For the budget traveler in Alice Springs, there are not a lot of affordable options if you want to go to Kings Canyon, The Olgas and Uluru. Besides renting your own vehicle and camping, you also have the option of taking the Rock Tour. A 3 day 2 night $295 adventure that leaves from Alice Springs.
Here are a few highlights from that tour that you can see on your trip to the Northern Territory.
While we were uncertain about it at first, we found this to be the only way to see it all for as little money as possible. While it is advertised at $295, they also don't p[ay for your ticket into Uluru, which adds another $25, plus if you don't have a sleeping bag you can rent one for $10. And don't forget to have at least 3 - 1 Liter bottles of water which they conveniently sell at the office for $2.50 each.
Day one was mostly spent in the car not being social, which isn't necessarily a bad thing depending on the group they have put you with. Getting picked up at 6am isn't the easiest either. You do get to sleep as the drive to your first stop at Kings canyon takes a good 6 hours.
After 6 hours you are ready to stretch your legs and what better way than by hiking 6km around the canyon. But wait, that sign says its 5.5km. What's up with that?
You can also find the whole set of Kings Canyon Photos.
The trip takes short detour over to the Garden of Eden. A pool of water right in the midst of the canyon walls. After a 30 minute dip it's back to business. Check out more photos from Kings Canyon. Ultimately, myself and 2 other Americans agreed that, while Kings Canyon is cool and scenic, it isn't anything you can't get in the USA. Ever been to Sedona or the Grand Canyon? My point exactly.
After the canyon, it was back in the bus to pick up firewood and beer. Mind you this was beer in a can from the nearest service station on the way to the campsite. How much might it cost? $78 AUD for a 30 pack of Toohey's New. This isn't fantastic ale either, it's just cheap beer and yet another reminder that Australia is expensive, even more so in the Outback.
First night "accommodation" was at Curtin Springs Cattle Station, located about an hours drive from the entrance to Ayers Rock National Park. Currently a working cattle station these grounds take up over one million acres. This was proper camping too. No power, only flashlights and no toilets, only trees and an outhouse unofficially repurposed as a spider breeding center.
With swags lined up around the soon-to-be-roaring campfire, we prepared the wood and set up camp. And this is when I am glad to have known how to start a fire. At first, one of the Brits tried unsuccessfully to start the fire until I stepped in and offered some manly advice, which after, a sneer and an eye roll, he reluctantly accepted. I now proudly say that I indeed was able to get it going. Thank you Boy Scouts of America.
As we finally have some time to socialize before food, the groups quickly form. There's the alpha couples: 6 Brits who get chatty with each other and share stories about getting drunk at hostels. A pretty boring conversation you hear over and over throughout Australia, especially from Brits on a gap year. Then the solo travelers, each from a different country who speak varying skill levels of English. And finally, the older European couple who had no idea this tour would mean roughing it to this extent. A sentiment many of us shared, just not as vocally.
At this point I am starting to understand why the tour only costs $295. Dinner was food. Boiled vegetables, chili and rice. A meal fit for a King? Perhaps a pauper.
Time for bed, under the stars, hopefully away from snakes and scorpions, but not far enough from the field mice that were running over our sleeping bags all night or the ants that somehow made their way in.
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