Visiting the Outback with Mulgas Adventures

WTF is a Mulgas?

A mulga is a small shrubby tree that is indigenous to the Outback, and will cause infection and swelling if you are scratched by its wood.

But if you’re looking for an Uluru Tour, Mulgas is also an adventure tour company for daring thrill-seekers looking to explore the Outback! As a budget-friendly option, we opted for their 3-Day Rock Trip, a.k.a. the best way for backpackers to see everything Central Australia has to offer:

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Kata-Tjuta

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Uluru

(Ayer's Rock)

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King's Canyon

Depending on the weather, your guide may mix up the order in which you do all three, but you’ll have a great time no matter what! 

Getting to the Outback

For the brave-hearted, a desert road trip from Darwin to Alice Springs may be in order. There’s a lot of ground to cover, and very few petrol stops - so fill up every time. Every single time.

For my fellow jetsetters, you can catch a flight into Alice Springs from most major cities in AUS. Fly in the day before your tour begins, and fly out the day after it ends. If you’re willing to shell out for a flight into Yulara, you’ll have some more flexibility with your flight schedule. You can fly in the same day your tour starts, and your new Mulgas family will pick you at the airport! Plus, you’ll cut out a couple hours on the bus.

Give Mulgas a ring after you make your travel plans to confirm your pick-up!

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What to Pack

Space is LIMITED, so only bring what you need. Use a backpack for your clothes, toiletries, and camp stuff, then a tote bag for things you’ll need during the day. Lock everything else in luggage storage at your accommodation in Alice Springs.

Mulgas will give you a full list, but here are some essentials:

  • A water bottle - you can refill it at camp

  • Snacks for in-between meals

  • Cash to buy more water and snacks at rest stops, or artwork at the aboriginal culture center

  • Headlamp - to avoid lethal critters during the night

  • Close-toed shoes - to further avoid lethal critters during the night

  • Sunscreen and bug spray - reapply OFTEN

  • Chap stick with SPF, or your lips will fall off

  • Watch - to make sure you’re back at the bus when you’re supposed to be

  • Fly net if you’re going in the summer

  • Sleeping bag liner - you’ll be given “swags” to sleep in, but it’s nice to have something else inside. They recommend sleeping bags (and you can rent one for $20), but we were comfortable with just our silk liners.

  • Book to read during down time

What to Expect

Head to the Mulgas office after you land in Alice Springs to go over the details of your trip. They’ll prep you with important information, your schedule, and what to pack. 

Pick up

Sometime between 6-6:30am, the bus will swing by your Alice Springs accommodation. You’ll want to lock up your luggage until you get back, so make sure that you’ll have access to storage at 6 in the morning - otherwise, toss it in the night before!

Base camp 

You’ll be staying at two different camps, both with similar amenities. Most other tours use the same grounds, but they’re big so you’ll have plenty of room. The kitchens have big tables for eating, but since it’s the only place to escape the blazing sun, you’ll also end up hanging out there during midday downtime. The bathrooms are better than expected! Limit your showers to 2 minutes for water conservation, but you can comfortably shower to rid yourself of sweaty stickiness.

You’ll be sleeping in swags [“a waterproof canvas sleeping compartment,” as defined by Wikipedia]!!!!!! Consider bringing a sleeping bag, or even just a liner to make yourself more comfortable. Otherwise just rent one from Mulgas for $20. They’re not tempurpedics, so bring extra padding if you have a bad back, but you’ll never have a better view of the night sky! 

Food 

Great stuff. Sandwiches and salads are typical lunches, mostly deli meats and chopped veggies. Dinner is prepared by your guide (thank you Scruffy), and is usually burgers or sausages with side dishes like pasta salad or roasted potatoes. You’ll even have the opportunity to try kangaroo (spoiler alert: it tastes like a well done, gamey steak). 

Vegetarians, vegans, and celiacs: Mulgas has got you covered! They do an AMAZING job of providing alternative food options, but LET THEM KNOW IN ADVANCE. They will bring GF bread, veggie burgers, and even meatless sausage for you. 

Activities 

The Mulgas guides are amazing. Special shout out to Scruffy who made our Outback adventure absolutely incredible. They’re all extremely knowledgable and enthusiastic about aboriginal culture, local history, the geology and ecology of all the sites you go to. When you first get to a site, your guide will give you a short intro on the significance of the area and then let you explore at your own pace. Just pay attention to your time schedule and be respectful of the rules - you’re a visitor!

On that note, don’t climb Uluru. Technically, you’re allowed to climb it if the conditions are right, but the local aboriginal communities have formally requested multiple times for visitors not to climb. Never in the entire history of their culture has climbing Uluru been supported. Please respect their land, their sacred sites, and their requests. Don’t climb it.

And remember, you are going to the desert. It is f*cking hot. You do not want to be melting in the heat. Be prepared to wake up at 4 in the morning so you can hike before it gets miserable. There’s no way around it, you have to wake up early. Do yourself a favor and go to bed at a reasonable hour. Skip the late night tequila shots.

Down Time

You’ll have plenty of down time in between activities. Bus rides are long, and you’ll be spending the middle of the day doing nothing to avoid the heat. Bring some headphones, a deck of cards, or your mom’s copy of 50 Shades.

Our Schedule

Every tour is unique, so you may do things in a different order than we did - point being, look at all these amazing activities you'll get to do!

Day 1 -

Pick up from hostel at 6am

Stop for free camel rides

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Aboriginal culture center - opportunity to buy beautiful, locally crafted artwork

Kata-Tjuta

Champagne celebration overlooking Uluru

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Day 2 -

Sunrise at Uluru

Hike around Uluru base ~2 hours

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Informative guided tour of Uluru’s sacred sites

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Down time

Day 3 -

King’s Canyon sunrise hike

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Ecology and geologic history of King’s Canyon

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Look out for the pygmy koala!

Head back to Alice Springs after lunch!

Choosing Your Adventure

The Outback is one of the wildest places I’ve ever been, and you will never experience anything quite like it. If you’re coming all the way to the Land Down Under, you just can’t miss it. There are loads of options for the length/type of tour to take. For a full list of Mulgas’ options, check out their website!

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