Picture me trying to wing it on my own in the Australian outback… a laughable image, is it not? After finally booking my flight to visit Australia’s red center, I knew I needed to find a tour to go with, there was no way I would be exploring the outback on my own.
Timing wise, I was only able to get away for a weekend, and if you’re willing to have a jam packed 3-days, it’s enough time to see the highlights this part of the country has to offer, namely, Uluru, Kata Tjuta, and Kings Canyon. Most 3-day tours either begin in Alice Springs and end in Yulara (where Uluru is), or begin and end in Alice Springs. Flying into Ayers Rock Airport in Yulara is cheaper than flying into Alice Springs, so I was looking for a tour that started and finished there. Luckily I found one that worked out perfect: The Rock to Rock with Adventure Tours.
I booked my tour online through a website called Lost in Australia, only to realize I had actually booked an Adventure Tours run trip? I recommend just going straight through Adventure Tour’s website. For one, it’s cheaper than going through Lost in Australia. And two, Lost in Australia didn’t give as much information on the tour as I would’ve liked to know in advance. They also messed up relaying my pick-up spot to Adventure Tours, so I was left at the airport by accident. Luckily another tour guide was picking people up and sorted out the whole situation.
Also, according to Lost in Australia, I was also going to be sleeping in a swag (basically a sleeping bag) on the ground — NOT something I was looking forward to as I consider myself more of a “glamper.”It appeared to be the only option with the 3-day tours unless I wanted to pay a lot more to stay in hotels. But lucky for me, it turned out that wasn’t the case at all. We actually stayed in pretty nice tents both nights, the second one even had power and a fan! All that worrying for nothing.
After the small issue of being left at the airport, we picked up the last of our tour members at Ayers Rock Resort and were on our way to Kings Canyon! Our group only had 7 people total, and we were led by the most quintessential Australian tour guide, “Chief”.
You’d think the 4-hour long drive to Kings Canyon would’ve been a bit of a nuisance, but on both days our long drives back and forth were in the middle of the day, and it was nice to get out of the heat and be on the air conditioned bus. Plus the views on the drive are beautiful.
Unfortunately, our bus got overheated about halfway there and broke down on the side of the road. Chief was right on it and quickly jumped on the satellite phone and arranged for another bus to pick us up on their way to Kings Canyon. We ended up only being on the side of the road for about 40 min — not too bad all things considered. And another reason going with a tour is a good idea, imagine dealing with that on your own in the middle of the outback…
We made a quick stop at a little lookout on the way directly across from “Fool-aru” — another giant rock formation that many tourists apparently mistake for Uluru. To be fair, if you hadn’t seen Uluru yet, Mount Connor, as it’s actually called, would be a convincing possibility!
After climbing up a tall dune, I came face to face with a giant salt lake. It was pretty cool, though I’m not sure if it was worth pulling off for. I think it was mainly to give us a break from sitting and to stretch our legs, which I didn’t complain about!
A bit down the road we stopped at Curtin Springs resting stop. Here we were able to use the bathroom and also buy beer/wine/cider for that evening at the campsite. I made friends with a lovely kiwi girl and we split a 6-pack of cider.
They also have basic supplies and snacks available for purchase if you happened to forget anything (like a fly net because you’re definitely going to want one of those). Or if you happened to find yourself wanting a cold popsicle on a hot day like me:
Finally, just before sundown, we made it to our campsite for the evening. I was pleasantly surprised by the tents (mostly because at this point I still thought I was going to have to sleep on the ground). The bathroom facilities were also pretty nice and clean considering we were in the outback!
After getting settled and showered, Chief made us a delicious dinner of rice and some kind of stew. I’m honestly not really sure what it was, but it was great and I had two servings. He proved not only to be a great guide, but also a great cook!
That night I witnessed the most amazing stars I had ever seen. I’m still new at trying my hand at astrophotography, so my pics aren’t the best and don’t do the sky justice, but you get the idea!
