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Entries about desert

Into the Outback

sunny 43 °C
View Australian adventure! on Rebecca Heller's travel map.

So it turns out that flights to Uluru are really quite expensive so I flew from Syndey to Alice Springs and decided to go on a three day tour to visit Uluru.

Alice Springs is the biggest place for hours and hours in Australia's Red Centre and so it has kind of a weird mixture of people living there. It would seem that not many people are from Alice Springs, they tend to move there for work, or for many of the Aboriginal people living there, because they have been thrown out of their communities elsewhere.

Unfortunately, many of the Aboriginal people in Alice Springs have turned to drink and drugs, and so many tourists who meet an Aboriginal for the first time, really see those struggling to adapt to a life outside of their upbringing, this does nothing to mend a historically terrible relationship between the rest of Australia (mostly white Australians nee colonists, but not exclusively).

It's a pretty small town, considering it serves pretty much the whole of the middle of Australia. The most exciting thing I did when I arrived it purchase a rather expensive leather hat and fly net (very attractive and extremely necessary!). I'm actually very pleased with my hat, as you'll see from my photos!

The next morning I was picked up from my hostel at 6.30am but Justin, our tour leader for the next few days for my Alice to Alice tour with Adventure Tours.

Now I knew the Outback was huge, but let me just clarify, it's a really bloody large place. Alice Springs is 6 hours away from Uluru, and there is exactly one right turn. That's right, it's something like fourth ours on the first road, the big turn, followed by another two hours on the second road, and there's not a whole lot to see on the way.

We did stop at one service station that claims to be at the centre of the centre, but apparently there are many different definitions for that...I had a photo there anyway, because it seemed unlikely that I'd be at any of the other centres of the centre.

After we'd picked up some passengers from Uluru airport, we went straight to Kata Tjuta for a short walk through the domes. Kata Tjuta is not a very well known landmark, it gets forgotten next to the better known Uluru, or Ayers Rock, which you can just about see from there. But it's a beautiful natural landmark that really is worth a visit if you're in the area.

It was a short walk because it was a mere 43 degrees, which is, well very hot. Too hot to go for a long hike at any rate. That evening we went to watch the sunset at Uluru, which as you may know, glows a brilliant red when the sun sets and rises, as we saw the following morning.

Following a rather spectacular sunrise (it's absolutely worth the early morning), we went for the half base walk around Uluru. It was the first day of the year the the authorities had opened the path to climb Ayers Rock, and we were given the opportunity to do so. We were also given all the reasons why we shouldn't, the main one being that it's hugely disrespectful to the Aboriginal people who ask that people do not climb. I was therefore quite surprised and a bit disappointed that half of our group decided to climb it.

I however went on the half base walk, where you can read the aboriginal story which explains how Uluru came to exist, followed by a visit to the cultural centre during the hottest part of the day.

We then made the four hour journey to the Kings Canyon camp site, where for the second night we prepared to sleep in our swags, under the stars. Before we went to sleep, we joined another tour group for spot of star gazing and explanation of our breathtaking view of outer space.

We were up again at the crack of dawn to drive to Kings Canyon itself, for a hike. We went early firstly because it's far too hot in the middle of the day, and also because we had a six hour drive back to Alice Springs that afternoon.

Kings Canyon is actually a gorge, with a stunning view from the top, a Garden of Eden in the middle, a peaceful spot to rest out of the burning Outback sun. A lot of people miss this walk, but if you have the time and means to visit, then do stop by.

My visit to the Outback was unique to anywhere else I went on my trip, the distances are massive, and there are natural dangers (like 43 degree heat and snakes and such like, which thankfully I didn't see!) but if you're prepared and careful, it's an adventure worth having.

Posted by Rebecca Heller 07:01 Archived in Australia Tagged sunsets_and_sunrises desert uluru tour Comments (0)

My week in Bolivia

View Getting to know Chile & Exploring Patagonia & Into Argentina & A week in Bolivia on Rebecca Heller's travel map.

I arrived in La Paz with my tour group, pretty tired after 3 weeks on the go. We went for a short walking tour and when we got back to the hotel, Simon was waiting for me there.

Simon and I spent the next morning perusing the extensive Witches Market with Sean. You see near enough the same thing in every shop, for near enough the same price, and whilst haggling is a thing there, it turns out Simon and I are not that good at it. When you convert the savings we made it probably comes to all of about £5. If you want all the typical souvenirs though, this is the place to come!

We decided not to stay an extra night in La Paz and head to Uyuni that night since we didn't have all the time in the world, so off to the bus station we went.

It turns out the buses in Bolivia are not as nice or comfy as the ones in Peru but it was cheap so that made up for it. We arrived at Uyuni at an unsociable 4am and found ourselves in a cafe with other weary travellers, waiting for the travel agencies to open.

We had been advised that it was cheaper to book directly in Uyuni, rather than La Paz, and the best way to find a company was to ask for recommendations. Guide books and online advice all said it was best to pay a little more for the safety and quality of the tour and in the end we followed a recommendation to book the three day tour with Red Planet.

I don't know if it was cheaper in the end as this tour was pretty prices compared to the others, but it came highly recommended and ran in English. It also turned out to be the same tour as Doriano was on (Doriano was part of my previous tour group) so that was added fun!

I think it was totally worth the effort to pay a little extra, as we had a fun comprehensive tour that included the Salt Flats themselves, the Cactus Island, stays in a salt hotel, a hotel with hot springs for a midnight dip. They catered well for vegetarian and gluten free so I wasn't hungry - what more can you ask for?!

The only thing I really knew about this part of Bolivia was the salt desert where you take fun perspective photos (which we took lots of!), so the rest was a bonus. The landscape is spectacular, and by doing a three day tour I saw way more than I was expecting. We saw mountains, volcanoes, lakes (including a red lake), flamingos and more.

I also met people who had already been to places I was planning to visit in Patagonia and so I got a lot of good information and advice, especially about hiking in the Torres del Paine national park in Chile (all the advice was super helpful, as I'll explain in a later post!).

The only negative thing was that Simon wasn't feeling well, so we had him dosed up on medicine so that he could still enjoy the tour.

We decided to get a bus straight to the border with Argentina, rather than stay in Uyuni. We wanted to get to Buenos Aires sooner rather than later, so we endured nearly 48 hours on buses. We put up with the border crossing, which was the most inefficient system I'd seen and was a little soul destroying (don't try and attempt it in a hurry!). Thankfully, the drive through northern Argentina is beautiful and it wasn't as uncomfortable as it could have been.

I have a feeling I missed some other exciting and interesting parts of Bolivia by rushing through, but time did not allow plenty of stops this time. Oh well, it's just somewhere I'll have to come back to!

Posted by Rebecca Heller 08:25 Archived in Bolivia Tagged desert volcanoes mountain tour salt uyuni Comments (0)

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