After watching the sunset over Uluru, creating an experience we will remember forever; we travelled back to camp for yet more magical moments.
We were staying at the Intrepid camp in the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, in the shadow of Uluru and under a blanket of stars. I’m not much of a camper and was slightly nervous about this part, images of killer spiders/snakes/dingoes/take your pick, came to mind. Our camp, however, came with permanent tents, raised floors, real beds, blankets, lamps, a kitchen/dining room and Megan. Megan was our Intrepid host, soon to be renamed Nigella for her domestic goddess abilities. Megan had been at camp whilst we marvelled at Uluru and swigged champagne, and in that time had prepared our beds, cooked up a bonza barbie of camel sausages and kangaroo steak and even prepared a fruit crumble for dessert. After we devoured the superb food she had prepared, Megan then proceeded to wash up after us. Every camp needs a Megan.
The group gathered around the camp fire built from wood we had gathered earlier (when I say we, I mean they, I had been busy trying to find a safe spot in the bush to pee) and played drinking games under the stars with the Yellow Tale wine included in our package. You could hardly call it camping.
One of the winners had gained a mammoth blister from their walking boots, I’m talking the size of a plum and so Lewy, our guide, volunteered to burst and dress it – something I’m sure not every tour guide would volunteer to do (except if it was me, because I love that kind of thing!)
We rose at 5am the next day to the smell of Megan cooking bacon and eggs (told you every camp needs a Megan!) Some of the guys had slept in Swags (giant sleeping bags with a mattress and hood which you zip yourself into) out in the open and remained unharmed – much to my surprise. I tried not to trip over their toasty, wrapped up bodies on the way to the bathroom and had to hide my envy at their comfort level as I had frozen in a tent on my own all night. (Note to self to pack thermals next time I camp in the desert.)
We were up at this ridiculously early hour to watch the sun rise over Kata Tjuta and Uluru. At the (freezing) viewing platform we had a direct view over both stunning rock formations and as the sun rose and lit up the desert we began to warm up too.
It turns out the Red Centre is actually rather green. The flat green plains and orange soil form a stark contrast with the large solid mass of Uluru and knobbly domes of Kata Tjuta. I had never heard of Kata Tjuta (also known as the Olga’s) before arriving in the Northern Territory and would not have been able to identify their unique structure in a trivia quiz. It is hard to understand why this is the case, for the Olga’s, formed from the same mountain range as Uluru, are just as captivating as the famous rock, if not more so. The distinctive domes protrude from the landscape and the largest rises higher than Uluru. We took a blustery walk to a watering hole in Walpa (literally translates to windy) Gorge and spotted some resident kangaroos.
Although I have tried, I simply cannot put into words the full experience of being in the Red Centre. From the journey, to being there and gaining an understanding of Aboriginal culture, as well as Australian history and geology, it felt like we were on a pilgrimage. I feel better for having done it. I hope that visitors continue to make that journey and show the area the respect it deserves.