Kata TjutaWalpa Pit Stop Tour

The very last tour for the Uluru trip, was a fairly easy afternoon walk at Kata Tjuta. Our friendly driver Adam collected us from the hotel and provided us with an informative commentary during our 45 min drive each way. Adam had worked out here for ten years so he was a fountain of knowledge.

The tour was small, not on a huge coach, so quite personalised. Adam stopped along the way at a lookout which was a short walk up, to have a fabulous view of Kata Tjuta. We were warned of the flies, and he wasn’t wrong! We had fought flies all week and become somewhat used to them, but, this was literally like the breeding ground for all flies, well it seemed that way anyway. But the view sure made up for it. Adam was right, this was worth perfecting the Australian ‘wave’ for.

Back on the bus, it was short drive out to the Olga’s themselves. Along the way we passed the longest shortcut in Australia. This road is 2800 kilometres if you traverse the entire Outback Way, which takes you from Winton Queensland to Laverton Western Australia. 1600 kilometres is dirt road and there is up to 300 kilometres between food, fuel and sleep stops. quite mind blowing facts and a trip you would need to be very well prepared for. Don’t turn down there by accident, you might be there a while!Kata Tjuta means many heads. There are 36 domes which make up this intriguing area, cover around 21 kms squared. The highest of the domes is Mt Olga, 1066 metres above sea level or towering around 546 metres above the desert plains, was so named by Ernest Giles in 1872, to honour Queen Olga of Württemberg.

The Armadus Basin Kata Tjuta lies in, was formed around 850 million years ago. Both Uluru and Kata Tjuta are formed with sediment originating from what is know as the Mount Currie Conglomerate, which consists of granite, amongst other sediments, with patina being the compound giving the orange-red hue Uluru and Kata Tjuta are known for.Many Pitjantjatjara ‘Dreamtime’ legends are associated with Kata Tjuta. The stories are fascinating, with a sacred area set aside over generations for ‘men’s business’. Legend foretells, women who become privy to the ‘men’s business area’ are open to violent attacks or even death. The Anangu people believe those dome formations are home to the “dreaming”s spirit energy. In 1995 they again began using the sacred site for cultural ceremonies.After completing Kings Canyon, this walk was really quite easy to traverse with marked tracks and easily walked bridges. Highly recommend you wear good solid footwear though, there are loose rocks and rocky steps to negotiate in places.You cannot help but be completely mesmerised by the sheer size of these domes, as you negotiate your way through the Walpa Gorge. Listen for the wind though, it whistles as you make you way through the canyon. Take some time to breathe in how incredible nature is, if you dont stop and enjoy along the way, you will miss the moments.

The entire Tour from pick up to drop off, isn’t more than about 2.5-3 hours, including around 1.5 hours drive time. For an autumn/winter afternoon walk, I’d recommend walking out here, its easy enough to be pleasant, yet with a little challenge and the added bonus of a great little spot at the top of the gorge, harbouring native plants and a grove of Spearwood trees.Spearwood trees are an evergreen shrub, growing to around 2-6 metres, with some yellow globular blossom forming in spring. They were not blooming today, but still, it is worth the walk. Remember to respect the Anangu people and do not cross into areas you are specifically requested not too.The trip back down is fairly easy, a few steps but just follow that marked path down the gorge, stopping along the way to take some photos and listen for the whistling wind. It is quite interesting. Especially when there was no wind at the bottom, yet throughout the walk, you really become attuned to nature, with the addition of that whistling wind.

After a short stop at Australia’s, most expensive long drop toilet, (oh yes you need to see this and hear the story, it is quite entertaining), it didn’t take long to be dropped back at the hotel. I’m not giving away all the secrets, head out to Kata Tjuta and find out for yourself, probably not one for the heat, but we had a pretty good time of year and wasn’t too hot.Check Dine Live Travel on Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram as well as our other platforms for more information and photos. Thank you for following this blog and really do hope you have enjoyed this Uluru series. Some exciting things coming in the next week or so, keep an eye out!

Uluru – Day Four, Desert Awakenings Tour

Lets hope you’re not feeling a little dusty after indulging in that spectacular dinner last night! Our last full day began early, pre sunrise, as we were collected from our hotel by the engaging Jo, and transported to a sand dune out past the airport. Here, hot drinks and warm damper awaited us as we were about to witness the magic of an outback sunrise. Next, we would be heading into the National Park to the base of Uluru itself. Later today would see us venturing out to Kata Tjuta on an afternoon tour.

The biting desert cold night air which we had briefly tasted ducking from the warmth of our hotel into Jo’s All Terrain vehicle, now enveloped us as we reluctantly left the bus and trudged up the sand dune. The only noise in this expanse was the low murmmuring of voices which were occasionally raised to emphaise how cold each person felt.

We were only a small group, and the walk up the dune was not far. But, that little bit of elevation was going to give us a stunning, uninterrupted view of the sunrise, Uluru and Kata Tjuta.At the top of the dune, Jo gleefully greeted our breakfast cook who had an array of food including warm damper, pastries, fruit and hot water urns, filled with boiling water, ready to warm our chilled innards with a choice of hot beverages.

After loading up with warming drinks, everyone surrounded the gas heaters, trying desperately to breathe heat into numbingly cold bodies.

Its about now you regret being a photographer. Wistfully watching everyone else with one hand hugging a warm cup, the other either tucked deeply into a pocket or held out like a peace offering in front of a gas heater, I tried to encourage my unwilling fingers to operate the camera. It will be worth the effort of taking these photos I told myself. Ignore the cold, just do it.

The sunrise was simply magical. Soon forgetting the cold, you could not help but be mesmerised with the scene unfolding in front of you. Darkness was being tinged with the first rays of light out on the horizon, whilst Jo mingled with her charges, getting to know them and helping with breakfast.

With a gentle ease, the sun slid above the horizon, turning darkness to light as we thanked our chef and headed back to the vehicle for the trip to the base of Uluru.

First stopping at the park gates for clearance, we then drove on to National Park Land, home to the Anangu people. Don’t forget to organise your Park pass prior to arriving, it will cost a mere $25 for the few days you are here and the pass can be loaded on your mobile device for easy access.

The imposing rock grew bigger as we advanced down the road. Finally, we were going to get to witness this monolith up close.

