Adventure Tours are aptly named – our week with them in South Australia and the Northern Territory has been full of genuine Aussie adventure, from getting up close and personal with the wildlife to seeing waterfalls on Uluru.
3/1 Monday Getting up at 5am isn’t my idea of a good time, and it was sad to say goodbye to Anna, Mat and Henry (who didn’t wake up to say goodbye, probably to his parents’ delight).
Anna drove us into the city where we met our guide Bender and the other 20 members of our tour group. After a couple of stops for coffee and ice-cream, we arrived in Quorn in the Flinders Ranges where we were staying in an old mill for two nights. The afternoon walk was up Dutchman’s Stern, named after its similarity to a Dutch sailing ship and not after a moody Netherlander. There was a stop at Warren Gorge on the way back to the mill, to look for yellow footed wallabies, which are rare and only found in two parts of Australia; we were lucky enough to see several. Bender cooked up a feast of kangaroo, camel and buffalo for dinner, and gave an informally informative talk about Aboriginal history.
4/1 Tuesday The day started with the most leisurely departure time we were to have on the tour, leaving at 8am. First stop was at Kanyaka homestead, the ruins of a town which was abandoned in the 1890s. Next we visited Wilpena Pound, a natural basin that was used to farm wheat for a short time around the turn of the 20th century. The walk through the forest to the pound was pleasant, and we saw many interesting lizards basking in the sun. On the way back to Quorn there was a stop at Yourambulla to see some Aboriginal art under an overhang.
Craig and I did a bit of work in the afternoon, before heading out to ride camels with Pichi Richi camel tours – it was a slow walk but definitely a fun experience. Before dinner a few of us headed out to hunt internet, which we found at Flinders Bikes & Bytes – the proprietress was kind enough to open the shop just for us. She has a great establishment with brand-new Macs for internet users and a lovely cafe setup with wifi available.
5/1 Wednesday The days of sleep-ins were over, it was an early start for the drive to Coober Pedy. A stop to see the missiles at Woomera broke the journey nicely, and we arrived in Coober Pedy in the early afternoon. After a short break we headed into an old mine for a look at how opals are mined, and later visited Josephine’s gallery down the road to check out the aboriginal art and to see the kangaroo orphans being fed.
Craig and I then headed to the Old Timers Mine to do their self-guided tour of a hand-dug mine, which was really interesting – that combined with the video from the first tour has given me a much better understanding of opal mining. We also dropped in on the Comfort Inn and the Revival Church next door to see the amazing underground architecture.
The day ended well – with pizza and beer.
6/1 Thursday It was another early start, this time combined with a long day of driving. However, this meant we had more time at Uluru – after settling in at camp and seeing the rock from a distance, Bender drove us in for a closer look. One of the guys on the tour was hoping for rain so that we could see the waterfalls that come after a downpour, something that apparently only 0.5% of visitors get to see – and we were lucky. Just after we left the bus the skies opened and drenched us in a matter of seconds. Soon after, water started cascading down the side of the rock, distracting everyone from Bender’s explanations. The rain let up but the waterfalls were still in force for sunset, which we watched with a glass of wine from a special viewing area. Most people passed on the option to sleep in swags since the rain returned sporadically, and slept in the permanent tents instead.
7/1 Friday If sunrise is at 6am and you have to be there half an hour before, it’s a 20-minute drive from your campsite and your guide likes you to get up an hour before departure, you can imagine that it wasn’t a sleep-in day today. And to tell the truth, seeing Uluru for dawn wasn’t as great as I’d expected – sunset yesterday was much better. I enjoyed the walk around the base though, the caves and pockmarks across the surface are fascinating and Craig and I had a good talk along the way.
Next up was a drive to our campsite at Kings Canyon. We stopped to collect firewood, but the rain that started soon after our arrival at camp meant that we couldn’t have the cozy campfire experience Bender had planned. We did still get damper though, a Bender special with Nutella and M&Ms mixed in.
8/1 Saturday I’m sure you’re getting the picture that this tour involves early starts, and this morning was no different. It makes sense, because the walk we did would have been insupportable later in the day – as it was it was hot enough around sunrise. The walk around the rim of the Kings Canyon was spectacular – I particularly enjoyed seeing the beehive structures and the beach ripples now permanently formed into rock.
It was a relief to jump into the pool back at the camping resort, after which we started the final leg of our tour, to Alice Springs. Sadly, arriving wasn’t much fun – the hostel fell well below our standards by not providing free wifi, and while having a final dinner out with the group was great for the company, the food and the music weren’t.
9/1 Sunday Since the YHA charges (a lot) for wifi, we moved over to Annie’s Place in late morning – where the wifi wasn’t working! At least we had a private room and there were computers we could use to do a quick check-in. Lunch was kebabs in the town centre, which apart from the supermarkets and a couple of food places, was closed due to it begin Sunday.
The wifi was working back at the hostel, so we used it, had a swim, then were picked up by Amanda, an ITP listener. We finished the day with a lovely barbecue and excellent conversation back at her place with her and her partner Gary.