Tuesday, June 18, 2024

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HomeIssue 50Walking, certainly not running to get Rock approval

Walking, certainly not running to get Rock approval


The application contains 17,184 words and has been under negotiation for five years. It is still not approved but the “project will be proceeding subject to community consultation and regulatory approvals”.

No, it’s not another Disney World with millions of visitors. It’s a modest project offering tours for eight to 14 people and three guides, walking between Uluru (Ayers Rock) and Kata Tjuta (Olgas), through rather ordinary country between the two icons.

It will involve “a four-day, four-night wilderness and wellbeing experience [in] tents with shared toilet to lodge style accommodation with a wellness centre, spa and plunge tanks”. Projected customer numbers: 2000 a year.

The Australian Walking Company which has “over 30 years proven experience in delivering award‐winning fully guided walks within National Parks … a leader in environmental travel practices” is proposing what they say is a $10m project that “will require the development of about 40km of walking track, three semi-permanent to permanent camps, two lunch spots and three vehicle access tracks to the camps.

“A 45 year sublease from Parks Australia is currently under negotiation with Anangu Traditional Owners supported by Central Land Council,” says the company responding to an “expression of Interest process seeking culturally appropriate tourism ventures as alternatives” to The Rock climb.

The application says there will be shorter walks in the cooler parts of the day and regular evening activities, some with Traditional Owners.

All clients and staff will be inducted in appropriate behaviour to prevent or minimise impact on culturally sensitive aspects and the environment.

Camp accommodation is developed by the Darwin firm Troppo which specialises in sustainable buildings and off-grid service projects for remote areas.

The buildings are low and of neutral colour to blend into the landscape.

Camp One is set at the base of a sand dune with mature desert oaks on the flat providing shade and wind protection.

There will be “Sleeping Wiltjas” on low-raised platforms with attached pod toilets and showers and two main buildings and a “Big Wiltja and Chill Room” with two sleeping or yoga platforms, and a look-out on the dune’s highest point.

“Surface pod” toilets or drop toilets are proposed system, with pod toilet waste removed monthly.

IMAGES: Kata Tjuta Alice Sprigs News; others from the Australian Walking Company’s promotional video about its Cradle Mountain Huts Walk in Tasmania.


  1. So at $10m and say they charge $500 per person, it will take 10 years just to pay back the initial 10 (based on 2,000 people per year).
    Then you have on costs and running costs on top.
    Is this going to make sense?
    Where does the initial 10 come from?

  2. When it comes to walking tours I feel as though I have a bit of Cred.
    I was the founder and original Owner / Operator of the still running and successful Trek Larapinta, doing guided and supported walks on the Larapinta Trail.
    I reckon I’ve been up Mt Sonder about 100 times.
    The current owner of TL also runs tours in Tassie, and he has kept me up to date on the business.
    The Australian Walking Company is the big, ugly, corporate gorilla in the Australian walking tour scene.
    They, with the avaricious connivance of the Tasmanian Government, and a fist full of dollars, have succeeded in essentially privatising access to some National Parks.
    Their much touted “Three Capes Walk” is the most blatant example.
    If I were the TOs I wouldn’t touch them with a long hunting spear.

  3. I wonder what older Aussies think about this “wellness” project.
    Aussies who used to load up the old Holden or Ford with tucker and Esky, pop the swag in the boot and head out to the Rock for Easter.
    Climb the Rock, all through the Valley of the Winds, get sunburnt to Billy-o, then around the camp fire have a Barbie and a late night sing song before tucking into the swag.
    Then up at sparrow fart for the drive back to Alice. A nice little weekend of self initiated wellness with friends.
    Enjoyed the cultural surrounds and talked about it with the locals. Had a beer with them and a cuppa. Not a professional “expert” within Cooee.
    Are today’s lot so lacking in self sufficiency and understanding that they need to be taken by the hand and guided every step of the way by paid “experts”?
    Seems something has been lost. Comments welcome.

  4. @ John Bell: John, you have hit the nail on the head. “Exploring” no longer exists. Take for example the plans to hard seal the great central road! Explorers’ (free)way.
    Next we’ll be have guided tours of the zoo and museums.
    It’s a shame really but where there’s dollars involved some people just can’t resist.

  5. “Where there’s dollars involved some people just can’t resist.” Correct, Surprised, and they do it without realising that they are killing the goose and its golden eggs.
    “Next we’ll be have guided tours of the zoo and museums.”
    If only they were doing like the majority of other countries and hire only local guides, not those who have no idea what is the life in the NT.

  6. The AWT venture looks like something that will only prosper with NT Government support. And is unlikely to attract serious economy boosting tourist numbers.
    A low key Larapinta Trail type route between Uluru and Kata Tjuta might be more appropriate, lower cost, self-sufficient hikers.
    If the NT Government has dollars to spend on tourism in Central Australia they could do worse than further develop and promote the Larapinta Trail, the Eastern Macs (Trephina / N’Dhala / Arltunga / Ruby Gorge) and the Mountain Bike Trails around the Alice.
    And Newhaven up the Tanami.


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