Now Jo is one of the most engaging and heartfelt story tellers I have ever come across. Driving through the park she related stories of Anangu people and their beliefs. Listening as she told us of the history behind certain marks on the rock, you just could not help but be spellbound.

Eventually we arrived at the carpark at the base of the Uluru walk. The Anangu people ask that you respect their wishes and not climb the rock, however, it is open for walking until 26 October 2019 when it will permanently close. There have been many deaths resulting from attempts to climb the rock, dont allow yourself to become a statistical memory.

We had no intention of disrespecting the wishes of the community, therefore we did not climb, not even a short way. There were however a surprising large number of people clambering up the rock. Remember I mentioned the chain that Peter, the Curtin Springs station owner had installed many years ago? Well that is it snaking its way up Uluru. This is the chain Peter and four young men installed over the course of 8 weeks.

Wandering down the side path, I read the story laid out on the posts along the path about the Mala and Wintalka people, and the fight which resulted in a huge devil dog, Kurpany being sent to destroy the Mala peoples Ima (ceremony). Each story has a lesson to be learned. This one was to teach us that it is important to finish what you start and that you should watch and listen to warnings of danger. Rock formations are simply fascinating, and as we drove around to the other side of Uluru Jo told more stories of how these formations or holes in the rock occurred.

Around the back of the rock, every person in our group, including at one point a couple of cyclists who were passing through, were intently listening to every animated word. I was completely blown away not only by Jo’s knowledge, but the heartfelt way she delivered these stories, giving them every respect deserved.

We walked the path down into a little oasis of sand and water, tucked in amongst the sandstone rock forming Uluru. This peaceful area was heavy with spiritual presence from generations of the local community. A cave close by, had sheltered these generations in the past, and the drawings were still there from thousands of years ago.More photos on the facebook page and some on instagram. Simply amazing to see these still clearly showing on the rock face.The Cave wasn’t fully enclosed and one can only begin to imagine how difficult it would be living in these tough conditions, given our softer lifestyle now.

Our last stop was the Cultural Centre. You need to stop and wander through here, give yourself some time to do so and really soak it all in. Start from around the back and stroll through the tunnel which is cleverly put together, depicting community life over the years. There’s no photography allowed in here, so unfortunately I can not show how amazing this place is. But perhaps thats best left for you to find out yourselves.

Thank you to the Anangu people for allowing us access to this world heritage area. Your generosity in doing so is greatly appreciated. Remembering the words of Bob Randall, one of the traditional owners who has now passed, “We don’t own the land, the land owns us”.

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Uluru – Day Three ends with A Night at Field of Light

Day three at Uluru had begun with the Helicopter Tour. We then filled in the day by browsing the town centre shops for souvenirs, walking around the resort and taking in some of the awesome free activities. One of which was the incredible Mani Mani Theatre. You cannot take photos or video in the theatre, however we were completely blown away with the sheer brilliance of the story telling and interpretive dance. If you don’t stop in to see this you really are missing an incredible experience.

Our more relaxed, somewhat less strenuous day, was going to end with A Night at the Field of Light. This experience combines the popular Sounds of Silence dinner with British artist Bruce Monroe’s 50 000 light display, making for a totally unique and simply awesome evening.

Collected from our hotel, the AAT Kings coach took us to a secluded sand dune area, not far from the resort, tucked away behind the camel farm. After disembarking from the coach,you head up the sand dune to be met with trays of bubbly and smiling welcoming staff. Ok, you have my attention now, this is looking pretty good!!Glass in hand, mingle with your fellow tour participants, as the sun beings to drop down below the horizon for the night. Your backdrop is Uluru, which changes colour as often as the light reflections do.Raise a toast to the rock as you witness an almost silent sunset. The only noise out here, are the soft murmur of voices, a light clinking of glasses, punctuated only with the clicking of cameras and burst of laughter. Quietness envelopes you, very different from city life where noise is a constant reminder of life moving on.Trays of canapés are offered to all. Smoked kangaroo, crocodile, poached prawns, rosella and caramelised sweet potato are on offer to tempt your tastebuds. As the sun begins to disappear on the horizon, participants move location, with a short walk down to the area set up for your 5 star dinner.

A brilliant red carpet moves beneath your feet. Your ceiling this evening will be an incredible array of night stars. Gas heaters dotted throughout the white linen covered tables, will help to keep you warm. That group of strangers you are being seated with, will be your interesting companions for the evening.

Darkness falls as tables are filled and relaxed diners greet their fellow table companions. Staff check with each diner to ensure their choice of drink is catered for throughout the evening. Warming tomato and thyme soup is then served to the tables. Enjoy your entree, its a nice way to warm the insides as the temperature drops.

Each table is soon asked to head to the buffet, where you help yourself to a wide selection of food. On the menu tonight you have kangaroo, lamb, barramundi, chicken, vegetables and salad. Menu items are clearly named so pick your choice, head back to the table and savour those bush tucker flavours mixed with your choices. The beautiful sounds of the didgeridoo provide a soothing background to the laughter and chatter.

Finish your dinner with a variety of delicious sweets. By now you are full, cannot eat another thing. The flowing alcohol has relaxed everyone with friendships forged and stories shared.Beneath your sand dune, the field of lights below has sprung into life, with colours becoming more prominent through the evening.

After dinner, as all the man made light is extinguished, the incredible canopy of stars above your head comes to life. An onsite astronomer runs you through the constellations and planets twinkling peacefully above. As the laser points out specific areas, you are completely in awe of canopy of diamonds. With no man made light to interrupt, the sky above is absolutely exquisite. Never will you see something as brilliant as this from a brightly lit city.Tonights interesting astronomy lesson draws to close, patrons have utilised the best long drops you will ever see in your life, and before you know it, the time arrives to wander through the field of lights.

Glasses are left behind, staff begin to clear the tables as you all take your cameras to immerse yourself in this incredible display.The brainchild of British artist Bruce Monroe, this immersive coloured light experience covers 49000 square meters. 40 people took six weeks to plant the different coloured solar powered stems. Wander through the snaking paths. There’s a long or a short route. I chose the short route, only to give myself more time to stop and take photos.

You really cannot describe the feeling as you wander through the baubles of light. It is immersive, it is soul restoring.

As patrons emerge from the other side of the field, your waiting coaches display their resort destinations. Choose the coach you need and before long, you are safely back at your accommodation.

Another perfect end to a perfect day. It’s an early start tomorrow, with a Desert Awakenings tour starting the day, before a wander through Kata Tjuta.

