After our failed month searching for farm work in South Australia, we only had a few options of how to spend our last 5 months in Australia. We wanted to see and do as much as possible, but with funds and time running low, it was all about quickly trying to get as much done as we could, while also trying to find work! We took an unconventional route from SA, heading through Coober Pedy straight up to Uluru to make sure we didn’t miss out on the beaut red rock, then doing a total U-Turn and heading back down to Canberra – more on that later! We originally wanted to visit Darwin, but being that it was 30 hours away from basically anywhere – a minimum 60-hour round trip wasn’t something we could factor in. So, 48 hours set aside; off to the red centre it was!
The first things we realised about NT was that it was HOT and it was EXPENSIVE! The heat was so strong we even passed a mini bush fire on our drive in. It cost us pretty much double to fill up our trusty Sunny Subaru and the lack of gas stations for miles on end meant the few stops there were, were able to get away with charging a ton for everything! We arrived just about an hour before sunset, giving us just enough time to check in to our hostel and freshen up before watching the sun go down on Uluru for the night.
Accomodation is pretty sparse in NT, with all rooms close to Uluru being part of the ‘Ayers Rock Resort’. Rates at the hotels were starting from $240, so we decided to keep it budget and stay in the cheapest possible option: Outback Pioneer Lodge for only $45 per night. I haven’t slept on a bunk bed for over 4 years, and I’ve never done the whole shared room accommodation with Kenny before, so it was definitely not as comfy as we were used to! But, we got pretty lucky and no-one else turned up to the 4 bed room we were in (also lucky for them, cos those 40-degree heat days are a tough match for even the strongest deodorant!) For a hostel – it was actually pretty decent; clean and spacious, with an on-site bar, pool, shared kitchen and a bunch of free activities included in the stay such as a garden walk and bush food experience. The aircon was strong and the shared bathrooms always seemed to be empty, so overall, we were pretty happy!
Sunset at the rock was gorgeous, the colours were vibrant and the weather was cooling down. Sadly, the beauty all got a bit too much for Sunny, who started leaking anti-freeze all over the car park. Being that we’re both total car noobs, we chalked it up to it being a super-hot day and a long few days of driving. We bought some anti-freeze after the advice of a super friendly gas attendant, and hoped all would be okay when we next drove him the following afternoon- little did we know that poor old Sunny was broken and in urgent need of repair!
Best way to start the day at Uluru? A camel back ride around the red centre. We booked a trip through Uluru Camel Tours who were awesome. Buddy the camel and his pals were clearly well looked after, super friendly and had the best lashes I’ve ever seen! We were under the assumption that the camels went much closer to the rock, but they actually stayed pretty far back and only stopped to see Uluru from one of the sand dune lookouts. The lovely guides took a bunch of pictures of us all (Buddy was definitely the most photogenic) and we learnt more about camels than I thought was possible. Although it would have been great to get closer, I would never get the hump about it (bad jokes are my speciality) as the $80 45minute experience was one we’d never forget and by far the best Uber ride we’ve had!
We headed back to the resort super excited to drive on over to Uluru for an afternoon of hiking and awkward jumping rock photos – stocked up on water and started up Sunny. Clearly, he was jealous of our morning ride with Buddy because his little temperature gauge was through the roof! Our boy was clearly sick and we were gutted! Side note: yes, I’m aware he/it’s a car not a child but I get very attached to things. Google searches confirming that we had to act fast to not entirely explode our engine, we rushed over to the nearest mechanic where I tearfully panicked about how we’d leave NT without our pseduo-son.
Thankfully we were in good hands and car doctor Bruce saved the day! They quickly patched up the hole that had formed in the radiator hose and advised us we should be alright to head back to South Australia – where we could get it fixed properly. We were super impressed by the mechanics at Ayers Rock Automotive who a) didn’t charge an insane price even though they were the only open mechanics for hours and b) sorted us out within a couple of hours – even if it was to get my blubbering self out of their office! We were back on the road – too late and too nervous to head closer to Uluru and do any hiking which was pretty disappointing but the main thing was our baby was alive and well! *Another side note: I was (and still am) 100% obsessed with Sunny the Subaru.
We finished off our 48-hour trip to Uluru with an amazing evening at the Field of Light – an art installation that constitutes 50,000 lights glowing brightly in the dessert. I can honestly say it took my breath away – the beauty of the lights changing colour and swaying slightly in the breeze made me feel like I’d been transported into a dreamy fantasyland. The stars were out in full force and the moment was magical – to anyone heading to Uluru you definitely have to add this to your itinerary because it’s gorgeous!
I would have loved to have spent longer in the red centre, hiked nearer to Uluru and headed into Alice Springs and Darwin – but time and money restraints just simply didn’t allow it! We had to head back to somewhere more populated in an attempt to find more work and start topping back up our bank accounts before ticking the remainder of items on our bucket lists. A lot of people thought we were mad for driving all the way to Uluru just to spend a couple of days there, but I couldn’t come all the way to Australia and not visit the famous Uluru – it was big, it was red and it rocked!