Round 18 – Melbourne v West Coast: AFL footy in the Red Centre (Part 3)

Part 3 – Post-script from Uluru


After the high of the close win on Sunday at Traeger Park, I had an early start to the post-script of the match, with a 6.30am coach pick-up for the 450km road trip to Yulara, the resort town adjacent to Uluru and Kata-Tjuta.


The sun was just rising as we exited Alice Springs through The Gap and the escarpments had a deep pinky hue in the morning light.  It was with a tinge of sadness that I farewelled Alice Springs as I had really enjoyed my 4 days in this outback town, not only because of the footy, but because there is much to see and experience here.  It’s definitely a place I would return to, so hopefully we get another fixture there in the not-too-distant future.


On the open road, and the coach driver outlined our route which involved him only needing to make 2 right hand turns between Alice and the entrance to Yulara.  About an hour into the journey and we made the first of 2 comfort stops (and the first of the 2 afore-mentioned right hand turns), at the Stuart’s Well Roadhouse.  The owner of this establishment is known as Smurf, and it’s likely due to his extensive collection of the little blue and white creatures who are gathered in 3 large display cases in a corner of the dining area.  In another corner, also (thankfully) behind glass is a large carpet python.  Outside there was a small waterhole with a baby camel and a couple of emus.  I enjoyed a home-made sausage roll and fruit juice for breakfast, and then it was back on the bus to continue the journey.


The 2nd right hand turn occurred about 90 mins later as we left the Erldunda Resort and Roadhouse., which is located at the intersection of the Stuart and Lasseter Highways.  The Stuart Highway runs north to south, and the Lasseter Highway runs all the way to the WA border.  Erldunda Roadhouse is less than 10km from the geographical centre of Australia, and from my observation during the 30 mins we were there, it sees A LOT of traffic.


There was a long queue of caravans and camper-trailers waiting to refuel, and amongst them was this absolute retro beauty.



At Erldunda there was a group of inquisitive emus in a large enclosure.  The resort and roadhouse has all sorts of accommodation, a large petrol station and convenience store, and (apparently) very good coffee.


Onto the Lasseter Highway, and about 100km from Yulara, we made a final and short stop at the Mt Connor Lookout.  Mt Connor looms large out of the flat desert landscape and is colloquially known as “Fool-uru” as many people think it is Uluru when they first see it.  There is also a short climb up a sand dune to view the edge of Lake Amadeus, a large salt-lake.


Then it was onto Yulara, and the circuit around the resort to drop off passengers at the various hotels.  By the time I arrived at my accommodation it was the middle of the afternoon, and after settling into my room, I walked up the dune in the middle of the resort to take in the view from Imalung Lookout, where you get a 360deg view of the resort, with the spectacular backdrops of Kata-Tjuta and Uluru.  I also visit the Town Centre where there is a lively complex of cafes, souvenir shops, a bank and post office, and the local supermarket.  Stocking up on a few essential supplies, I took the free resort shuttle back to my hotel and there ended my day quietly in my room.


Yesterday (Tuesday) I took the Uluru Hop On Hop Off shuttle bus out to the Uluru branch of Outback Cycling where I had booked a bike hire for the day.  I spent an enjoyable couple of hours cycling around the base of Uluru to explore all the sights of this amazing monolith.  It was really sad to see the large number of people who were climbing Uluru, despite the extensive signage that implores visitors to respect the sacred nature of the site, and NOT climb it.  The October deadline for the permanent closure of the climb can’t come fast enough in my opinion.


The ride around the base is on a flat dirt pathway, that is shared with walkers (but they have the right of way).  At times the path was a little soft and sketchy, and there were a couple of sandy spots where I had to get off and walk, but most of it was nice and solid, so the ride was pretty easy.  Over the years, I’ve been lucky enough to ride a bike in some amazing places, but this was definitely one that will go towards the top of the list.


Back to the resort for a couple of hours, to relax and brush off some of the very fine and very red dust that now adorned my clothing and shoes, before it was time to head out again for the last experience in my Red Centre adventure, and the main reason for the Yulara post-script.


The “Field of Light” is an incredible art installation in the desert dunes just outside Yulara, and I did the Star Pass experience, which was a pre-sunset coach transfer to a dune just above the field, where we watched the sun set over Uluru with a glass of bubbles in hand, and canapes galore.  Once the sun had disappeared, the field comes to life, and then we walked down the dune pathway, and were free to explore the field.  The 50,000 solar-powered lights are a wonderland that is very hard to describe, and even harder to photograph to do it justice, but at 49,000 square metres (the size of 7 football fields) it is vast and beautiful.  In the dark expanse of the desert the 100 or so other people who had been at the top of the dune with me seemed to disappear in the inky blackness of the night even amongst the lights of the field.  The field has been in place for a couple of years already, and will be at Yulara until the end of 2020, so if anyone was thinking of going to experience it, I would definitely recommend it.



So there ends my Red Centre footy trip……I’m waiting at Ayers Rock airport for my return flight home to Melbourne and back to reality.  I’m of course, very happy that my team won, but also very happy with all the other adventures that I managed to pack into these 6 days.


Signing off for now from Ayers Rock Airport.



For part 1 of Cathi’s central Australian journey, click here.


For part 2 of Cathi’s central Australian journey, click here.



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