Sleep easy, dreaming of sparkling stars and lights. Tomorrow is the last full day at this amazing outback destination.Remember to check all the other Dine Live Travel Platforms, including instagram, facebook, Pinterest and twitter. Photos, or coffee table albums are available upon request. Perhaps you may prefer to utilise our new itinerary service. Sweet dreams!

Uluru – Ayers Rock Helicopters Tour

After the massive day traversing Kings Canyon, we slept well, enjoyed a nice breakfast at Geckkos in the the town centre, and were then collected from our hotel for the Helicopter tour.Now, when you book this tour they do ask for approximate weights of each passenger. However, on the day you are also asked to stand on the scales prior to boarding the bus, holding everything you are taking on the flight. So be warned, make that weight as accurate as possible! The weights are then calculated by the pickup driver to work out where you will sit in chopper to ensure even weight distribution. Yes and its right about now, all that tasty outback damper and tucker you’ve been enjoying, comes back to haunt to you!

A quick trip out to the back of the airport, coupled with a safety brief and you are waiting in the van for the helicopter to return from its previous flight.

As the helicopter returns, hovers low to the ground, before landing for the previous passengers to disembark, the trepidation is building. Did I mention I’m somewhat terrified of heights and helicopters too? Yes Ive been in them before but, still a somewhat nervous passenger.

Our friendly driver takes photos for the previous group, refuels the helicopter and calls us over for our ride. Those blades aren’t stopping anytime soon, whirling happily waiting to lift the chopper of the ground again.

Five passengers per ride, 4 in the back and one in the front with the pilot, and its pretty cramped. Theres really not a lot of room to move, however before too long I’m happy to be in one of the middle seats, its a pretty awesome view straight in front and not as confronting as being next to a window. Shaking hands made it hard to connect the seatbelt but staff are more than willing to assist. Add the headphones to your attire, have the camera at the ready, and it was time for take off.

We had chosen the 30 minute flight which took us out by Uluru itself as well as Kata Tjuta. As we hadn’t been to either as yet, (those tours were tomorrow), this tour was a very interesting and great way to get the lay of the land.

All the time during the flight, our very relaxed pilot, explained the land formations for us as well as general history. Yankunytjatjara and Pitjantjatjara people are the traditional landowners and guardians,who have inhabited this area for 10 000 years. The Anangu people belong to the oldest culture known to man dating back 60,000 years. They believe that this landscape was created when time began during the travels of great ancestral beings, and their culture has always existed in Central Australia. Uluru and Kata Tjuta are used for traditional ceremonies and rites of passage and are said to both provide physical evidence of these ancient events. Their cultural awareness of the land around them is incredibly fascinating. Uluru is the aboriginal name which has been generally adopted since the government handover on 26 October 1985. Prior to this Uluru was knows as Ayers Rock.

After leaving the airport, we headed across the resort to towards Uluru itself. As we drew closer, you could see what an incredibly imposing sight this monolith was the air. Our pilot ensured everyone could see each angle, by manoeuvring the whirly bird around and changing side views so we all had the opportunity to take photos.

At every angle the view changed, showing the many varying parts of this incredible multi million year old monolith.

We would learn there are areas of the rock which are very sacred, all which are to be respected. Although at this time you could still climb this rock, on 26 October 2019, no one will be permitted to climb anymore and this inland iceberg will be permanently closed to climbers.The faint grey trail you can see heading up Uluru on the first outcrop in the middle of this photo, is the chain railing which was installed by Peter Severin of Curtin Springs Station so people could climb the rock. Peter was asked to install this at knee height which he did, to his knees, but unfortunately, no one allowed for the fact Peter is not that tall, hence the chain is quite low to the ground!

Leaving the rock behind for now we headed towards Kata Tjuta, or Mt Olga as the tallest peak is known. A mass of different large, domed rock formations or Bernhardt shapes and structures, Kata Tjuta also makes an imposing presence on the flat landscape. The pastel canvas rolls across the vast area before meeting the random formation collection.Red sand dominates from up here, with long, mainly straight roads heading into the distance. This one below us is closed to the public and accessible only by the local community men as it leads to a very sacred area where the boys are taken for their initiation into manhood. The area is so sacred, females of the local community will not look, or shield the view with their hands if they are travelling past at anytime.As we fly alongside Kata Tjuta, the randomness of these formations becomes very apparent.There is one point behind the mass, where you can see the three in a row. Away in the very background, right on the horizon you can just make out Mt Connor, in the middle is Uluru and right in front of us, Kata Tjuta. They actually all line up in a straight line which is somewhat fascinating in itself.

Here too, the colours change with the light. From bright oranges to moody greeny greys, the colours you see are quite intriguing.

After being wowed by this mass of rock peaks, we begin our return to the airport. Our pilot points out the way to Darwin and Perth, and showing us the salt lakes in the distance. This area was many years ago an inland sea. Before long, the coral reef which still remains, is just below us, stretching for kilometres across the landscape.

From up here the reefs are actually very obvious, quite incredible to think this entire area was fully covered by seawater. Hence the salt lakes which contain the salt left behind after the water evaporated.Oh theres the airport, relief! The ride has been very smooth, not really any bumps and sudden drops, luckily!Our driver is waiting, with the next group safely encased inside the van, as we commence that really long, slow hover just above the ground, before finally chopper gently meets tarmac and we are back on firm land again.

Our turn now for the photos in front of chopper, time to reel off a few more shots then its back to hotel, for a welcome wine to celebrate our survival! In all seriousness though, staff were nothing less than efficient, helpful and friendly. Thank you Ayers Rock Helicopters, we really enjoyed our memory creating experience!More photos from Dine Live Travel on Instagram, facebook, Pinterest and Twitter. Feel free to comment or contact dinelivetravel@yahoo.com.au if we can assist you in any way. Hope you enjoyed your ride!

Kings Canyon Rim Walk Tour – Part Two, It’s a big day!

