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Writer Will Self said of Ayres Rock that....' in it's extraordinary majesty and baron location it sits like a giant counter in a game played by the Gods, clunked around this scorched earth to decide how the world would be...'
Australia's Red Centre really is that emotive and stunning a place and the actual beginning of creation if Darwin was right, the aboriginal tribes the first true human people of the Earth, the meaning of the world aboriginal. Just off the coast of Perth as the warmer Indian Ocean flops tiredly on to the brilliant white sand the country also nurtures some of the very first bio life, clinging to the rocks there, believed to have supplied some of the primary ingredients for life on Earth. Sadly, the Aboriginal tribes are still one of the most backward peoples after losing the battle with the 'grog' and the British imperial invaders that bought that booze culture to keep their original lifestyle. On arrival at the rock you are warned not to buy the locals booze and you may be libel to an on the spot fine if you do. Its pretty clear aboriginal people are not that keen on living a western lifestyle, road kill, a rusty old tin shed with a likewise windmill to lift the water from the sacred tribal ground more there thing. They really do eat Kangaroo like they would chicken.
It's hard to believe but the Rock was first officially mapped by a white man as late as 1973. Incredibly, 90% of Australia remains geologically unmapped, only mining companies interested with what's out there, the scorched land like the inside of a kiln, all oranges and browns and stained by acidic streaks.
To get out to the rock (known as Uluru to the locals) its planes, trains, automobiles, and Holden's, Aussies favorite car for backpackers, dire suspensions. The trains only go from Darwin to Alice Springs and so from the other major cities it has to be bus or plane to Alice Springs, Alice about 450 kms from the rock. I took Bus Australia from Adelaide and a grueling trip too, well over 24 hours after two breakdowns. One was in the middle of the night when we smashed a kangaroo to pieces and yours truly and some other male backpackers tasked to help 'pick the bits' out of the axel to change the tire. Our other stop meant we had to wait for a new bus and played a three hour game or cricket against the Aussies and the rest of the world passengers with the garage forecourt wall the stumps and a piece of wood for a bat and a ball made of paper and masking tape, the Ashes all over again. We lost badly although I cut a lovely four of a Bolivian school teacher.
The views are stunning out of the coach window and you have to spend a day on an Aussie bus at least one day of your life to experience the real Australia. Alas, long distance bus etiquette dictates that women get the best seats and if a Shelia objects to your presence you are moved (or manhandled) to sit next to the drunk for the duration of the Gibson Desert, as was I. Best not to hit on girls on the bus. It isn't like that old Wrigley's Spearmint gum advert guys! Aussie girls are as corse as an ABo's skin.
After leaving a red vapor trail of dust across the desert you arrive at the neat and intimate Yuluru resort to find your accommodation, the small town of inns, cafes and a backpackers just far enough away from the rock not to spoil the wilderness views, some 15k I recall. Be warned it's a monopoly out there and the backpackers hostel extortionate for what it is and as hot as the devils bottom after a curry. My dorm had 28 beds in it for $28 a night! Treat yourself to a double room if you are on a budget as you will need the shuteye. The hotels seem fine but most tourists are there for just a couple of nights and so a busy place, Ayres Rock to Australia very much what the Grand Canyon is to America and Stonehenge to the Brit's, a must see, got the T-Shirt tourist monolith.
You don't have to pay to see the Rock but the trips sort of cover the cost of the Uluru National Park by overcharging on the day trip. Remember you are there all day and so you have to get up at an unholy hour so you get the full benefit of Ayres Rock, famous not only for its uniqueness in its surroundings but its ability to change colors as the various angles and intensity of sunlight hit it. It does indeed change color but not enough to get excited about if you have just got off the bus the day before after a 24 hour slog and then you have to get up at 4am the next day and so it may ell be worth just doing the half day trip for the sunset only. The very early start is not only to see the sunrise at the Rock but the option to climb it, which has to be done before the sun really gets going, especially in the summer months. It is hot out there and midday can reach 40 degrees with no trouble. If you don't like the heat then go in their winter months between May and August as it pleasant in the day times and cool at nights. It actually snowed for the first recorded time there in 1997. The flies are horrendous though, human sweat a sweet delicacy out there and you will need to drink a lot of liquids to stay healthy, which, you guessed it, are very expensive in Yuluru. The climb is not easy and not for older people, one stage very steep and involving pulling yourself up a 45 degree angle with the help of an iron cable, this part of the accent that has claimed 35 lives over the decades, some blown off the top by the hot winds whipped up by powerful convection currents from the punishing high sun, others having heart attacks.
