After recently buying a car, we decided to head to the Outback, and go on our first camping trip in Australia. We took off from Adelaide and made our way towards Alice Springs, stopping at places along the way. Coober Pedy was our first stop. Famous for its Opal mining, there are tours available for finding your own opals and learning about the workings of the mines. We stayed there overnight, in a unique underground campground.
We continued along the Stuart Highway towards Alice Springs. We stayed there overnight, in a well equipped campsite that had a supermarket, bar, restaurant and showers. It was an ideal place for passing through. The next day, we continued towards the Western MacDonnell Ranges, National Park. This is a 644km stretch of mountain ranges. The scenery is stunning throughout, with views of the spectacular gorges and gaps contained in the mountain ranges. This National Park is home to the famous Ayers Rock (or Uluru). The Visitor Centre has many exhibitions of Aboriginal Artwork, and information about the historical and cultural significance of area.
The first campsite we stayed at was in Ormiston Gorge. The area for tents was along the Larapinta Trail. This is a world-renowned, long distance bush walk, that is 223 kilometres long. It is a two-week hike that requires a lot of planning. It wasn’t feasible for us to do it, but we plan to come back to do this hike another time.
We started off with a short 1 hour trail – The Pound Walk, just as a warm up. The main walk of the day was the 3-4 hour, Ormiston Gorge walk. The first thing that struck me, was how rough the terrain was. There were a lot of large rocks and boulders to walk over, throughout the trail. It was a beautiful hike and worth doing.
Later in the day, we did another short hike. These are always worthwhile, you never know what you might discover along the way. We walked to the Gorge and saw some brave people trying to swim in the ice-cold water. They didn’t stay in the water for very long. On the way back we saw a Black-flanked Rock-wallaby heading up the mountain. I was very excited about this, because up until that point, we really didn’t see many wild animals. We only saw some dead Kangaroos along the side of the road and some wild Emus in the distance, while driving.
Spot the Wallaby
Heading towards the King’s Canyon we stayed at the King’s Creek’s Station. This was the only campsite that allowed us to make a fire. My previous camping experience was in the Grand Canyon, Arizona, where camp fires were not allowed. So this was my first camp fire, and we had to collect our own fire wood. It gets very cold at night in the Outback, so it was nice to have a warm, cosy fire.
The next day, we hiked in Witarka, and completed the 3-4 hours Canyon Rim Walk. This was a pleasant walk, we managed to complete it in two and a half hours. The only tough part was the very beginning, which was a steep uphill climb. After that, it becomes less strenuous. Again, the terrain was quite rough, but we were use to it by then. The views of the Canyon were amazing!
Uluru/ Ayers Rock
We watched the sunset, and sunrise, on different days. It was nice to see how the mountain changed colour, depending on the position of the sun. We did the same at Kata Tjuta, and enjoyed sitting in a picnic area with a couple of other people. The best time to arrive for the sunrise was about 6:30am, as the sky began to change colour at that time.
We did a short, 1 hour hike, with a ranger. He explained the cultural significance of the gorges and gaps in the rocks. He also explained the medicinal and practical uses of different trees and plants. Then he covered the reasons why the indigenous people didn’t want tourists climbing Uluru. They consider it to be sacred, with religious and cultural significance. Also, 35 people have died climbing Uluru, since the 1960s. Uluru is opened to the public to climb at various times during the day, depending on the weather conditions. Once you know all the facts, it is up to you to decide whether or not your want to climb it.
Sunset at Uluru
The beginning of the climb is quite steep, and very exposed. There is a chain for climbers to hold onto, for the first hour, or so. You will also see people coming down as you go up. This is a good opportunity to get further information from people, about the climb. They would usually tell you the bad news that what was ahead, was actually a false summit and there was a lot further to go. Take plenty of water, stay close to the chain and take your time. You will see people of different ages climbing, including children. You can climb it to the halfway point if you prefer.
Sleeping bags: the Outback gets very cold at night. So if you are sleeping in a tent, a good sleeping bag is essential. We used the Sea to Summit, Trek TK II sleeping bags. They are designed to withstand temperatures as low as -25 degrees celsius. These certainly kept us warm at night and they insulate well. When you set up camp, put the sleeping bags out straight away and leave them out all day. The longer they are left out, the more air gets into them, and the better they insulate.
Food: Tasty Bite vegetable curries and couscous. These curries are 100% natural, which is rarely found in packaged food. This meal is very simple to make. Heat the curry in the plastic bag it came in, and boil for five minutes. For the couscous, just add boiled water, and leave to stand for a couple of minutes. Super easy, and healthy! These can be purchased in Coles.
Tuna: drain free tuna keeps you from making a mess! This is an excellent addition to any meal, for added protein.
Soap Bar: I used the MacDougall’s Natural Soap. Light weight and super convenient for travelling. Shower gels often leak and create a mess. This brand is made with natural ingredients and doesn’t dry out your skin.
Dingos! They don’t attack but they steal shoes! Keep your shoes in your car or tent. I saw one man tie his shoes up in a tree, not taking any chances.
Driving: on a more serious note; the Stuart Highway is considered one the most boring highways in the country. It seems to go on forever and you can drive for miles without seeing another vehicle on the road. If you get tired, take a break! There are plenty of rest stops with various facilities, along the way. Take your favourite CDs with you as well, to pass the time.
Two strand twists, pinned up into a bun. Very simple and convenient for camping.
The flies in the Outback are relentless. If you are easily annoyed by flies and insects, I would suggest getting a fly net to wear on the hikes. Some areas are worse than others, so it’s good to have one on you, just in case.
Take note that the prices listed in the Lonely Planet book, do not specify whether they are per person, or per site. We were surprised that most places charged per person. So if you are travelling in groups, bear that in mind, or you will have unexpected expenses.
Wherever you live, camping is an economical way to travel and explore remote places. There are many activities to do, depending on where you go, such as: hiking, fishing, bike riding, swimming and, simply relaxing in beautiful surroundings.
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Have you camped in Central Australia? Share your experiences below.