With full bellies and all on the tour now wide awake, we left Kings Creek Station at about 8:15am. By 9am we would be climbing the iconic Kings Canyon, following the Rim Walk trail.Located around halfway between Alice Springs and Uluru, you are now truely in the heart of Australia’s Red Centre. Made up of layers of sandstone intercepted with hard shale, rising 270 metres above sea level, with areas plummeting down to the surprisingly lush Garden of Eden. This 400 million year old natural wonder, is a place of great significance to the original land owners, the Karrke local indigenous community. The Karrke people welcome you to respectfully climb, touch and explore, always keeping in mind the history and natural environment. Their only request being, do not swim in or touch the waters. Always be sure to respect the local communities wishes, these places are sacred to them and to allow tourists to visit something we might not otherwise get to see or experience is most generous.

Our bus dropped us in the car park next to the Canyon. It didn’t look too bad from the car park……! Here again though we were warned it was to be a strenuous walk for the next three or so hours, in particular the 500 steps up to the top. Some of the tour chose to stay on the bus and do the easier walk at the base of the Canyon, but the rest, we chose to complete the challenge.

Mitch gave us all a safety brief at the bottom, warning of the dangers, making sure everyone understood as well as emphasising these were the last amenities for the next three hours, so use them! But, most importantly, explaining how the emergency stations worked, and drumming home for us all to remember to take note of where the last station was as we traversed this natural wonder. Ok this is getting real now.

Before commencing the ascent, Mitch mentioned how he’d only seen one snake on the steps before today. Oh great, only one, I’m pretty sure that one will also have a family up there. Now, not only are we balancing cameras, climbing what looks to be a very steep 500 stone steps, keeping up with the group and still checking the view, we also had to watch for slithering wildlife. Ok, lets do this.

Yes, there are people climbing those steps. Look very small doesn’t they. This perspective gives you some idea of how steep the steps are. For those considering doing this, I’ll give you some insight as to how I worked up to this. Eighteen months ago I would not have even attempted this as I was on the surgeons list for two hips surgeries. However, in that time, I had not only built up my fitness, I had worked through the pain & challenges involved with a year of physio, followed by six months of PT sessions, to the point I could now complete 1000 steps on gym stepper in 10 minutes. The only difference being, the stepper was even and symmetrical. What for me was the most challenging about going up? Not the steepness or the number of steps, it was various heights and natural rock formations which proved challenging. My length of stride was still shortened, but at least I had fitness on my side.

Stopping along the way to look down and see how far we climbed, as well as snap some shots, I was by now, one of the stragglers at the back, letting those with the long easier strides, bounce ahead. In fact this was to be case throughout the walk with myself and a very highly entertaining 68 year old lady named Helen, who was also a photographer, as we kept up a the rear all morning. Mostly because we saw so many incredible photo opportunities, and as any photographer knows, you just have to stop and capture those shots.

After making those final steps which were high ones, we gathered at the top, slowed the heart rates, took those once in a lifetime photo memories, then continued along the top of canyon. Everything I had read, everyone we had spoken to, said that once you get to the top its flat. Actually its not. In fact, traversing the top is still a matter of watching your stepping, with some easier rounded walking areas, but still plenty of steps and clambering.

Before too long we were at the infamous Priscilla’s Crack (top photo above), named so, after being used as a setting in the movie, Pricilla, Queen of the Desert. Once you climb through the crack, you come across what looks like a natural amphitheatre, complete with stone layered seating. Soon you reach the edge of the Canyon again. From here, you start to slowly drop down.

The downward spiral brings you to a well built set of man made steps leading down into the lush Garden of Eden below. Remember to respect the wishes of Karrka people and refrain from touching the water.

The landscape changes constantly up here. One moment you are surrounded by the centuries old sandstone and shale, the next you are peering out across massive plunging chasms, marvelling at the sheer height and size of this incredible canyon. Rocks balance is what looks to be precarious positions, but somehow they stay there.

The photo above is simply for size perspective, yes that is a person across the other side. The walk back up from the Garden puts you on the opposite side of the canyon to were you started. It was a stark reminder of the dangers around the area, to see park benches named in memory of those who have lost their lives plunging from the edge. This is sandstone, not solid rock, and it can decide to fall away at any time. The photo below shows one of the Canyon faces where a massive sandstone area, completely fell off and collapsed into the chasm below.No matter how tempting it is to stand on the edge for the perfect selfie, dont do it. A park bench in your memory will not be the same as having you around in everyone’s lives. They’re called a zoom lens for a reason, use it.

We continued on around the rim before beginning the descent down. Now, the descent is not a straight steep descent like you walked up originally. It is a lot more gradual, but, the steps again are differing heights, with no hand rails to cling to. I was certainly most grateful to the helpful tour guides and participants who offered their steadying arms on the more difficult areas.

The difference at every turn is just mind blowing. You really cannot describe how impressive this part of our earth is. To have completed this walk in around 3 hours is an achievement, and we were rewarded with a short 30km drive to the Kings Canyon Resort here we could purchase lunch and a chilled beverage to celebrate our achievement at The Thirsty Dingo Bar.After resting and replenishing ourselves, it was time to board the coach and head back to Uluru. This was an interesting drive, as the journey down had been in complete darkness, now, we could see the landscape rolling out ahead. Mitch & Tachie both gave us some history and local information as we continued on up the road.There were to be some interesting stops on the way. The first was Australia’s most remote bus stop. Here at 3:15pm every day, 3 buses meet to swap passengers who are heading in another direction. The stop is located on Angas Downs station. This station was overgrazed with around 14000 head of cattle more than it could sustain. Remembering what I said in the first article about 4 cattle per 250 acres, thats a lot of overgrazing on this 320 500 hectare, roughly 1 million acre station. Still a baby station by Australian standards. Because of the overgrazing, it was handed back to the indigenous people, the Anangu, who are trying to turn the station around. An issue like that out here though, takes years to correct.

As you pass through, the flat topped, horseshoe shaped, Mt Conner comes into sight. This is the one commonly know as Fooluru as many people mistake it for Uluru. This inselberg is 400 million years older than Uluru, coming in at a whopping 750 million years old. We stopped to climb the sand dune off the highway, and view the one million year old Lake Amadeus, which is a 180km long salt lake covering 1032 square kilometres. In 1872 this expanse prevented Ernest Giles from discovering Ayers Rock and Kata Tjuta as the weight of his horses was not supported by the dry glistening white lake bed. There is reportedly around 600 million tonnes of dried salt on this lake, after the inland sea water evaporated..Our last stop on this epic day trip, was Curtin Springs Station. It took 9 years to drive the 1400 head of cattle from South Australia to the more than million acres settled as Curtin Springs in 1943, by John Curtin. In 1956 Peter Severin, his wife Dawn took over the lease, and over the first year, they and their young son, only received six visitors. Proving just how remote this area is.