It is quite beautiful though and up close looks like it has been cut and molded from rich red clay and then set as it has various scrapes and spatula like waves to it as well as secret caves and shaded alcoves. One legend has it that children in the Dreamtime' did indeed build it this way. The Aboriginals seem to revere it as it is so unexpected compared to its surrounding badlands although there are other monoliths and formations in the region, like Kata Tjuta, a smaller Ayres Rock. Some areas of the park you are not allowed to photograph for tribal and spiritual reasons. If you take a piece of it as a souvenir you maybe cursed, tales of tourists sending back their samples to rid them of the bad luck that followed. I took a chunk, as I did from the Grand Canyon and the Great Barrier Reef. If you are adventurous and ant to see the whole are a then you can hire a Harley Davidson, the only ay to see the real beauty and power of the solitude of the desert...
This has to be one of the world's most recognisable sights and probably Australia's most famous tourist magnet. It is indeed an amazing geological feature. As you approach you see this lump of rock rising up 1100 feet from the flat desert of the outback. This huge red rock can be seen for many miles around. It is the fact that this is such an amazing sight and also the fact that it almost changes colour at sunrise and sunset that brings thousands of tourists to see it each year despite the fact that it is in the middle of nowhere. Uluru is an important spiritual place for the aboriginal people of the Anagu group.
The drive is about a 6 hour from Alice Springs, first along the Stuart Highway and then along the Lassetter Highway.
We left Alice Springs at 8am and our first stop was the Camel farm where we made use of the toilet facilities and a couple of people had a camel ride. Camels were introduced to Australia for outback exploration and have thrived since this time as the conditions are perfect for them. We stopped At Mount Ebenezer's roadhouse for lunch. This is about the only place to stop on the road between Alice and Yulara, the base from where you visit Uluru. It is a fairly basic eatery with a huge area for sitting and a reasonable selection of food and drinks. It was baking hot inside but no flies however there was a little breeze outside in the shade so we sat out there and enjoyed the slight breeze.
It is also possible to get to Ayres Rock by air. There is a small airport not far from Yulara and just outside the Aboriginal controlled area. Flights are available to and from a number of cities in Australia .
Where to stay
When we arrived at Uluru we went straight to our hotel The Outback Pioneer to check in and have about an hour to relax, shower or whatever before we met again for our bottom of Uluru tour. This is one of a number of hotels on the resort near Uluru. Uluru itself is a sacred aboriginal site and no development is allowed close to the rock. In order to accommodate the thousands of tourists who come to Ayres Rock each year there is this hotel complex located outside the Aboriginal people's area. The resort area is known as Yulara and it is a couple of miles away from the actual Rock.
Wow it is hot!
It was so hot when we were there that the heat hummed around you and even the breeze was a hot wind. The heat melted the soles of my shoes and the tarmac was soft. We were going to go for a swim but in the end we just stayed in our room cooling off until it was time to go out for our walk around the rock.
To climb or not to climb?
There is a path all around the rock and this is about a 9 km walk. It was so hot that we didn't do the whole walk but we did go and see some interesting caves and aboriginal drawings and despite the awful flies and the heat it is well worth doing. We left at about 4pm and it was still boiling hot when we stopped at the base of the Uluru climb and took some photos.
Some people like to climb the rock however personally I feel that as the aboriginal people do not like people climbing it that I would not choose to do it. It is an Aboriginal spiritual place the local people do not like tourists climbing all over it. People say that people should not climb the rock as it is dangerous and there have been a number of accidents and some deaths over the years. However I feel that tourists should respect the local people's feelings and not climb the rock as they are crossing ancient Aboriginal paths, and it is a Aboriginal spiritual place.
