Ayers Rock during rain.
Len Tuit recognised the potential of tourism at Ayers Rock before any other.
In 1950 he took a tour of students from Knox Grammar School in Sydney to Ayers Rock and over the
next few years took occasional tours to the rock.
In 1955 he expanded his existing tours to Palm Valley, a mail run to Larrimah to connect
with the rail to Darwin, Darwin, and occasional tours to Ayers Rock,
to include a scheduled tour to Uluru.
At the time there were only a series of station tracks leading to the rock and he set to work
establishing supplies and facilities along a route which went via Mt. Quinn to the north of Angas
Downs Station. It was then a 2 day journey each way with 2 days at the rock. The vehicle could carry
20 passengers with their luggage and supplies for the trip. The first
night was spopent at Myt Quinn and the second at Ayers Rock. Depending on weather.
The first accommodation at the rock consisted of a tent city with an ex-army marquee as a store and dining area.
By 1958 a tin shed was constructed and Len's wife Pearl organised provisions, cooking and cleaning. By
now the tour lasted 5 days with 1 day to get there, 3 days exploring, and another to get back.
Water was scarce and Len organised a drilling rig to sink a bore. The rig got bogged in a rabbit warren and
they sank the bore where it sat. At 26 metres they struck water at a flow of 350 litres and hour, more
than adequate for the operation.
In 1959 Tuit sold out his interest in touring to Pioneer Tours and an episode in the development of
tourism in Central Australia came to a close.
It is remarkable that there is no monument to Tuit at Ayers Rock. Let's hope somebody eventually
recognises his contribution to the Northern Territory's main industry.
Jack and Elsie Cotterill, with their sons Jim and John, emigrated from England in 1952 arriving in
Jack decided to head for Central Australia where he worked for a while for Len Tuit as a deisel
mechanic. In the mid-1950s he started his own tours to Palm Valley and in 1958 developed an
interest in Ayers Rock where he began a flying tour to the rock with Connellan Airways and
built a lodge there with his partners, the Underdown family, who owned the Alice Springs Hotel.
The new company was called Alice Springs Tours Ltd.
Jack had a service station in Asp selling BP and the family lived on the premises. He later approached
the company to build a larger more modern facility which they did.
Formed company with Daisy U down and they put in £1,000 each to form Alice Springs Tours Ltd.
Jacks role was to maintain the touring vehicles while the Underdowns provided accommodation and
services for the visitors while they were in Alice Springs. Howard Rust managed the
lodge at the rock. This consisted of a corrugated iron building with 6 bedrooms, a dining room and 2
In 1960 the then owner of Angas Downs station, Arthur Liddle, took Jack and his son Jim to see a place
called Kings Canyon, on Tempe Downs station. There was no road into the canyon but Jack immediately
decided the potential was there to create a major tourism attraction.
It took a day and a half then to do the 200km. trip from Angas Downs to the canyon and the trio followed
creek beds, tracks and gullies to find their way in.
It was spectacular.
The sighting of the canyon led to the family moving to the north-west corner of Angas Downs onto a
square mile property leased from Arthur and establishing Wallara Ranch, with the express purpose of
opening the canyon to tourism.
The first task was to create a road into it. Jack and Jim had an old Dodge Weapons Carrier and they
built a drag from 2 pieces of Channel Iron and cut their own road for the 100km to the base of the
climb to the Canyon ridge.
Wallara then consisted of a dining room/bar, 6 cabins and could accommodate 20 people. The first tourists
arrived in 1961 and in that year 600 persons visited this new and spectacular attraction. Tours
took 3 days from Alice Springs. One day to get there, one into the canyon and back, and one back to
Alice Springs. The day at the canyon was full beginning with a climb to the top, then a walk around
the top which offered spactacular views into the canyon itself, then down into the upper level valley
known as the Garden of Eden, and back up to the top for the descent. The day finished with tea and damper
as the sunset over the canyon before the 100km. trip back to Wallara.
At Wallara, Elsie would have the tea ready and the rooms made up so the visitors could retire ready
for the trip back to Alice Springs the next day. It was exciting times as the visitations grew. By the
time Wallara was demolished in 1990 there were 60,000 people a year visiting Kings Canyon.
A monument now will be seen at the foot of the climb to the canyon which honours Jack Cotterill, but it
should be noted this was a family endeavour. Jack Cotterill passed away in 1978 and the business was
carried on and expanded by Jim and his brother John. Elsie pre-deceased Jack by 10 years.
Jim Cotterill was forced off the property by unreasonable demands from the successors of Arthur Liddle
in 1990 and opted to demolish the buildings and move to new premises which he owns at Stuarts Well.
The history of the development of Kings Canyon and Wallara will be found on the walls at Jims Place
80 km. south of Alice Springs on the Stuart Highway.
The historic Dodge and drag which cut the road will be seen at the front of the new establishment.