We mark our arrival day in the outback with a an easy walk at Ayers Rock and our first cloudy sunset. Also, a blog review of Ayers Rock Resort where we stayed two nights. A lot of people think of Ayers Rock as just a random rock in the Australian desert, but it is not to be missed if you are interested in outdoor photography. The desert landscapes are truly striking, with lush greenery contrasting with red sandstone rock formations, against a backdrop of blue skies. And walks, glorious walks, ranging from family/wheelchair-friendly to hardcore, multi-day great walks. Also culture and history of course, but I’m not really into that stuff.
The iconic Ayers Rock, called Uluru in the aboriginal language, is located c.25km from the Ayers Rock airport, and the nearest (and only) accommodation is at Ayers Rock Resort (Yulara township) (20km). You can self-drive from your accommodation to Ayers Rock if you have a rental car, or take the scheduled coach transport from Ayers Rock Resort (AUD60 return, fixed timings). There are also guided tours you can join which include transport. Ayers Rock is within national park boundaries and entry to the national park costs USD25/adult (valid for 3 consecutive days from purchase).
Excerpt of area map (Source: Ayers Rock Resort website)
There are a number of walks available at Uluru, which are mainly shorter versions of the full Base Walk (Grade 3, 10.6km loop). It is also possible to climb Uluru, weather permitting, but this is discouraged by the local aboriginal people due to cultural/religious reasons.
Excerpt of Uluru map (Source: Ayers Rock Resort website)
Hello to Ayers Rock Resort [1430-1530h]
Since there is only ONE place to stay near Ayers Rock, you basically have to pay whatever they charge. For info, the next closest place to stay is Curtin Springs which is c.100km from Ayers Rock. Ayers Rock Resort has a range of accommodation for all budgets: campsites, budget lodge/dorm-style (shared bathroom), 1BR and 2BR apartments (i.e. Emu Walk Apartments), motels and luxury hotels. For wifi addicts, it is important to note that in-room free wifi is not available at the campground or lodge.
Ayers Rock Resort- Map
We chose Emu Walk Apartments as we wanted to have our own kitchen facilities. Also, it was ideal for our odd-sized group of 3, as the motel/hotels are all on twin share basis and we were not keen on the budget lodge. Emu Walk is the nearest accommodation to the resort town square where there are shops, an IGA supermarket and restaurants. Each accommodation cluster does have its own eateries though.
Ayers Rock Resort- Town square with shops and restaurants
The exterior structure looked quite beat up, but the interior was quite nicely renovated. We booked a 2BR, 1 bathroom apartment and they gave us one with a duplex layout (unit 29, 75m2), which was in a good location midway between the reception and town square. I didn’t quite fancy the smaller bedroom being right across the kitchen, but you can of course just keep the door shut when cooking. They also have a larger three-level layout (90m2) where both bedrooms are on the upper floor – Check the official website for floor plans.
Emu Walk Apartments (2BR)- Full kitchen and dining on upper floor as you enter
Emu Walk Apartments (2BR)- Duplex layout (75m2)
Emu Walk Apartments (2BR)- Living area on lower floor
Emu Walk Apartments (2BR)- Main bedroom on lower floor
My only real complaint is that there was mold growing inside the shower stall so the bathroom didn’t really feel very clean. Ugh. Some hooks on the door to hang clothes wouldn’t hurt too. Shower pressure considered medium. Towels/shampoo/conditioner/soap/hairdryer provided – Loved the interesting ingredients in the toiletries such as wattle seed (edible seeds of the Acacia plant).
Emu Walk Apartments (2BR)- bathroom
Mala walk [1600h-1700h]
After a quick instant noodle lunch we headed out to see Ayers Rock for the first time. As we planned to do a 7.4km walk the next day at Kata-Tjuta, we opted to do the popular Mala walk (Grade 1, 2km return), which I think is a good first walk for visitors. Perfect walking weather although the clouds didn’t really make for good photos. If you do this walk in the morning there is a free ranger guide.
Mala walk- Easy flat path
Mala walk- Ancient rock art
This walk lets you get close to the rock and you will feel very small among the towering cliffs! An interesting fact is that Ayers Rock is almost 350m high measured from ground level, but is in fact the tip of a huge rock slab that geologists estimate to stretch 5-6km below the ground.
Mala walk- Feeling very small
Mala walk- A photographer’s dream
Note that there is a short section along this walk (maybe 150m) where photography of the rock is not allowed, due to cultural/religious reasons. The signboard marking this section is quite small and not really obvious so you might miss it if you are not the type to diligently read all signboards. Like… yours truly……
Ayers Rock sunset viewing [1700h-1730h]
After the walk we drove to the main sunset viewing carpark. As sunset viewing is a very popular activity, you should try getting earlier if you want a really good spot. Most of the people with professional looking cameras were set up by 5pm. There is a separate sunset viewing area for coaches but it seems further from the rock than the car viewing area. Unfortunately it was a really cloudy day so we left before sunset as we knew we would not get any good photos.
Car sunset viewing- The rock looking dull on a cloudy day
Self catered dinner at Emu Walk Apartments
Went grocery shopping out the Ayers Rock Resort IGA which is quite small and overcrowded at peak times. The prices are about 1.5x-2x what you get in say, Sydney, but this is understandable as they travel a long way to be here. And self-catering is still cheaper than eating at the resort restaurants! Decided on a simple oven-roasted pre-marinated chicken thigh (AUD8) for dinner, with ready-to-eat pasta salad (AUD4) and canned soup (AUD2). Unfortunately the microwave did not have any oven capabilities so it took longer than anticipated to cook as we had to pan-fry the chicken in batches (pan was too small).
Conclusion / Additional tips:
A good warm up walk for the more challenging 7.4km Valley of the Winds walk at Kata-Tjuta tomorrow.
Date of activity: 6 June 2016
Location: Kata-Tjuta, NT, Australia
Rate: c.AUD70/day for rental of Group K car/standard SUV (got a free upgrade to a Prado)
Booking: Avis (pickup / dropoff at Ayers Rock airport)
Hotel we stayed: Ayers Rock Resort, 50km from Kata-Tjuta (the only accommodation in the area)