Having said all that it is still possible to climb the rock but apparently it is not an easy climb. There is a chain set into the rock to help people up and down but there is not much else and not many resting places. It is like walking up a slightly curved wall. Those wanting to climb must start early in the morning so that the summit can be reached before it becomes too hot. The climb is closed by park wardens after a certain time and is in fact only open if the conditions are suitable for climbing.
There is a particular place where you can park to watch the sunset away from the rock so that everyone can watch the spectacle without people getting in the way and spoiling your photos.
We weren't alone but each coach party had its own little area, with table of food and camping stools for those quick enough. We managed to pilfer some cold beer and replace it with our warm ones and then made our way to the spot we chose for photos. The food was all laid out and there were plenty of dips, cheese, fruit, crisps etc to keep us going. I had a few glasses of wine to enhance the atmosphere and we took hundreds of photos. It was very special and everything that we expected and more. It is hard to do this experience justice as the colour of the rock changed through various shades or red until the sun disappeared behind it completely.
Then again very early for sunrise:
We got up at 4.30am so that we could enjoy the Rock at sunrise. It was of course totally dark at first but we watched for about an hour and enjoyed the colour changes over the Rock and I kept going off to see how the Olgas were looking too. It was quite atmospheric and another special time. It was much cooler and the flies hadn't woken as yet.
The Aboriginal Culture Centre
We went to the Aboriginal Cultural Centre for breakfast. The building itself resembles two snakes, Kuniya and Liru, whose stories are based around Uluru. It was beautifully done with Aboriginal stories and beliefs as well as explanations of bush tucker and weapons etc which was very interesting. There are displays explaining the Aborigine way of life, the significance of the rock and much more. As always there is the inevitable gift and souvenir shop. The cultural centre is definitely worth a visit.
A few miles from Ayres Rock, there is another formation known as the Olgas They consist of a number of large rock formations that look like they hav been thrown by a giant in a temper there are 36 domes in total. The largest dome is called Mount Olga and over the years the name has come to cover all these large rocks. Like Ayres Rock these rocks have the distinctive red colour. Geologists believe that millions of years ago the Olgas were a single large domed rock bigger than Ayres Rock but large cracks formed and they became into these smaller lumps of rock.
Most Australians visit the red centre and Ayers Rock in their winter which is our summer. This way they can avoid the worst of the flies and the weather is a bit cooler. We went in January and it was VERY hot, about 40+ degrees at about 3 o clock in the afternoon. By 6pm it was still extremely hot but at least the pesky flies had gone. If you have a problem with the heat and want to see this wonder of nature then I would suggest going in August rather than January.
You need a hat and decent shoes if you are going to walk any distance as the ground is rough and very hot so the heat actually seeps through the soles of your shoes. You need sunscreen, the fly net and plenty of water as it is so easy to dehydrate in this hot dry environment.
Having said all that I am so pleased that I finally managed to see this amazing place. I had wanted to when I lived in Australia but somehow we never had the time or money to go. So finally twenty years kater I have achieved that ambition.
Thanks for reading. This review may be posted on other sites under my same user name.
One of the most iconic sights in Australia is Uluru or Ayers Rock as it used to be known as. The 348 metre high sandstone rock is situated in the Northern Territory of Australia and is a must see attraction if you can work out how you are going to get to it!
I flew from Melbourne to Alice Springs and then on to the tiny Ayers Rock airport before transferring to Ayers Rock Resort. The resort is run by a company called Voyages who offer a variety of hotel options to suit every budget.
What really struck me when I arrived at Alice Springs is the temperature. You really get a feeling that you are in the middle of nowhere and the heat is incredible. We were also warned about the flies in the area and the wisdom of buying a flynet cap. We decided not to and to be fair, it wasn't an issue.
At the resort we were bombarded with 1001 ways you could go and see Uluru. Options included scenic flights, sunset dining by the rock, camping tours, camel tours, motorcycle tours...you name it, you could do it. We opted for a straightforward coach tour to the base of Uluru and then a sunset view from afar to observe the colour change over a glass of complimentary wine!
Seeing Uluru from a distance is quite incredible. Having seen quite so many images of it over the years, to finally see it in person was amazing. As we arrived at the base of Uluru we were reminded that the rock is viewed as sacred by the aborigine tribes of the area and we were advised not to climb it. The make up of Uluru is far more craggy and pitted up close and made for a memory card full of photos!
