our next stop was Erldunda to pick up some fuel. So it turns out that I probably should’ve listened to that orientation on the camper, especially the bit where she said “if you try to drive away with the hand brake on the horn will go off and you’ll only do it once”. In fact, I did it twice. At Erldunda, once at the bowser where I got some filthy looks from a couple of motorbike riders, and once in a car park under the watchful eye of a busload of tourists. No doubt I’ll do it again before the holiday is over, but I have to say it is very alarming to have the horn of the vehicle blare at you as you’re trying to drive, particularly if you’re going in reverse.

Erldunda is the place where you make a right hand turn and start heading West towards Uluru and the traffic thins out a bit. It’s certainly a lot thinner in the later afternoon, as we discovered. The other thing we discovered was the wild flowers were out and the budgies were diving and sweeping in gorgeous flocks. We stopped for a look at the wild flowers along the road. None of them look familiar to me, but I’m sure I can look him up and find out what they are. I don’t remember wild flowers here the last couple of times I’ve been, although the timing is almost the same. I think it has been a good year for rain. The other thing that is prolific along this road is wrecked cars, some of them on their head, some of them burnt out, most of them smashed up. We saw at least 5. Lucky, The Piper wasn’t with us or we would have had to stop to collect a “souvenir” from each one.

Just as the sun was starting to get low in the sky, and driving was becoming tricky, we spotted Mount Conner. Now Mount Conner is also known as Fooluru, but it’s distinctly different once you’ve seen them both. With Mount Conner in our sights, it wasn’t far to Curtin Springs where we intended on staying the night. So we pushed through, arriving there just on sunset. Mount Conner from that angle faces directly West and was beautifully lit up, showing all it’s true colours.
Because we’re on holidays, we decided that we would eat out more than in, so although we got a fair bit of shopping, we didn’t get much in the way of meals, knowing that we could head to the pub here at Curtin Springs, as well as elsewhere. So that’s what we did. We went in and said hello to their lovely staff and ordered a great meal which was enjoyed under the Bough Shed. What a great start to our first day on the road. Other than a handbrake incident or two, everything went without a hitch and we’re now camped up at Curtin Springs with full bellies, excited about our onward journey to Uluru tomorrow morning.

Sunday 8th August, 2021

Goodness me it’s cold this morning. I am so glad we carried half the double sleeping bag each. With that, one of the supplied doonas over us, and one of the supplied doonas under us, we were snug as a bug in a rug! It was too cold for breaky outside but the utility of Britzy’s swivelling cab seats meant we could eat inside. After breaky we headed off to see what it’s all about out here. Knowing what to look for, and although I was driving, I saw the big red rock first! The undulating sand dunes mean you get glimpses before the whole thing is finally there in front of you. It is as exciting each time I see it, as it was the first time. My heart skipped a beat when I glimpsed it and swelled with love when we pulled in the the sunset lookout, the first viewing area. I am not sure Mr Perspective was getting the Perspective so I explained that although he couldn’t see them for the trees, there were cars and motor homes parked at the base of the rock, right in front of us. We drove on, around to the old climb starting point where indeed there where cars and motor homes parked! At the base, I think the perspective was finally apparent.

With many hours to go before check in at Yulara we did the Mala walk, delighting at the Zebra Finches flying in formation, darting and diving all over the rock, into the waterholes and out again, filling entire trees. No evidence of budgies here though. Having accrued a few steps, we jumped back in Britzy and headed off in a clockwise direction around Uluru seeking a quiet spot for lunch. In non-COVID times this remote part of the world is packed with local and international tourists. And I mean packed! I have been here at times when there is nowhere left to park. Not so this time. In fact we had the ENTIRE sunrise coach parking area to ourselves, with only one other vehicle in the carpark. With room to spare, in the increasing shadow of Uluru, we set up our chairs and table and settled in for a long lunch. Regular readers will know that finding the best lunch spot when we are away is a job I take seriously as the navigator. I think I did well this time!

