Helen & Nigel's Around The World trip 2013/14 travel blog

Crossing the Tropic of Capricorn on the way to Alice Springs

Nigel and his Python

Our guide Jim and the overland truck

Fool-Uru or Mount Connor

The sister rocks of Kata Tjuta.

Sunset at Uluru

Uluru with the sunrise

Some rock art on Uluru

Kings Canyon

The Uluru group at Kings Canyon

Hi everyone here's the latest update on our travels.

Were currently in Darwin having returned from our tour into the centre to see Uluru.

We're both feeling well, a little fitter and a little more tanned.

At about 6am on Saturday 30th November we started our tour and met a coach from directly outside our hostel in Darwin. We were a group of about 16 which luckily meant the coach was only half full giving everyone window seats. We knew this coach was to be our home for 26 hours so we all spread out while we travelled to Alice Springs with a few breaks thrown in for the sights.

The first signpost we saw to Alice Springs showed the distance as 1,457 Kilometers!

Our first stop for breakfast gave us the opportunity to have our photograph taken with a stuffed water buffalo that was apparently in the film Crocodile Dundee. When you've met the crocodile that was in the film, which is still alive, this really was second best so we didn't bother.

The coach kept going with stops for short walks into the bush. We were hoping to swim at one of the rock pools but as it had recently rained the river levels had risen giving the salt water crocodiles access to the pools so they were closed for swimming.

We continued to Daly Waters a staging post that used to be a telegraph relay station. Here we fought the flies while we had dinner. Helen found two dead ones while she was eating her meal, so working on the balance of probabilities we think we both ate at least two.

Nigel tried to convince Helen to swallow a spider to catch the fly etc etc....

We managed to have a dip in the swimming pool there and then drove through the night on the coach. We both slept remarkably well, this was probably due to our experience on overnight sleeper trains in China and Vietnam.

We woke to the sun rising and our drivers had stopped the coach at the Tropic of Capricorn so that we could record our crossing. (photo)

We arrived in Alice Springs at about 8am and learnt that according to the news the England cricket team were leaving having played to a draw in a fairly meaningless match. We didn't see them as we were far too busy booking into a dormitory in a hostel, having breakfast and getting a shower.

We had a look around the town but as it was Sunday it was mainly closed apart from a reptile house which we decided to frequent along with half the occupants of our coach. We were watching the lizards, snakes and other attractions when we were given the option of having a very sleepy python (not called Monty) draped around either of us. Here was the perfect opportunity for Nigel to run the gauntlet and confront his fear of snakes! (Photo)

We had a 6am start on Monday and another coach journey but this time in a proper overland vehicle and to the main event, Uluru (previously known as Ayers rock).

When we arrived at the national park we saw a large rock formation that had a vague resemblance to what we had come to see. Our guide Jim put our minds at ease when he confirmed that it was "Fool Uru" or Mount Connor. (Photo)

We arrived at camp, had some lunch and then went out to a sister group of rocks to Uluru that were a short distance away called Kata Tjuta. (Photo) These were also very impressive and we had two short walks around the rocks mainly due to the 40 degree heat (the extended distance footpaths are closed when the temperature hits 36 degrees for safety reasons). As the heat was a lot drier we found that having come out of the tropics it was easier to cope with, but one German member of the party had a bad turn and sat out the second walk due to mild sunstroke.

At about 6pm we headed for the sunset viewpoint for Uluru along with loads of others. Jim our guide who was the fountain of all knowledge pointed us in the direction of a quiet spot and we watched as the rock changed colour while drinking a rather nice Australian sparkling white wine and eating canopies. (Photo)

When it got dark we returned to camp for dinner which was a BBQ involving beef, Kangaroo and Camel meat. Having previously ridden camel's Nigel felt an affinity with them and turned down the Camel meat sausages but he had no issues with eating Skippy and would have eaten the Camel if the cook hadn't told us.

We were told about the numbers of Camel's being a problem in the centre. This is apparently due to the original Camel drivers or "Ghan" releasing them into the wild rather than shooting them when they were no longer required for transport.

The conditions were perfect and the Camel population exploded. Australia's answer to this problem appears to be to eat them. If you can catch a wild Camel in Australia you can keep it.

The first night the majority of the group decided to sleep out under the stars in swag bags which are bed rolls and the Australian equivalent to a bivouac. We decided not to (because of the spiders, snakes, dingo's etc) and spent the night in one of the permanent tents that had been set up. We probably got it wrong as we roasted -

It was soooo hot!

We woke the following morning at 4am for the sunrise over "The rock" and after a hasty breakfast we headed back out to Uluru for sunrise. (Photo) We then hiked the 10km path around the base of the rock in the cool early morning temperature of 30 degrees. There was some interesting cave painting that was partially explained but still a bit of a mystery (photo).

Nowadays climbing Uluru is frowned upon since the land has been given back to the Aborigines. There are several attempts to dissuade you starting with Jim our guide advising against it, then all the literature you're given with your ticket asks you not to climb and although it is still possible it seems all possible reasons to close the climb are taken up by the park rangers. On our visit it was closed due to the extreme temperatures making it unsafe. We wouldn't have tried had it been open due to the spiritual nature of this amazing rock formation. We could only equate climbing Uluru with walking into a cathedral and spitting on the floor in front of the congregation.

After that morning we were totally Uluru'ed out. We had a short visit to the cultural centre and after a quick lunch (Helen eating the Camel burger, Nigel having cheese and tomato) we started the drive to Kings canyon with the majority of the bus catching up on their sleep due to the early start.

We arrived at the last campsite of this short trip and managed to have a dip in the swimming pool (along with a variety of bugs) before dinner. We settled down for the night and as it was a slightly lower temperature we opted for the tent again (Helen having seen a 'small' Huntsman spider).

This time we got it right and chuckled when the swag'ers had to rush for cover due a fairly violent electrical storm.

Wednesday morning and we had an early start to visit Kings canyon and a hike up onto and around its rim.

We had a group photograph taken during the hike (photo).

The temperature was fairly low (only 30 degrees to begin with) and we saw some Rock Wallaby's from a distance. We returned to camp for lunch which were burritos (no Camel this time!) and then started our 5 hour drive back to Alice Springs. By the time we returned we had clocked up another 1,000 kilometers.

We said goodbye to the group and booked into the same hostel we had used but this time we opted for a private room. (although we did end up sharing it with a rather large cockroach).

During our trip we saw a great deal of road signs warning of "The red death" which are Road trains. If you can imagine an HGV pulling a trailer is a strange sight on the M6 then these things are amazing. The road train is an HGV that we have seen pulling up to 4 trailers and traveling at up to 80 mph. The rule of thumb seems to be that you just get out of their way as soon as possible.

On Thursday we had a nice lie in and caught our transfer to the airport for our flight back to Darwin. Although we enjoyed the overnight coach trip we both agreed that the flight back was just as enjoyable for different reasons, mostly comfort and expediency.

It's Friday 6th December as we finish this update. We're back in Darwin doing the usual post trip chores and planning our route down to Sydney.

Our immediate plans are to fly to Cairns over the weekend, where we will be staying for a few days to do a little diving on the Great Barrier Reef.

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