Having been woken up by the noisy Dutch family in the room opposite and surprisingly not by the night owl Italian man in our dorm room, we were up and ready to start our 400km plus long drive to Uluru. Managed to be out and on the road by 8am, with a quick stop for an ATM, coffee and petrol fill-up, we were on the open road keeping our eyes open for any kangaroo’s that might need rescuing (let’s be honest, we were hoping to find an orphan kangaroo to become our new road trip buddy!!). Tracey drove for the first two hours, enjoying the 130km speed limit on the ‘highway’ (in the red centre – it is a two lane road with no barriers anywhere…). Tracey and I continued singing along to our ‘Australia Road Trip 2016’ playlist whilst Jayne sat in the back, ignoring the sound of the drowning cats, and got on with catching up with blog writing – she is totally my heroine!!
A quick toilet stop at Desert Oaks services which also claims to be ‘The centre of the centre’. Supposedly the closest one can get to the centre of Australia, although even the sign admitted that there are several places across Australia which are also the centre of the centre. Turns out that this service station also had an emu farm with at least half a dozen huge birds milling around in the enclosed area. You could buy food to feed them in the shop so the moment we came close to the edge of the enclosure, we were ambushed by a pack of fierce looking birds with goggly eyes. We were a bit intimidated until we realised that there was a fence between us!! Back on the road, I was now in the driving seat, much to Tracey’s pleasure as the speed limit had dropped to 110km at the most… It felt painfully slow and I caught myself several times creeping towards the 120 on the speedo. It is so easy to lose track of your speed when the road is so straight and the scenery is the same for miles. Tried to be good and follow the Aussie rule of lifting your index finger to acknowledge oncoming vehicles but I missed quite a few. Getting into the stride of things, I managed to finger a police officer before I was promptly ignored by every other motorist on the rest of the journey.
Arriving at Yulara Resort (the ‘town’ closest to the Uluru and Kata Tjuta rock formations) and tried to check in. Unable to do so until 3pm, we had a picnic lunch in the courtyard of our hotel and then headed over to Uluru to do the base walk.
Passing through the ranger station to buy our park permits, we drove down the road and were all blown away by the magnificent red rock in front of us. UNESCO site number 53 of our gap year, the sacred rock lies in the traditional lands of the Western Desert Aboriginal people, locally known as Aṉangu. Aṉangu are part of one of the oldest human societies in the world. Uluru is 9.4 km in circumference and rises to a relatively flat top that is more than 340 m above the shallow, red sandy dunes around it. It is truly spectacular, in fact, it looked like it had been superimposed onto a blue sky – it didn’t look real at all as it loomed amongst the desert vegetation.Arriving at the rock, we saw some people climbing it. It seems incredible that despite all the signs and information available about why people shouldn’t climb it, that people still decide to climb this sacred place. Not only do they climb it but they also seem totally inadequately prepared and we saw several people slipping and sliding their way down on the sheer cliff edge. Would have served them right if they had fallen – it’s so disrespectful of the aboriginal culture to this area.
Starting from the Mala carpark, we escaped the crowds and took the meandering journey through acacia woodlands and grassed claypans. There were plenty of signs to teach us along the way about the diverse plants, animals and geological features of the park. From Kuniya Piti, we followed the snake-like grooves at the base of the rock which were left when the ancestral being Kuniya journey to Mutitjulu waterhole, where we were inundated with people off the day tour from Alice Springs so we didn’t linger to long. I don’t think any of our photos do Uluru justice. We spent about 3.5 hours waking the 10.7km around the the base, although the sections where we weren’t allowed to take photos passed significantly quicker than the sections where we could. Each angle gave us a different glow and perspective on the enormous rock, with its many caves of different sizes and the blackened marks on the rock from algae when the waterfalls cascade during the wet season. Heading back to the resort, Jayne quickly whipped up some dinner for us as we had an early shuttle bus to the ‘Field of Lights’. The art installation is by artist Bruce Munro and consists of more than 50,000 slender stems topped with frosted glass spheres that glow in the darkness. We walked around the pathways that wind through the middle of the installation, which were even more captivating under the dark sky littered with stars and a full moon. Getting advice from the security guard, we headed up to the view point and looked at the installation from above, the moon casting a glow over Uluru – it was spectacular and it is easy to understand why people lose track of time up there and miss there last shuttle bus back to the resort.
Friday 19th August 2016