Eventually, almost 3 hours after arriving, we had to leave the stunning view and the yellow grevillia behind, but not before securing some drone footage. At that stage I didn’t know that the whole National Park is a “no drone zone”, so this is the only footage I have. Had I known, I would have respected that requirement. But seeing as I have it …

Now I would love to tell you that our check in and allocation our site at the caravan park reception was quick and smooth. In reality though it was the complete opposite. It seems minimal crowds don’t have any effect on this process which seems to get worse each time I am here. I don’t normally bag out people who are front-of-house but this was really appalling. Make sure that you factor in a long wait and grumpy staff if you are staying at the caravan park. Finally the pre-booked, online process was finalised and we headed off to Site 157, which turned out to be a very good spot along the fence, with no sites behind us, and no site to our left. After refreshing with hot showers we headed up to watch the sunset on the dune with most of the other campers, before downing our dinner early in readiness for our first tour.

At 8.30pm we wandered across the town to join the Outback Sky Journey – Astro tour. As it turns out, the tour doesn’t go any further than the carpark behind the shops. The two guides did a great job explaining the southern sky, spotting the Southern Cross, determining south using the constellation, spotting a few inconsequential zodiac constellations, finding Scorpio (my non-inconsequential constellation) and the making out the emu, comprised of black sky rather than a constellation. We then got the chance to peer down a telescope to view some other galaxies as well as Jupiter and Saturn! While I have seen most of these on other tours, it was still a good thing to do. There were 4 people there who were more familiar with the Northern sky, and they found the tour to be really informative. I must admit, I am thrilled to be able to see Scorpio and know when and where to look for it. Now I can see it, it stands out like the Southern Cross and the emu! Time for a gin and tonic, to see if the star spotting gets even easier.

Monday 9th August, 2021

This morning starts in our pjs. Most mornings do but what I mean is today we got up, used the loo and then drove out of the caravan park, within 10 minutes of waking up. The reason? Why have breakfast in a dusty CP with heaps of people you when you can have it watching Kata Tjuta? And that’s what we did, enjoying breaky in a deserted picnic area at the foot of the phenomenon that is Kata Tjuta. After breaky we got ready (including changing out of pjs) for our grade 4, 3-4 hour Valley of the Winds walk. I’ve done the walk before but my recollections are poor. The kids were 5 and 11 and I recall being occupied with making sure they were ok. So I was really looking forward to today’s walk.

We were all ready by 10.30, with me wearing my new hiking boots and carrying my new walking poles. Now about these walking poles. I always feel a little unstable when we walk off paths and on uneven ground. I also often feel like an extension of my swinging arms would be great, on or off paths. So I thought I would get some poles and try them out. I watched a few YouTube videos on how to determine the right length and how to use them for trekking (as opposed to walking) and I am hopeful they will be a godsend. Having completed the Valley of the Winds across 18000 steps, up hills, down into the valley, back up the hills and across to the car park I can assure they are worth every penny! I wish I had bought them ages ago. I felt like I had my own handrail for going downhill, which is when I find walking the most difficult. Of course they were also awesome for going uphill and they should prove to be worth their weight in gold at Watarrka.

Anyway, back to the Valley of the Winds. At the first lookout we assessed the situation, weather and terrain, and decided we would do the walk. The first part, downhill gave us a glimpse of the views to come. At the bottom we turned right onto the anticlockwise circuit and followed the Zebra Finches. They were headed for a waterhole that they were sharing with a few budgies. After watching them for a while we headed on to the second lookout. It’s a steep climb but worth the effort. It’s one of those lookouts that until you are at the very, very, very top you have no idea just how great the view will be. And like everywhere else out here, we had it to ourselves and took a seat to thoroughly enjoy the view.

Of course what goes up must come down but the poles helped with that and we were soon among the stunning wildflowers. There were heaps and heaps of them too, almost looking like fields or meadows. Finally our loop walk rounded the last corner at the shelter and we headed along the gorgeous dry creek bed to the steep climb back out of the Valley. It’s an effort at the end of 3 hours but we made it and celebrated with a lolly python. I’m glad we didn’t see any of the other kind.

Back at Britzy we headed back to the picnic area and parked up to enjoy another fabulous lunch spot. Unfortunately the flies also seemed to like this spot, just as they had enjoyed following us through the Valley. In the end they drove us away from the beauty of Kata Tjuta. Not to be deterred though we stopped at the Kata Tjuta / Uluru lookout, again all by ourselves. Time for a nice long hot shower and a little G&T before we head out this evening.