As we jumped back on to the air conditioned (thank God!) coach, we drove away from the rock to allow for us to view the sunset. The rock does indeed slowly change colour as the sun reflects off its surface. Its an awesome way to end the day but maybe the wine and those temperatures had got to me a little by that point!
I have to say that seeing Uluru up close was a once in a lifetime experience that I'm glad I did. There are some great information areas within the resort informing you how the rock was formed and also about its history. A highly recommended destination.
There are already a few Uluru reviews up here, but thought I would contribute one anyway, because my experience was slightly differerent.
Whilst I was there, it pretty much rained the whole time. Not what you'd expect in the middle of the outback, but apparently it is a semi-arid zone, so they do get some rainfall. However it is an extremely rare sight.
One of the major differences between Aussies and Brits is in attitudes towards rain. Aussies understand that water is a precious commodity, and don't moan about it the rain like we tend to! They celebrate rain the way we rush outside in our shorts and vest tops when there is 5 minutes of sunshine!
So in a place with an average rainfall of 308mm/ 12" rain a year, the locals really appreciate it when it does rain. Our tour guides kept telling us constantly how lucky we were because hardly anybody gets to see what Uluru looks like in the rain.
So what does Uluru look like in the rain? Well, several waterfalls form on the rock, which are pretty amazing. Due to the sky being very cloudy, the rock was generally a dark red colour, and it was interesting to see it looking different to the way it doesn on postcards.
Obviously, there were some downsides to this, as our tour guides had to completely restructure the whole tour. We were supposed to go to Kings Canyon, but couldn't because it was closed off. We were also supposed to sleep in swags under the stars. Firstly, the stars werent visible because of the clouds, and secondly I didn't fancy being rained on in my sleep! The amazing sunrise/ sunset views of the rock were pretty disappointing as the sky was so cloudy
I hadn't prepared for cold weather at all, so when we did the base walk around Uluru, I was wearing shorts, a vest top and a cardigan. However, this didn't really matter as the walk is fairly long, and I was pretty much warmed up by the time we finished.
These disadvantages were certainly outweighed by the fact that I was lucky enough to experience something that hardly anybody gets to.
One of the biggest dilemmas faced when visiting Uluru is whether to climb it or not. The locals prefer that you don't, but give you the option to decide for yourself. I had already decided not to, but this didn't really matter as the climb was closed off due to the rain anyway.
On a further note, the cultural centre is definitely worth a visit. Here you can learn about Anangu culture and see some arts and crafts. The building itself resembles two snakes, Kuniya and Liru, whose stories are based around Uluru.
I saw Uluru as part of 3 day tour with Outback Safaris. There are several tours going to Uluru from Alice Springs, and to be honest they all seem to be fairly similar in terms of itineraries. They differ slightly in budget which will affect what sort of transport (small bus vs air-conditioned coach) you'll be on and where you'll stay (tent, hostel, hotel). I would recommend going with one where you can sleep in swags under the stars, as this was the one thing I was most disappointed about missing out on.
Uluru (or Ayers Rock) is a UNESCO world heritage site in the south of the Northern Territory, Australia. The rock itself is sandstone, and around 200 miles from Alice Springs (the nearest large town). It is located in the Kata Tjuta National Park, and is the bigger of the 2 main rocks, Uluru and Kata Tjuta. Uluru is sacred to the local aboriginal people (the Pitjantjatjara and Yankunytjatjara).
~~~ Name ~~~
The name Uluru is the one used by the aboriginal people. The word itself has no meaning in their traditional language, but is the family name of the tribe elders. It was named Ayres Rock in 1873 by William Gosse, who was a surveyor; it was named as a tribute to Sir Henry Ayres (who was, at the time, the chief secretary of South Australia). In 1993 Uluru was the first feature in Australia to be given a duel name, and it was known as "Ayres Rock/Uluru" (this was reversed in 2002 at the request of the Regional Tourism Association to "Uluru/Ayres Rock").
