Imagine looking up at the night sky lit with hundreds of stars. Now imagine seeing that blanket of stars from your sleeping bag just miles from Uluru. While camping in the Outback, I did just that!
Here in Australia, students have a week-long study period before exams begin. Since my TEAN roommate and I both had four free days before we needed to hit the books, we thought, where better to go for our last trip than Australia’s iconic “Red Center”? Before my trip, the only vision I had of the Outback was what I saw on Survivor: Outback as a child. I assumed it was going to look very dry and dusty, and that there wasn’t much to see other than Uluru. Boy was I wrong! During my three-day camping tour, I visited some remarkable places that completely changed my view of the region. The “must see” spots in the Red Center are Kings Canyon, Kata Tjuta, Uluru, and the camel farms!
The first and most unique site I visited was Kings Canyon. While hiking through this extremely dry and rocky area, I was surprised by the range of natural sights I saw. There were plants, trees, a natural pool called “The Garden of Eden”, fossils, and the Canyon itself. Kings Canyon reminded me of the Grand Canyon because of the colorful layers of sediment in the tremendous walls of rock. One really cool part of the Canyon I saw is known as “The Lost City” because the beehive-like rock structures look like small buildings in a community. The hike took 3 hours round trip so it is definitely worth taking the time to see it!
Kata Tjuta has 36 tall red dome-shaped rocks with beautiful hiking trails between some of them. From a distance, Kata Tjuta looks as though it fell out of the sky or randomly grew up from the ground because there is nothing but flat desert around it. One interesting fact I learned about this area is that it is still used by Aborigines today for special spiritual events and rights of passage ceremonies. However, we were not told specific information about these events because it is secret and sacred to their culture.
Watching the sunset over Uluru is the number one thing to do in The Outback! You might recognize this icon from the Outback Steakhouse menu at home, but seeing Uluru in person is a captivating experience. Picture yourself enjoying dinner and drinks while watching this iconic rock turn bright red as the sun goes down. Sunset is the only time of day that Uluru looks so red, making the experience of witnessing it that much more special.
On the last day of my tour, I got to ride a camel! Before this trip, I had no idea there were camels in Australia. It turns out there tons of camels in the Outback and some Australians even race them! As I approached the camel I was going to sit on, I had no idea what to expect of the experience. It was similar to riding a horse, however I was terrified of falling off every second because it took such dramatic steps, especially when it kneeled to let us on and off. The great thing about many of the camel farms is that they allow tourists to pet them and take pictures up close with them! Overall, it was a fun and memorable way to end the trip and I absolutely recommend trying it!
Trips like this one remind me of why I came abroad in the first place – to learn about a different culture and push myself to do things outside of my comfort zone. I never thought I would be able to literally sleep under the stars in a place as amazing as The Outback, see incredible natural sites, or ride a camel! My advice to potential study abroad students is to take advantage of opportunities like day trips, overnight tours, student events, etc. because the new things you try and the people you meet while doing them can truly make your international experience that much better!