We are so excited for our trip down to the red centre, time to tick off another massive bucket list item. As always, along our travels we get chatting to other travellers and find out where the best stops along our way will be to break up our long drive ahead. One of these stops was to see a couple of natural warm water springs.
We stop into Bitter Springs, 110km South East of Katherine, and are instantly in love with this beautiful natural spring just out from the town of Mataranka. Bitter springs is clear, luke warm and also has a natural current that takes you downstream through the forest. You come to an end point, get out and go again.
Our next stop is right around the corner and is called Mataranka thermal pool. This spring has been sectioned of into a man made pool, and is within a caravan park, the water again is lovely and clear but a little more crowded for what we are used to.
We make it to the famous Daly Waters pub in the afternoon and enjoy checking out all the bra’s, undies, ID’s, number plates etc people leave behind as they pass through. A typical old school pub, with awesome entertainment, food and of course beers on tap. Our time here will mainly be remembered by the talented duo Lou Bradley and Phil, such a fun, bubbly night spent laughing and loving the first leg of our trip to the red centre.
Camp Location: Stuart’s tree, Daly Waters
Cost = FREE
Travelled From: Harriet Creek Rest Area, Kakadu
Distance Travelled: 391 kilometres
From here, we have a lot of driving ahead and not many stops or highlights along the way, we have the UE boom and spotify playlists downloaded ready to go, with no radio service this has been our saving grace on our long driving trips.
A quick stop off at devils marbles, which is a small detour off the Stuart Highway, an hour south of Tennant Creek.
Camp Location: Taylor Creek rest Area, Davenport
Cost = FREE
Travelled From: Stuart’s tree, Daly Waters
Distance Travelled: 591 kilometres
The next day we reach Alice Springs early afternoon, do our groceries and call up a few places to camp the night as well as leave the caravan for the week to do our trip around Uluru etc. We didn’t realise that it was now school holidays so nearly everywhere is booked out. We were very lucky to find one site about 15 minutes out of town, with only $6/night for caravan storage so we were cheering. On our way to camp we see there is ‘Camel Cup’ racing on in 1 week, again we were planning to leave a little earlier to make our way back up north but we cannot pass up seeing Camel Cup so we now have a full 7 days to explore in the Troopy.
Camp Location: Wanngardi Park, Alice Springs
Cost = $25/n plus $6/n van storage
Travelled From: Taylor Creek rest Area, Davenport
Distance Travelled: 331 kilometres
Our plan is to head to Uluru first, and then up around to Kings Canyon, then through the West MacDonnell ranges. A lot of these places we hadn’t even heard of but with meeting so many other people and getting their advice, this is the perfect round trip to complete in our week here.
Uluru is about 5.5hrs from Alice Springs so most of our first day is spent driving. When I first envisioned the middle of Australia, I think flat, baron, red landscapes but man were we wrong. The drive was amazing with so many gorges, hills, mountains and colours to see, one of our best drives yet.
We keep a look out for the big rock, and 140km’s out, see a massive shape in the distance, we stop in at a look out and soon realise that we accidentally spotted Mt Conner, not Uluru (this one would be a little steeper to climb).
We drive a bit further and at 50km out get a clear sight and our first look at Uluru, even at 50km it is big and clear.
We finally make it to Uluru early afternoon, you have to pay $25/pp to get into the Kata Tjuta national park, but this gives you a 3 day pass. We are instantly stunned at the massive size of the big rock and want to get up close to check it out.
We explore part of the ‘base walk’ then head back around to the ‘front’ which is where you see all of the famous photo’s from. This spot is best for the sunset, so we score a spot early as the park is busy being school holidays. We find a track away from the main carpark to have a little more space, set up our rooftop troopy for drinks and snacks as we watch the sun go down.
The main camping site is booked out, which we don’t mind as we always try to stay away from the crowds, we find a free camp only 8kms away from the hot spot.
The main caravan site is also surrounded by some other hotels, resorts, shops and restaurants just outside the park, it was like a mini city, well it is in fact a town called Yalara. This meant that the park was fairly commercialised with activities, busses, tours, hire bikes, segways and more. It was unlike anything we have really experienced yet, it was a big business.
The next day we check if the Uluru climb is open, and due to high winds it is closed, we think they have it closed majority of the time and only open it on perfect conditions so these days it is very hard to find a day where it is open. This was a little bit of a bummer but we enjoyed the base walk around the rock. An 11km hike around the big rock showed you every angle, hidden caves, aboriginal paintings and learnt about the history of this amazing landscape.
Another highlight we had never heard of before was waiting for us just down the road from the big rock, this was called ‘The Olgas’. Another crazy massive hotspot in the middle of nowhere, they are large (as high as Uluru) rocks grouped up in one area. After our big hike we don’t have another one under our belt, so we do a couple of short walks around here to experience as much as we can before we head of in the morning.
Again we find a different pull off area to view the sunset, but this time at the Olgas, yes we cracked out the rooftop view again.
The colours of the sunset are absolutely stunning, we also checked out 2 sunrises around Uluru while we were here but found the sunsets gave off a lot more colour and spectacular views.
We absolutely loved our time around Uluru, and are so thankful that we were able to check this big item off our list.
Camp Location: Uluru free camp (8kms from Yalara)
Cost = FREE
Travelled From: Wanngardi Park, Alice Springs
Distance Travelled: 442 kilometres
Now to continue the rest of our trip, our next stop being Kings Canyon. We didn’t know too much about this stop so didn’t know what to expect, we soon realised that again the NT does everything bigger, we are surprised with the biggest gorge we have seen. We arrive later in the afternoon, so just have a quick walk down the bottom of the gorge with plans to come back to do the big hike up and around it the next day.
We see on Wiki an awesome free camp 30 minutes away, on top of a cliff with stunning views over Kings canyon. Seriously why do people pay $25-$45 for caravan parks when you have this to choose from!? And people were, it was peak season so people were paying money to be in overflow areas and fight to have cold showers.
We enjoy a fire over our amazing view and have a long well deserved sleep in.
The next morning we meet a lovely lady travelling along in the sickest, new troopy! Instantly zac is on the talk about her rig and she has the best of the best of everything, our future dream. We are both planning to do the big hike around Kings Canyon so we move our chats and have the most amazing day with our new friend Annie.
Wow, what an amazing experience, we start our 6km hike up steep stairs to reach the top of the gorge, and continue around the top, constantly stopping at every bend and corner, there is so much beauty to see, we are constantly amazed by its enormous and vast views.
We have an amazing day getting to know Annie and are so glad we were told about this gem.
Annie was planning to head further south but we convinced her to stay one more night with us around the fire at our free camp so we could hear more about here previous adventures and all the cool features of her troopy setup. Annie is a wealth of knowledge about travelling Australia, her first lap was in the 70’s in a kombi …
Camp Location: Morris Pass Lookout, Mereenie
Cost = FREE
Travelled From: Uluru Free camp
Distance Travelled: 321 kilometres
We have a few days left on our troopy travels, with Annie letting us in on some more hot spots, we hit up what’s called the Mereenie Loop, featuring stunning gorges, hikes and the West MacDonnell ranges.
Keep your eyes peeled for our travels back to Alice Springs and the Camel Cup!