7th June - Uluru & Kata Tjuta
It was a 5 ½ hour drive to Uluru & Kata Tjuta (Ayres Rock & The Olgas) through the red earthed bush. We passed several Road Trains which are 3 trailer trucks measuring up to 53.5m in length (over half the length of a football pitch). They are quite tricky to pass as they tend to swerve about a bit & the road isn't very wide. Halfway there we thought we saw Uluru so I stopped the car & started to snap away, but it was actually Mount Connor which is 4 times the size of Uluru & 100km east of it – silly me.
Visitors to Uluru have to stay at the Yulara resort where all the hotels are owned by the same company & are thus expensive. Our 'Outback Pioneer Lodge’ lived up to its name - we ate in an open shed where they provided BBQ grills for you to cook your meat on (which you had to buy from them, of course). An enthusiastic Country & Western singer belted out well-known country songs like "Tie me kangaroo down sport" before we all trotted off to bed at about 9:00.
In 1985 the titles to Uluru & Kata Tjuta were handed back to the Anangu Aboriginals who leased it back to the Government for 99 years. The Anangu & the National Parks Authority now jointly manage these World Heritage sites. The Rock is estimated to be 500 million years old & Archaeologists have suggested that Aboriginals have lived there for 22,000 years (a few years before Captain Cook landed in Australia).
On the first evening we drove to the “Sunset Viewing Area” & waited for the sun to set over the Rock. It changes colour from a yellow brown, to coffee, and then orange & finally chocolate brown after the sun sets. That evening we were treated to the full moon rising over Uluru, a great photo opportunity.
The next morning we got up in the dark to drive to see the sunrise over the Rock. It was much the same as sunset, only in reverse; it did give us the chance, however, to start our 3 ½ hour walk around the base before the hoards got there. It is 11 ½ km of fairly easy walking to circumnavigate the base which takes you past caves, exotic rock formations, cave paintings & signs explaining Anangu mythology.
They advise you to drink plenty of water (1 Litre per hour) but they don’t tell you there are no toilets on the way round, so we were bursting when we got back.
We chose not to climb Uluru out of respect for the Aboriginal Law, and also because 35 people have died attempting to climb it. There are ambivalent messages about climbing the Rock; the Anangu people ask that people don’t climb their sacred rock but the managers of the site run organised trips & give advice about climbing it.
We visited the other striking group of 36 rock domed rocks, Kata Tjuta, which are 30 km west of Uluru. The highest of these is Mt Olga which at 546m, is 200m higher than Uluru. These have special spiritual significance to the Anangu people so climbing them is a no-no.
We trekked both of the popular walks here, the ‘Valley of the Winds’ which winds its way between the domes & the lovely Walpa Gorge which takes on a golden glow in the afternoon sun. The Olgas are also at their best at sunset.
The next day I put the car into Drive, my brain into neutral & set off back along the long road to Alice.
Every few miles along the road there were "Floodway" signs. It was hard to see where enough water would come from to flood the road in the middle of the desert.
Although Ayres Rock must be the most photographed landmark in Australia, nothing quite prepares you for the sheer size & majesty of this iconic rock.