~~~ Description ~~~
Uluru is one of Australia's biggest draws for tourists, and is instantly recognisable. It is 1142 feet tall (348 meters for the young ones among us!) and over 2800 feet above sea level. Most of the sandstone which makes up Uluru is actually underground, and what we can see is only the very top. If you were to walk around the outside (I did!) it is 5.8 miles (or 9.4km).
One thing Uluru is famous for is the way it changes colour depending on the time of day. The best time to see it must be sunset, when the whole rock appears to glow red. 25km to the west of Uluru are the Olgas (or Kata Tjuta, as it is know by the aboriginals). Both are now easily accessible for tourists, due to roads which have been built. Uluru and the Olgas are what is known as island mountains, left over from a whole mountain range, which has been eroded away over time.
~~~ getting to Uluru ~~~
Due to where Uluru is (right in the middle of the outback) it should prove tricky to get to, but is anything but. Most tourist will head to Alice Springs, which is near to Uluru (if your definition of 'near' is 200 miles!) Alice is the nearest big town to Uluru. For those who are travelling the whole country Uluru can be done as a stop off of one of the many guided tours available of the country. For people who are in the country on vacation you can catch a flight to Alice Springs from many of the big cities in Australia. Do be warned though that the flights can be expensive (but if you are flying from Sydney, for example, the distance is comparable to flying from London to Africa!)
~~~ Where to stay ~~~
As I mentioned before, Alice Springs is the popular choice for people wishing to visit Uluru. There are a variety of options available from camping to 5 star hotels. I stayed at the legendary Annie's Place hostel, which was brilliant.
If you want to stay a bit nearer there is a resort called The Ayres Rock resort, which offers camping at higher than average prices, and hotels with dodgy customer service (so I'm told) and overinflated room prices. I didn't hear a single good review of the resort while I was at Uluru.
For backpacker Annie's Place really is the place to be. The hostel is funky and really nice to stay in. It is a tad more expensive than most hostels around Australia, but well worth the few extra dollars. The staff were all really friendly and welcoming, and the rooms were very nice. I can't recommend it highly enough. There are organised tours directly run by Annie's which take in the whole national park, and aren't too expensive either.
~~~ My Uluru experience ~~~
Me and my travel partner decided to take the Mulga's 3 day Ayres Rock tour, which was fantastic. It included all transport, meals and camping. We started off in Alice Springs and headed out to Kings Canyon, where we spent the afternoon hiking and swimming. We camped the night before another hike the next morning, then after some lunch we headed to Uluru. We walked around the base (but didn't climb it, as the aboriginals hold the ground sacred and climbing the rock is frowned upon). After another night of camping we went back to Uluru for another walk. There was an option to climb the rock, but we didn't do it. Then we headed back to Alice, with a stop on the way to ride a camel. The tour cost $250 (around £130)
While we were at Uluru we visited the cultural centre, which has tonnes of information about Uluru and its history. You can explore the myths and legends associated with Ayres Rock and get an insight into the lives to the aboriginal people, who have lived here for thousands of years.
~~~ My conclusion ~~~
My trip to Uluru really was unforgettable. My memories will stay with me forever and I would love to go back. When you see the rock at sun down or sunrise and you see it glowing bright red, it's impossible for it not to make an impression on you. The effort it takes to get to will be rewarded and thousands of tourists make the journey every year for this reason.
The best advice I can give anyone thinking of going is to think hard about whether or not you climb Uluru. The ground is sacred to the aboriginals and really don't like people climbing it. Clambering over Uluru I guess is comparable to thousands of tourist coming and scaling the outside of St. Pauls cathedral every year, we wouldn't like that very much. Do your research and make an informed decision. The views from the top are only of things you can see from the ground anyway.....
Ive recently came back from travelling around Australia for six months and I have to admit that my time during the outback has to be the highlight, Uluru opitimising it all.
You wont go to Uluru for an extended stay, you will end up in Yulara, a resort built specifically for people wanting to visit Uluru by request of the Aboriginals. You can reach this destination by car, bus and i believe the Gahn(train) it also has planes going in regulary, however this is expensive.
I dont believe you will get the most out of a visit here without knowing about the Aboriginal history and their struggle and what it means to them. Without this prior knowledge i wouldnt have enjoyed the visit and would have ended up thinking 'this is a nice big rock' when really it is a lot more than this.
