Posted by: John McGerr | January 22, 2009

Uluru


From Sydney we flew to Alice Springs.  This part of Australia is a unique mixture of the bleak and the beautiful. On the road in from the airport we passed dried up river beds and signs warning of flooding, though it looked like it hadn’t rained for weeks. The town itself was a quiet, neat place. There were a lot of Aborigine people around, more than I had seen in Sydney, and they looked less prosperous. When booking the trip to Uluru I had wondered why our tour there was to start at 6am. I found out it was because Uluru is about 500 kilometres away. The trip there was interesting – barely any traffic, long straight stretches of highway and bare countryside. We passed one guy on a bike, dressed like a tourist with backpack and saddlebags, miles from anywhere else. Along the way we saw scattered bunches of camels and in places domestic cattle. We stopped at a place called at the Ebenezer roadhouse then moved on to Kata Tjuta. This was a group of red, rounded hills, once known as the Olgas(and are still sometimes called this). It’s a sacred place for the local tribes. There are two walks you can take, one is about 7 kilometres, called the Valley of the Winds walk, the second walk, the Olga Gorge walk was the one we took, down between some of the domes, incredibly red rocks. It wasn’t hard to imagine how this could have become an important tribal place. Our next stop was Uluru, or Ayer’s Rock as it used to more commonly called. It’s an incredible structure, less uniform than you might think from photos. There are many pits, holes, shapes and marks on the surface, most of which have some tribal legend associated with it. There are cave paintings, shallow caves that look like they were carved by surf and the overall rusty colour that can change colour at different times of the day. It’s set in a vast, dry, red plain filled with scrub bushes and trees. It’s one of the most remarkable places on the planet, one of the most easily identifiable places and well worth a look. One of our group did climb the rock. This is not forbidden, just discouraged, over the years some thirty people have died on this rock. There are more than half a million visitors each year. Towards evening we parked at the sunset viewing location to watch the sun go down and the rock change colour. Our guides laid on a nice barbeque and then we went back to Alice Springs. It was a long day but not to be missed.

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