Helen and Doug's Round the World Trip travel blog

Champers at sunset

Uluru at dusk

Caves at the base

Kata Tjuta at sunset

We drove the surprisingly long way to Uluru from Alice on Tuesday and arrived in the dusty red centre to set up camp, which we weren't too thrilled about but rooms are crazily expensive here.

Seeing Uluru for the first time was magical, you can see it from about 50kms away on the highway which will give you some idea of just how big a rock can be! We had a wander around the resort (Yulara) but aside from fancy hotels and surly staff there wasn't much to see. The weather was obscenely hot (high 40s) so we hid in a cafe until dark when it was time to go to our Sounds of Silence Dinner.

This turned out to be easily the best thing we've done in the Outback. We were taken to a private location in the desert where we were served champagne and canapes as the sun set over Uluru and The Olgas, beautiful. We then moved on to a restaurant-type setting in the middle of nowhere complete with white tablecloths and silver service. The food was brilliant, and included kangaroo (delicious) and crocodile. There was so much of it and it was all superb, we had a feast! There was also unlimited wine and beer, and lots of yummy desserts to choose from afterwards.

The highlight of the evening however was the tour of the night sky, which was breathtaking. The woman who did the talk used a laser pen so she could point at what she was talking about, meaning that for once we could actually see the constellations we've never been able to make out before. It was so dark that we could really see the milkyway laid out above us - neither of us have ever seen anything like it before. Awesome is not a good enough word! It's so rare to be away from all unnatural lights so it really was not something you see every day.

Top marks for wierd moment of the night went to the fact that all eight of us on the table were from North London (except Helen) two were from Enfield, and one went to the same school as my Dad!

After sleeping in a sauna of a tent under the stars, the next morning we were up before dawn to avoid to heat, driving to Uluru to watch the sunrise. The air was nice and cool at this time of day so we quickly (9kms in 2 hours) did the base walk around the rock. It really gave us an idea of how big the bloody thing is as it seemed to go on forever! The rock itself however was more interesting than you would think, it has caves and valleys in it, see the pictures for a better idea. It truly was a magical place, and the spiritual connection the Aboriginals have felt for centuries is obvious.

We didn't climb the rock although plenty of people do, this was partly because of the heat and endurance involved but mostly out of respect for the local Aboriginals wishes. They see Uluru as a sacred place and therefore it is pretty disrespectful to clamber all over it, a bit like someone abseiling down Canterbury Cathedral.

We spent the rest of the day hiding indoors away from the burning sun before heading out as late as possible to see the Olgas (or Kata Tjuta). They were more amazing than Uluru in some ways, partly because we hadn't seen hundreds of photos of them before. They are like an eroded Uluru and give an idea of what Uluru might become in another few thousand years.

We returned to Alice on Thursday and stayed 2 nights to recoved in our air conditioned room. We spent Friday touring some of the famous Outback institutions. We first went to the Telegraph Station which was part of the Darwin to Adealide route which first linked Australia with the rest of the world. It was 3000kms which they built in just 2 years, pretty impressive considering the technology of the time and the insane heat! Then we went to the School of the Air which was fascinating. They teach hundereds of children who live on remote cattle stations etc via radio and the internet. Finally we visited the Royal Flying Doctors Service which is responsible for saving thousands of lives since its set up in the 1920s by airlifting people from remote communities to hospital. It was amazing to discover how important Alice Springs is to the people of the Outback and we left with a much greater appreciation for the lives these people lead.

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