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You know those movies shot in the middle of nowhere about a teenager or a mother hating their life? They show you shots of nothing, the one and only supermarket, the old drunks in the one and only bar, sand, a shot of the smoking hot sun, they play a depressing song.. that’s what the Australian outback is actually like. So why did I wanna go there?
I wanted to see it for myself. Coming from a very small country, I’m not known to nothing. Everywhere I go there is something; a house, a telephone cell, shops, a farm.. in the outback you can drive for hours and hours without seeing someone on the road. That’s a scary thought. So I didn’t go alone, I booked a group tour. I got the idea in Melbourne and the next day I left. I played with the idea longer, but decided to go to Tasmania first (that’s another story). And I booked a day before because I was smart enough to check the weather first, it can be REALLY hot in there, like 50 degrees and I guess that’s a temperature that I can’t handle while hiking (or actually while living). That week I checked and it was like 38C degrees so I was like, yes, let’s go because next week it’s 50 degrees again! So there I went, at first I was a little bit scared, because, going with a group in to the middle of nowhere… it better be a fun group. Hopefully as fun as my Tasmania group, where it was a lot of single traveling backpackers too. I looked up the cheapest way to get to the Outback first, which was not really a thing because it’s so far in ‘nothing’ that it is always expensive to fly there. You can either fly to Ayers Rock airport, the big rock you actually wanna see when you go to the Outback because it’s one of the three things to see there, or fly to Alice Springs and take the car from there. I booked my trip with a company called Mulgas Adventures and it was about AUD $370. In all the hostels around the country you find a lot of information about possible trips and stuff and in Australia there are a lot of tourism offices especially for backpackers that offer group trips. I booked with Mulgas because they offered a free camel ride, something I really wanted to do in the desert there, because… I don’t know. I thought it would be a fun experience (afterward I must say, it wasn’t, very painful when the camel started to run haha).
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So there I went, at first I was a little bit scared, because, going with a group in to the middle of nowhere… it better be a fun group. Hopefully as fun as my Tasmania group, where it was a lot of single traveling backpackers too. I looked up the cheapest way to get to the Outback first, which was not really a thing because it’s so far in ‘nothing’ that it is always expensive to fly there. You can either fly to Ayers Rock airport, the big rock you actually wanna see when you go to the Outback because it’s one of the three things to see there, or fly to Alice Springs and take the car from there. I booked my trip with a company called Mulgas Adventures and it was about AUD $370. In all the hostels around the country you find a lot of information about possible trips and stuff and in Australia there are a lot of tourism offices especially for backpackers that offer group trips. I booked with Mulgas because they offered a free camel ride, something I really wanted to do in the desert there, because… I don’t know. I thought it would be a fun experience (afterward I must say, it wasn’t, very painful when the camel started to run haha).
Mulgas Adventures was a great company because I really loved my tour guide Jason and he really did his best to offer me my diet options. THE BEST!! He bought me gluten free bread, gluten-free Weetbix, gluten free snacks and cookies and lactose-free everything. He lives in Alice Springs himself and knew A LOT about the aboriginal culture, which was really cool. He was super funny and really bad in all the hikes which was really funny too, given the fact it was his job. He knew a lot about the national parks, cooked great bread (in the camp fire!!) and is just an adorable guy. It was his birthday too, so after we got back in Alice Springs we met his friends and celebrated his birthday in one of the pubs.
Well, back to the Outback! I flew to Ayers Rock and at the airport I had to wait a bit for the group to arrive, so I checked everything out… I mean. The airport was VERY small and it was REALLY hot compared to Melbourne, so I had to change shoes and stuff. I saw a scary warning and immediately sort of regretted coming there. WHYYYY? Maybe the group would never arrive and I’d be stuck in the middle of nowhere… Lucky for me the bus did arrive and I met everyone and there were a lot of people traveling together which was really scary first.. but thank god I got to know them better later on and it was not scary at all, it was a great, diverse group.
Before I go a little bit deeper in to the itinerary, I need to tell you something first. I had one day to prepare for something amazing. One day to shop my ass off in Melbourne to get every thing I needed. I really wanted to sleep under the stars (in the Outback, again, WHY, scary animals and stuff and the nearest hospital is like 7000 km away). I had to fix camping gear (ok I could actually rent it from the tour company), I had to buy sunscreen, a hat, a crazy mosquito net thingie and water… a lot of water. And I got everything and was happy but sad to leave Melbourne but I could not stick there forever and spend all my Australian time in the same city. It was time to explore! My backpack felt heavier thanks to all the new things, and arriving at the airport I decided to weigh in before checking in. And wow, right under 20 kg! (Small note, when I first started it was about 14 – 16 kg)
Arriving in Ayers Rock was bizarre. When you depart from the plan you see the rocks (is that Uluru?! You literally have no idea) and red sand everywhere. Howdy ho, this feels like the outback already!