Once there you have to watch it at sunset and sunrise, it looks so different to the day and you get to see the colours changing of the rock as the sun sets, most tour companies do this whilst drinking champagne and eating biscuits, making it a bit more special!
During the day you can either do a base walk, or climb the rock. Climbing the rock is largely frowned upon now, so most people do the base walk instead, which i did and i have to admit that it was a lot larger than i though but you do get to see more than you would imagine.
Overall i believe a trip through the outback cannot be missed, and to ignore this wonder would be a decision you would regret.
Ayers Rock (or Uluru to give it it's Aboriginal name) is a place that you are unlikely to go for an extended stay. It is a place where you will stop off at on your travels around Australia or, like us, a quick flight in and out with an overnight stay.
When you shut your eyes and think about Australia some people will visualize The Opera House, others will see The Great Barrier Reef but many will see the burnt orange glow of Uluru in all it's splendour and wonder what it is like in the flesh. Well, I can say that it is truly amazing.
The area surrounding the rock was first inhabited around 20000 years ago by the Anangu, the traditional owners and it was only discovered by white travelers in the 1870s. Uluru - Kata Tjuta National Park covers 1260 sq km and was set up in 1958 but the Anangu only became involved in it's management in the late 1970s. In 1985 the Rock was returned to the Anangu by the Australian Government although one of the conditions was that the park be leased back to a governement body for 99 years for an annual rent and a share of park entrance fees which are then used for the upkeep. In 1987 it was made a World Heritage site and recognised for it's geological and cultural values. Uluru is Ayers Rock and Kata Tjuta are known as The Olgas and about 30 kms West of Uluru and can be seen from Uluru. The rock rises around 1100 feet and can be seen for many miles and at first view is simply awe inspiring.
***where is it?***
Based in the Northern Territory of Australia, the nearest large town, Alice Springs is around 200 miles to the North East. If you imagine a map of Australia it is virtually slap bang in the middle. However, if you have never been to Australia before then this means it is in the middle of nowhere and if you are planning on going then you really need to plan it in advance. If you are visiting Australia from the UK then ask your travel agent about internal flights as it is common that free flights are thrown in (which we had). Other than that flights inside Australia are very expensive.
**where we stayed***
It is likely, unless you are simply driving through, that you will need to stay overnight. You are not able to camp within the National Park and the nearest town and airport is at Yulara around 15 miles away. This is also known as The Ayers Rock resort and is outside the National Park area. We flew from Sydney (around three hours flight) and you simply arrive in the middle of a desert (or The Red Centre as it is known).
We had booked on line to stay at the Sails in the Desert Hotel although had done little research other than to pick a hotel almost at random. Because the hotels and businesses in Yulara have a captive audience then they also have a monopoly and the first sign of this was the price of hotel rooms. Presently a twin room at the Sails is $230 AUS for a standard room which at Australian prices is very expensive indeed. That is £100 for a night in what proved to be a basic, expensive and very pretentious hotel. It soon became clear that the hotel was a mirror image of it's staff; obnoxious, arrogant, lazy and rude and I would urge anyone planning a visit to avoid this hotel at all costs and consider some other form of accommodation. There is also a huge camp site on the resort which is much cheaper.
When we booked the hotel room we also booked a tour that was due to leave an hour after we arrived. This is where the first problems with this hotel started. Whilst we had a receipt for the tour and a voucher that was emailed to us, by the hotel, they denied any booking and insisted there was a mistake. However, unlike anywhere else I have been in Australia they point blank refused to sort it out and just shrugged their shoulders. After remonstrating loudly we finally got a member of staff to arrange a tour for us immediately as we were leaving the following morning. Luckily places were available although we had to make our own way to the Cultural Centre (around 15 miles away) as their tour bus had already left. Luckily, there is the Uluru Express which is a shuttle bus which collects you from your hotel and drops you at the Cultural Centre in the National Park (bus costs $15 each).
