The Red Centre of Australia, in the middle of summer, is as hot as Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, and Seville in the south of Spain. It was 44 degrees Celsius during the day, every day. At night the temperature dropped to about 30 or 35 degrees, so we would wake up at 4am most days in order to have breakfast, pack up our camp and begin the day at 5am before the sun rose, and the heat once again took your breath away. I soon realised summer is not the ideal time to visit the Red Centre, and was informed that during autumn and spring the weather is much more agreeable to the average person.
There’s just one resort with a handful of accommodation options near Ayers Rock, or Uluru which is the traditional name, and the staff are very well acquainted with the flight arrival and departures each day. The resort caters for all types of travellers, from the fancy five star requirements with matching price tag, to the three star budget conscious backpackers and camping enthusiasts. People don’t stay long in the area, partly because of the heat and partly because there’s not much, other than the main sights, to see and do without your own transport.
Now I enjoy hot weather, but even I felt like a potato roasting in my own skin when walking around in the sun. Simple activities became mammoth efforts, and extra care was advised to ensure we drank enough water and stayed hydrated to avoid sunstroke. Adding layers of sunscreen, along with fly spray and the buckets of sweat we excreted, created a bunch of exhausted, sticky, slimy messes by the time lunch was called.
Ayers Rock is huge, nine kilometers around the base, with visible evidence in the vertical striations that it once stood upright before crashing down to lay in the manner so recognisable now. We walked around the base of it, and witnessed a magnificent sun rise along the way. I didn’t climb it, partly because of the heat, partly because I didn’t feel the need to show off, and partly because of the requests and signs asking people not to climb. It was explained that the worn path from people climbing it is called a scar by the traditional owners, and those who climb it are referred to as white ants – neither of which I particularly wanted to be associated with.
Next stop was Kata Tuja, otherwise known as The Olgas. If I thought The Rock was big, Kata Tuja is three times the size around the base. 24 kilometers was not something I wanted to attempt in those temperatures, and above 36 degrees any climbing in and through The Olgas is closed for safety reasons. We were told that amongst the boulders the temperatures rose by about ten degrees, and 54 degrees plus was not conducive to anyone’s health at the best of times.
Kings Canyon also deserved a visit, and we walked the six kilometers around the rim of the amazing natural wonder. It looked in parts like I imagine a moonscape would appear – various craters and holes, alternating with jagged edges, sheer rock wall faces and water so deep it appears black. The only difference in my imagination to the moon would be the colours – Kings Canyon was a brilliant kaleidoscope of rich reds, browns and orange coloured rock, overlaid with luscious green ferns and shrubbery. We have such phenomenal natural wonders in this country, and the only detractor are the flies. There are so many of the cheeky things that suddenly cork and mesh hats don’t seem such a silly idea after all.