As much as I enjoyed sleeping in a swag, I have to confess I didn’t get much of a lie-in. We were up early for a spot of toast for breakfast before continuing our trip to Uluru. The roads were straight desert roads, the red sands we passed through were astonishing. Were it not for the massive amounts of flora, I might have described the landscape as Martian.
Our guide recommended a place on the way that offered the very best coffee in the outback. It was home to a family of ranchers who saw themselves as philanthropists. They raised money to offer aboriginal children a better start in life in boarding schools away from the negative influences of their communities. Well I tried the coffee, my usual preference of a macchiato. I think my face says it all:
Our journey from King’s Canyon to Uluru was about 300 Kilometers, so we had a lot of ground to cover. Quite early on into the drive, I thought I had seen Uluru, but it turned out to be the impressive Mount Conner:
I also found this little guy by the road during one stop to pick up some beer:
A cheer rang out once we got within sight of Uluru. I must have taken hundreds of rubbish pictures through the window of the bus as we approached. At last I was here!
We made our way to the cultural centre at Uluru, to learn about the importance of the Rock to the local Anangu people, before heading to the rock itself for a walk. Two walks were on offer: one was a walk up the side of the rock to the top, the other was a 12km walk around the base of the Rock. The Anangu ask that tourists don’t climb the Rock because the Rock is sacred to them and “That’s not what it’s about”. I wasn’t particularly moved by this argument. I didn’t climb Uluru simply because I was there to see Uluru, not the view from Uluru. Nevertheless, I still got a high-five from Jerry (our guide) for not climbing Uluru.
The walk took about two-and-a-half hours in the hot Outback sun. There weren’t so many flies here, which was a relief, and there was a water station about halfway around the rock. There was a lot to see, bits of Uluru you wouldn’t imagine from the standard long-distance photographs. A lot of the more impressive parts of the Rock had signs forbidding photography, which was a shame for the signs, since this wasn’t enforced:
The far side of Uluru was incredibly green, and quite unlike expectations. There was a lot of life here.
I got to the end of the walk just as those who had decided to climb came down the rock. It had taken me about two and half hours to walk around the Rock and about the same time for the others to climb and descend the Rock
We were then treated to a walk-and-talk by our guide, Jerry, who showed us some of the specific sites around Uluru, along with an explanation of their significance. Cave paintings served as a kind of school, where kids were taught survival skills (some of the paintings were of Wichetty Grubs) and about their culture.
From there, it was a race to meet the sunset. We drove over to a special viewing area to watch sunset over the rock. There were a lot of people there already, many with buffets and champagne, but we were doing Uluru on the cheap and had no such treatment. Still, the view was the same with or without champagne – incredible. With the low sun hitting the rock directly, Uluru glowed with an eerie red. As the sun set, the colours became more muted.
As the light faded, which happened all too fast, we decided to head back to camp and tuck into a barbecue dinner of steak, kangaroo meat and camel sausages. The kangaroo was excellent – so much so that I resolved to try it again at the earliest opportunity. The camel sausage – well it wasn’t my favourite, but not as horrendous as you might imagine.
We unrolled our swags for another night under the stars, and looked forward to facing the dawn over Uluru. We were among the first people at the viewing area. The sun rose from behind the rock – I don’t think I’ve ever seen colours quite like this before.
Also within sight of the viewing area was Kata Tjuta, also known as The Olgas. Once I’d seen as much sunrise as I could possibly see over Uluru, I turned my lens on the Olgas. This was going to be our last destination before leaving the Outback