Over the years this has been built up to accomodate tourists with a restaurant, shop a controversial liquor licence and camping facilities. Mitch stopped to have a chat to Peter Severin while we admired his baby red kangaroo. Make sure you stop and have a chat to the emu Mongrel, the previous emu Bastard is now deceased so Mongrel now reigns as head emu. Bird aviaries abound too, theres plenty to see here!

We are now a mere 100kms from Ayers Rock Resort. During the final part of our homeward journey, Mitch takes the time to sit next to each of the tour participants and have a chat to find out what you thought of the day. Nice personal touch Mitch!

Our wearied bodies head back to our rooms for some rest and relaxation After we reached the resort by 5:30pm. Time to unwind and stretch the muscles before another adventure packed day begins. On the return home, Mitch did mention we would be lucky tonight as there were enough clouds around to make for an incredible sunset. He was right! And wine in hand, we drank in the pure beauty and quiet surrounding us. Perfect end to an incredible day. Thank you must go to Mitch & Tachie who were awesome. Also to our patient and friendly driver Ivor. Mitch & Tachie if you read this or, if you know them, I’d be more than happy to pass on copies of other photos of you guys, just leave a message below or contact me via message on Instagram, facebook or dinelivetravel@yahoo.com.au.

More photos are available on facebook, instagram and Pinterest.

Thank you for your interest in this series. That’s the biggest day out of the way! Next up will be the helicopter tour.

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Kings Canyon Rim Walk tour, Part One – On the road to Kings

AAT kings tour, Ayers Rock Resort to Kings Canyon, is big day out. That’s why Im breaking this article into two, otherwise we just cannot do it justice.With chilly night air carpeting the outback, we left the warmth of our hotel and comfortable beds for the trip to Kings Canyon, which started from the hotel at 4:30am. During the planning for the whole trip, we knew this was going to be the biggest day and it did not disappoint.

Ivor was our driver today, whilst Mitch & Tachi were our guides. Our safety brief for the coach included wearing seatbelts, as we were going to be travelling through the outback where the chances of wild animals darting out onto the road in front of the bus, was a definite possibility.

The best part of the coach ride, we were not crammed onto this big coach like sardines. There was plenty of room to spread out, and before long, most passengers had drifted back off to sleep. After all, within about 15 minutes of leaving the resort, we were now completely out of all services, no phone or internet for the rest of today. Fantastic!Ivor carefully guided the comfortable coach along the deserted outback highway. Mitch added the extra set of eyes for wildlife spotting. Yes certainly seemed like we were in good hands, so oh well, yawn and catch a few zz’s for most. Not for me, I find it very difficult to doze when travelling, but was happy to chill and watch the road ahead.

As light started to filter onto the horizon, passengers stirred, some watching the incredible hues of sunrise light up the outback sky. For the past few hours, we had only had a couple of vehicles heading in the opposite direction or the bumps as we crossed cattle barriers between stations. Other than that there had been a whole lot of nothing. The odd cattle beast or wild brumby came into view on the roads edge as light broke, watching whilst we nosed our way carefully past.

Mitch began to share a few things with us, encouraging people to wake up and start to stretch in anticipation of the station breakfast we were about to consume, all located within around 3 hours drive from the resort.Kings Creek Station is a working cattle & camel station, settled in 1982 by Ian & Lyn Conway. Ian is the grandson of an early indigenous pioneer, whilst Lyn was born in Adelaide. They met in Alice Springs. The station is around 1800 square kilometres, 1700 of which are Crown land, the remaining 110 square is freehold. In the vastness of Australia’s outback, this working station is considered to be a mere hobby farm. Out here, 250 acres is required to maintain 4 head of cattle. That’s a lot of land for not much return.

Not only have they set up this station, Ian & Lyn have poured a lot of their time into providing educational opportunities for Cultural Aboriginal children from this remote outback area. You have to admire people who give back to others.

Over the years, the station has evolved from a working cattle station to becoming the largest exporter of wild camels in Australia, as well as tapping into the lucrative tourism market.

Ian & Lyn have built this station, including the homestead, cafe and the now camping area, all from the ground up. When they came out here there was nothing. One cannot begin to imagine the hardships faced over the years struggling to turn this vast area into a business and family home.Often, Ian will come down and join the tour visitors for breakfast, but unfortunately on this occasion he was not at home. I love to not only delve into the history of how things came to be, but to speak with those who were involved. What you can learn is infinite, knowledge is an incredible part of our life.Leo is the part dingo dog who might be hanging around the breakfast station whilst you visit. He’s allowed your scraps but only if he sits and shakes. Leo didn’t see that as a problem and was most happy to oblige. Unfortunately for Leo, this hearty breakfast was exactly what I needed to start a day which had some physical challenges ahead. Sorry Leo, you missed out on mine!

Charlie on the other hand is the white cockatoo who has his residence on tree branch outside the cafe. Charlie is a little more dismissive, choosing to pose or interact only if it suits him. He’ll let you know if he’s had enough, either turning his back or chewing at the shade cloth whilst always keeping one knowing eye on what you are doing. To me it would have been an absolute treat to spend a few days on this station. But thats not what today was about, and by 7:15am we had vacated this oasis on our way to traverse Kings Canyon, located around 36kms away. I’d love to come back to this area and really delve into the workings, its hard to do something like this justice when you’re just passing through.

As I said, not far to Kings and by 9am we were making our way up the stony climb, onward and upward!

Thank you to all the staff at the station, you were happy to chat, filled our bellies with a good hearty breakfast, and provided an area for some welcome stretches prior to the rest of our day.

If you have the opportunity to visit this station, don’t pass it by. They have a lot of activities as well as accommodation choices available. Immerse yourself in the outback by learning what life is really like here. Hopefully one day, the opportunity will present itself for us to return.

Dine Live Travel is now offering an itinerary service. If you would like some insider information on the places we have visited, then contact dinelivetravel@yahoo.com.au or via Facebook, Instagram or Pinterest. You can leave a comment here on the website too.

Or if you’ve ever wanted a nice photo book for you coffee table, these can be put together on any of areas visited, using my photos. Canvas photos also available.

