Uluru Rocks

Trip Start Mar 13, 2010
Trip End Feb 13, 2011

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Flag of Australia  , Northern Territory,
Sunday, December 5, 2010

So, after departing Perth (following a very strange journey in the owner of our hostel's filthy car) we boarded our first internal flight heading to Uluru. The flight gave some perspective on the sheer size of Australia as we flew 2 hours over nothing but a constant expanse of deep red soil.

Not surprisingly, the airport was TINY (as the only humans within a 200km radius were residents and staff of the Uluru resort). So our little plane parked up on the asphalt where we dismounted with 40 degree heat smacking us in the face!

Luckily it was only a quick hop to our air-conditioned transfer coach, a stretch of around 100 meters which felt like walking through a furnace. Again, not surprisingly due to the absolute isolation of the area, accommodation at the resort was very expensive so Mark and I on our backpacking budget had booked 2 nights in a static tent at the campground. However, when we went to check in we were told there was a problem with the tents so we had been upgraded to a cabin at no extra charge! AND THE CABINS HAD AIR-CON! The grounds were really pretty with a surprising amount of greenery due to a lot of unseasonal rain, although the trademark red soil was still burning hot underfoot. There was also a lookout opposite our cabin which provided us with our first view of Uluru!

That afternoon we walked to a bar next to the camp ground, a 10 minute walk that, even though the sun was quite low by this time, still nearly killed us. Cue two ice cold beers in the shade. We decided walking wasn’t really an option in this climate and so we got the free resort shuttle back to the campground and got an early night ready for a sunrise visit to the rock kicking off at 4:30 the next morning.

As it turned out our early night was interrupted by a freaky spider-in-the-cabin incident which freaked us both out so it was after only a few hours sleep that we set out into the dark to meet our transfer. The air was still warm on our skins even though it was pitch black and the stars overhead were amazing! The drive to the rock was unexpectedly long as we could see it so clearly from our campground. However, as we drew closer and closer, it just kept getting bigger and bigger! That’s when it occurred to us that we had seriously underestimated how big it was.

I will confess that I had always wondered what the appeal of travelling so far to visit a rock was, but when we pulled up to park in front of the colossal silhouette of Uluru in the pre-dawn light I definitely saw what all the fuss was about. The atmosphere was very eerie as the first sunrays peeked over the horizon, a quiet stillness as we saw the rock face transform from a muted grey, through pale gold to a deep burning red. The tour we had booked provided complimentary coffee and biscuits so we relaxed and watched the spectacle in luxury, the mood was only punctuated every now and then by some over excited Japanese tourists who were at the same lookout.

When the sun had cleared the horizon we were driven down to the Rock itself to see it up close before the heat of the day kicked in. Mark and I decided to walk the 10km track around the base. The walk was really pleasant and absolutely fascinating as the view of the rock constantly changed. From a distance a lot of the detail was lost but close up we could see crevices, caves, even bush paintings as we walked around. A lot of areas had signs asking people not to take pictures there as they were sacred sections used for aboriginal rituals. Even so, the photos we did take don’t really do it justice, the absolute size not to mention the other-worldly atmosphere of the place can’t translate. I’d recommend the walk to anyone, you really do have to see it for yourselves!

Saying that, three hours later, the sun had started to get some ferocity behind it and as we finished the loop we realised it was another 2.5km to the cultural centre which had the air conditioning and sought after cafe! That last 2.5km was a killer...seriously. I have never been so hot and tired, when we stumbled dishevelled into the cafe I thought I was going to die. One of Marks contact lenses actually peeled off and fell out because the air was so dry!

Using the trick against dehydration we’d learnt in Africa, we had some Sprite and some salt and soon we were almost feeling human again. We had a look around the cultural centre and learnt a lot about the aboriginal people. We also spent some time reading a large book containing hundreds of letters sent by people of the years called "The sorry book". The interesting thing about it being that every letter was sent by a tourist who had visited the rock and had taken a piece back as a souvenir only to have experienced a lot of bad luck ever since. All of them had sent the rocks back with apologies and requested they were returned to their sacred home. The stories were amazing; it’s crazy to think that so many people experienced such bad luck, to such an extent that they’d post rocks back from all over the world! It was enough to make mark and I a little paranoid about the dirt on our shoes from the walk, wondering if that would qualify as stealing.

That evening we watched a stunning sunset from our lookout in the campground and that night we had no problem sleeping, spiders or no spiders, we were exhausted. Still, it was one of the most memorable days we’ve had on our trip, a definite highlight (although there have been many). I would highly recommend making the trip into the centre to anyone visiting Australia. Although we did cheat by flying in, I've heard the reward is even greater when you've driven in the heat for several days to get there.

Alas, we were pressed for time so we continued our tour of Australia by plane, and the next day it was back to the airport and on to Melbourne!
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