Continuing from where we left off on Australia Part 1 photo essay, where I started off my Australian backpacking trip in Sydney, doing urban walks, was mesmerized by the backpacker community, and enjoyed the city life I don't usually like.
Today, we took off to Ayers Rock where the infamous Uluru mountain is located and answer this question once and for all, "Is Uluru worth a visit?". You will soon realize that Uluru is not just a single rock in the middle of a desert like most locals (who've never been there) claimed.
Day 1: Kata Tjuta - The Valley of the Winds Walk
I flew Virgin Australia from Sydney to Ayers Rock and along the way, I met Aurelie Neyret who not only was a wonderful person to be around with but also a great illustrator herself. We decided to form an expedition to explore the outback together.
We took a free shuttle bus from the Airport to our lodge, the Outback Pioneer Lodge. Behind the lodge there is a outlook post where we got our first glimpse of the scale of Uluru and the Kata Tjuta from afar. The heat was almost unbearable at that point, but what the hell. You are only here once right?
On my first evening I decided to go on the Valley of the Winds walk tour by the AAT Kings company. On my way to climb the Kata Tjuta.
The Kata Tjuta on my first stop. It may look small now but you will see soon enough that that is not the case. This was also when I first experienced the infamous swarm of flies of the Australian outback. Boy it was annoying!
Notice the large black dot on my face? Yup, those are all flies trying to land on either my mouth or inside my nostril!
The walk started off with a small climb where we occasionally stop and the guide explained what is what around the area. A guided tour is definitely not my cup of tea.
Here's the first outlook post where our group was split into two for two different walks, a longer harder climb to the second outlook or an easier walk around the base. I chose the long walk.
I was stunned to see so many lives in the middle of the desert. It was like a forest inside the canyon.
After a pretty steep climb (at one point there was no walkway, you literally have to climb a steep hill with your hands) we were met with this smiley face on the side of the Kata Tjuta.
And here it is, the Valley of the Winds outlook after an hour and a half walking in between the creeks of the Kata Tjuta.
This is the true scale of the Kata Tjuta in comparison to a human. It was pretty hard to stand in between these ancient rocks and not to be overwhelmed by its sheer size.
After soaking myself with the Outback winds, it was time to descend so that we could enjoy our drinks while watching the Kata Tjuta as the sun set.
Me being dwarfed the Kata Tjuta.
Because of the clear blue sky as a backdrop, it made the vivid red sandstones of the Kata Tjuta standed out creating a really beautiful contrast.
At the end of the tour, our guide took us to the sunset viewing spot and served us sparkling wines and snacks. I did exchange a couple of great conversations, first with a Korean couple who were curious which part of Asia I came from. They were quite surprised that I was Thai and traveling alone. Another was 2 ladies from Sydney who expressed a great interest in climbing the Himalayas. Naturally, I encouraged them to go for it.
At night, I went to the same outlook behind our lodge again but this time with a tripod. Because there was no air and light pollution from civilization, I was able to see part of the Milky Way's trail that strikes upward from Uluru.
All I could do was stare at it in wonder.
The Universe is huge. The fact that we could see these many stars from Earth is mind boggling. When I look at the stars, all my problems disappears for a moment. The problems I had were so small, I no longer feel the burden of it.
Day 2: Uluru Sunrise, Cultural Base Walk and Astro Tour
We woke up extremely early to catch a coach from the lobby to the Uluru sunrise spot. People were flocking the elevated platform, so I decided to go a less crowded route a few meters away so I can be alone with the rock. It was a good call because I was able to capture this shot without having to fight for a spot.
There were absolutely no one around. I love it!
I can do all kinds of stupid poses without anyone judging me. Boy, was I a little nerdy!
The experience was so refreshing I consider this one of the best sunrise experience I had. Beautiful gradient sky created a perfect contrast backdrop for the red sandstone of Uluru as the sun casted its light toward the rock making it shifted colors.
I met up with Aurelie and we continued down the path until we realized that we were late for our next stop, the cultural base walk. We ran like crazy and I was given a pretty deadly stare from my tour mates. Little did we know that this was the beginning of our "Always Late to Everything" saga.
Me and Aurelie went on a different walk so we split up and I was left with the not-too-happy tour mates. Although, we were ok in the end.
The walk started out slowly as our guide explained how the rock was formed. There was life everywhere! Trees grow mightily around the base. The ground was filled with grasses and vegetation. Nothing I anticipated for a desert.
The complexity of the rock became clearer and clearer as I walked around the base.
We went inside this water hole where the water was still in tact. Life seems flourish around here.
As I walked in, the surrounding shifted from a mild desert to a full-on forest. It was overwhelmingly astounding.
We rested at the water hole for a few minutes to cool down before we headed out in the heat.
During the walk, I met Yoko, a Chinese lady who also travels alone. She was a unique one. We talked about all kinds of things from places we've been to aliens. Yes, aliens. It was quite entertaining.
By the time we finish the tour, it was already noon and the place was about to heat up real bad so we went back to our lodge and get ready for the evening tour.
At 9:35 PM, I went on an Astro Tour where we walked out into the desert at night and gaze at the stars. There were 2 telescopes set for us to take round and look at the constellations while the guide explains each one.
Nick, the guide was hilariously entertaining the whole time. We exchanged a few nerdy techniques to take better photos of the stars with my RX100 camera.
At the end of the tour, Nick pointed the telescopes at the moon and took off the light filter so we can take a photo of the moon with our camera. The moon was so clear you could see the moon's craters on the side.
During the tour I met Caroline, a German woman from Cologne who shared a similar love of astronomy and who was the only one that stayed at the same lodge as me. The tour ended at 11:50 PM, me and Caroline were left wondering if there would be a free shuttle bus circulating at this time of day. Another European couple we met during a tour offered us a ride but I was pretty sure there will be buses so we decided to wait. After a few conversations, the bus arrived and that ended my second day at Ayers Rock.
I hope you enjoy this photo essay of Uluru and the Kata Tjuta. Next up, we will explore the Kings Canyon at the Watarrka National Park. Kings Canyon tour was the best out of all the tours and it deserves its own post so stay tuned for Australia Part 3 coming in a few days.
Updated on 18 Dec 2018: Add a travel video to the article.
The Solo Traveler’s Journal is a series of posts by BucketListly where we will follow our founder, Pete Rojwongsuriya around the world as he singlehandedly travel alone and experience different cultures, people, and historical locations one country at a time.
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