Darwin, The Outback and Ayer's Rock Tour Description
Enter a fascinatingly remote world when you join us for this RV tour from Darwin, through The Outback, and to Ayer's Rock. You can read stories and you can see photos, but until you experience it in person you really don't know The Outback. In our prior visit to Ayer's Rock, known now by its Aboriginal name, Uluru, we wrote, "Words fail, photos may illuminate, but this is one of those places you must experience to really understand. Uluru (pronounced ooh la roo) is one big rock! In sunlight it glows; in shadows it hides. Smooth graceful curves, crater-sized pock marks, 500-ft. cracks, dark waterfall lines. As an elephant touched by blind men, it changes perspective at every turn. With a composition of sandstone, 70% feldspar, its burnt orange color is striking. The enormity of a single rock is overwhelming, especially if standing in its shadow and looking up to the sky. It is the downspout for desert rainstorms, though they may be as infrequent as seven years. Gushing waterfalls bring the water to the base of the rock and submerge into red sand, a bit remaining for a small pool surrounded by tall ironwood trees. Mostly, though, Uluru is surrounded by a vast, flat desert, so arid that Aboriginal survival depended on knowing where waterholes existed."
While Uluru will be a highlight of the tour, you'll love The Outback as well: the stark silent beauty, the clear nighttime Southern Cross skies, the glimpses of Aboriginal culture. Our tour starts from Darwin, visits Kakadu, one of Australia's best national parks, threads its way through The Outback of Northern Territory to Alice Springs, past historic roadhouses, and thence to Uluru. Along the way we will encounter wallabies, kangaroos and the unique birds of this arid region, often surprised by the many parrots and finches that call this home.
Day 1: We will meet at Darwin for orientation and welcoming dinner. Darwin hotel for one evening.
Day 2: We will be renting RV’s for travel, sleeping, and many meals. Typically, these are late model Class C turbo diesel vehicles accommodating two to four adults and including double bed, gas stove, refrigerator, microwave, shower, toilet, air-conditioning/heating, pressurized hot & cold water, and radio/TV/CD player. Also included are linen, bedding, and kitchen equipment. All vehicles in our last tours were automatic transmission. After picking up our rental RV's we will purchase groceries and head to our campsite near Darwin, a two-night stay. If there are birders in the group we will make a quick visit to Howard Springs Nature Centre and search for the colorful Rainbow Pitta with its pitch black head and breast, bright green back and wings, a wide sliver of glowing turquoise patching the wings, a crimson red belly, and a subtle brown crown stripe. Camp at Howard Springs for 2 nights (15 mi.).
Day 3: We will visit Litchfield National Park, renowned for its variety of incredible termite mounds, some towering 15 ft. high while others align with the compass to produce a field of tombstones. On the way we will visit Batchelor Museum and learn the local history of uranium mines and WWII air bases, as well as watch a resident pair of Barking Owls. At the Batchelor Butterfly Farm we will entertained by its quirky owner and tour his strange collection of artifacts, butterfly enclosures, and even pet rabbits. Within the national park we will visit spectacular waterfalls (Florence, Tolmer, and Wangi) with an opportunity to swim in the pools beneath them. Then we are off to the Darwin coast for Thursday Market, a kaleidoscope of good food, novel souvenirs, and Aboriginal entertainment. In the warm tropical evening we stay for the brilliant orgy of colors in the sunset over the Tasman Sea. Camp at Howard Springs (187 mi.).
Day 4: We will visit Fogg Dam, a wet paperbark forest and flooded marshlands that support thousands of birds as well as Australian crocodile and Agile Wallaby. Next stop is Window on the Wetlands, perched on a high point overlooking the Adelaide River floodplain. Here exhibits explain the environment of Kakadu National Park. Camp at Jabiru within Kakadu (158 mi.).
Day 5: South of Darwin is Kakadu National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Park, famous for its landmark Aboriginal rock paintings especially at Ubirr and Bardedjilidjii. Aboriginal people lived here for at least 40 000 years and we will learn their stories through their art. With the aid of an Aboriginal guide, we will explore this vast 4.9 million-acre park, visiting the monsoonal forest and billabongs at the end of the dry season. The exhibits and artifacts at Warradjan Culture Centre will give us even more understanding of Aboriginal culture. Camp at Coolinda within Kakadu. Both of the Kakadu campgrounds feature delightful expansive and refreshing swimming pools. (127 mi.).