It was really warm at the airport and I knew I had to wait about two hours before they’d pick me up. I expected a bigger airport, but it was just a small hall with only ≠4 benches. I confiscated one quickly because no way I’d had to wait outside in the heat! As soon as I got to ‘my’ bench, my eye glazed over at this board… uhm, I’m not scared at all! Gosh, what was I thinking? I don’t know if this is still a good idea…
The first day we had to drive for houuuuurs… and lucky me I met the group halfway in Ayers Rock already, because the group started in Alice Springs and they had literally been driving for like 6 hours already and had to leave at 5.30 am. Lol. The Australian busses are the best. They work very well in deserts and all the smart group tours have a separate follower with everyone’s bags, so you just take a seat in the 4WD bus (two seaters and one seaters, awesome!) and relax. I don’t really remember what we did each day, but it was something like this:
The Kings Canyon national park covers an area of around 73,000 hectares and there are various places to discover. Great thing about Australia is that most of the national parks and history thingies also have their Aboriginal names, but when you talk to people you often just talk about the Australian names. Arriving in the Outback I was like WTF, there were too many flies! You literally opened your mouth and already ate five (so I wore a stupid head net all day, I was so happy I brought one because it was really funny watching the others telling a story during our hikes and all of a sudden almost die because of the flies in their mouth). It was very warm and usually it’s even warmer. It was around 40C when I was there and silly enough it also rained a few times! So basically I picked the best weather of the year to visit, now it was doable.
We drove to Kings Canyon first and stopped to view George Gill Range on the way. After that we went for a Kings Canyon rim walk. We visited the North and South walls, The Garden of Eden, as well as the Natural Amphitheatre. After this I was pretty exhausted already and super happy I only had to sit in the car when we drove to our camp. We stopped on our way back once in a sort of forest to collect wood for the camp fire. Before Jason told us we should put our shoes on (we wanted to go on with bare feet) because of the ants… iek. So we had our shoes on but I did almost walk in to a VERY BIG spider web. Ieeh, Australia!
We set up our own bush camp on an outback cattle station, had a typical Australian BBQ (with kangaroo meat and stuff) and watched a thousand stars. We slept in swags… which at first I didn’t know what it was so I was fine with it. Appears.. those are just sleeping bags… so basically we slept without a tent. IEK! Luckily for me there was wine and it was very dark so I didn’t even really see where I put my swag down… when I woke up I was a bit scared because I saw a snake and a colony of ants not far from our camp haha, but I survived and it was awesome! We had to wake up very early the next day (it was still dark – I think we had to wake up at 5AM) because it was time for the trip of a lifetime, to finally see Kata Tjuta and Uluru!
We started with a hike through the Valley of the Winds and a sunrise view of Kata Tjuta, which made me fell in love with the rock. This was beautiful! On the right you could see Uluru (mweh) and on the left KT. Very funny detail was that when we watched the sun rise for about an hour it wasn’t spectacular for a very long time. There were a few other people also watching and they picked a place right in front of Uluru (like in front of the platform we stand on), but when I looked the other way I saw Kata Tjuta which was 10 times more beautiful!
I really enjoyed waking up early, go for a hike and already accomplished so much at noon. We had lunch at the Cultural Centre, which was also a big Aboriginal museum. Very interesting! During our walk Jason also told us a lot about the culture, the Aboriginal drawings on the walls and the plants they ate or used for medical reasons. I didn’t really knew a lot before, but apparently there were a lot of different Aboriginal art styles, languages and people, depending on where they lived within Australian (pretty obvious that the weather and the ground were very important for them in order to decide what to eat and stuff). After we had a short guided interpretive walk at the base of Uluru. And after that it was the best, we had champagne at the sunset with a beautiful pink sky and Uluru in the background. Oh and gluten free snacks, thanks Jason <3
After that we headed back to the camp and Jason made us dinner again. We took a shower and watched the stars again. We only had one morning left in the red center so we had to wake up early again. These Australians really love early mornings. That morning we did a walk around Uluru (which was pretty long if you pick the ‘longest’ walk available. Which was only 10 km, but it was not very interesting, the rock always looks the same and the sand stays red. We drove back to Alice Springs and stopped on our way for a camel ride.. lol.
And I know I can’t compare my story to my experience, because we saw so much more beautiful things. After all I didn’t think Uluru was the special rock, for me it was Kata Tjuta. I’ve seen wild dingos, eagles and the most scary ants and insects. We drove for hours, with only red sand around us. Each night I was too tired to write a diary, so I don’t have one, but this story comes pretty close, and I did take photos. It was very special to drive and all you see is this big rock. You literally see it from everywhere because it’s so flat. There is also a fake Uluru, which I thought was a joke and they were fucking with us because it was a story from our group they made up before they picked us up from Ayers Rock Airport, but it was actually true I found out later on Google. It’s called Mount Connor and you’ll see it on the way from Alice Springs to Uluru. It’s basically the same haha. I really enjoyed touring with a smaller company (smaller than for example Grayline (which you see a lot). We sometimes did a little competition with our tiny bus (compared to their big buses) who’s the first at a sunset spot, because once the big touring cars are there full with (old) people it’s done with the peace and quiet. I’ve never seen so many stars in my life as I did in the Outback and I even saw a couple of falling stars. I’ve never baked bread on a (real) camp fire before and I’ve never seen so many wild animals. I really loved the (sad) connection the area had with Indigenous culture and I learned so much.
I’d highly recommend anyone going to Australia to visit the Outback, but not on your own. You’d have to bring too much food and water to survive. And if you get troubles with your car you’re f*cked..
I got dropped off in Alice Springs, where I’ll tell you all about later… because that’s a very different story (I stayed there waaaay too long).
3-Day Ayers Rock to Alice Springs Camping Tour Including Kings Canyon, Kata Tjuta and Uluru
Uluru Camel Express, Sunrise or Sunset Tours
Interested in visiting the Outback and Australia too? Have a look at all my posts about Australia here, and book your flight here and your tours right here.