Travelling to central Australia
Visiting Ayers Rock is a bucket list entry for most people and it was for me too. But I fitted the stereotype of having seen major tourist sites outside the country that I lived in, but not the major ones inside the country! That changed last week and I made my first visit to Uluru/Ayers Rock. (Both names are used, it was the first dual named feature in the Northern Territory. Research again!) It was named Ayers Rock by the English surveyor who saw it, he named it not after himself but the Chief Minister (and later Premier) of South Australia Henry Ayers.
Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park is a World Heritage Site.
View from the Sunset viewing platform
Visitors to the Uluru Kata Tjuta National Park can either hire a car and drive around themselves or join an organised tour. That's what I did, it was the AATKings Uluru sunset tour.
The rock becoming redder as the sun sets, pastel pink and gold colours behind it.
With the sun lower in the sky the rock looks brown.
The tour begins just after 3pm and you're taken to different locations. Along the way both the driver and guide provide information about the National Park, the local indigenous people, the Anangu, and the rock itself.
The Climb Point
People do still climb the rock, but the days I was there it was 41 degrees Celsius and the climb point was closed! The feint white line going up the rock on the right is the chainlink hold rail. The rock is huge, much higher than I had imagined, prior to coming I had already decided that I wouldn't climb as a mark of respect to the local indigenous people. Looking at the climb point, even if I hadn't taken that stance, there was no way I was climbing!! The guide did tell us that the Anangu people never climbed the rock, there was no point, there was no water or food at the top! Their sacred sites were at the base of the rock.
Rain furrows, picture taken from the bus! Just after Christmas last year there was a huge rain storm, the tail end of a Western Australia cyclone, and it poured at Uluru, it was a major deluge. The airport was closed, with people being stranded at Yulara for a few days. I saw the pictures on the news where the rock just looked like an enormous waterfall.
We were taken in to see a waterhole, I had thought that Uluru was one solid rock, it's not, there are places where parts have dropped off. This one fascinated me as it's such a clear cut.
The rock is made of sandstone (which isn't red) but gets its red colour from the surrounding ochre. Sandstone is porous and absorbs water, 'like a sponge' we were told. The water that goes into a waterhole is seeping out of the rock.
A small creek coming from the waterhole.
Along the way to the waterhole we were taken into a cave with drawings on the wall. Unfortunately some of the drawings were very faded as past tour guides used to throw water onto the drawings to make them stand out, but it ended up washing away some of the pigment. Men did the drawings, the women were busy collecting food!
The water hole with the water seeping from the rock.
Visiting Uluru/Ayers Rock was amazing, I had seen it from the air a few times as the flight from Adelaide to Singapore would pass overhead. But being at ground level really emphasised how enormous it is. The circumference around it is just over 9km!
I can recommend the AATKings tour, as well as general information they also gave us three Anangu stories that fitted into what we were seeing. A greenish tint on the rock, the skin of a lizard, deep indentations, footprints. The stories were children's stories and were being retold with the permission of the Anangu people and they were an interesting touch to the tour. The tour finished with drinks and nibbles as you watched the sun set around the rock.
Attempt at an arty photo with glass of sparkling wine!