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Uluru Kata-Tjuta National Park

· National Parks,Australia

Five AM isn't normally my ideal time to wake up, but this is how my Tuesday started. With sleepy eyes, I pulled myself out of our camper van, into chilly weather, and ran to the bathroom for a hot shower.

A little before six we met a tour bus at the front gate of our caravan park for an all day trip to Uluru. We went with the Emu Run company and were in good hands. After a few more stops at other hotels, we hit the road.

Our first stop was Kata-Tjuta, (also called the Olgas) where we were given 45 minutes to walk the Valley of the Winds. The trail goes down the middle two mountains, taking you to the dead end in the middle. You get a great chance to look at the caves and erosion in the sides of the mountain. The trail is fairly easy, with no steep inclines, just uneven rocks.

Next up was the aboriginal culture center. Here you can learn about the tribes in the area, the history of the region, traditions of the people, the animals of the desert (including a documentary on the Mala and work being done to save the species), and bush-tucker (edible foods from nature.) There are also a few shops selling artworks.

Uluru (also known as Ayers Rock) was our final destination. We were given the option to climb it on our own or walk around it as a group, learning more about aboriginal legends and bush-tucker. As the rock is sacred to the aboriginal tribes, they are working on discouraging hikers, and plan to close it permanently when less than 20% of visitors climb it. It's estimated currently 28% still do.

Finally, after an hour and a half of this, we went to the sunset viewing area. Here we were given plenty of champagne to toast and a BBQ dinner as we watched the changing colors of the rock.

After the sun was below the horizon, it was back on the bus to repeat the long journey home. About midnight we were dropped off back at our park. It was one of the longest day trips I've been on, but well worth it!

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