As the sunset and not long after dinner we rugged up again and headed to the bus stop to be transported to the Field of Lights. This attraction is an art installation, comprising 50,000 solar powered globes. The globes and their wires illuminated in clusters, changing colour. It was originally intended as limited time thing, but it is so popular that it is there indefinitely now. It’s a very pretty place to visit and the 30 minutes we were allowed there was just enough to see it and take it in. Definitely worth doing as part of a trip to Central Australia.

Tuesday 10th August, 2021

Here we go on what I think will be the most exciting day of the trip. We were up early to head off on the USSR. That’s not a trip to Russia, rather the Uluru Sunrise and Segway Tour. Now those among you who have read about our NZ trip will know that we did a Segway tour of Christchurch and loved it, so we thought segwaying around Uluru would be an awesome thing to do. And we weren’t wrong. Our day started with sunrise, in the same place we spent Sunday afternoon. Similarly the place was almost deserted, with only one other tour bus in. Of course watching the sun hit the rock is an awesome thing to do, with or without a segway tour afterwards. As expected, the light hit the rock and revealed it from the top to the bottom, changing its colour as the sunshine brightened the day. We nibbled on a light breaky and met the other members of our tour group, as well as Dan and Emma, our guides (nothing like Dan and Emma from Rosehaven).

After witnessing this stunning phenomenon we jumped “back on the bus” to head for the start of the segwaying. Kitted up with knee pads, elbow pads, and a helmet, we were each paired with a segway and put through our paces on a training circuit, before heading off in single file to complete an anticlockwise loop around Uluru. On the way, Dan (The Selfie Man) shared three Anangu stories, which are also shared on information boards. Once again, we were the people everyone else wanted to be, although this time the group was much bigger. The views of the rock are of course amazing and segwaying it is much easier than riding it, and loads more fun. We would recommend it as a hugely fun thing to do, although I would suggest just doing the segway, and do sunrise and breakfast at the rock yourself.

The Segway part of the tour ended back where we started, before a lovely walk to the Mutijulu Waterhole, which had a lot more water in it than the last 2 times I have been there. We had a look at the rock art, before finally being transported back to the caravan park where Britzy was patiently waiting for us. We spent a few hours dawdling over lunch, with me stalling any attempts to do anything. The reason? Did I mention that it is Mr Perspective’s birthday on Saturday? For his present I booked an extended Kata Tjuta and Uluru sightseeing helicopter ride for this afternoon. Of course it is a surprise, so I had to make up a proposal to go to the didgeridoo session at 3.00pm. Eventually 2.25 arrived (I had clean hair by then and had spoken to Super Gran on the phone) so we wandered down in the direction of the venue for the didgeridoo event. At the gate to the caravan park, the helicopter pick up was not yet there, so I further stalled, spending time reading about dingos and having a look at the pool. Right on time, the pick-up arrived and I said to Mr Perspective “let’s have a quick word to this guy”.

Me: Are you looking for us?

Pilot: I don’t know.

Me: J and J.

Mr Perspective (Thinking): Oh my god, why is she doing that? Does she think we’ll get a freebie or something?

Pilot (shaking Mr Perspective’s hand): Happy Birthday! Surprise!!

Jim: What? Who? Why? Where?

What an awesome surprise. He had no idea and it took the bus trip to the airport for him to get it in his head that we were about to take off into the air and view Kata Tjuta and Uluru from a different perspective, for 36 minutes. In a helicopter. And what an amazing experience it was. From the smooth take off to the equally smooth landing. In the cabin we were hooked up via headsets to each other and the pilot. We flew out to the eastern side of Kata Tjuta before flying in an anti-clockwise direction around the formation, over the Valley of the Winds carpark to the Walpa Gorge walk entry before turning around and heading back, putting it all outside my window! The pilot was sharing information and pointing out various aspects. We could see where we had walked, just yesterday. We then flew towards Uluru’s western side with Mt Conner in the distance, skirted along Uluru’s northern edge and then returned along the western side, giving us both an unbelievable view! We could see the top, making out how uneven it is. It’s size from the air is imposing, as is Kata Tjuta, which has a much larger circumference.

