We spent almost a week in Australia’s Red Centre and we saw some pretty amazing things. Few, however, were as amazing as the legendary rock formations known as Uluru and Kata Tjuta, especially when we got the chance to see them from a bird’s eye view. We had set up camp at Ayers Rock Resort, which is really a city in and of itself. Five different hotels, two different campgrounds, restaurants, art galleries, grocery stores, souvenir shops… in addition, they run countless activities for visitors to the area, everything from guided walks and bus tours to camel rides and scenic flights. We took advantage of some of these and found them to be well worth our time.
Our scenic helicopter flight was almost canceled due to the wind, luckily it wasn’t because it turned out to be a highlight of our time in the area. Mitch was our pilot, and he picked us up at the campground and brought us to the airport. We shared our ride with one other person, a young Japanese guy who is actually spending the entire summer working at the resort. Due to the delicate balancing of the small aircraft, we had to be seated according to our weight. After everyone got weighed, it was determined that I would get to ride shotgun!
It was my first time in a helicopter and the takeoff seemed a little shaky to me, but before long we were underway. Mitch was able to use our headsets to give us all sorts of interesting info as we went, and we were also able to hear all the various radio transmissions between Mitch and the other helicopter pilots giving their statuses and locations. A very neat detail for someone who had never been in a helicopter before!
Seeing Uluru from above was truly amazing. Based on the views I had seen of it previously plus the angle most photos are taken from, I had no idea that it had such an interesting shape. It is so often shown as a simple rectangle but it actually has a lot of different bends and outcroppings. We also saw the remnants of the old road to the rocks, which was a very neat and distinct line through the desert bush.
Kata Tjuta also looked really cool from the air. When seen from the ground at a distance, the “heads” of Kata Tjuta look like they are all jumbled together. Looking at them from above, however, they are very distinct shapes. During the hike we had done there earlier in the day, we were able to go around and between some of them, and it was really neat to see the route from above.
When we landed back on the ground about half an hour later, we learned that most of the later flights wouldn’t be taking off because the wind had picked up, so we were very lucky that we were able to get off the ground! We did a few other cool things at the Ayers Rock Resort that I will detail later, including a guided camel ride and a few different hikes, but the helicopter tour was one of our favorites. What a truly unique vantage point!