Uluru. Camel Ride to Sunset, the end of Day 1

We had an exciting first day, with everything new as we explored our temporary surroundings. There are some viewing areas set up on the raised sand dunes around the resort. From here you can watch the sun rise or set, whilst enjoying the changing canvas spread out before you. In one direction you have the imposing Uluru itself. In another, the interesting formations of Kata Tjuta dominate the horizon.Fantastic viewing from so close to your accommodation, with all the platforms an easy 5-10 minute stroll from the ring road, this one right opposite our accommodation.

But, this is our first fun filled day here. It’s been exciting, its been very long with an early start to catch that first flight, so how are we going to finish today? With a Camel Ride to Sunset. And this is one of those all inclusive tours with warm beer damper, bush foods, beer and wine provided at the end of the ride. Exciting!

By 4:15pm we were out the front of our hotel waiting for the 4:20 bus pickup which would take us to the Camel farm. In no time we had boarded the mini bus with the friendly Bella, who also turned out to be one of our helpful cameleers for the evening.

The Camel farm is located just off the resort ring road, an easy 5-10 minute drive. With anticipation mounting, we disembarked the bus and went through the shop front to check out our transport and sunset viewing platform for tonight.Well thats encouraging, not only does the camel look to be smiling slightly, he looks very placid. Or does this mean a bit of cat nap makes for a lively camel?? Hmm…

Our helpful cameleers, provided the safety information required, before dividing the group into the number of camels waiting patiently for their rider/s. Either two per camel, or one who sits the back seat of the saddle, not the front. Seated quietly in their two rows, the camels showed little interest as this new group approached. The cameleers were fantastic help and very encouraging, assisting everyone to mount their ride correctly. Starting at the back of the line, the last camel’s riders mounted first, with their camel standing up when instructed. This continued on down the line, until the cameleer took the lead camel. In our case, it was the friendly Bella who would lead us on tonight’s adventure.

Oh and did I mention, of course we were on the back camel and the first to mount. Positive side I guess, you do get to spend more time on your ride. Ours was Darcy, who’s name we changed to Mr Darcy, for the duration of the ride, purely out of respect of course. Tonight I was the back rider, with one in front, oh well there went those shots down through the camels ears I’d been hoping for, but that was ok, I could see it was going to be even more of a challenge, taking manual photos from this position, and still holding on. Challenge accepted.

Meandering our way across the farm, we had the informative Chloe walking alongside our camel caravan, answering questions as we slowly became accustomed to the odd movement underneath where one side moves, then the other. If you’re a horse rider, its not going to make any difference, these guys are in a world of their own.

They are fascinating creatures, as I’d discovered previously this year with an instameet at Summerland Camel Farm, near Brisbane. There’s an estimated 600 000 to one million of these guys running wild in the expanse of the Australian Outback. And yet, for the travelling we did in this area, we never saw one wild camel., and these are not small animals. That’s how big it is out here. Mind blowingly big, something I will probably keep reminding you of, as it really is incredible to experience this area of the world.

The sand dunes we were headed to, were directly behind the farm, not far, it just takes a while as the camels were certainly in no hurry to go anywhere. Mr Darcy was more than happy to lag along behind and seemed slightly peeved if he had to speed up at all to catch up with the line ahead. I think Smarty, just in front of us, was purposely throwing in some longer strides just to annoy the more relaxed Darcy.

Stopping for photos with Uluru in the background, you then head around the sand dune to come out atop the other side, in time to see the sun as it begins to lower over Kata Tjuta, directly in front. On your left is Uluru, which changes colour as the sun drops.As you sit atop your personal viewing platform, which moves occasionally as the odd camel fidgets or changes position, causing a domino effect to the back of the line, you cannot help but be mesmerised by the beautiful scene playing out in front, but also the silence. No noisy traffic highways out here. The silence is like a blanket covering the vast scene laid out around here. Describing in words the feeling you have on this experience, is impossible. You need to live it, but hopefully, this helps to immerse you in what it feels like to be atop one of these incredible creatures, as the sun plays a colourful game on the land, all coated in silence broken only by light conversation from your group and the occasional sliding plop of camel toes, gliding across the red sand.

Challenging to take a good photo with your camera or phone too, just as you have it right, your platform sways. Hence the photos aren’t as sharp as most.I feel the best days are those which begin with a sunrise viewing and ends with a sunset. For me, these are the two best parts of any day and a wonderful time for quiet reflection. One day I will have a house with verandah which allows for both of these special times to be viewed in peace.

As the sun drops behind Kata Tjuta, your helpful cameleers guide the caravan back to the farm below, where you dismount and thank your ride. If you’re at the back of the line, you will be dismounting last so be prepared to wait whilst everyone in front dismounts one by one.

Smarty, the camel in front of us, decided he didn’t particularly want to lie down again, which aggrieved Mr Darcy somewhat, as he was definitely up for another nap. Eventually though after voicing his displeasure and upsetting the other camels, Smarty obeyed and grudgingly dropped to the ground. A relived Mr Darcy was more than happy to drop fast, and he did, so he could rest his weary head again.After those final thank you’s and grateful pats, the blood flow returns to your legs, feet and extremities, which you may have forgotten about since you have been spending time in the unnatural position across the camel. Now you can head into the warmth of the shop for your food and beverage treats.

Lily was running the bar, offering beer, wine and soft drink, with a table laid out showcasing some interesting bush foods and that tasty warm beer damper. Relieved riders were more than happy to treat themselves to a welcome drink and tasty nibbles.

Take time to look around the shop, theres some interesting items displayed, including a camel Skeleton which explains their anatomy for you, a huge array of trophies from the camel races and plenty of options if you’d like to purchase a lasting memory to take home.

Thank you to the all the staff who assisted, your friendliness and information knowledge was fantastic. A lovely way to finish to with bar set up, it really did help everyone unwind and relax after their exciting experience.

An extra thank you to Bella who handed me the feathers in her hat which I admired on the bus ride back to the hotel. They were part of dress up for the Camel Cup Races we had just missed over the weekend. It sounds like an awesome experience and one day, might just be something to go back for.

Day One in the Outback is now done and dusted. Slipping into the comfy beds, after being retuned to our hotel, it was time to recharge those tired batteries for the big day planned tomorrow, a drive out to climb Kings Canyon. This will be a two part article as there is so much content to cover. Sweet dreams!

Dine Live Travel is now offering an itinerary service. If you would like some insider information on the places we have visited, then contact dinelivetravel@yahoo.com.au or via Facebook, Instagram or Pinterest. You can leave a comment here on the website too.