Finally our amazing flight started coming to an end, with a quick zoom back to the airport and a smooth landing, all without blowing dust over the light aircraft being lovingly cleaned. The whole experience was outstanding and will be a trip highlight. I will admit that I had hoped to book the sunset helicopter flight but I am glad it was not available (more about that later). What we saw, the professionalism of the tour and Mr Perspective’s surprise were all worth the small outlay for the trip. It rivals other helicopter tours I have done and I think it was a great experience for Mr Perspective’s first helicopter jaunt.

Back at Britzy we couldn’t get out of the caravan park fast enough. We fuelled up for our departure tomorrow and went to the gallery for a quick look, before heading out to the sunset viewing area. Knowing that the carpark would be full, we went straight into the coach parking which was empty, set up our chairs and table, and settled in to watch the light do its thing on the rock. While we were waiting we sipped on champagne, had some fun with the camera, and dissected our perfect day and our perfect stay. When the super quick sunset helicopter tours started zipping backwards and forwards between the airport and Uluru I realised how lucky we had been to miss out. Each chopper did 2 flights that would have been rushed from beginning to end, with only 1 or 2 minutes view of the rock. Eventually the sun started to set behind us and the rock started to light up, before darkening against the backlit sky and then lightening again as the sky behind it fell dark. It was a truly amazing experience and one neither of us will forget. It was the perfect end to our day. Finally, the planets rose and, the stars and the tiny crescent moon became visible. We stayed until the rangers came around, quietly checking that everyone was leaving the rock to have its well-earned rest.

It doesn’t seem to matter how many times I come out here, there is always something new to experience and I am always left with the feeling that I have been somewhere unlike anywhere else on the planet. This time our experiences were more wonderful than in the past, thanks to the fact that almost no one else is able to be here. There are no international tourists and almost no domestic tourists, thanks to COVID and the terrible Delta variant that has closed the country and the world down. It is of course having a devastating effect on the tourism operators in the area, but for us, it was an experience most will never have. For a while, it felt like we were the only people here, doing what almost 8 billion people wish they could do. We know how lucky we are and hope that sharing with you in this way gives you some joy in some really tough times. Until next time Uluru and Kata Tjuta …

Wednesday 11th August, 2021

Unfortunately we had to leave Yulara and the amazement of Uluru and Kata Tjuta but there are more adventures ahead. We got up about 8 o’clock start and we’re out of Yulara by 08.30, in our pjs. Again, why sit in the caravan park when you can have breakfast with a view of Mt Conner for breakfast and the 100’s of Zebra finches. After enjoying a leisurely coffee and getting out of our jammies, we crossed the road and took a walk up the sand dune to see the salt lake. Although we didn’t see a Thorny Devil there was loads of lizard evidence in the form of perfect footprints in the stunning orange sand.
Back in Britzy we sealed the deal and set off for Wattarka, sharing the driving and arriving there for a late lunch. On route we encountered on old, scrappy looking camel and on arrival there was one dingo, just to the left of our site. I don’t think Mr Perspective believed me when I said they were here so it was pretty gobsmacking for him that I pointed one out before we even got out of the camper!

Replenished and refreshed after our lunch we headed back out for a lovely afternoon walk to Kathleen Springs. I was hopeful of seeing a bunch of birds. We certainly saw quite a few but perhaps they are more prolific around dusk. There is some interesting colonial history along the walk as well as some bush tucker evidence that the original inhabitants would have had a lovely oasis in the desert right here.

To end our day we pulled up a pew right beside our site, with a fine beverage to watch the range change colour as the sunset behind us, before heading to the pub for dinner. Perhaps it was the sign out the front that made it an irresistible option. “Beer this way, real life that way”! Beer wins every time.

Thursday 12th August

Another pre-breakfast exit from the caravan park this morning to enjoy breakfast in the Britzy at Watarrka (Kings Canyon). We stayed in as it was quite windy and a little chilly but we had a great view through the wide windows. Before starting off on the walk i was delighted to see many gorgeous spinifex pigeons! I missed a chance to photograph one yesterday, but they were more than happy to pose today. Loaded up with water and my walking poles we started our ascent to the canyon rim. We didn’t get far before I was almost blown straight off the steps! Thank goodness for the walking pole I was able to stab into the ground. Promptly I was swapped into pole position so Mr Perspective could grab me if it happened again!

