Monday, 15 May 2006

Our Red Centre Tour - May 2006 - Itinerary

Jan and recently traveled to the ‘Red Centre’ of Australia for a 5 day camping tour with Sahara Adventures. What follows is the base itinerary. Obviously we have many more memories and photographs of our trip which we’ll share with friends over time.

8th May 2006 Melbourne to Ayers Rock
We caught the 08.45 flight from Melbourne to Ayers Rock Airport and then the courtesy bus to the Outback Pioneer Hotel at Ayers Rock Resort. At 13.45 we were picked up by Sahara Adventures. There were 19 people in all on the bus; including the Tour Guide, 14 people for the 5 day Tour and 4 doing the 3 day Tour. Lunch was at the Ayers Rock Sahara Adventures permanent campsite. Our group then went to Kata Tjuta (The Olgas) where we did the Walpa Gorge walk. From there we drove to the public viewing area at Uluru to watch the sun set before returning to the campsite for dinner and sleep.

9 May 2006 Uluru to Kings Creek Station
We reached Uluru before the 07.12 sunrise, with our Tour Guide having driven us around the entire base beforehand. Phillip and 5 others climbed Uluru, whilst Jan and the rest of the group walked the 9.5 km around the base of the Rock. After all gathering at the vehicle in the car park for morning tea, we did the Mala walk with our Tour Guide.
It was then back to the campsite to have lunch, pack up and hit the road; stopping first at Ayers Rock Resort, Yulara to check out the shops while the vehicle was refueled.
We traveled to Kings Creek Station via Lasseter Highway and then Luritja Road, stopping on the way at Curtin Springs Roadhouse (has a small native bird aviary) for fuel, then Mount Connor Lookout (Mount Connor is a large flat topped hill 3 times as big around as Uluru at 27 km); and off to the side of Luritja road at one point to collect firewood, arriving at the Sahara Adventures King Creek Station permanent campsite for the night. Just prior to dark Jan and I did the 35 minute helicopter flight over Kings Canyon and Petermann Pound. Our Tour Guide cooked dinner using camp ovens.

10 May 2006 Kings Creek Station to Glen Helen
At 06.45 we were all packed up and on the road to Kings Canyon. Most of the group (us included) did the 4 hour walk around the canyon, stopping briefly en-route for morning tea at the Garden of Eden. The rest of the group walked up and back along the base of the canyon. After refueling at Kings Canyon Resort we headed along the Mereenie Loop for about 10 minutes and pulled off to a designated stop at the top of a ridge for a picnic lunch.
After lunch we continued along the Mereenie Loop. We saw evidence of the Mereenie Oil and Gas field off to the right at one point, proceeded through Gardiner Range where we had an unplanned stop allowing some of us to photograph some wild horses, and another to ascertain the source of a new vehicle noise just forward of the left hand rear wheel, passed the Aboriginal Mission near Katapata Gap, and turned left along Route 2 toward Glen Helen. We saw Goss Bluff meteor crater from a distance off to the right and stopped for a break at Tylers Pass lookout where a group photograph was taken. On arriving at Glen Helen (16.45) we stopped at the Hotel while waiting for the other Sahara Adventures 4WD vehicle to arrive and take those who had completed the “Sahara Adventures 3 day trip” with us back to Alice Springs. It was then on to the Sahara Adventures permanent campsite to unpack, have dinner and sleep. During the wait for the meal to cook the ‘blokes’ went to the pub for an hour or so.

11 May 2006 Glen Helen to Wallace Rockhole
After breakfast Jan and I and another couple walked across the river to the mouth of the Glen Helen Gorge to see the water hole and take some photographs. The group was ‘on the road’ by about 08.30 with the first stop being the Mount Solomon lookout near Glen Helen. From there we went to Ormiston Gorge, with about half the group (us included) doing the 2 hour walk with our Tour Guide and the others walking up and back along the bottom of the Gorge. Our Tour Guide cooked hamburgers for lunch on one of the gas barbecues at the camping area.
After lunch we proceeded east along (Albert) Namatjira Drive to Ellery Creek / Big Hole where we spent some time relaxing in the sun near the edge of the water hole. I headed off on my own and climbed part way up the ridge behind the waterhole to explore the cave that can be seen from the edge of the water hole.
It was then on to Wallace Rockhole. On the way in to this ‘dry’ Aboriginal community we were pulled up by the Police who checked to make sure we were not bringing alcohol in to the area. We stopped at the General Store which is run by ‘Ken’ who also happens to be the key tourist person for the community. After leaving our gear in the tents at the Sahara Adventures permanent campsite Ken took us all on a drive/walk up to the Wallace Rockhole while our Tour Guide stayed behind and started preparations for dinner. Ken shared some excellent information with us about the Aboriginal people and concluded the tour by giving us access to the Arts Centre where many of us purchased locally manufactured items. After dinner we all talked for quite some time around the camp fire.

12 May 2006 Wallace Rockhole to Alice Springs
We were on the road by about 06.45. First stop was at the (Albert) Namatjira Monument on Larapinta Drive, then on to Hermannsburg where we dropped off the trailer lightening the load for our first bit of real 4 wheel-driving out to the Finke Gorge National Park where we saw the Kalarranga Lookout and then moved on to Palm Valley to see the ancient palms and rock formations that abound in the Gorge.
After a walk that takes about 1.5 hours we enjoyed a picnic lunch at one of the eating and toilet block areas in the National Park before returning to Hermannsburg to pick up the trailer / check out the local store and head east along Larapinta Drive toward Alice Springs. We spent a couple of hours at Standley Chasm, and proceeded on to Alice Springs were our Tour Guide took us past a couple of tourist spots and dropped each of us at our accommodation locations. Jan and I stayed at the All Seasons Diplomat Motel. After walking around Todd Mall, we enjoyed a drink at the Todd Tavern and some shopping before dining at the Overlanders Steakhouse.

13 May 2006 Alice Springs to Melbourne
After breakfast we did the “Alice Wanderer ‘Hop on – Hop off’ Alice Explorer Town Tour”, catching the bus out the front of our Motel at 08.50. The tour duration was 1 hour 10 minutes and the trip took us past the Todd Mall, Old Telegraph Station, School of the Air, Anzac Hill (the tour includes an allowance of a couple of minutes to walk around and take some photographs), Panorama Guth Art Gallery, Royal Flying Doctor Base, Alice Springs Reptile Centre, Alice Springs Cultural Precinct (including the Museum of Central Australia, Aviation Museum, Araluen Art and Sculpture Centre, Historic Cemetery [with the grave for Albert Namatjira]), Road Transport Hall of Fame, Old Ghan Train, Date Gardens and the Olive Pink Native Species Gardens.
When we finished the tour we packed up our bags at the Motel and took a cab to the Airport for our 11.30 flight back to Melbourne, arriving 14.25.

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