When people think of the Australian Outback, they think of never-ending red dirt, soaring temperatures, and thousands of flies. Well in all honesty, you’d be pretty spot on if that’s what you had first imagined.
But there’s so much more than that. I’m going to take you on a 3-day adventure with me through the outback to show you what else the beautiful Red Centre has to offer. Yep, you guessed it, we’re heading to the Northern Territory – the absolute middle of Australia, or if you prefer, the middle of nowhere.
Let’s get started in Alice Springs, the base point for all adventurers to get on their way to exploring the surrounding desert. There’s a stack of companies to get you around, and all quite different depending on your budget or preferred method of travelling. Because of the way I like to travel anywhere in the world – being hands-on and fully absorbing the culture, environment and people around me – I’ll be introducing you to the best damn company there is: The Rock Tour.
Before I start, I’ve collated a list of necessary things to take with you if you lock in a tour with these guys. They’ll take bloody good care of you over the 3 days, but it’s important to be equipped with the right gear yourself, especially when heading out into the bush.
WHAT TO BRING
- WATER: Make sure you have 3L of water as a minimum before you head on out. This is NOT an exaggeration. You’ll be in the desert, in the heat, and hiking a fair few trails so make sure you’re prepared. Heat exhaustion is a real thing.
- HEAD TORCH: Or “head lamp” for you non-Aussies. So, it doesn’t come as a surprise to you, it gets dark at night, in the bush, without electricity. If you want to see your food, your bed, find your way to the toilet or check out what bug it is crawling on you, don’t forget one of these.
- HAT/SUNSCREEN: The heat for some of you will probably be unlike anything you’ve experienced before, so don’t try to be the tough guy. Slip, slop slap and pop on your hat.
- COMFORTABLE SHOES: I’m the kind of girl that lives in her thongs (flip flops/jandals/slops), but please make sure you take some good walking shoes on tour, with decent ankle support. Rolling your foot at the top of a hike is not ideal, and is going to probably make you sad. Avoid being sad by bringing good shoes.
- PERSONALITY: You’re going to be joining in on a bus full of people from different nationalities, speaking different languages, but moving amongst fair-dinkum Australians and the Aussie way of life. Chill out, have a laugh and bring your “have a go” attitude along for the ride.
- BONUS PIECE – FLY NET HAT: Alright, I think they’re ridiculous, but I figured I’d pop it on here for anybody who completely hates flies. If you’re going to be complaining for 3 days straight, grab one. Otherwise, just accept the few extra flies down your throat as a nice little protein hit.
Get ready for an early wake up adventurers! You’ll find your first day starting with a 5:30am pick-up from one of your epic guides, and a nice drive out to Kings Canyon– about 5 hours or so – so you can have a little nanna nap on the bus. If you’re anything like me and are constantly hungry, make sure you take some snacks (preferably things that don’t melt) during your trip too. There will be stops at the roadhouses to refuel, but things start to get a little more expensive the further away from civilisation you go.
You’ll make your first stop at Kings Canyon, in the Wattarka National Park. The hiking trail and views are incredible and will give you a memorable first insight into the Australian outback. Get your cameras ready and keep hydrated during your 3-hour hike, especially during Heart-attack Hill!
You’ll then carry on a bit further and collect some fire wood for your bush camp overnight. It’s all a part of the experience, so throw yourself in the deep end, be prepared to get a bit filthy, and put your primal instincts to use. You’ll literally be staying in the bush for the night. Once you arrive at camp, it’ll be hands on for everybody to get the fire going strong, cooking up a feast and sharing some stories.
Once you whip out your swag for the night, get comfortable and spend a good half hour before you sleep staring up into the night sky. You won’t have the opportunity to see the stars like this in many places, so take it all in and ask your fellow travellers to keep count of how many shooting stars you all see through the night. There’s nothing wrong with a bit of healthy competition!
If you’re speedy at packing up from bush camp, having some brekkie and jumping back on the road before dawn, you could score yourselves a beautiful sunrise to start the day. From sunrise, you’ll get driving towards your second hike of the trip!
Kata Tjuta, or otherwise known as “The Olga’s”, is a beautiful formation made from conglomerate rock, and is ready for you to explore. Kata Tjuta translating to “many heads” in Pitjantjatjara, is a very sacred area for the Anangu people and highly respected by locals and tourists.
As a group, you’ll grab your backpack, 3L of water and head out on your next hike, along the Valley of the Winds trail, and up to the Karingana lookout. It will take approximately 3 hours, and will provide you with constant photo opportunities. Be sure to ask your guide plenty of questions about the natural surroundings, as it’s quite remarkable as to how the area was formed millions of years ago.
After your hike, you’ll have time to check out the Aboriginal Cultural Centre and grab an ice-cream or coffee. Your guide will then drive you to the base of Uluru, the world’s largest rock, and take you on your Mala Walk tour to explain some of the significant sights along the rock edge.
Then comes the famous “Uluru at sunset” photo opportunity! Get cameras ready for time lapses, jumping shots and group photos as you watch the colours change over Uluru, while the sun sets for the day. Say goodbye to the flies and hello to dinner – The Rock Tour are one of the only companies that will let you sit and enjoy your feast over the whole sunset period.
Once you’re finished here, you’ll head off for the night to your second camp, with electricity and showers. Scrub-a-dub-dub and get yourself prepped for another relaxing snooze under the stars!
Onto your third and final day with The Rock Tour, you’ll jump up nice and early to enjoy breakfast and sunrise over Uluru. Take in the sights without a million and one tourists in your photos, and sit back to marvel over the natural beauty with your new friends.
You’ll then be dropped off to complete the Uluru Base Walk and see it from every angle! Not a bad way to start your day if you ask me. Your walking shoes and hats, sunscreen and water will come in handy here – make sure you’ve got them nearby.
Beginning your journey back to Alice Springs, you’ll have time to stop for lunch at one of the friendly roadhouses, and even have a go at some camel rides. By this time you’ll be well settled into your bus, and find plenty of ways to have fun during the drive.
Depending on your time-frame for the day, your guide MAY stop for some “grubbing”. Grubbing is the unofficial term that is used for finding witchetty grubs in the base of a Mala tree. If that sentence makes no sense to you whatsoever, that’s absolutely fine. Your guide will explain it to you on tour and maybe even get you to help them out with a bit of digging.
If you do go grubbing, there will usually be one lucky soul who will get the full experience – to eat the witchetty grub. If it’s you, just remember these three steps, in this order, and you’ll be okay. Trust me, I know from experience.
- Bite its head
- Chew its body
- Swallow it
Once your outback adventures are over and you’re back in Alice Springs around 5:00pm, you’ll have time to clean off all the red dirt, sweat, grub remains and any other surprises. Get your pretty clothes on for the evening and head to The Rock Bar for dinner and drinks with your tour group, and more importantly, your new friends.
Buy your tour guide a drink as a thank you for driving you around while you slept, for playing you (hopefully) good music, and for making sure you never leave the bus without 3L of water. If you make it to The Rock Bar, you’ll have to give yourself a pat on the back – you just survived 3 days in the Australian Outback!
Does this sound like something you could handle? Book your tour at https://therocktour.com.au/ for an adventure you’ll never forget!