Going into the desert was such an amazing experience, I hope I can describe it well enough.
I went with a tour company called heading bush. A bit more expensive than some other options, but in my opinion well worth the extra, because we went off the beaten track.
Started in Adelaide, which seems like quite a nice city, the first few people i met were maths teachers-so quite the happening place for me! Early the next morning i met the group of 10 people that i was travelling with, and the landcruiser that we were all packed into-4 along each side, who had to arrange legs in a way so that everyone could sit relatively comfortably, and 2 in the front, next to the driver and guide Drew. A nice bunch of young people, ranging from a 17 year old swiss girl who was at the nearby school to me in Sydney, to an american couple in their 30s who had been travelling round the world for about 14 months. See their blog on beccabrian.com. We were taking a now rarely used route, that roughly followed the old Ghan railway. We slept under the stars every night in ‘swags’-basically big leather bags, that were actually pretty comfortable. The first 2 nights were freezing, we huddled round our campfire at night until having to jump into the swags, waking up early the next morning with frost all over them and hoping that someone else had started up the fire again so we could run over there and defrost ourselves. But as we got further north, the nights were generally milder (either that or we just got toughened up to it). Fortunately it never rained. Last night was the end of the trip and we stayed in a hostel-so lucky that we did because it is pissing down with rain now!!
Most days started with toasting some bread in the hot coals of the fire for breakfast, then packing away everything and driving to somewhere beautiful and scenic for a walk around and lots of photos. Then more driving, collecting some firewood and setting up camp, usually just laying down a tarp in a deserted part of the bush and setting up the fire. Toilets were personally dug with a shovel, and we quickly got used to smelling of smoke and dust and being covered in a layer of dirt. Some of the highlights were the beautiful sunrises and sunsets, one in particular when we were relaxing in the Dalhousie hotsprings. We first travelled through the Flinders Ranges, staying near Wilpena Pound. Then our route generally zigged zagged up, meeting a few odd characters, one was an old guy called “Talc Alf”, an old man who seemed to have a bit too much time on his hands and had come up with some unusual ideas about how words and letters were created, and an old german man who had spent the last 12 years just wandering around the desert with 2 camels. We passed some huge unusal sculptures and Lake Eyre, which was just a huge empty space with a salty crust.
We stopped at Cooper Pedy, an opal mining town where most people live underground-looked round the mines and one of the homes. We then travelled towards the Simpson desert and stayed by the Dalhousie hot springs-suddenly we weren’t on our own anymore, it was the school holidays and we were in a crowded campsite-so we ended up camping out in the car park further away. But the hot springs were gorgeous, and we swam at sunset, midnight and then again at dawn for sunrise!Went through a few old railway towns which were now pretty neglected, stopped at a flying doctors base in Oodnadatta, and saw a lot of amazingly beautiful red sandy desert.
Walked around Uluru (Ayres Rock) and was literally gobsmacked at how
beautiful the colours and shapes were. Heard a bit about some of the
creation stories, but in the Aborigine culture only the initiated can know
the true stories, so weren’t able to discover much. Went out to a lookout
point and saw the Rock with the sunset around it. Don’t think my camera
could really do it justice, but tried anyway…
The next day we got the silhouette of the Rock in the sunrise and saw the stunning Kata Tjuta (the Olgas) go from a purplish blue to a vibrant red as dawn broke. We then walked around that, again totally stunned at the beauty of it all. Kings Canyon was next, and we took a long hike around the rim, getting another heap of good photos.
Stopped at a small waterhole in the “Garden of Eden” in the middle of the Canyon, but the water was freezing cold so my bikini stayed in my bag. We took a helicopter ride over the west macdonald ranges, visited an area known as the “painted desert” with many colourful layers and walk through gorges. I was pretty astonished by how different these various desert landscapes were. Despite driving for many hours a day, I didn’t even pick up the book I had taken with me (although we did set each other puzzles to do in the back of the landrover!).
After staying in such remote areas most nights and hardly meeting anyone whilst on the roads/tracks, Alice Springs was a bit of a culture shock-with tarmaced roads, cars, people and traffic lights. We suddenly became conscious of how dirty and smelly we really were and all rushed into the hostel to get showers before going out. We went out to a bar/restaurant
called Bojangles, which was live online (www.boslivesaloon.com.au) so my sister Katie was able to log on and send me a message and request me a song-how great! Except she missed me on the webcam sending a message back 😦 Also heard from a couple of other friends from across the seas, which was nice! Noone took up the option of logging on and buying me a drink though!
Anyway, I’m off for another look around Alice, hoping to see a few camels-it’s the annual camel cup tomorrow, but bad planning (and being tight so going for the cheapest flight) will mean that i miss it. Oh well, I’ve had such a good experience the last couple of weeks, and i’ve seen camels in the wild too.