Wednesday, October 1, 2014

The Outback and some Travel Advice from the Unprepared

I wrote a post in a park across the street from the Opera house a while back, it was lost unfortunently because I have no idea what program I used to type it, such is the internetless and new laptop times. I start fresh from my Virgin Airlines flight to Ayers Rock an equally if not more interesting sight. The past 2 months or so have been a challange in practically every way emotionally, mentally and physically. From what I had previously considered to be the worst luck in the world I fell quite a bit farther not only developing gallstones but leaving work early due to the father of the children turning out to be a full on sociopath. I could write a book about pathological liars at this point to be honest; but things arent all bad now I'm crashing at my host moms apartment in North Sydney which is a nice change of pace from the early retirement that was Brooklyn. The situation past the 19th is unpredictable all I know is im headed to Uluru, Tasmania, Melbourne up the Great Ocean Rd to Adelaide and back. My brother will be joining me for the last two weeks of this insane journey and I'll spend the winter working in New York to save up, hopefully get surgery and catch my return flight to Auckland in May with quite a bit more cash than originally anticipated.

Its a plan and I hope a good one, over these last few months especially I've found making plans to be more of an inconvenience, though I'm happy to have some semblance of my venture set in stone.

I got no sleep before the flight to the red Center of Australia because I hyped myself up on way too much caffeine the day before. I attempted to write more than the words above on the plane but ended up falling in a semi-sleep state that mainly consisted of my being abruptly woken up by my own drooping head I think I startled the woman sitting next to me when I jerked up pretending I was awake and working.

It takes just over 3 hours to reach the spiritual center of the country from Sydney and if you have the patience and eye ability to stare out the window the views are quite spectacular. Flying from the city over the Blue Mountains and into rural country just goes to show how heavily populated the coastal areas really are. I watched the change from blue to green to eventual red till my eyes felt like sizzling out of my head and closed for a very un-restful nap.

As the three hour flight came to an end Uluru appeared in the distance a massive red mark on the vast empty landscape, it looked like what was to be expected a big red rock, with my little research into the area I was surprised to see other rocks of size dotting the landscape, Kata Tjuta being the other predominant one. As we descended below the clouds this new land took on a new appearance; I hear a lot about the sun set casting an orange glow on the Uluru but what I havent heard about is the purple daily glow against the red sand, it really was beautiful. 

Kata Tjuta

The airport was tiny and about a 15 min drive from the hostel (only one in the area) I was staying at, free shuttle buses take you right to accommodation so its a stress free landing. As we drove it became apparent this really was the middle of nowhere and except for tourism there is nothing more here, it is a resort built community. I checked in at a busy lobby at the Outback Pioneer a hotel/hostel mix, school holidays were packing the place in to the brim, as I questioned reception I discovered the only way car-less to get to the rocks was by tour company or a shuttle at the min cost (off times) of around $60 plus a $25 park entry fee. I knew coming here would be expensive but holy shit. Good news though poor travelers, there are great views to be found all over from various lookouts or hills but don't expect to spend a lot of time here unless you were planning on dropping some major cash; 3 days should suit perfectly if you've got an exploration budget.

The town center boasts some tourist shops an IGA and a few overpriced restaurants as well as a particularly nasty bird that decided to swoop on my head twice before I used my bag as protection. Aboriginal artist paint and sell their work in the courtyard and have various native wares such as the iconic boomerang, its run by a non profit Maruku Arts. Free activities were held daily.

 Overall the trip was worth it although really nothing of much interest happened it was a visual trip and learning experience of Aboriginal culture, its an unmissable part of visiting Australia I'd say personally.

To those looking to go into the outback I would strongly suggest a tour to get the full experience, its not meant to be experienced in one spot. 

Wish I had more exciting things to report but it was a mellow trip spent reading for the most part, sometimes when you find yourself in the desert heat surrounded by the most irritating flies you just run out of things to say. My adventurous nature is coming back to me bit by bit it took a bit of beating, best way to get back on track is to start moving.

Since this is a more lackluster post I thought id share some options of getting out here I encountered on my exhaustive search to get west.


The Rock Tour - Cheapest tour I found online $355 and a decent itinerary lots of people in the hostel had booked it.

Groovy Grape - Saw their little buses come through quite often at the camel farm, pricey but a pretty full on experiences lined up very backpacker geared.

AAT Kings - Not sure their pricing I believe its expensive but they picked up a roommate from Ayers Rock for a day trip to Kings Canyon, I was very jealous, not seeing Kings Canyon is a bit of a regret; their buses are all over Ayers Rock and are also the shuttles that get you to the Airport.

Transport into the Outback

Car Rental - The more people the cheaper! I'll always consider this the best option for travel in groups, most companies will charge an extra rate for the Outback or a one-way fee if your planning on driving through to another location but for the freedom its worth it 100%.
Wicked Campers (got some heat recently for inappropriate sayings on their cars, some were actually covered by concerned citizens)

Also to note car relocation is a good option, rentals can be as cheap as $1, however they require a bond often of $1000+ and have fairly decent time constraints; for that price I'd rush.

Flying - Jetstar, Virgin Australia & Quantas
Dependant on time of travel could be extremely expensive, my round trip cost $375 during school holidays (+$$$) when I snagged Virgin Australia happy hour price (Thursdays starting @4:00).

Train -
I really would have loved to do this but time and expense of hostels for layovers restrained me. $495pp for 2 months unlimited travel, you could get from Sydney to Adelaide inland to the red center over to Perth then turn around and end in Melbourne. Pretty good option.

Bus -
Greyhound I thought was the way to go South to North if you could stand the hellish transit times but I haven't been able to find the hop off hop on pass for the center of the country up from I believe was from Adelaide to Darwin, they might have done away with it. That'd be a shame if they did but do a bit of searching I have limited wifi time so maybe I just missed it or maybe I imagined it who knows...

That's the extent of my knowledge hope it helps all you travelers out because I sure as hell wished someone told me all this.