Whizzing north out of Coober Pedy headed for Ayers Rock, and deeper into the outback brought with it phenomenal changes of landscape, wildlife and climate. It seemed to us that every morning was 1 degree warmer and each afternoon a degree warmer still. Erldunda is a self proclaimed famous roadhouse at the cross roads of Ayers Rock, or Uluru. When planning the journey from Coober Pedy I was faced with two possibilities, head all the way to Alice Springs (Alice) and then back track on a day trip to Uluru. I 100% couldn’t be bothered with wasted miles so zoomed in on google maps and came upon Erldunda, some 5 hours north of Coober Pedy.
Between the two places is a great deal of nothing. We stopped for lunch in Marla, and then cruised into Erldunda at the new and improved 130kmh.
The roadhouse itself looked somewhat different, almost like a resort. I checked in and got thoroughly ripped off with the woman charging me for the kids individually which is unheard of anywhere else on earth. A mooch around the roadhouse grounds convinced me that the pool would likely give you some bacterial borne disease, and that the proximity of our wooden cabin was guaranteed to serve up a sleepless night of noise riddled frustration.
The kangaroo refuge is a few kangaroos lazing around in a caged off area and the emu zoo is some birds in a similar enclosure. As I was looking into the enclosure I spotted the biggest, buffest, hard core looking chicken I have ever seen. So big the kids quickly pointed in enthusiasm. Turns out we had stumbled upon Cluck Norris, the biggest chicken in this part of the world. We laughed, watching him strut around like he owned the place. Legend has it, Cluck Norris built the enclosure before he was born.
Feeling a little bummed, it was 6pm and I felt like I’d made a mistake, there was nothing to do. Suddenly, some dude with a comb over walks past holding a white rabbit, he handed my son a business card. ‘Dane the magician, 7pm; Free show’.
I sent the kids to grab a decent table, ordered food, a beer and sat back waiting for Dane. Picture the scene, we are literally in the middle of the outback (genuinely, there is a monument), we are in a roadhouse, wooden, with about 30 other Australians, all with two things on their mind; Get drunk and watch magic.
An hour later there was a card with my daughters name written on it stuck to the ceiling, it had snowed inside, a dove had appeared from no where and everyone was amazed. The kids and I agree, that though we expected nothing we happened upon a brilliant, and magical night of humour, entertainment and, well, magic.
Having travelled so extensively I didn’t really know what to expect, Ayers Rock is after-all a rock in the middle of no where. For me it epitomised Australia, just like kangaroos. But other than a quick look, touch and a laugh, I wasn’t sure what more there could be to it.
My misconceptions, and lack of enthusiasm instantly evaporated the second we saw in the distance, a huge, brown/red monolith. The car was silent as we all sat in awe.
I was instantly slapped out of my stupor when we rolled up to the entrance and I was shaken down for $68! (£42) As I was prising my wallet out of my shorts the ranger asked jokingly “you’ve not got anyone in the boot have you”, I couldn’t believe I’d not thought of that.
The entrance is justified because you get 3 days, I recon -5% of visitors actually visit more than one day, and it’s a real scam that you are peeled out of such a large amount to see something natural. To put things into perspective, the Grand Canyon charges less than half, and the Taj Mahal just £7, with kids being free.
Another thing that annoyed me, is that it is no stopping on the road up to the rock, which did my swede due to the fact the best photographs are taken with it in the distance.
Alas, we parked up and I was instantly over the entrance fee. Few words could give Ayers Rock the introduction it deserves. A monolith of epic proportions, a place so unusually stunning it looks alien to the surroundings. Turns out it was an ancient meeting place for the indigenous population. And what a place to meet. Towering some 348m high and stretching just over 2 miles long, it is an assault on every sense. Steeper than it looks, more imposing than you can imagine, and though plain, more gorgeous than words can describe.
Our time at Ayers Rock was spent walking around the base, we didn’t walk the entire way around because on the day we arrived, every fly in the Southern Hemisphere had decided to visit too.
Ayers Rock was for me, a dream come true. When I was a kid I had books that showed the world, and obviously Ayers Rock stood out from the pages in respect of Australia, yet here we were. Here I was with my kids. Though it really is a huge diversion, and a complete scam to get into, and the food is worse than Sanjay’s food stall in Jaisalmer, India; It is easily one of the most memorable days of the trip, and my life.
Standing at Ayers Rock, looking into the distance you can see a bunch of rocks, they look about 30 miles away, though are actually more like 20 miles. The Olgas or Kata Tjuta are a load of boulders that form funky shapes. At the time, the day was getting on and I made the decision to head straight to Alice, in hindsight I really think I missed a trick and regret that decision.
Especially since we were in Alice Springs for 5pm.
Read the full trip…
We then drove through the Australian Outback to Coober Pedy, Ayers Rock, Alice Springs got robbed in Tenant Creek and the finished up at the top end in Darwin. The full journey can be read here: The Outback