Posted by: Gideon | July 16, 2011

Australia with Kids: The Outback Part 3: Uluru (Ayers Rock) and Kata Tjuta (The Olgas)

Camel riding in the outback

From Kings Canyon it was about a 4 hours drive to Uluru.

On the way we stopped at a camel farm. Australia has the largest number of wild camels in the world, and the farm we visited often captures these camels to add to its stock. Interestingly, the farm’ s biggest clients are in the Middle East – it exports camel meat there.

We had come for a camel ride, and soon enough we were traipsing around on our camels. Eitan, our smallest was terrified – he wouldn’t even get on.

Finally, we arrived at Uluru.

Uluru is another great icon of Australia and is included on most itineraries.  However, most people wouldn’t dream of going in December. I was skeptical about Uluru. After all, it’s supposed to be just a big rock. Not all that high, and, well, not like the Himalayas. nevertheless, I realised it couldn’t have become so famous for nothing.

Uluru is the native Aboriginal name. Europeans have been calling it Ayers Rock since 1873, but its been Uluru for thousands of years, and it is sacred to the local tribes of the region. So I figured, even if it is just a big rock, it still has enough historical and anthropological  reasons to make it worth visiting.

When we arrived it was evening, and so the heat of the day was dissipating. It regularly exceeds 40 degrees celsius during the day in summer. You can’t help but notice Uluru as you approach and I quickly realised how wrong I had been!

It is anything but a big rock – it is gigantic, unbelievably huge, and there is something exceedingly mystical about it. Firstly, it changes colors, as the sun moves across the sky. Secondly, the day we arrived it was raining – something so unusual for an outback summer, and the rain formed rivers across the face of the rock. It almost looked like Uluru was crying. We knew we were witnessing something rare, something very special.

Uluru after the rains

There is a huge tourist complex just outside of te National Park called the Ayers Rock Resort. It offers a variety of accommodation, from camping through to 5* luxury. We stayed in the Emu Apartments, which were excellent for a family. Nothing luxurious, and very expensive, but our unit fitted us all in well, and the a/c worked. In addition, being guests at the resort allowed us to use the pool at one of the more exclusive hotels as well.

The resort is like a town – hotels, restaurants lots of facilities, stores. There is a lot to do as well. We would be hiking mainly, but there are camel tours, aboriginal tours, Harley Davidson tours – you name it.

The next morning we were up at dawn. In summer,, the only way you cam really get so do any walking, is to do it before the heat of the day. And dawn is a magical time – very few people, wonderful light, birdsong…The challenge is getting the kids up, and the secret is to go to bed early. Also, the younger the kids are the better – try get a teenager up at a dawn – not easy! But a 5 year old, or a ten year old, is a different thing. Within 5 minutes of being woken up, ours are bouncing around ready to go.

We drove about 30 minutes to another incredible group of massive rocks called The Olgas, or in the native language,  Kata Tjuta.  Our hike today was called the Valley of the Winds- a 7 km trek through the gaps and trails between the massive red rocks. It was a fantastic hike – not too tough, and the atmosphere was incredible. We were back at the resort by about 10.30am, and spent the rest of the day having fun at the pool. In the evening, we went to the do-it-yourself BBQ, where you buy your meat , and then barbecue it. A great way to end the day.

Hiking Kata Tjuta

I was interested in climbing Uluru. This is actually politically incorrect – while people have been climbing the rock for years, the local tribes have been very much against it, as it is a sacred place. In the end I had no choice – the rain had made the rock dangerously wet, and it was closed to climbers.

Outback Clouds

The following day, our planned hike around the base of Uluru was cancelled and changed to a drive and short hikes around the base. The family had had enough of very early morning hikes. We still had a great time, exploring the rock art, waterfalls and watering holes that are scattered around the base of Uluru.

Eventually, it was time to leave. Uluru has its own airport, and we caught the jet back to Sydney.

SUMMARY:

It is worth going? Absolutely. In fact, I think it would be crazy to go all the way to Australia and to miss Uluru. It is a spectacular site.

Did the kids like it?  Yes – they loved the hikes, and they loved taking it easy in the pool. Budget permitting, we could have done plenty of kid friendly tours – such as riding camels and learning about Aboriginal folklore.

PS: I plan great trips for families to destinations on five continents. For details click here.

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