Four Days in the Australian Outback with Mulgas Adventures
An Unforgettable Trip to Experience New Cultures
Heading to Uluru/ Ayers Rock in Northern Territory is one of those bucket list items for many of us. It is a sacred area to the Yankunytjatjara and Pitjantjatjara people. They are known to have the oldest culture known to man of approximately 60,000 years.
My friend and I travelled at the end of October, which equates to late spring here in the Southern Hemisphere. Being in the centre of the Australian outback, the temperatures settled into the high 20’s to low 30’s by mid-morning. Although I’ve travelled much of Australia this year in my own SUV and rooftop tent, I travelled to Uluru with Mulgas Adventure Tours. They offer two options for arrival: Uluru/ Ayers Rock Airport (which I opted for), or to be picked up in Alice Springs and then journey by bus to Uluru which takes approximately 5 hours with stops. Mulgas Adventures also gives you the option for a 3 or 4 day Uluru Tour, so be sure to check out the difference in itineraries.
Since the early 1930’s, visitors began climbing Uluru, despite the indigenous people asking for their spiritual beliefs to be respected and for those to not climb the rock. In 1964 a chain was installed into the rock for safety reasons since the rock is steep and slippery. More than 30 deaths having occurred here. The trail was finally closed indefinitely on October 26th, 2019. There is much uncertainty unto how the chain will be removed from the rock in order to prevent further damage. There have been talks of filling the damaged areas with “sorry rocks.” These are rocks that visitors have taken, despite the protective laws against the removal of rocks in the area. Many take them as souvenirs, only to realise the bad luck that may occur within their lives after returning home. Afterwards they often try to return the rocks via mail in hopes to end their bad luck, often accompanied by an “I’m sorry” letter, hence the name “sorry rocks.”
Now with more background into the area and it’s significance I’ll dive into what my few days spent in the Northern Territory looked like.
After an early morning of packing up my rooftop tent at 4am, we arrived at the Uluru/Ayers Rock Airport just after 11am. Since our tour to start at 1pm with pickup from the airport, we took the bit of time to use the Airport wifi as we would have intermittent reception for the next few days. Keep in mind, if you fly in any earlier, be sure to bring some extra snacks with you as this airport is quite small and the only option for receiving food is out through security.
Denny, our Mulgas Adventure Uluru Tour guide picked us up from the airport right on schedule and brought us back to the first camping spot where we prepared lunch. Over lunch, we familiarized ourselves with the others in our group, a total of 8 people out of a possible 21, so a relatively small group. We prepped sandwiches for lunch inside our camp kitchen for protection from the sun. Note: Any food preferences and dietary restrictions were made available to those who indicated so when booking the tour. After cleaning our dishes, we went to the Cultural Centre and spent some time reading the information in the well designed and informative facility.
Throughout the buildings, you learn of the different ways of life between the indigenous girls and boys, men and women of the area, and how this is incorporated into their culture still to this day. We familiarized ourselves with the significance of Uluru to the indigenous people and the negative impacts that climbing the rock has. Not only is it steep and slippery as I already mentioned, but the extremely warm weather of the Northern Territory experiences reflects off of the red rock and many are prone to dehydration whilst climbing. We were able to see indigenous women creating traditional artwork, beautifully detailed dot art, in which they paint through the use of small dots. When the small dots are combined, they represent different scenes, filled with local animals, the sky, etc. It really is amazing to watch them sit blotting dot after dot and see the creation take shape.
Following our time in the cultural centre, we had the option to be dropped at the Base of the climb to do the summit walk, or to be taken to a secondary parking lot to do a half base walk which is approximately 5km, on a well maintained flat track. Myself and most of our group opted for the base walk in order to respect the indigenous peoples wishes. We took plenty of water with us since we were starting the walk in the later afternoon and the sun was still high and warm. We made our way around stopping at the different lookouts. Be prepared for flies! I had heard this numerous times, and even before the full-on heat of the summer, they were plentiful and irritating, although they don’t bite or cause any harm. Nonetheless as they buzzed around we made sure to not allow them to disrupt us from enjoying the incredible views that we were surrounded by.
After our half base walk we regrouped with Denny to participate in a cultural walk. He detailed the information he had become privy to by talking amongst the indigenous peoples of Uluru, although not all of their traditions are shared. From what he explained, we experienced touching the walls of a cave that would have been used by the women to prepare meals and could see the repetition of the steps they would have had to take and may still during ceremonies.
A very common experience, and rightfully so, is watching the sunset at Uluru while enjoying champagne and biscuits. After our cultural walk, we headed to a separate parking lot to experience this sight. The clouds weren’t in the best position to let a lot of light create the dark red look that is often seen, but we still managed to see a beautiful glow that lived up to the expectations. As the day turned into night, we went back to our camp spot to prepare dinner. Tasty burritos were on the menu, with each of us helping out again to prep different veggies and the meat. We chatted and again shared more with one another while eating our meal and learning of the plan to come for the next day, as well as how a swag works. After the demonstration, we rolled out our swags, adding in our sleeping bags and crawled into bed. The facilities were not far from our camping spot, providing warm showers after a day in the red dirt. On this first night, there was an option to participate in the Field of Lights, an additional tour feature that costs an additional $43 and is not organized through Mulgas Adventures although it can be booked at the time of your Mulgas Adveture Uluru Tour booking. The Field of Lights displays more than 50,000 lights throughout a garden walk. When booking, I knew I was going to have a packed first day with travel time and I opted without this added tour, although those from our tour group who did participate thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Instead I laid in my swag looking up at the stars amazed by the little light pollution.
