Uluru and The Great Central Road

HELLO! And a big apology for the delay in this upload – I’ve recently returned to Perth and have been preoccupied with family visits, job applications and general “real life” stuff. But now I’m back and ready to share some more epic adventures with you all! My last post left you at The Red Centre, so that’s exactly where we’ll pick up from. I’m going to tell you 5 essential things to do during your time in Uluru, as there’s so many fantastic walks and sites to choose from. There’s no way of avoiding the National Park fee of $25 pp when you visit the area, but these tips make sure you get your money’s worth and more.

1. Best campsite in Oz?

Incredible view? Check. Epic sunset? Check. Red wine? Check. Our campsite at Uluru was one of the best from our whole trip! We were lucky to make it to the top of these red sand dunes as they can be pretty challenging to drive over, but it’s the most rewarding lookout once you get there. There were other campers egging us on as we made a run at the last sand dune, so I assume not every car is successful… our Max Trax finally came in handy!

We spent 2 nights at this secret spot which has absolutely no facilities, much like everywhere in the area unless you’re willing to pay a lot of money for a caravan park. Our time in the Red Centre was most definitely the longest period I’ve gone without a shower… but hey, everyone’s in the same boat. We absolutely loved parking our car here and setting up our stuff for dinner with a view over Uluru and the Olgas, both visible in one sweeping panoramic view. It’s a great place to camp as you can avoid the crowds who are all dying to get a glimpse of Uluru at sunrise/sunset from the official viewing platforms. I think it’s our best kept secret from the whole trip – but I’m willing to share it with you 🙂

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2. Free guided tour at Uluru

This was a really fantastic experience. Guided tours leave every day from the car park (check out the leaflet from the visitor’s centre for times). A large number of people turned up and we were split into two groups of about 20. Our group had one Aboriginal and one non-Aboriginal guide, which meant we received a really informative and balanced point of view from both sides. We listened to stories about Aboriginal dreamtime and why the sacred site of Uluru is so significant to the Anangu people and we also learned about the geological and scientific reasons behind this natural wonder. Both guides were extremely respectful to one another and just seemed to enjoy sharing their knowledge with tourists from all over the world. One thing they both agreed on was the ongoing issue of visitors who continue to climb Uluru on a daily basis. Please, DO NOT do this: it is disrespectful and ignorant. There are signs everywhere that strongly advise you not to climb it, explaining why this is a sacred site and highlighting the Aboriginal history behind the climb itself. I just hope one day the National Park will agree to close it off to the public completely, rather than simply discourage it.

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3. Valley of the Winds at Kata Tjuta (The Olgas)

The Olgas are arguably Uluru’s lesser known and visited counterpart, but they are truly magnificent in their own right. 36 gigantic rock domes that turn that iconic brilliant red colour at sunset and sunrise, illuminating the vast, empty horizon. There are several walks to choose from when you visit the Olgas (entrance included with National Park pass) but the Valley of the Winds is arguably the most rewarding. It will lead you through deep crevices and steep sections with views of the domes both up close and from up high. It’s not too strenuous although there are steep inclines in places; it’s one of those walks where it pays to take your time and enjoy the view along the way. It can be busy at the top but it feels quite empty and peaceful in comparison to Uluru, which adds to the aura of this sacred Aboriginal site.

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4. Check out some Aboriginal artwork

Aboriginal art work holds its own unique style and significance in Australia, and Uluru is one of the best places to purchase it as you know the money will go straight to the artist. You can choose from beautiful canvases and jewellery to more practical items such as a tote bag or some ceramics. Check out the Aboriginal art workshop where you can get involved and learn more about the technique behind the process from one of the local artists, and come away with your very own work of art. If anything, it’s worth popping in to have a browse and you might be lucky enough to see one of the artists hard at work outside the store.

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5. Visit the Uluru Cultural Centre

If you think there’s nothing to see in The Red Centre except Uluru itself, think again. One of the main reasons of your visit should be to enrich your own perspective about Aboriginal history in Australia, and this is one of the best places to do so. The Cultural Centre is free to visit and is located just 5 minutes away from Uluru itself, so there’s no excuse when it comes to popping in to have a look around. There’s some great information from the Aboriginal perspective about the evolution of Uluru from a sacred site to a massive tourist attraction and how this has impacted the local community. There’s a particularly moving video that captures some of the first non-Aboriginal visitors to Uluru and shows the reactions of the Anangu people.

Of course, there’s so much more to see and do in Uluru, but don’t miss out on these 5 essential things when you visit the National Park and surrounding area. Of course, an unofficial activity to add to your list is to admire the stunning sunsets that you are almost guaranteed to experience in The Red Centre.

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After a few days of exploring the centre, we began the long drive back to Perth along the Great Central Road. For those of you who are unfamiliar with this route, there are 3 things you should know:

1. It’s an unsealed dirt road nearly the whole way from Yulara to Laverton – you could technically drive any car on this road but a 4WD is highly recommended for comfort and safety. We saw over 100 car wrecks on the side of the road (counting them helped to pass the time) and most of them were small 2WD cars or vans. Of course, your safety is more important than our car journey games 🙂

2. This is outback territory but you can expect to pass other cars relatively frequently (in Aussie outback terms). That being said, fuel up at every road house or bring a jerry can – yes, the fuel is expensive, but it’s better to fill up rather than taking the risk and driving on to the next roadhouse, only to realise you’re stuck in the middle of nowhere…

3. You need 2 permits – one for NT side, one for WA. Nobody checked ours, but it’s the right thing to do and will only take you a couple of minutes to organise. You can get your NT permit from the Alice Springs visitor centre and apply for your WA one online.

The Great Central Road is one of those drives that is as much about the journey as it is the destination. It was the perfect end to our epic road trip: driving back to Perth through endless red dirt while feeling nostalgic about all the things we’ve seen and done over the past 6 months. The highlight for me, though, was being forced to come to a grinding halt to allow these nonchalant pedestrians to cross the road:

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Now, we’re back in Perth, but that doesn’t mean we’re back to normality. My Australian adventure continues with a girls trip to the South-West next time!

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