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 Ayer's Rock 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 Ayer's Rock. 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/CD player. Also included are linen, bedding, and kitchen equipment. After picking up our rental RV's we will purchase groceries and head to our campsite near Darwin, a three-night stay.
Day 3: We will visit Howard Springs Nature Center, followed by Darwin's East Point which overlooks the Timor Sea. At the nature center we may spot 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. At East Point, shorebirds gather on the rock shelves and we could see an Eastern Curlew with an amazingly long curved bill, so long you might think it could trip over it while walking. We will stay on 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 sea.
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.
Day 5: South of Darwin is Kakadu National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Park, famous for its landmark Aboriginal rock paintings especially at Ubirr. 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 birding guide, we will spend two days exploring this vast 4.9 million-acre park, visiting the monsoonal forest and billabongs at the end of the dry season. Camp at Kakadu.
Day 6: A second day at Kakadu, we will visit Ubirr and Merl. Camp at Coolinda.
Thousands-year-old Aboriginal painting of extinct Thylacine, often known as Tasmanian Tiger.
Day 7: 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. Wildlife sightings will come so often your camera will not keep up with the opportunities for close-up shots. Our boat cruise will be followed by breakfast. In the afternoon we head to our next campsite at Katherine.
Day 8: Today we penetrate deeper into The Outback, leaving Katherine, passing Larrimah, and reaching Daly Waters. We will camp at the curiously adorned outpost and enjoy dinner at its restaurant. 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.
Day 9: Continuing southward through Northern Territory, we reach strange rock formations called Devils Marbles which glow fiery red at sunset and dawn. In route, we are likely to encounter the incredibly long truck-trains, semi's pulling three lengthy tractor trailers. Camp off Stuart Highway.
Day 10: We will cross the well-marked Tropic of Capricorn just before we reach Alice Springs. The birders in the group we will want to bird a quiet road in the desert where it seems surprising to find any wildlife at all. Yet here we can find flocks of Zebra Finch, as well as Mulga Parrot, Budgerigar (the popular North American cage bird "budgie"), White-plumed Honeyeater, and Crimson Chat. Others in our group will want to continue to Alice Springs to visit the School of the Air and the Royal Flying Doctors Base. Camp at Alice Springs for two nights.
Day 11: Low mountains, called MacDonald Range, rise near Alice Springs. 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. We will also visit 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. Alternatively, some may wish to spend more time exploring downtown Alice Springs or sites such as the Historic Telegraph Station.
Day 12: 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.
Day 13: 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. 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.
Day 14: Back again to Alice Springs, this is our last day of viewing scenery of The Outback. Camp at Alice Springs.
Day 15: We will return our RV's in the morning and, in the afternoon, fly to Cairns for the start of our Queensland tour.