The Red Centre has a magical, emotional effect on me. This is our first time in the Red Centre, and we really only ended up here because we were bringing our friend Marcus to Alice Springs, but I’m so glad that we’ve been prompted to come to the desert and see these beautiful natural landforms!

From Kingoonya, we stopped at Cooper Pedy and then continued driving towards Yulara, the resort town that has grown around Ayers Rock Resort. There are a few designated overnight free-camping locations close to Uluru, and so we finally stopped late at night at a rest area just 40km from the rock. As soon as we parked the bus, we noticed the sweet, honey scent of the desert in bloom.

Early today, we set our alarms and drove to Uluru before sunrise. There are well-signposted areas that are optimal for viewing the rock at sunrise or sunset, so after paying to enter Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park ($25, free for under-16s) we followed the line of vehicles that were also making their way to the sunrise lookout area.

Uluru, Northern Territory, August 2013
We watch Uluru's colour brighten as the sun rises over the horizon and reveals its red beauty.

Kata Tjuta and Uluru, Northern Territory, August 2013
From our viewing platform, we can also clearly see Kata Tjuta (the Olgas) in the distance.

Uluru, Northern Territory, August 2013
I love the way that the amenities blocks and all accessories with the Uluṟu-Kata Tjuṯa National Park are built and decorated in the same colours of the landscape around them!

Climbers on Uluru, Northern Territory, August 2013
Tourists still climb Uluru, despite repeated requests not to do so by the traditional owners.

It’s only 50km by road to visit Kata Tjuta (which was called “the Olgas” when I was growing up). Most of the tourists who come to Uluru don’t make the extra effort to reach the much larger landform, but I’m glad we made the trip.

Kata Tjuta, Northern Territory, August 2013
The rocks' profile changes as we approach them from a different orientation.

Kata Tjuta, Northern Territory, August 2013
Geologists say that Kata Tjuta is what remains of a rocky outcrop after the surrounding sand dunes eroded away.

Walpa Gorge Walk at Kata Tjuta, August 2013
Kata Tjuta is a Pitjantjatjara word meaning "many heads'. We decide to stop and explore the Walpa Gorge Walk.

Walpa Gorge Walk at Kata Tjuta, August 2013
Although we opt not to walk all the way into the gorge, it's exciting to come up close to the big rocks.

Walpa Gorge Walk at Kata Tjuta, August 2013
Lana is determined to touch one of the rocks, and so we venture off the track and climb over prickly bushes to reach the base of the red mountain.

After we felt we had finished at Kata Tjuta, we began the 500km drive to Alice Springs, arriving after dark but in time for dinner. I feel that we haven’t finished at Uluru and Kata Tjuta (which is why I bought an annual pass to the park instead of a 3-day pass), but Marcus catches a plane tomorrow and so that’s setting our agenda. We have friends in Alice Springs that we’re looking forward to catching up with, and so we’ll be in the Red Centre for a while longer — a relief after all this intensive driving to get here!