I met Jack in Alice Springs and our mission was two-fold: 1) to see Uluru and 2) to see as many birds as possible. We had dinner in town; I was surprised how much like other Australian cities Alice Springs was. I was expecting it to be more rugged and less modern. But we didn’t spend too much time there; we had breakfast in the botanic gardens in town where we saw several Western Bowerbirds, each with a beautiful, shimmering patch of magenta feathers on the back of the neck, ticked a few other species, and then headed toward Uluru. We stopped along the side of the road to look for quail thrushes, but found Chiming Wedgebill and White-browed Babbler instead. The drive was long through open country that had much more vegetation than I expected, and we arrived at Uluru too late to watch the sun set.
Our full day at Uluru was full on. We got up early to watch the sun rise. The sky was cloudy, so we didn’t get much good light on the giant monolith, but the sky was made up of pretty colors. We looked for grass wrens in the red sand and sharp grass near the road (no luck) and then got closer to the rock to walk along several short trails at its base. The interpretive walks told the Aboriginal stories of the place; it is, after all, a sacred site, with men’s and women’s special areas, art on the walls, and practical uses of cave-like areas. We visited a few art galleries at the cultural centre before heading to Kata Tjuta to see the rock formations there. On the way, we stopped at a lookout that afforded a view of both giant rock formations, with Uluru in the distance and Kata Tjuta much nearer. At Kata Tjuta, we did two short hikes near the base, one that gave a unique view of the rocks and another that led through a gorge between two large rocks.
It wasn’t too hot, but the sun was hot and the air was dry and we walked all day, so we were ready to relax with a glass of wine as the sunset’s deep light hit Uluru, except Jack had to continue looking for grass wrens (still no luck), so I enjoyed it mostly by myself. We drove around the park after the sun had set, the Southern Cross shining brightly in the sky, looking for nightjars (again, no luck).
Our final morning left us time to catch a bright sunrise hitting Uluru before we packed up our things and headed back to Alice, stopping quickly at Simpson’s Gap outside of the city in search of last minute birds. It was a beautiful spot, with giant gum trees shading a sandy riverbed. Another day in the Centre would have been so well-spent in that area’s magnificent outdoor beauty. But there was a flight to catch and more adventures to be had, so with about thirty new birds making the list in Kakadu and Uluru, I replaced my Australian bird guide with a New Zealand one.