Thousands-year-old Aboriginal painting of extinct Thylacine, often known as Tasmanian Tiger.
Day 6: Before dawn we will board a boat and set out on Yellow Water just as the sun rises over the marsh. Most exciting are the enormous Estuarine Crocodiles that glide silently past the boat. Here we should see thousands of Plumed Whistling-Ducks mixed with a few Radjah Shelducks, and in the trees, the incredible White-bellied Sea-Eagle. Water Buffalo plod through the marshlands, often with Cattle Egrets perched on their backs. We could see a Dingo on the hunt. Wildlife sightings will come so often your camera will not keep up with the many opportunities for close-up shots. Our boat cruise will be followed by huge buffet breakfast. In the afternoon we head to our next campsite at Katherine. On the grounds we can find the bowers of the Great Bowerbird, a "bachelor pad" that the male bowerbird makes of upright sticks and decorates with green and white ornaments of stone, glass, bottle caps or anything else that catches his fancy. (160 mi.).
Day 7: Not far from Katherine is our first stop today, Nitmiluk Natonal Park. From the viewing deck we have a panoramic view of a Flying Fox roost that includes over 50,000 macrobats. Here also we take a boat cruise on the Katherine River that takes us through the gorge. Leaving the park we penetrate deeper into The Outback, leaving Katherine, passing Larrimah, and reaching Daly Waters. We will camp at the curiously adorned outpost and enjoy a "beef-and-barra" dinner and entertainment at its restaurant. (210 mi.).
Day 8: Heading south now on the Stuart Highway which stretches half the length of Australia, we are likely to encounter the incredibly long road trains, semi's pulling three or four lengthy tractor trailers. Camp at Tennant Creek and visit Battery Hill Mining Center. (251 mi.).
Day 9: Continuing southward through Northern Territory, we reach strange rock formations called Devils Marbles which glow fiery red at sunset and dawn. We will cross the well-marked Tropic of Capricorn just before we reach Alice Springs. In this desert terrain, you might be surprised to find any wildlife at all. Yet here are flocks of Zebra Finch, as well as Mulga Parrot, Budgerigar (the popular North American cage bird "budgie"), and whimsical pink Galahs. Camp at Alice Springs for two nights. (321 mi.).
Day 10: Your choice today: some will want to visit the School of the Air, the Royal Flying Doctors Base, and the Historic Telegraph Station. Others will head out of Alice Springs to the low mountains called MacDonnell Range. At a stream passing through a gap in the mountains (Simpson's Gap) is a wonderful oasis that attracts wildlife, including the Splendid Fairy-wren. On the scree of the mountain side lurk Black-footed Rock Wallabies, and, above them, soar Wedge-tailed Eagles. Both groups will meet up at Desert Park, an environmental education facility where we learn of plant and animal life in the desert and how the Aboriginal people survive in this bleak environment. (31 mi.).
Day 11: Now we head west to Ayer's Rock, stopping at historic way stations like Stuart's Well, that are an oasis of fuel, food, water, and hospitality. Camp at Ayer's Rock for two nights and view the spectacular orange sunset over Uluru. (273 mi.).
Day 12: We will enjoy a full day to view Uluru, sometimes with a guide to explain its history and importance to Aborigines, but also walking the trails around the huge rock. A short drive away, we will be in view of the red rock mountains of Kata Tjuta National Park. Near dusk, we will watch the famous rock appear to be on fire with the glow of a setting sun. A lifetime experience will be our tickets to the Sounds of Silence dinner and entertainment. Under the stars (with a resident star talker to locate the Southern Cross) we will enjoy a bush tucker inspired buffet that includes native bush ingredients while listening to the sounds of the didgeridoo. (78 mi.)
Day 13: This is our last day of viewing Uluru and scenery of The Outback as we head back to Alice Springs, stopping at a few times at rest stops such as Erlunda Roadhouse. Camp at Alice Springs. (273 mi.).
Day 14: We will return our RV's in the morning and, in the afternoon, fly to Cairns for the start of our Queensland tour.