The Northern Territory
Saturday 6th January 2018
The Northern Territory
After our time in beautiful Western Australia we flew to Alice Springs as a stopover on our way to Uluru.
We were there for only a couple of days but in that time we visited one of our top places that we've been to so far - the kangaroo sanctuary.
We're really wary since travelling about the term "sanctuary" as it's often misused in a bid to attract unsuspecting tourists who discover that the "sanctuary" is anything but.
This kangaroo sanctuary really does live up to its name - it's an absolute haven for sick or injured kangaroos and the passion and dedication of its owner and founder who is known as Brolga, comes across in abundance.
We were picked up by coach and driven to the sanctuary, only one tour takes place per day, in the evening, and you can't just turn up, you have to be booked on the tour to keep the numbers small. It's very clear that what is being run isn't some zoo type entertainment for humans to enjoy, everything has been organised to cater for the kangaroos. There's an on-site hospital and the unit where Brolga actually lived for a long time onsite making his documentary about looking after orphaned kangaroos.
His most famous resident is Roger, who at 13 is in his twilight years now and is a famous Australian animal thanks to some amazing pictures that were taken in his youth including one where he displays massive human-esque biceps and another where he is crushing a metal bucket in his grip.
Most of the kangaroos are rehabilitated and rereleased back into the wild and these ones are kept away from human interaction. Some stay permanently in the sanctuary, those with injuries that would see them fail to survive in the wild or others that have become too humanised.
We met the newest resident, Minnie, being carried in a shoulder bag. We all got a chance to hold her and there is just nothing cuter than snuggling a baby kangaroo in a satchel!
Brolga is so dedicated to these kangaroos, feeding them through the night like newborns and carrying them around in a makeshift pouch all day. He becomes their mother. He encouraged us all to check for joeys if we ever saw a kangaroo dead by the roadside. Female kangaroos are usually pregnant or with a joey and these will die of starvation if their mother is killed by a car and the baby isn't found.
We had just the loveliest evening in the company of this amazing man and his sanctuary which is doing amazing work. It's truly a special place and I wish everyone could visit it, I also wish we had kangaroos in England so I could rescue baby joeys in my spare time as well!!
We left for the short flight to Uluru and spent our first day in the pool, cooling down in the desert resort. We decided to get an early night as we were going to be up early for our bike ride around Uluru in the morning.
In the summer months you can't rent a bike after 11am as it becomes too hot to complete the ride. We found it sweltering and although we had the bikes for three hours we couldn't help stopping constantly to marvel at this massive red rock and some of its more intricate formations.
Uluru, or Ayers Rock, is a sacred aboriginal place and a lot of areas are restricted for photography and filming as they are sacred male or female tribal areas. It was such a great way to see the whole rock as we knew a walk would be too long but seeing it up close was just astonishing. It's such a strange natural formation, at times it has this oozing flowing look to it and in others it was pocked with holes like Swiss cheese, other parts looked like the moon. But red. And black in places too.
It was tough work for the girls, especially Kitty towards the end, her little red face crumpling as she realised we still had a long way to go as she melted in the mid morning heat but I'm so proud of the girls for doing the ride. It's an incredible way to have seen the rock and remember it and we would never have managed the walk. It took us the full three hours and we were so hot but we'd done it!
We had our photo taken in the main car park which is also where the entrance is to those who want to climb Uluru. It's a practice strongly discouraged by the Aboriginals, to them it is a sacred place that is climbed by only select members of their tribe for specific reasons. Many people have died undertaking the climb and you can see how the many thousands of footsteps leading up the rock has altered its formation and changed its shape. It was closed to climb for the summer but we would not have chosen to do so had it been open, not only did it look slippery and dangerous but out of respect for the beliefs of the aboriginal people.
We handed back our bikes and went to look around the information centre. We missed the bus back to our resort and ended up stranded for a couple of hours but it gave us the time to watch an aboriginal painting being done, something Darcy had learnt at school about the dotwork and we really enjoyed the cultural centre video about the different beliefs about Uluru and it's formation.
Whilst the Aboriginal people have their own spiritual story about the creation of Uluru, it was interesting to hear about the scientific explanation and the belief that Uluru is the top of what is most likely a massive rock formation that stretches way underground.
We got back to the resort and rested our weary legs and hot heads before going out for dinner and our final activity before leaving the desert. I had booked us all into the family star tour, where you are shown constellations and particular stars whilst learning about the different stories of the stars, from the Romans and the Greeks to astrologists and scientists.
It was truly fascinating and mind blowing to be able to see actual cloud galaxies, to see the star signs and to listen to the ancient stories of the stars. We learnt so much and we know we will never see stars like it again unless we visit another remote desert. There's no light pollution and we were lucky to have a cloudless, moonless sky. We even managed to spot satellites traversing the atmosphere above us. It was one of the best things we've done and so different to everything else we've experienced.
We had such a great time in the tiny part of the Northern Territory that we explored. Australia is just a phenomenal place, it has creatures that are found only here and even then specific to a region - koalas are only on the east coast and quokkas are only on the west. How does that happen? There are more poisonous creatures here than any other continent on the planet! There's the most beautiful white sand beaches and turquoise seas and in the middle this burning red desert. And next we are off to Cairns where the beach meets rainforest and the great barrier reef stretches it's way down the north east coast of Australia. What a country.