At the top we set of on what proved to be a long and quite tough walk, tougher than the Valley of the Winds. I’ve done it before, 13 years younger, but last time it was stressful thanks to constant worry the kids would fall over the edge. This time I enjoyed it much more and when we had the Garden of Eden to ourselves for a short while it was even more special. Four hours after we set off we arrived back at the bottom, having conquered the loop without any further incidents!

Back on the road we stopped for a quick coffee and lunch at the information board near Kings Creek Station before beating a fairly fast track to Erldunda for the night. I wouldn’t normally stay at roadhouses but Mr Perspective was keen to try this one so I relented and it proved to be a good stop. It’s well set up and safer than I thought it would be. In fact there were a few vans there that must have been left behind by their owners who have headed, unencumbered to Yulara. Last night in Britzy is a bit sad and turning back onto Stuart Hwy signals then impending end of our quick trip east. But there are a couple of days to go …

Friday 13th August

This morning we actually got ready for the day and had a quick coffee in the CP before hitting the road on our last leg in Britzy. Our drive was enhanced by the toasty at Stuart’s Well and my eagle-eye spotting a wedge tailed eagle! I don’t know how I saw him, roaring down the road at 100kms an hour. He was asleep, standing guard over his roadkill, a large kangaroo. He didn’t know we were even there until we restarted Britzy and then he just flew to the fence. He needed to stay close, as there were other circling birds of prey waiting for their chance to grab a meal.

As expected we rolled into Alice in good time and collected our hire car from the airport, for the rest of the stay. As we left the airport we stopped to count the number of planes parked at the airport. I lost count somewhere around 100, spotting planes from all over the world and many airlines. There are even 4 A380s parked in the very back row. Let’s hope no one requests the plane that is parked in the middle!

In town we found a park to unload Britzy before we sadly took her back. I am surprised by how much I enjoyed the motorhome experience. We didn’t use the shower / toilet (except for storage) but other than that we made the most of everything about the unit. I hope we get to hire another one in the future and try one with a permanent bed and permanent lounge area. If we had a choice, we would probably also have slightly more room in the galley and an external awning. I would highly recommend a motorhome experience, especially while there are no international tourists to hire them so the price is very reasonable.

With Britzy returned we checked into Crowne and headed straight back out to the Todd Mall where I finally got a hat! The mall is a bit of a sad and sorry place, with many of the shops permanently closed. The venues seemed to be popular but the rest was dismal. Back in the car we took a drive out to visit John Flynn’s grave. For those who don’t know, the Reverend John Flynn was the founder of our Royal Flying Doctor Service, a service that to this day is a vital and lifesaving for regional, rural and remote Australians. He really did deliver “a mantle of safety” that all Australians benefit from and now his ashes are secured under a huge rock, smack in the middle of the huge continent he served. Back in the car (again) we decided to head out to Simpsons Gap where we enjoyed the colours on the gap and were lucky enough to spot a little hopping mouse. We had the place to ourselves for a while thanks to the late hour.

Back in the car (again, again) and we headed to Stuart’s statue. Mr Perspective describes him as “mad as a bag of spanners”. He was officially insane and his actions are a testament to that. He tried about 4 times to transverse the country, south to north (or Adelaide to Darwin). Apparently he thought it would be easy and he could do it in a “pair of sandshoes, with a loaf of bread”. Eventually he succeeded of course and now the Stuart Highway is a last testament to his crazy! His statue is a disproportionate replica of him, adding to the crazy! To seal our day we went over to Anzac hill, arriving just in time for a perfect sunset, before heading back to the hotel to enjoy our favourite Friday dinner of Indian takeaway.