Our morning wake up was at the painfully early time of 4:30 am. And by 5:30, we were on our way to hike Kings Canyon. Being summer in Australia and the intense heat that comes with that, you are required to start the hike before 9 am. The early wake up was made worth it by the sunrise views.
Kings Canyon was absolutely amazing and Chief was a great guide leading us on the hike and telling us some history of the area. I wish there has been a little more info on the plants and animals and all that, but that’s probably just me being a nerd 😉
To read way more on the Kings Canyon hike, see my whole post on it here.
After Kings Canyon, we started our long drive back to Uluru. Again, normally 4 hours on a bus wouldn’t have been ideal, but we had been up since 4:30 am and had done a strenuous 6 km hike, it was perfect to avoid the midday heat and take a well-deserved nap. We did make a pit stop at a resting station right along the way where we were able to go to the restroom and get a snack/drink.
Once arriving back in Yulara at Ayers Rock Resort, our campsite for the night, we settled into our tents and helped make lunch.
We also had a not so little visitor at our campsite that tried getting into our tents…
After lunch, we had some free time to go swimming at the pool, explore the campsite, or just relax. I didn’t have a swimsuit because Lost in Australia didn’t mention that we’d have the opportunity to swim (everyone else had booked through Adventure Tours and knew about the swimming opportunity, another reason just to go straight through them). The other option was to go on a short walk up to a lookout that gave you great views of Kata Tjuta and Uluru.
After free time, it was off to Kata Tjuta for the afternoon.
At the start of the walk, Chief talked to us all about the area and its history with the aboriginals, illustrating it in the sand, much as aboriginals themselves would’ve done. It was fascinating to learn more about their connection with the land. I really appreciated how knowledgeable Cheif was, and coming from someone who has taken several geology classes, he explained the rock formations really well.
We then were let off to do the walk on our own since it was not too long and straight in and straight out. The rock was just beautiful.
After Kata Tjuta, we were off to Uluru’s sunset viewing platform. Chief brought us a couple bottles of champagne as well as some crackers and dip to enjoy while watching the rock’s color change dramatically as the sun goes down. I was able to get a pretty cool time-lapse of the whole thing:
And catch the sunset in Chief’s glasses!
After the sun was down, we headed back to our campsite for showers and dinner. Chief cooked up the BEST kangaroo I’ve ever had. I’ve tried kangaroo quite a few times and it was never cooked right, it’s always been too dry. His was perfect! He also cooked up some sausages, beef steaks, potatoes, and a couple other sides — a true Aussie BBQ. After that everyone went straight to bed, it had been a long and exhausting, yet great, day!
The next morning brought another early 4:30 am start again. We were off to do Uluru’s base walk at sunrise.
Chief let us do the hike around by ourselves which I appreciated as we could go at our own pace. I like to take a lot of pictures (surprise!) so sometimes I can be a bit slow and it was nice not to have the pressure of keeping of with the group. It’s a pretty flat walk and one big loop around the rock, so there is no risk in getting lost or anything like that.
For my full experience at Uluru, check out my whole post on it here.
From Uluru, we went to the Aboriginal Culture Centre. No pictures were allowed at the center, but it was really great to learn more about the people and their connection to Uluru.
Then it was up to the sunrise viewing platform. When asked why we didn’t come here for the actual sunrise, Chief explained that it wasn’t the best places to view it as it wasn’t facing the right way the sun rises. But it was a great place to look out and see Uluru in its entirety.
After that our tour was sadly over and we headed back to the airport to catch a flight back home. Tip: you can see Uluru from the plane if you’re sitting on the right side!
This 3-day tour is absolutely jammed packed and exhausting, but so incredible. I would definitely recommend doing the “Rock to Rock tour” with Adventure Tours and will consider them for any other tours I may do while in Australia. Again, for more details on Kings Canyon, click here. And Uluru, click here. They were so special (and I had so many great pics) they warranted their own posts.
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