No visit to Australia would be complete without a visit to the might Red Centre, a place I have seen literally thousands upon thousands of photos of while growing up in Australia. After re-supplying in the sizeable city of Alice Springs smack in the middle of the continent, we strike out on a ten day loop through the centre to explore as many famous and remote destinations as possible.
After dropping the GEOLANDAR tires' psi all around I’m not sure what to expect as we make our way into Finke River Gorge. Within ten minutes, however, I know we’re on a good thing.
We wind our way along the rocky gravel riverbed, at times in a deep canyon of bright red rock surrounded by contrasting lush greenery. Over a few days we tackle deep and soft river sand, multiple river crossings, rock ledges and and Australian classic - bull dust. This is bright red dust as fine as talcum powder which billows up and around a vehicle, coating everything within ten yards in red highlights. For the entire time we’re in the gorge we only see two other vehicles, and four dingoes who visit our camp overnight.
At sunrise we explore the mighty Kings Canyon, an enormous rock canyon rising steeply from the flat desert. In nearby Ormiston Gorge we hike in the early morning and are forced to swim through the deep water in the gorge to complete the loop. With our shoes and clothes tied securely in a bag we float down the narrow gorge dwarfed by vertical rock walls towering hundreds of feet above.
In times past Australia’s most famous landmark - the enormous red sandstone rock was known as Ayres Rock, though since it was handed back to the traditional Aboriginal owners it is now known by the original name, Uluru.
Driving towards the iconic rock my jaw literally falls open - despite seeing tens of thousands of photos in my lifetime it’s so much bigger, redder and has more presence than I ever imagined. Climbing the rock is no longer permitted, so we spend hours walking around to see it from every angle, and return for multiple sunrises and sunsets to take it all in. Just after sunrise we see the famous “red flash”, a trick of the setting sun where red rays bend around the earth and brightly light the rock long after the surrounding landscape has gone dark.
To finish our time in the Red Centre we climb aboard a hot air balloon at sunrise, giving breath taking views across the barren desert to the rocky mountains of the West McDonald Ranges.
Next up is the most remote desert crossing I have ever attempted, a crossing I have been planning for many months.