***what we did***
We booked the "Kuniya Walk Tour" of Uluru with Anangu tours via the hotel website although this can be booked direct (www.anangutours.com.au). On the way to the Cultural Centre we then bought tickets of entry to the National Park which cost $16.50 each and last three days. You need one of these with you at all times as there are stiff penalties if you do not have one. The shuttle bus dropped us at the Cultural Centre where you are then picked up by your tour guide. We picked Kuniya as it was a very traditional tour with an Aboriginal guide. The tour guides were superb with a traditional Aborigine and an interpreter.
Ideally, a visitor would need to have a basic understanding of Tjukurpa (loosely translated as "Dreamtime") which is the Aborigine's religious heritage, myths, customs and laws and the Cultural Centre is an excellent source of information and it is recommended all visitors start here (free entry). The Aborigine's do not like Dreamtime as a translation as it implies that all the history is a dream when in their minds it is real.
It is a modern museum showing the history of Uluru and we were led round by a local family interpreting for us the Aboriginal art and explaining how they live and survive in the bush. They also showed us and explained what tools and weapons they use including how they are made and what they are used for and it was a fascinating insight into their lives.
The tour took around two hours in total and was a very serene experience. You really get to feel what Uluru means to the Aborigines and the respect they have for it is over-powering. From the Cultural Centre we were taken to the rock and on the way stopped for some bush-tucker. Thankfully, widgetty-grubs were not on the menu but the bush figs were in abundance. Everywhere we went the history was explained and you became more and more wrapped up in the history to be suddenly dragged down to earth by a reference to the current tourist problems. We visited Mutitjulu water hole which has a history greater than the USA, where the locals used to drink to be told they no longer go anywhere near it due to tourists who climb the rock, using the rock as a toilet and this then finds it way into the water holes.
Every cave painting, outcrop, crevice, fissure and water hole has a story which all leads back to the ancestors of the modern day residents. From a cave painting in ochre that is thousands of years old, depicting a girl reaching puberty, to the legend of the Kuniya Python Woman & Liru, the poisonous snake, who left ripples and marks on Uluru. It is totally fascinating and indeed remarkable that these legends are so ingrained in the Aborigine way of life. Every little thing is connected to legend in some way.
Tourists are also able to climb Uluru although this is discouraged by the Aborigines and a warning to this effect is printed on your National Park ticket. However, this can still be done. There has been a rope to help you up the steepest parts which has been there since the 70s. It is around an 800m climb which can take a couple of hours if you are not fit. The local people do not want you on the Rock as some paths cross ancient, sacred areas but also because they feel responsible for tourists whilst they are visiting Uluru and climbing it can be very dangerous.
There are certain areas where photography is not allowed although you are advised politely beforehand and there are lots of opportunities for pictures.
The tour is timed so that it comes to an end in time to get back on your tour bus and arrive at a look out point to watch the sunset and see the changing colours of Uluru. However, before then we had to try and find a lift back as we were in danger of being stranded in the middle of nowhere. The hotel, you see, had had the last say in our predicament with booking this trip. For some unknown reason they had only booked us a one way ticket on the bus. This was mean and nasty and could have been nothing more than deliberate. They would have known there was no way back and unfortunately the bus we came on (which was not our tour bus) was full. I had to go up and down the line and ask the driver's if they had any spare seats and thankfully one of them did without complaint (so he got a good tip!). Again, when we returned the hotel they didn't want to know and said we must have booked a one way ticket.
The look out point is about a mile or so away from the Rock and is a huge car park where several hundred vehicles seem to turn up at once out of nowhere. This is a fabulous photo opportunity and very serene. You could almost hear a pin drop as everyone is just mesmerised by the apparent colour change to the Rock as it goes from red to orange to dark brown as the sun slips lower and the shadow races across Uluru. It is just a magical experience and you can feel why the Aborigines worship Uluru.
I will never forget our trip to Uluru. It would be easy just to think of it as a huge boulder in the middle of a vast, open plain but it is more than that. To view the changing colours at dusk is to see it in all it's spiritual glory. This is not just a rock that you feel obliged to look at. It is a monolith that demands and receives respect from simply being in it's presence. It's as though it is alive. It is unique and nothing like it can be seen anywhere in the world. It certainly has character and a soul although the increasing number of tourists allowed to clamour up it do their best to rip the heart out of it. I wish the guardians would ban anyone going on the rock because I think everyone will be better off for it. It is a sacred place and should be seen from afar.
