Desert Highway

The prospect of domestic travel is on the horizon for Australia, so this week’s post is a reflection on the trip I took to Central Australia in 2016. With international travel off the cards for the foreseeable future, there is a silver lining. It gives us a chance to explore the beauty, culture and history in our own backyard.

A low rumble breaks the still silence on the grounds of Ayers Rock Resort. As the rumbling grows louder, excitement builds for this morning’s adventure. I looked up to see a Heritage Model Harley Davidson turn the corner.  Immediately I felt a mixture of nervousness and excitement.

Harley Motorcycle Linda Botting“Ever been on a motorcycle before?” My Harley guide, Jeff, asked after he had pulled to a stop.

“No,’ I responded.

“That’s okay; most of our clients have never been on a motor cycle before.”  He answered.  “And by the end of the tour they are so hooked they want to rush out and buy their own.”

What had I got myself into?  I thought anxiously as the powerful, black Harley Davidson motorcycle started up. I had never been near a motorcycle before in my life, let alone on one.  Yet here I was, on the back of the Harley ready for my outback adventure.

The black, leather seat was not as uncomfortable as it looked and takes no time at all to get used to.

 “It’s just like a lounge chair,” My guide explained.  This was true.

The Harley was soon in motion and at first, I was holding on tightly to my guide’s shoulders as we headed onto the open road.  It did not take long to forget my anxiety.  Out in front of us was the open road and on both sides wild, red desert plains.  The bike whizzed past native plants, shrubs and the occasional car.  We were on our way to Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park.

Kata Tjuta Panorama Linda Botting

Many tours of Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park involve shuttling people in and out on buses where they are trapped behind a glass window. According to Tourism Northern Territory, visitor numbers to Central Australia in June 2017 were 461,000 which is an increase of 5.9% on the previous year. However, the majority of them were on large group tours.

If you are like me and want an experience to remember, escape the tourist bus routine and explore the Outback on the back of a Harley Davidson motorcycle. Feel free to explore much more with all five of your senses.

I have done many trips on a tour bus but when you are on the back of a motorcycle with nothing around you but open road, things look a whole lot different. It is a whole other feeling to hear, smell, see, touch and taste the Outback. I took notice of the landscape, the trees, the plants and the mountain ranges. The things which I would never notice behind a bus window.

At 100 km on a Harley Davison motorcycle, the open road of the Central Australian outback rushes by in slow motion.  The wind is cool but does not distract from the exhilaration and excitement of seeing the outback from a new perspective.

It is a thrill speeding along the open road on a motorcycle purring beneath you and the wind in your face.  It feels good because it is dangerous and naughty at the same time. People take notice of a Harley Davidson and look twice.

An exhilarating journey along Lasseter’s Highway through the park took me directly to the designated viewing deck set up to allow a panoramic view of both Uluru and Kata-Tjuta.  The viewing deck named Talinguru Nyakunytjaku, opened in 2009 and recognises the traditional owners of the land, the Anangu people.

The Anangu people are the traditional owners of Uluru-Kata Tjuta national park which holds 60,000 years significant sacred spiritual and cultural value. This makes the Anangu people the oldest known culture in Central Australia.

We arrived early to enjoy the vast, open desert landscape before the tourist buses arrived.  Take a moment to look at both rock formations side by side and it is easy to see which is most impressive.  While most people visit Central Australia because of Uluru, they are pleasantly surprised to discover the beauty of Kata-Tjuta.

The silence surrounded me as I took a moment to admire the giant red brown rock formation and only the sound was of the wind rustling the dry scrub.  It is easy to see why so many people are drawn to the Outback.  It is peaceful, remote and you can feel a spiritual connection to the land.  As my guide explained to me, he and his wife had moved from suburban Queensland more than 10 years ago to work. They loved the Outback lifestyle and never looked back.

The next stop was Walpa Gorge. I was now relaxed as the bike sped along the highway cutting through the crisp, cool wind.  Up ahead the view of Kata Tjuta loomed large and even more impressive as we approached the Valley of the Winds.

Waipia Gorge Linda Botting

Kata Tjuta stands 546 metres high and are an impressive display of nature withstanding against the harsh Outback elements.  Made up of 36 rock structures, the highest point named Mount Olga in 1872 by Baron Ferdinand von Mueller, towers 200 metres above Uluru. The Anangu people say the great snake Wanambi lives on the tallest point and comes down into the valley during the dry season.

To walk around Kata Tjuta is approximately 22 kilometres and provides an intimate opportunity to explore this twice recognised UNESCO World Heritage listed natural icon which preserves Anangu culture.

There are several trails to explore on foot and the easiest walk at 2.6 kilometres is through Walpa Gorge. Again, I was ahead of the crowds to enjoy the stillness and serenity of this sacred site where the Anangu people still perform traditional ceremonies.

With over 40 sacred sites in and around the park, it is important to respect the cultural identity and laws, or Tjukurpa, of the ancestral spirits that still inhabit the land.

As I walked through the gorge the towering rocks rose above me on each side like a giant wave.  From this vantage point I could see how 550 million years of rainfall and erosion have shaped and moulded the desert landscape.

Waipa Gorge Trail Linda Botting

As we rode away at the end of the tour, I was sad my motorcycle trip would soon be over.  The 360 degree views from on the back of a motorcycle cannot compare to those on the tour bus.  This less traditional way of seeing the outback was perfect for the adventurous thrill seeker to enjoy exploring the Australian Outback independently.  The tour of Kata Tjuta by Harley Davidson was three hours of pure 100 km an hour adrenalin on an open road.

My confidence with being on the Harley had increased and I was able to let go of the bar and put my hands up in the air.  I’m not sure I want to buy my own motorcycle, but I would take another tour on the back of one.

Please share your thoughts

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s