Saturday 14th August

The plan for the day is to do what ever Mr Perspective wants because … it’s his birthday! After a typical hotel buffet breaky we headed out to explore Tjoritja (the West MacDonnell ranges). Our first stop was Angkerle Atwatye (Standley Chasm) where we waited patiently for the midday sun to fill the chasm. It was fun to watch the shadow slowly move across the narrow floor and the colours of the walls to change. I liked it here, partly because it is Indigenous controlled. All the staff are Indigenous and in my opinion the site looks better for it. It doesn’t seem to be as squeaky clean as other sites that are catering to the tourists expectations. Anyway, we grabbed a take away sandwich and kept heading westward to Ellery Creek Big Hole. The swimming hole was very full of water and very attractive (not just to us, but also to the budgies) but of course, very cold! The campsite adjoining the waterhole was also really busy and not overly appealing. But I am sure that at the end of the day, when the crowds leave, it is a nice place to stay, if you can get a spot.

Our next stop on the journey was the Ochre Pits where the spectacular colours made up for the friendly flies. It’s an easy walk to the viewing platform and it’s also nice to descend to ground level (down the few steps) and appreciate the size of the pit. I wonder how much ochre has been extracted and how much is left. Our last stop of the day was Ormiston Gorge which claims to be the most photographed gorge in Australia. It’s pretty cool. There was water in the water hole, a few people around, including Larrapinta Trail walkers and campers in a site far less public than the one at Ellery Creek Big Hole. As a last gesture of defiance we hiked to the lookout over the waterhole that gives a great view out into the gorge. It’s a fair climb, up a steep incline with some resilient little plants hanging on for dear life! I liked the walk a lot, decked out in my hat and boots, using my poles.
Rapidly running out of daylight we reversed our direction and headed back where we came from. The sunset was setting behind us, a blessing from a driving perspective but a shame from a viewing perspective. We made a couple of stops along the way to grab some drone footage, in an attempt to capture the magnitude of the area. The ranges are huge, impressive and stunning. We loved our day exploring and Mr Perspective assured me it was a great way to spend his birthday. Unfortunately there was no option for cake but the room service burger and wine were a sufficient substitute and I’ll make it up to him with a family dinner next week.

Sunday 15th August
All good things must come to an end, which I guess is why I still have to work. After taking our time over the buffet breaky we packed the car, filled up the fuel and headed for the driest airport in Australia. All the planes were still parked up waiting for the world to reopen. We ditched the hire car, had a coffee, boarded the plane and off we headed, bound for home. Within moments of take off our pilot informed us that he would be giving us all a view of Lake Amadeus, Kata Tjuta and Uluru. True to his word our plane made some awesome manoeuvres above Central Australia, swerving to give all passengers, on all sides of the plane a Birdseye view. The flight crew were as delighted as the passengers and my dislike of QANTAS has slightly resolved. Good job QANTAS. In fact GREAT job QANTAS. One last look at the sights eased the pain of leaving.

So now we are home. As usual we kept a tally of costs. Our flights were subsided by the government as part of the pandemic recovery ($930). The camper ($1488 for 7 days) was almost as cheap as the car ($269 for 2 days). Our 2 nights at Crowne were expensive ($415). Yulara powered accomodation ($171 for 3 nights) and Watarrka powered accomodation ($60 for the night) were higher than Erldunda ($38 powered) and Curtin Springs (free unpowered). Our experiences at Uluru (the Astro Tour, the Segway and the Field of Lights) was $554 while pass into the park was $76 (you pay day the person). We bought $217 worth of fuel to travel kms. And in case you are wondering, my hat was $85. So all up (food, alcohol, and other bits and pieces) our week away cost $5771, for 2 adults who were not looking to do it on the cheap. The helicopter costs aren’t in there but I can’t tell you what it cost because Mr Perspective reads this.

We also have our top 10 things we did.

10. Mt Conner from the viewing platform and sand dune
9. Camel crossing and dingo spotting
8. Birdies and wildflowers
7. Flights into and out of Alice Springs
6. Field of Lights
5. Walks – Valley of the Winds and Watarrka
4. Sunset in the Uluru sunset coach parking area
3. Lunch time in the Uluru sunrise coach parking area
2. The motor home experience
1. Helicopter

Mr Perspective is perplexed by limiting our choices to 10 things, claiming we should list the things we didn’t like. Of course there was very little we didn’t like, most of which I have already described. So, our advice to other would be travellers is to just do it. Don’t wait to go to Central Australia. There will never be a better time than now. Run the gauntlet. We did and it paid off. At this rate we might be back in that part of the world later in the year. If we are, we hope to C U in the N T.

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