So many stories to tell from this incredible area! Keep watching!

Uluru. What you need to know before you visit.

Welcome to the first part of my Uluru series. Preparing for your trip to Uluru is a fantastic way to build the anticipation. Leaving the coastal built up areas behind, you are going to be venturing into the remoteness off Australia’s vast outback.

How do you get there? There’s a lot of choices. Depending on your location, driving could take few days, or, fly in with direct flights from most major metropolitan cities. From Brisbane, Jetstar runs a direct flight, not every day, but at around three hours of flying time, it allows you a much easier trip than passing through Sydney, Adelaide or Melbourne enroute.

We farewelled Brisbane through the smudgy window of our Jetstar flight, as the sun rose on a new day.

The mind blowing part of your flight, is spending a couple of hours flying over mainly uninhabited land, with red sand, punctuated with rare long straight dirt roads, stretching as far as the eye can see, and literally nothing. The further inland you go, the redder that sand becomes. Starting off as an orangey brown closer to the coast, the rich red sand dominates the landscape, and is going to be something you become very familiar with over the next few days. You are about to be surrounded by it. I did feel for the resort cleaners, it must be a battle to remove this fine sand from the carpets and floors, as it does attach itself to everything.

In the photo below, you can see a couple of salt lakes come into view. There are some massive salt lakes out this way, more on those in future articles.

Voyagers Ayers Rock Resort has a number of accommodation options, from a camping ground to individual hotel rooms or suites. When booking, check the package options, sometimes there are good deals, we found that to do the tours we wanted, it was easier and cheaper to book accommodation, flights and tours separately.

Don’t be fooled as you fly in from the East, that first big projection from the earth you see is not Ayers Rock/Uluru, its ‘Fooluru’. Commonly known as Mt Conner. Watch out for further information on this formation in future articles. From the other direction, you will first fly over Kata Tjuta, also known as The Olgas.

Everything out at Uluru runs like a well oiled machine, from the buses which collect and drop you at the airport, to the tours themselves and everything in between. If you’re a person who likes to sleep in, I suggest you prepare yourself for some early rising as you will miss some pretty incredible experiences and sunrises if you don’t make the effort to leave the warmth of your bed.

Our trip was at the end of May. Superb time to visit with the desert heat being in the easy tolerable low twenties range during the day. Nights did go down to 2-4 degrees during our stay. And it is cold. Once the sun drops, the temperature plummets. But, if you have a balcony, check out this incredible sunset we were treated to. All without leaving our balcony.

Luckily we took our own flynets. These can be purchased at the resort (until they ran out of stock) but we found them on eBay very cheap, around $1 each, so stocked up prior to leaving. Luckily the flies don’t like the cold so they disappear during the night, resurfacing as the day warms up. Around the resort the flies were patchy. More likely at this time of year to get one those small persistent little ones who keep coming back to your face no matter how many times you swipe.

Leave the resort though and there will be areas where you are walking through swarms of flies. That’s when you will realise how important that flynet is. Plus you get very good at the bus wave! As each person enters the bus, the one behind waves all the flies off their back. Keep in mind too, those little flies much prefer darker colours, they didn’t seem keen to settle on bright colours!

Sails in the Desert was our accommodation choice for this trip. Located on the ring road that makes up the resort, Sails was clean, comfortable and had the added bonus of being an Accor hotel, for those Accor Plus members looking for discounts on meals, or looking forward to your free welcome drink. Wifi is available, free to a certain download amount each day, but if you are on an Australian plan, you will probably find your own internet connection quicker.

The rooms here had a small bar fridge, plus the usual coffee/tea set up. Amenities were interesting in the bathroom, with camel milk used in products like the lotion, made just for the resort. More on those camels in the next article!

Dining options are many throughout the resort. You can purchase your own food at the IGA in the town centre or dine at one of the hotel restaurants, or cafes, anything from a cook your own bbq to some very pricey options. We had a couple of meals during the week at Gecko’s Cafe, the first being lunch on the initial day whilst we explored our new temporary home. Great to see the initiative given to training for the indigenous and local youngsters. Service was really good, the menu doesn’t host too many choices but enough to cater for most tastes. Food was tasty and enjoyable, and the atmosphere over all is quite pleasant.Certainly nothing wrong with these meals!

When choosing your tours, we found a few which provided breakfast or dinner, some with drinks too, so we didn’t actually need to many other meals. Yes it’s a captured market out here and it’s not cheap to freight anything out this way. this particular week it was $42 for a takeaway six pack of beer or $42 for a packet of 25 cigarettes. If you’re a smoker I suggest you take enough with you for the week. If you’re a drinker, remember this is a dry area, you can only purchase alcohol at one of the bars if you are staying at the resort. They will ask for your room key to check before selling you alcohol. Those food and alcohol inclusive tours are looking pretty good now aren’t they!

The resort is a short ten minute bus ride from the airport and about 30 minutes to Uluru itself. If you don’t wish to spend money in tours, you can self drive, there are hire cars available, or, utilise the hop on hop off bus which takes you to my points around the base of Uluru itself and Kata Tjuta. At the moment its under $50 per adult to have a day pass.

The resort has a number of free activities as well. On our first day, we listened to the bush yarn given by the informative Natalie. She popped up in a few of the free activities and was very interesting to listen to. As part of the bush yarn, Natalie showed us some of the indigenous artwork. I’m featuring this one below as Natalie did advise the artist was more than happy to have her work photographed, providing she received credit for the work. Thank you Rosalind Dixon, I think its wonderful you allow people to take those memories with them.

I do hope you have enjoyed the first article. Feel free to ask any questions on this area, more than happy to assist in your planning.

Dine Live Travel is now offering an itinerary service. If you would like some insider information on the places we have visited, then contact dinelivetravel@yahoo.com.au or via Facebook, Instagram or Pinterest. You can leave a comment here on the website too.

So many stories to tell from this incredible area! Keep watching!

Meet the Artist behind Sonya Rae Designs

Art is heart. Yes that’s my take. Every artist no matter their field puts their heart into their work. You may not like it, we get that. But for those of you who appreciate individual expression, every artist thanks you.