Awaking at 5am to the sound of Denny playing soft music, we quickly made our ways out of our sleeping bags, rolled up our swags, and began our day. We were excited to be going to watch the sunrise from Ewing lookout which gives fabulous views of Uluru as well as Kata Tjuta. This early morning wake up was much more bearable. After some quick breakfast and getting changed, we headed up the 5 minute walking path to these views. In awe of how the clouds lit up, there was a hush amongst the number of individuals who had arrived to the lookout from various tour groups. The platform is large and gives everyone a reasonable view to take it in and snap a few pictures.
As we headed back down towards our campsite we made our way to Kata Tjuta in our bus (only about 30 minutes away) for today’s walk. We took the Valley of the Winds walk, and although the name became self explanatory as soon as we set out. This area was filled with massive valleys and the wind was powerful. I wore a t-shirt and brought a fleece to start out the walk with, but by mid-morning the wind was refreshing and not overpowering. The walk was approximately 7.4km and although there were uneven places, the track is well marked. Denny stopped as other groups passed and gave us an informative lesson on how the structures of Uluru and Kata Tjuta formed in the sand. We stopped here to enjoy a snack break. We had another snack break towards the end of the hike as we all regrouped and took in the last few views of the Valley of the Winds track and made our way back to the bus.
We made our way back to the original campsite, prepared camel burgers for lunch and then set off for our next stop. Once aboard we had a 3 hour drive to our next days adventure: Kings Canyon. We made three stops, one in Curtin Springs, a very small town to refuel with snacks and the option to pick up some alcohol, one at Mount Conner, and at a final destination to help collect firewood. Many continued to share stories throughout the drive while others intermittently napped during the drives to pass the time.
Our second stop was quickly made after to overlook Mount Conner, in West MacDonnell National Park, a large formation on privately owned land as well as a salt lake, Lake Armadas. About another hour later, we arrived at a brush filled area to collect firewood for tonight’s fire. After all pitching in and rounding up enough for the evening, we loaded back up into the bus and to our final destination for the day. We arrived at our next camping spot at Kings Creek Station and had about an hour of free time while Denny prepped our dinner. There was a covered pool at this spot, so we attempted to go into the water, but it was fairly cold by the early evening, so we opted against and just dipped our feet in. Afterwards we had showers and watched the sunset from our campsite. We indulged in the true Aussie lifestyle, with dingoes present on the site (although I didn’t see any) and had kangaroo steak, beef sausage, mashed potatoes, and roasted vegetables for dinner.
After another 5am wake up, to prepare for a 6am departure to King’s Canyon, the early morning grogginess was again hardly noticed. We packed up our swags in the dark, readied ourselves and boarded the bus again. King’s Canyon was about a 30 minute drive from our site to begin the 6km Rim Walk, taking approximately 3 hours, with other options for others not wanting to do the full walk. Stopping at the various lookouts, including the Garden of Eden, we had plenty of snack and water breaks to avoid dehydration in the heat again.
After the walk, we returned to Kings Creek Station to prepare eggs, bacon, and added in last night’s leftover mashed potatoes as hash browns for lunch.
After lunch we began our 3 hour journey back to Uluru, but stopped in Curtin Springs for those who opted for the 3-day tour. After saying our goodbyes to the 3 leaving us, we drove back the final few hours to our first camping site. The original plan was to do traditional bush camping in the Outback, but as our sunset the first night was slightly a bust, we were luckily able to experience this again and relive our first night again of the tour. Again we shared the sunset at Uluru with other tour groups before making our way to the campsite again for dinner which Denny cooked up delicious Spaghetti and garlic bread for the remaining few of us.
With different departure times from the group, we all opted for different morning options. One member went on a helicopter ride (at an additional cost) to see Uluru from a different perspective, while my friend and I went back up to Ewing Lookout for sunrise, and others decided to have their first sleep-in over the last few days. At the lookout this morning we were the only ones to be experiencing the sight, another beautiful moment in itself. The other tours must have been setting out for Kata Tjuta this morning. Tt seems the tours follow a fairly similar daily schedule for the multi-day tours as we saw the same three or so tours from other tour companies at the various stops.
When returning to our camp spot after the sunrise, we noticed snake trails in the sand a few meters away from our sleeping arrangements. This was the only time we saw any signs of snakes, but keep in mind they are present in the Outback. We were briefed the first night on snake safety and although having heightened awareness for them, the sound of our hearts beating typically is enough vibration for them to sense and to stay away.
After a quiet morning, we made our way to the airport around 9am and said our last goodbyes, as this epic tour came to an end. Be sure to check out Mulgas Adventures Uluru Tours year-round offerings for an experience like I had. Uluru truly is an amazing sight to see and I’m grateful to have been able to experience it with one of my closest friends at a time in my life where I needed to get away from the hustle and bustle that can come from day-to-day life and instead be out in nature and the bush for a reset.