After a delicious breakfast of fruit and yoghurt and the obligatory coffee stop (yes we are addicted to the morning brew!), we left Alice Springs bound for Uluru. The road out of Alice was stunning with large granite boulders framing the Stuart Highway for several kilometers. This gave way to more open scrubland with a beautiful display of flowering wattles trees and eucalypts so green against the azure blue sky.
I found it surprising how much the landscape changed along the 460km stretch to Uluru. Grasslands, shrublands reminiscent of coastal heath, flat dry plains devoid of vegetation giving way to steep granite topped bluffs and eucalypt forests. We saw so many magnificent Wedgetail Eagles – generally sitting atop some fresh roadkill…but magnificent all the same.
Our first stop was at Stuart’s Well Roadhouse for a quick coffee and to fuel up our bikes. At $1.89/L the fuel was cheaper here than at Yalara/Uluru ($2.08/L)! The grumpy manager there put a downer on our mood with his complaints about the lack of mobile phone coverage indicating that if they were and indigenous community they’d have coverage. We declined to sign his petition. I guess everyone has an issue to deal with in the outback.
Our next stop, Mount Ebenzer Roadhouse offered a fabulous little oasis for our lunch break. The Roadhouse forms part of a large pastoral lease (1,640 square kilometres!) that operates as a cattle station. The property takes its name from the 100 metre peak Mount Ebenezer that is found in the Baselow Range within the station boundaries. Mount Ebenezer is named after Ebenezer Flint who was delivering supplies to telegraph stations in the area in 1871.
The last stretch of the ride was so exciting for me as we approached Uluru. I have lived in Australia for 42 years but somehow never made it to the Red Centre. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d be doing it on a motorbike!
Mount Connor, often mistaken for Uluru by unsuspecting tourists, provided a taste of what was to come. Rising majestically from the flat red plains, Mount Connor (or Fool-uru) rises to 859 metres above sea level and 300 metres above ground level. It can easily be confused with Uluru, since it can be seen from the road to Uluru and Kata Tjuta (the Olgas), when approaching from Alice Springs. While it is not Uluru, it is beautiful in its own right.
Soon after passing Mount Connor we caught out first glimpse of Uluru and I could feel the spirit of the rock even at that distance. It is mind bogglingly beautiful. We approached the Yulara Township (basically a resort area) with the iconic rock in full view. Camping outside of the resort is prohibited and so we set up camp within a caravan park (next to a fellow motorcyclist from Poland) for the first time on this trip.
I had so hoped to get to Uluru today surrounded by – and covered in – red dirt. Today was the 6 month anniversary of my sister’s death. I wanted to be in this spiritual place with her around me, so fitting. I have felt Susie’s presence with me on this amazing outback motorcycle adventure, and heard her warning me on a few occasions: “slow down my little sister”.
We watched the sun set over Uluru and toasted my sister and her best friend Frannie who also died 6 months ago.
After a wonderful platter of cheeses and dips we hit the sleeping mats ready to walk around the base of Uluru the following morning.
Another rest day off the bike so we slept in till the sun was high in the sky – wonderful!
After the customary porridge for breakfast we headed over to the main resort area for a coffee. One cafe trains local indigenous kids in hospitality and the coffee was great. So important to support the development of young people in regional areas.
The closer we got the the Rock the more incredible it became. The contours and the colour of rock was breathtaking. The cultural centre in the park explained the Dreaming of the local people and their stories of snake, lizards, birds and trees spirits. As aboriginal people have no written language, culture is passed down through generations through stories and teachings of elders.
From the centre we started walking around the base of the rock, a distance of about 12km. The trail was easy to follow and wound in and out of small canyons.
Interpretive signs explained the fascinating stories associated with rock features, trees and valleys. Snake women battling lizard men. Spears of mythological spirits piercing the rock walls leaving holes. The coils of huge serpents leaving grooves in the landscape. Water is such a powerful force in forming the landscape yet you can only see it in a few places around the rock.
Signs ask visitors not to take photos of some rock formations as they hold special cultural significance for men or women. They compare them to sacred scriptures and should only be seen in their original place, not in images somewhere else.
Flies pestered us the whole way around the trail but it was an incredible experience. Such a moving spiritual place.
One thing you must do here is watch the sun set over the rock. We rode back into the park to watch the sun set over Uluru the rock changing colour with each moment. Pictures tell a thousand words …