Ayers rock is one of those mystical places, everyone expects their trip there to be epic and it’s fair to say my trip there was epic, an epic fail. This is a lesson in never saying ‘what more could go wrong’ as inevitably it comes round to bite you in the ass.
We’d chosen to go on a guided tour, as it was cheap and we didn’t want the hassle of driving through the desert on our own etc. etc. So here are 14 reasons never ever to utter the words ‘what more could go wrong’. Seriously shhhhh don’t jinx it!
We set off early all excited and ready to go…
1. Within the first hour, we are pulled over by police for a spot check, who tell us we have to change our tyre then and there. So we all piled out of the minibus and spent about 40 min’s trying to change the tyre, but couldn’t budge any of the nuts, so assumed they had been put in with a rattle gun and asked the police if we could drive to the service station and use their rattle gun to change it there, they said that was fine so we set off slightly late but still on track.
2. About 20 min’s later the guide realizes he’s dropped his wallet whilst trying to change the tyre, D’oh!!! We pull over and turn around and then after all that find the wallet under a pile of stuff in the minibus.
3. Another hour down the road we break down, we are in a standard Aussie mini bus, so the engine is inside under the front passenger seats and all of a sudden smoke starts pouring out, I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone move faster than the Taiwanese girl sat in the front seat. But it turns out its just steam, and the radiator cap wasn’t screwed on properly, so we wait for it to cool down, screw the radiator cap on properly…
4. There’s cheering as we set off (again) and its barely stopped as steam starts pouring out again, we pull over again and it turns out that the radiator is just empty… rookie mistake! We fill it up and set off. I think this was the first time someone muttered something along the lines of ‘well at least all out bad luck is getting out of the way in the first two hours’ big mistake!
5. We arrive at the service station and the mechanic is out and they don’t have a rattle gun anyway so after some um-ing and ah-ing we decided to continue on and risk it with the police.
6.After about 20 min’s we came to a road closure, a forest fire had got out of control so they had to close off the road, There’s only 1 road out in the outback which goes between Alice springs and Ayers rock and Kings Canyon, So we were stuck, we set up camp in a nearby campsite and hoped the road would be open early the next morning.
7. We got up at 4am packed everything away and set off, only to find that the road was still closed and there was no one about who knew how long it would be closed for. We waited around for a couple of hours and in the end we got bored and headed back in the same direction we came from to do a short walk to pass the time.
8. After the walk we were half hoping the road would be open and we’d be able to drive straight through, no such luck.
9. We wait around a few more hours, only to be told the road will be remaining closed for the rest of the day, most likely the rest of the week. At this point we’ve not even seen Ayers rock and we’re likely to miss our flights if we can’t get back, not a happy bunch!So we find out that there is a dirt track which curves around back to Alice springs where we started, extremely frustrating as we are only about 2 hours from Ayres rock but the fire is in between us and the rock and the only other way round is the dirt track.
10. So were told this is our only option, never mind the fact that were going to drive an extra 400K on a dirt track in a mini bus with no 4×4, with a dodgy tyre and dodgy radiator. Driving on the dirt track in a hurry with no 4×4 was brutal, it was extremely bumpy and the noise was deafening.
11. About 200K along the dirt track, we hit a bump and one of the mini bus windows falls out and smashes as we are going along, so we clear it up off the road and keep driving (with lots more ventilation).
12. We finally get off the dirt track and pull up at a service station to change the tyre, except they don’t have a rattle gun either, so some nice truckie get outs to help us and kindly informs us that we don’t need a rattle gun, it’s just that we are trying to turn the nuts the wrong way (no wonder we couldn’t get them undone) and that the whole righty tighty lefty losey, doesn’t apply to Aussie buses sometimes.We finally arrive back in Alice Springs, back on Tarmac, back where we started! Now we just have to drive back down the same stretch of road towards Ayres rock, towards the fire. Bearing in mind this is the journey which took us 8 hours yesterday and we are leaving at 5pm today. We make a quick pit stop to refuel and find some cardboard and duct tape to seal up the window. And we get off (again).
13. Driving at night in Australia is a bit like driving down an assault course of kangaroos who seem hell bent on getting hit. As a result after several near misses we eventually hit one, but when we go to find it and make sure it’s dead its nowhere to be seen… super kangaroo!We arrive at camp at 1 am, having missed a full day of our tour being stuck in a mini bus and having missed the sunset; we all bunk down sharpish and get up at 5am the next morning to watch the sunrise. It is pretty cool at sunrise and after we walk the entire way around the base of the rock and get some token photos!
14. The last and final let down is the stop at the camel farm on the way home, which we had pre booked and paid for, but as we were running so late it was closed when we got there!
This is the route we were supposed to take: Google Maps est travel 797 km, 13 hours
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This was the route we took: Google maps est travel 20 hours 10 mins
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The most annoying thing is that if the police hadn’t stopped us or if we’d turned the nuts the other way we would have avoided all the hassle and got through the road before it was closed by the fire! Never the less, it’s a hell of a story! And I definitely have more than the standard package memories of my trip to Ayers Rock!