When I say art or artist there are many forms and talents. Right now it is my pleasure to promote an awesome artist. Trust me, there are many out there, but this incredibly talented lady, is featuring now. I hope to have the opportunity to work with other artists over different fields, and assist in their promotion, showcasing their work.Sonya Rae Erhart possesses not only, unbelievable talent, but patience way beyond most parameters. I spent some one on one time in her studio to understand her work. And, I was completely mesmerised.

I asked Sonya to tell me her story, how did you get here? And in her own words, she told me,

“Art has always been a huge passion of mine especially portraiture. Discovering the love of Airbrushing started after watching an Artist complete an amazing portrait in 20 minutes. Totally blown away….I just had to learn the skill..!!!

So I attended an Airbrushing Night Course and then an Advanced the following year. It wasn’t an easy journey though… probably took at least five months to get control of the Airbrush. The fun really began when I bought my own Badger Airbrush to practise at home. I now have four Iwata’s which I think are the Queen of Airbrushes.

Greatest satisfaction for me is seeing a client’s face after I show them my creation….especially a Commission Painting. Knowing my Art is displayed in someone’s home and enjoyed by others is extremely rewarding.”

Tools of the trade are important for any artist, and Sonya has come a long way in perfecting choices in her chosen field. From the canvas through to the types of mediums and airbrushes used, Sonya not only ran me through her processes and equipment, she did it with the enthusiasm of a beautifully proud new parent.

After projecting an image onto the canvas, Sonya then sketches the outline in pencil. Very light, so you wont pick it up in this photo, however there is a faint outline of the hat and collar. And yes, the little picture taped on the left, is what she uses to guide her way through the colours and shapes, after choosing her subject.

Always by her side, are these two adorable boys, Beau & Bobby. They keep their human Mum well within their range and ensure she always has company.I looked into the history of airbrushing, to understand its origins. The first airbrush or paint distributor/atomiser as they were first named, was patented in 1876 by Edgar Francis Stanley in Massachusetts. Crude designs were invented until Walkup who repatented his work, with a name thought of by his wife, Phoebe, “air-brush”.

At a stakeholders meeting of the new Air Brush Manufacturing Co at 7pm on 6 October 1883, the name Air Brush was formalised.

This pressurised method of painting has been improved over the years, with some amazingly talented artists continuing to wow the general population with their impressions.

The finished Clint Eastwood canvas used in this article? That is now proudly on display at a local Brisbane Northside Cafe, Aarth Cafe, who are in the process of revamping their popular cafe to include and showcase Sonyas work. All work displayed at the cafe, will also be for sale. Watch out for the article once the revamp is complete, which is when you see the completed piece. I would love your feedback, as would Sonya and Aarth Cafe owner, Sunny.

Sonya has some new experiences on the horizon, something she excitedly shared with me. Keep watching and follow her on instagram @sonyaraedesigns. Don’t be shy, contact Sonya for commission work or if you would like to purchase her art. From what I have heard and was shown, the skills of this particular artist are improving to the point of mind blowing.

Remember also to follow @dinelivetravel on Instagram , Facebook , Twitter , Snapchat, Stellar and Pinterest, to keep up with the talent I intend to uncover and showcase.

In the meantime, here a few of Sonyas finished works. Including both a surf and skate board. The surfboard has been signed by subject, Mark Occhilupo, unfortunately though Sonya did not get to meet him. I hope she does one day.

*All photos included in article and promotion, were taken with the permission of the artist. Should you wish to utilise photos or article content for commercial purposes, please contact the writer, or artist directly.

Velvets Restaurant, Two. Tails Winery, Nana Glen NSW

A couple of years ago, we travelled through NSW and stopped, for our very first stay at a B&B. Not only did we totally love the experience, but, the people were amazing! Oh and did I mention it was attached to a winery?? Nana Glen is less than a 30 minute drive from Coffs Harbour. An intriguing country area, with a drive through some simply beautiful locations, as you traverse Orara Way, between Coffs Harbour & Grafton.

But this location, Two Tails Winery, is beautifully inspiring. Our first visit here, we listened to the owners, as they outlined their plans for the future. A couple of years down the track, and we finally returned. To see the dreams come to fruition was not only admirable, but heartfelt. We felt like we knew this.Theres around 12 wines to taste test here. And now, there is a totally city worthy restaurant, Velvets. The Head Chef, Jodie Thornber, was Russell Crowes personal head chef for 14 years. And yes she knows her industry.

Now Ive worked with Chefs throughout the years, but, I have never, ever, met such a humble, down to earth, balanced chef as Jodie. Not only is her work amazing, she is a beautiful soul.

Saturday’s and Sunday’s, breakfast is available. Hmm, tempting, very.

Plus if you stay in the B&B, you have a choice, cook your own brekky with the breakfast food provided, or head to the restaurant at the weekends. Here you can have standard bacon & eggs, or, $10 off normal brekky menu. The standard meal, as far as I was concerned, was more than sufficient. Ok, also I didn’t have to cook or clean up, so yes, Im sold!There’s a lot of options out here. I mean seriously, who does not want to go and enjoy a long lunch. Oh! Or high tea, look at this set up! No food included yet, just the table setup.

Now that I have your attention, how about the food. Ok I’m a tapas fan. At the end of the day, meals can be too much to process, but tapas, oh yes. Pick and choose, nothing is too big.The first one trialled, was this incredibly soft, moreish, Camembert. With a delicious gooey centre, partnered with an interesting popcorn, this highly recommended dish, was delicious.

This is what I like about tapas. Not a Food Coma or overload. Have a taste, savour and enjoy. Eat as much or as little as you like. Not like a meal where you feel obligated to eat everything, plenty of choice here, seafood (check above) or perhaps the lamb meatballs below, are more to your taste. Choices are, well lets go with varied and many!

And if you’re into dessert as Hubby is, then try these, first up is the churros, followed by an crispy brandy basket ….Remember all of this is enjoyed as you overlook the vineyard. The sun sets over there and its truely mesmerising.

Watch out for the events. Throughout the year, this local venue, promotes different occasions. Support them, as you would support everything local.

We were very lucky to be included as part of the locals’s celebrations for the tapas and cocktails with music event. Tapas and cocktails $10 each. Lovely way to spend the afternoon.

Always keep in touch with Dine Live Travel on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, Steller, Twitter, Snapchat and of course this website, http://www.dinelivetravel.com.

Stop, stay for a while, but enjoy. And remember the B&B. Let me know your thoughts! @dinelivetravel