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The Red Centre of Australia was considered by early white settlers to be an inhospitable desert, yet it is a place of huge cultural and spiritual significance. Spend three or five days on a 4WD Uluru safari discovering the magical and awe-inspiring Uluru, Kata Tjuta, Watarrka, Palm Valley and the West MacDonnell Ranges.
Australia’s Red Centre is mythical, in the true sense of the word. This is a landscape that swallows you whole, leaving no doubt in the mind about the importance of humans in context of the Earth’s life. The sheer scale of the place is awe-inspiring, the contours of the naked rock are geological poetry, and the space offers you an open invitation to pause to drink in the kind of silence that fills the whole being. Of all the places that deserve to be called ancient, this is surely the great grandmother.
Of obvious note is the fact that this safari will take you to Uluru, surely among the most famous -not to mention oldest- landmarks in the world. The nearby Oak valley Aboriginal Community, with its rock art and olive plantation, offers a chance to learn firsthand what it means to live in this remote desert region, and if you’re lucky you may even get to try kangaroo cooked over an open fire.
You’ll visit Kata Tjuta (the Olgas), resembling a group of pebbles cast onto the ground but for the fact that the largest is 546 metres high, and King’s Canyon, with its sheer 300 metre walls. You’ll experience the welcoming oasis of Palm valley, with the only palm trees for over 800 kilometres, a last surviving remnant of the prehistoric, tropical Australia, and before the trip ends you’ll be introduced to West MacDonnell National Park, where you’ll find some of the most imposing and spectacular scenery you’ll see anywhere on earth.
This is one of those trip itineraries that polarises readers: it’ll probably immediately seem like either a dream adventure, or your worst nightmare. If the very prospect of a four-wheel drive desert safari in Australia’s Red Centre makes you cringe, then, no: this is definitely not for you. If, on the other hand, you feel that deep, nameless tingling, a yearning to be gripped and spellbound by something as vast and old and wise as the bare Earth itself, well… You already know this is the good medicine. Please note also that children under eight years old are not accepted on this tour.
You will be travelling in a remote and sometimes challenging area. From time to time your itinerary may need to be adjusted due to a number of factors including road closures, weather conditions and requests from the Traditional Aboriginal owners of the lands. As you are travelling in a culturally sensitive area, it is possible that on occasions the Aboriginal people request we do not travel to certain parts of their lands due to ceremonies and other cultural considerations.
The next morning, Brad, arrived to take us on our two-day adventure. Brad was ...a typical Australian, nothing was a bother and his motto was "it's all good, no worries". He took us to the Oak Valley Aboriginal community where we met Craig, an Aboriginal rocker, just back from the AC/DC concert in Sydney, having driven for 28 hours... He proudly showed us around his land, explaining his heritage and by the time we were leaving I dared to address him as "cous".
And then it was off to camp, where we gathered wood and built a campfire (well, Brad was the one who actually built it), and the girls prepared the potato bake while the men stood around the barbie sipping beer. Nothing changes. Sparkling wine, steaks and potato bake under a star-filled sky. What more could you want? Brad maybe. We slept under the stars in swags which are, to the uninitiated, a sleeping bag and mattress all in one.
After a hearty hot breakfast cooked by Brad, we motored on towards Ayers Rock ...We stopped off at Kings Canyon, a spectacular sandstone gorge in Watarrka National Park, where we undertook a three and a half hour walk, the first half of which was vertical. Given that I'm no longer young and a smoker, I must admit I did lose the plot a small bit on the vertical stretch. In fact my legs started to turn to jelly, but with the constant exhortations of our hero Brad, I got to the top. We travelled around the rim of the gorge amid amazing scenery and those, unlike me, who were not afraid of being out of their depth enjoyed a swim in the water hole.
We arrived at Uluru, the Aboriginal name for Ayers Rock in time for the much talked-about sunset and it wasn't a let down. It was spellbinding and what better way to enjoy its ever changing copper, ochre and orange hues than sipping a glass of champagne.
(Irish Independent, April 25, 2010, Eleanor Goggin)
The-Irish-Independent reviewing 4WD Uluru Safari
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