Ayers Rock  Alice Springs  Kings Canyon - Australia

Alice Springs

For many ‘The Alice’ is a symbol of the outback. It grew beside a vital telegraph station on the Overland Telegraph Line from an isolated settlement at the mercy of distance and climate to a modern and expanding municipality with a thriving tourist industry.

Alice Springs is a main outlet for contemporary Aboriginal paintings with many galleries in town selling the works of artists from outlying areas. A heritage walk (details from the Visitor Centre in Hartley Street) seeks out buildings remaining from the pioneer days. Also well worth a visit are the restored building of the Telegraph Station, four kilometers north from the town centre beside the Todd River.

The nearby MacDonnell Ranges dominate the, otherwise flat, landscape and contain a number of fascinating natural attractions including gorges, water holes and the fabulous flora and fauna of the Red Centre.

ULURU (AYERS ROCK) & KATA TJUTA (THE OLGAS)

Uluru

Looming stark from the spinifex and red earth, Uluru (348 metres above the plain) and Kata Tjuta (548 metres above the plain) were laid down some 550 million years ago as an alluvial fan created by the outflow of water from the plantless valleys of an ancient, and no longer present, mountain range a little west of the present day location of Kata Tjuta.

The ring road around Uluru (anti-clockwise gives car passengers the best view) allows visitors to experience its many aspects and appreciate its amazing size. Almost unbelievably, this is only the tip of a seam of hard sedimentary rock (known as arkose) that extends several kilometers below the sands. There are both sunrise (on the eastern side) and sunset (to the west) viewing areas.

Over 500 species of plants, 150 species of birds and 75 reptile species inhabit the park. The nine-kilometre (four-hour circuit) Uluru Base Walk takes in ancient rock art, caves and waterholes. Ranger – and Aboriginal – guided tours are available for some walks and provide a valuable introduction to local Aboriginal culture.

Each feature of Uluru has a meaning and traditional Aboriginal law, or Tjukurpa. The shorter (one and a half hours return) Mala Walk (self-guided and ranger-led) visits caves and rock art sites on the way to Kantju Waterhole. On the south side of the rock an even shorter walk (forty-five minutes return) leads to Mutitjulu Waterhole – one of the most reliable at Uluru; its waters have sustained the people of the area for thousands of years. The Liru Walk is conducted jointly by rangers and senior Anangu (local Aboriginal people) and takes about two and a half hours.

The climb, the most popular of all activities at Uluru, is also the most physically demanding. It follows the path believed to have been taken by the Mala (hare-wallaby) men on their arrival at Uluru and is a route of great spiritual significance. Although they have given permission, the local Aboriginal people would prefer visitors not to climb the rock.

Kata Tjuta

From the resort a journey of around 50 kilometres west takes you to Kata Tjuta, an area of great significance to its traditional owners. Visitors are asked to respect the sacred sites here by keeping to the marked tracks.

The Valley of the Winds Walk (four hours return) winds between the towering domes with magnificent views over the start desert landscape. The great variety of vegetation to be seen along this walk is particularly spectacular during spring of after rain. The shorter Olga Gorge (Walpa) Walk (one hour return) leads into the deep, shade gorge created by the massive walls of the two highest domes at Kata Tjuta. The view west at the end of the walk gives a good impression of the scale of the huge sandstone domes. It is well worth waiting for sunset which can be watched from a special viewing area on the western side. About twenty minutes after the sun has set, the yellow-pink western sky makes Kata Tjuta glow an even deeper colour.

Kings Canyon - Watarrka National Park

The star of Watarrka National Park (72 200 hectares) is Kings Canyon located 9 kms from the resort on a good sealed road. The Kings Canyon loop walk (three to four hours) around the canyon rim should not be missed – it offers some of the best scenery in Central Australia with splendid views from the one hundred metre high sandstone canyon walls. There are interesting detours along the way through a maze of weathered domes (the ‘lost city’) and a sunken valley with permanent waterholes and lush vegetation (the ‘Garden of Eden’). The walk is quite strenuous in parts especially the climb up to the canyon rim. The shorter (one hour return) Kings Creek Walk meanders along the canyon floor to a lookout point. Both tracks are rough underfoot. The natural features of Watarrka National Park hold great significance for the local Aboriginal people who live in three communities within the park and conduct cultural tours.