Sunday 16th November 2014
We had such a wonderful evening watching the sunset over Uluru, I decided to set my alarm clock for 5 am and take the opportunity to watch the sunrise. When I woke it was just starting to get light so I set off with camera and tripod in tow to the mound which allows for good views of Ayres Rock and the surrounding Ulura-Kata Tjuta National Park. I wasn’t disappointed and experienced a beautiful sunrise, although the photos I took didn’t do it justice.
What I also got whilst waiting for the sun to rise were mosquito bites, the first of our holiday. And boy did they itch. (Note – I am writing this blog five days later and my arm is still red and itchy). One of the bites on my leg caused swelling and was uncomfortable for a couple of days).
I returned to the hotel room and woke Tina as we’d paid for an early breakfast so we were ready for the pick up for the helicopter trip the I’d pre booked. For our 50th birthdays, Tina and I had been given some Australian dollars by my brother and sister so we agreed we would use the money for something we would both be able to remember on the trip. The last helicopter flight we did was over the Grand Canyon and we both loved it so we thought seeing the rock from the air would be a great idea and very memorable.
The minibus arrived promptly and we were greeted by TJ, who turned out to be the pilot, in what appeared to be a one-man operation. And as we got chatting on our way to the airport we discovered it pretty much was. He did the pick ups, the flying and the commentary, as well as confirm the booking times too. He was expecting another guest to be on our flight but after waiting at her hotel for 10 minutes he decided to abandon waiting and we headed for the airport. It turns out she’d overslept and took a later flight instead.
When we arrived at the airport we went straight to the helicopter, a small four seater and waited whilst TJ did his checks, including siphoning off some fuel, which is apparently a requirement and checking the helicopter over (blades connected, windows intact etc). He did a quick safely briefing before we were strapped in ready for the flight, then started the engine and we were soon off. We had booked 30 minute flight, which gave us time to fly over both Uluru and Kata Tjuta, which is another sacred rock formation close to the main attraction. The helicopter trip didn’t disappoint and we experienced a fantastic view of the rock and the surrounding landscape, with TJ commentary helping us to understand what we were seeing.
After the flight was over we were dropped back off at the hotel where we explored the town of Yulara until it was time for the coach transfer back to the airport for our onward flight to Cairns, the tropical region on the east coast. I’m glad we went to see, what is essentially a great big rock in the desert, but until you do you can’t really appreciate the wonder of it.
We didn’t have long before we were boarding the flight and the hours later we arrived at our destination about an hour before sunset. We were hoping for a quick getaway once we arrived so that we could drive our hire car in daylight, rather than hunt for the hotel in the dark but it wasn’t to be. The luggage came through very quickly but it took ages to get the car and by the time we’d loaded our cases it was dark.
The car was a large Mitsubishi, very comfortable and would do us nicely for the rest of our holiday (the air conditioning was a godsend as it was a little warmer than we’d experienced elsewhere on our travels).
We left the airport, following the instructions given by the Avis Rentals man and headed north on the Captain Cook Highway, towards Palm Cove, which was to be our base for the next five nights. The driving was very straight forward, helped by the fact that the Australian’s drive on the same side of the road as we do and the car was an automatic, so it was just a case of follow the signs until we find out hotel.
Thirty minutes later and we were there; the reception was shut but a note had been left giving us instructions on finding our room, a very spacious apartment of a very high standard finish. I’d chosen this particular hotel as it had the best rating in Trip Adviser, and by first impressions I could see why. We unpacked and found a nice restaurant close by and then headed back to the room after a long day again.