Intro: Off Peak To Australia On A Sweet Spot USAir Award
Part 1: Getting To Sydney The Long Way
Part 2: Stunning Sydney And A Climb To The Top Of The Harbour Bridge
Part 3: Exploring The Outback
Part 4: Cairns And A Trip Up The Coast To Port Douglas
Part 5: Beautiful Tasmania
Part 6: Melbourne And The Ride Home On United Global First
Our quick Qantas flight to Alice Springs arrived on time and we caught a cab to the Doubletree Hilton, one of the only chain hotels in the small town. Since I was sharing the cost and it was reasonable, I booked it as a paid stay. My HHonors diamond status got us upgraded to a suite, which in this case was simply a larger room with separate and closed off living area. Nothing too fancy. Shortly after arrival, a fresh fruit tray arrived as a welcome amenity.
Even though it was hot out, we took the 20 minute walk into town to do a little exploring. We also made a visit the Emu RunTours office downtown to check on our reservation for our bus tour to Ayers rock the following morning. There wasn’t much going on in town, so we picked up some snacks, made our way back to the hotel for a quick dinner, and packed for our early 6am start.
The packed bus picked us up on time, and we were set for the all day drive to Kata Tjuta National Park where we would watch the sun go down over Ayers Rock, while enjoying a traditional Aussie barbie with a champagne toast!
Our two very entertaining guides for the trip took turns driving and telling us facts about the diverse wildlife and plant species on our way to Kata Tjuta National Park. We passed several landmarks but mostly it was a lot of open land with the occasional kangaroo sighting.
There was a 45 minute stop at the Kata Kjuta/Olgas for a short hike around the formations.
We made it to the park, and stopped at the cultural center for a quick break before heading to the base of the famous rock.
The rock is huge, and very impressive. Our guides took us around the base, explaining its cultural and historical significance along the way.
If you so desired, you could climb up to the top, though local aboriginals view this as disrespectful and we were encouraged to take that into consideration before making the climb.
It was finally time to park and get ready for the sunset, which would transform the rock every few seconds to a different color. Our guides busted out the portable barbie, and started cooking.
We made our toasts, ate our sausages and were back on the road just after sundown. The tour was round trip, but we opted to stay overnight in Uluru for some additional time at the rock and to catch our late afternoon direct flight to Cairns. The bus dropped us off at our hotel for the night. Everything is ultra expensive in Uluru, including hotels since the area is run by local aboriginal tribes. There are no chains, and all the hotels are owned by the same group.
We woke up the next morning to suss out our options for the day. The rock is quite a distance from all the hotels, certainly not walkable, and we’d need a ride there and back if we were going to explore it more. I also wanted to make the climb up to the top.
The only transportation option was the hotel shuttle which was $60 each round trip! With no other options, we agreed and hopped on. It was pretty windy out and unfortunately the park rangers had closed the trail up to the top. We made a day of hiking around the base and returned with enough time to collect our bags and get to the airport to catch our Qantas flight (booked with Avios) to CNS.