SPB Trip Planning
SPB Qantas First Class to Sydney
SPB Park Hyatt Sydney
SPB Sydney Opera House
SPB Around Sydney
SPB Flying to/from Uluru
SPB Emu Walk Apartments
SPB Uluru and Kata Tjuta
SPB Park Hyatt Melbourne
SPB Around Melbourne
SPB Flying to Fiji
SPB Hilton Fiji
SPB Snorkeling Trip
SPB Fiji Air Business Class to Los Angeles
SPB Hyatt Regency DFW
When planning this trip I wanted to include Sydney as a stop since one of my travel companions had never been and I was happy to go back as I really enjoy it. But I also wanted to include places I hadn’t been. One of the great icons of Australia is its Red Centre and the large rock formation known as Uluru. Until I started researching the area I wasn’t aware there’s another formation nearby known as Kata Tjuta. In case you need a pronunciation guide, Uluru is pronounced OO-loo-roo and Kata Tjuta is KHAT-ah JU-tah
We arrived in the middle of a Tuesday afternoon during the third week of October and it was HOT. I cannot even imagine how it feels in the middle of the summer. My advice: stick to visiting in mid-April to mid-October (Autumn through Spring) and skip the summer months.
The park is about a 10-minute ride from the Ayers Rock Resort and entry is at a single ranger station. Each person in the vehicle must have a park pass so if you get behind several cars where people do not have passes, the line can back up. Park passes start at $25 AUD for a 3-day pass which should be all you need. If by chance you’ll make more than one trip to Uluru during a year’s time, opt for the annual pass at $32.50 AUD.
Uluru itself is about a 10-15 minute drive from the park entrance. As we were driving towards it we could occasionally catch glimpses of it in the distance and then we came around a bend and there it was. Pictures really don’t do it justice and I wanted to pull the car over right there and then and start taking photos. Apparently a lot of other people had the same idea because there were “No Stopping” signs all over the place! Well, at least I was in good company with my idea.
We continued driving and passed the official sunset viewing spots. There are separate parking areas for cars and buses, which was nice because it meant we didn’t have to try to shoot pictures around/over the buses and all the people on the tours.
We drove up to the parking area at the base of Uluru and got out just to look around for a bit. You can walk all the way around it though the base walk is a 10.6 km (6.5 miles) loop and takes about 3.5 hours. The park information sheet indicates that heat exhaustion and dehydration are a real risk, so plan accordingly. It’s also suggested that you do this walk early in the morning to complete it by 11 AM.
We also noticed a wire handrail leading from the base up to the top of the rock yet there were signs all over the place requesting people not to climb. We learned that while climbing is not illegal, the Aboriginal people consider Uluru sacred and the path to the top was one used by their men on special occasions. It’s also a very strenuous climb and 35 people have died while climbing. The climb route is closed during times of high wind or when the temperature reaches 36C (96F) or above. The climb was open on the days we were there but the ranger thought that would be the last day of the season it would be open as the projected high for the day was 35C. We chose not to climb it. If you’re interested in more detail about the debate of “to climb or not to climb” I thought this post at Outback Australia Travel Secrets did a good job of explaining both sides of the issue.
After taking a few up-close-and-personal photos, we drove back to the Cultural Centre to learn a bit more about the area and the Aboriginal people. In addition to the Cultural Centre, this area has the gift shop and a small restaurant – and the only air conditioning in the area!
One thing I’ve omitted about our experience so far is the flies. Why I didn’t see more written about them I don’t know – maybe I just didn’t look closely enough. But while the sun is up the flies will be very active. They don’t bite but are just extremely annoying. We were constantly shooing them away. Had I known about the flies I would have brought a very lightweight long-sleeved shirt to wear – at least then I wouldn’t feel it when they landed on my arms! As the sun goes down (and before dawn) the flies are much less active but once we returned to the Town Square, one of the first things we did was buy some of the lovely fly-net hats to keep them off our faces! They’re definitely worth the price. I have a co-worker who came during the Australian winter and said the flies were not very active so if I ever get to come back I will keep that in mind.
After the Cultural Centre we made our way to the sunset viewing area for cars and camped out for the better part of the next hour as the sun began to set. While it’s not as noticeable while you’re there in person, when looking at photos taken over a period of time you realize how the color of the rock changes depending on the light.
The next morning we got up early and drove to the sunrise viewing area. Here the color change was a bit more noticeable in person, especially after the sun broke the horizon. It was actually a little bit chilly until daybreak and a lightweight jacket felt good.
Once the sun was up we returned to our condo for some breakfast and then returned to the base of Uluru for the free Ranger-Guided Mala Walk. This is a non-strenuous tour that runs along the base for about a kilometer and then you have to walk back the way you came in. One of the park rangers explains a bit about the culture of the Anangu people and points out things you may not recognize on your own – like places where waterfalls form on the few days it rains here. There are also a couple of caves with drawings in them.
By the time this walk was finished, the temperatures were getting hot and we returned back to the hotel for some lunch and rest. Later that afternoon we went back out to have a look at Kata Tjuta. It was still very warm during our visit. We walked a little way up the Walpa Gorge and took some photos but didn’t stay very long due to the heat. In retrospect we probably should have waited a bit longer and stayed for sunset, but we did not. Instead we went back to the Town Square and had a lovely dinner before retreating to our apartment for the evening.
The next morning we wanted to get up and to the airport before the resort’s airport shuttle bus arrived. We accomplished this but were so early that the airport wasn’t even open yet! As it turns out, our 10:30 AM flight was the first one of the day departing from AYQ. We arrived at the airport around 8:50 AM and had to wait outside along with two couples traveling together. While it wasn’t terribly hot yet in the shade, the flies were starting to come back out for the day and I wished I’d had my fly net hat handy!
The airport opened about 9 AM and we were able to get checked in before the resort shuttle arrived.
There’s only one security lane and I think only two gates at the airport. Food is available but choices are limited. Fortunately the flight to Alice Springs is less than an hour away and there’s a better selection of food there if you’re hungry.
So what would I do differently? I’d go during a cooler period of time, to start. I’d take at least one paid tour. I’d dress a bit differently. But I’m very glad I went and wouldn’t mind seeing the area again in a few years.