As part of our visit to Alice Springs, we were treated to a three day safari by District 9500. The trip was made possible through the Peter Sutton Memorial GSE Safari Trust. The fund was established in honor of Peter Sutton, who tragically died in an airplane crash a number of years ago. The trust gives in-bound VTT/GSE teams an opportunity to experience and explore the outback country.
The trip was with Wayoutback Tours, a respected and accredited local tour company with trained, environmentally conscious staff. All tour guides have a sound knowledge of the area history, Aboriginal culture, geology and the natural environment. Our three-day tour was the Goanna Dreaming Red Centre 4WD Tour, though I think it could just be called “A Rip Roaring Outback Adventure!”
We were picked up at the hotel around 6:00 a.m. Jumping out of the massive tour rig was Kate, a 26 year old singing bundle of energy aptly nicknamed “Cyclone”. And off we went, the big rig rumbling and lurching as Kate sang along to her music. Beside our team of four, there was a couple from France, another from Holland plus an elderly mother and adult son from Australia.
First stop was a camel farm for a break and an optional camel ride. All of our team took a turn around the paddock. It was a fast and bumpy ride!
About two hours in to the trip Kate pulled over because the rig was not shifting into higher gears. Luckily, another tour company caravan came along and stopped and after a few minutes of conversation, they took us along while Kate stayed and waited for a team to come replace her rig. I was impressed with the ease in which the other company brought us along and incorporated us into their group. Guess it’s the professional ‘rule of the road’ in the outback. So we dubbed ourselves “The Orphans”.
We arrived at the base camp at Uluru (Ayers Rock) in time for lunch and a pass off to another Wayoutback guide on site, who took us to the base of the massive rock. When people think of Australia, undoubtedly ‘the rock’ is one of the icons that comes to mind. Uluru is sacred to the Anangu, the Aboriginal people of the region. The area around the sandstone rock surprising has an abundance of springs, waterholes, rock caves, and Aboriginal paintings, things you do not see from the traditional far away shots of the rock at sunset. Uluru stands 348 m (1,142 ft) high, slightly higher than the Eiffel Tower in Paris, and has a total circumference of 9.4 km (5.8 mi). The rock is like an iceberg in that most of its bulk is underground. Kate soon joined us with the new rig and she shared with us the fascinating flora, fauna, history and cultural significance of Uluru.
By now it was late afternoon and after getting settled at our camp, we journeyed to a look out point to see the rock at sunset and to toast our adventure with sparkling wine and biscuits, then back for a full camp style dinner and time around the camp fire.
Next up: Day Two, when we travel to Kata Tjuta, (or colloquially referred to as The Olgas).