Exploring some red centre gems

Our original plan was a pretty direct route north to Alice Springs once finishing the Mawson track and in my ignorance I thought we might also have time to ride to Uluṟu or Ayer’s Rock. The reality is that it is 500km from Alice, hmmmm! I was keen to get there by pedal power as much as is possible so Plan B had provided that opportunity.

A map of Plan B

We left Yulara early to ride the 15km to ‘the rock’. Unfortunately we were unable to ride around Uluṟu due to the muddy tracks but as it turned out the slower circumnavigation by foot provided ample opportunity to see all of its faces, nooks and crannies. It certainly has a presence in the landscape and the interpretation panels at various points helped us get a feel for the Aboriginal connection. Thirty years ago Alan had climbed to the top but was unable to walk around. Now since 2012 the opposite is true and summiting is no longer possible. Alan felt he had a richer experience in being able to walk around Uluṟu.

The other dramatic form nearby in the landscape is Kata Tjuta or the Olga’s. This formation is of a similar height to Uluṟu and equally impressive but is a complex set of tall rounded ‘bumps’ with deep chasms and could take a week to explore. Instead of the smooth runnelled nature of Uluṟu, Kata Tjuta’s rock looks more of a conglomerate.

We hitched out on the second day based in Yulara to get the Olga’s, 40kms away. We were surprised how long we had to wait to get lifts. We were half way thru a game of roadside hopscotch when our 2nd lift stopped. It was an older couple whose daughter as it turned out, was a Wanaka vet. We enjoyed The Valley of the Winds walk at Kata Tjuta finding we left the crowds behind after about half an hour. These places are very touristy but are well managed.

Our next stop was Kings Canyon to start the 400km Mereene route to Alice Springs. We were a bit short on time and were happy not to retrace by bike the 160km back to the turnoff and when our campground neighbour happily obliged to give us a lift to Kings Canyon we accepted the bonus 160kms (it was forecasted for more headwinds!)

We camped a night at Kings Canyon campground and had time to walk the well known Rim Walk the next morning. We biked out early to beat the crowds on the track. On approach the canyon undersold itself. On closer inspection via the 7km walk, it’s spectacular walls and canyon depths were revealed. Amazing!

We returned to the campground to pack up and start on the road to Alice Springs. On the way to get a hearty lunch at the restaurant we passed the petrol pump and a BIG rig we had seen elsewhere. Talking to the owner we found out that the caravan was 3.5 tonne and the Ute pulling it 4.5 tonne – a stark contrast to my 30kg of bike loaded up with 4 days water and food. We were both headed in the same direction –  different strokes for different folks.

The weather had still been cloudy and cool over the previous week and the light flat but leaving Kings Canyon after a massive lunch of burger and chips the skies had cleared and the sun was shining hopefully promising a blue sky final chapter.

And all of Aus