Given it's remoteness then it is not cheap to get to or to stay when you arrive but is well worth the money if you plan it as part of a trip, especially if you can get some free internal flights as part of your ticket.
If you are planning a trip to Australia then try and find time to visit Uluru. You will not be disappointed. Over 500,000 visitors a year come to stare (and climb) and the numbers are growing annually so don't miss out before it's too late.
We spent seven months in Australia, which obviously isn't going to fit in one op, so I thought I'd start at the very pinnacle of our Oz experience. Although it isn’t the easiest place to get to, Ayers Rock has to be one of the most magical places I have ever visited. Pretty much slap bang in the centre of Australia, Ayers Rock was “discovered” by the a Victorian explorer who somehow managed to get back and tell people about it, unlike the majority of other explorers who wound up just another pile of dessicated bones in the landscape while looking for a route from south to north, or even more implausibly trying to find the “inland sea” which was fabled to exist until people finally cottoned on to the fact it was all a big fat lie. About 4km long and 1.5km wide, he named it after someone important at the time who undoubtedly didn’t deserve it, and isn't remembered for anything else as far as I know. Of course, it had been known as Uluru to generations of Aborigines before then, but back in those days one didn’t take any notice of silly things like that. Uluru became somewhat a symbol of the Aborigines' fight for recognition and independence; it features on the Aboriginal Flag flown outside the tent embassy in Canberra, and was worn by a delighted Cathy Freeman when she won the gold medal at the Sydney Olympics. The area was finally given back to the local Anangu tribe in 1984 with the proviso that a National Park be created around Uluru and Kata Tjuta (aka The Olgas) its near neighbour (well, 40km away is near out there), and the park is leased to the Government for 100 years as part of the agreement. A lot of people visit Ayers Rock with the sole intention of climbing it. I had no such crazy ideas. Climb? A Big Rock? With no hope of an ice cream at the top? Not me. People have actually died doing it, or at the very least lost hats and sunglasses! When we go
t there, though, we discovered that actually, the traditional owners would prefer you not to climb. Phew! I had an excuse! They feel it is a little stupid and somewhat disrespectful to climb Uluru, so my partner, who was considering it, decided not to either. There are large signs around the climbing area asking you not to climb, but you are not stopped from doing so unless it is particularly windy and therefore dangerous. Instead, you can choose to walk around the base, all 9km of it, if you want, or there are also cave paintings you can look at, although they are not of the highest quality you might see in a trip to Oz. If that sounds too energetic, you can drive completely around the rock, which is what we chose to do after a short walk. The other side of Uluru looks strange, as we are so used to only seing the aspect from the sunset viewing station. Whichever way you look at it though, it is magnificent. There simply are not enough superlatives. Some areas are prohibited to non-Aborigines, and some are even out of bounds to males of the tribe and others to females. There are other places where you aren’t allowed to take photographs, and believe me, you will get shouted at, as all the Germans who mysteriously decide to ignore the signs in a myriad of languages find out. Visit the visitor centre. Go on – it’s free and there especially for the purpose. It’s a great building in its own right, very sympathetic to its surroundings and only about 1km from Uluru. There you can learn about Uluru and Kata Tjuta and some of the legends surrounding the rocks; the local Aboriginal tribes; how to speak some aboriginal words; and also about the flora and fauna of the area. Incredibly, the one thing it is very hard to find out about is the geology of the rocks and why they are there, other than the Aboriginal interpretations including wallabies, rainbow serpents and suchlike. It isn’t actually a rock at all,
but a cluster of them stuck together and coated with a crust, although this is rather difficult to discover at the visitors centre, as not even the staff we spoke to seemed to know how it came to exist. We were puzzled, as you can see in certain places where the outer crust has broken off and it looks somewhat like a honeycomb underneath. In the end, after enough pestering, one of the staff got out the training book the official Uluru guides have to study, which did in fact have a geology section explaining that the rock is formed by compacted boulders and sediment at the bottom of what was once an enormous sea. It was compacted over thousands of years into a hard lump and then gradually the sea disappeared and the surrounding sediment was washed away too. People who know about this sort of thing believe that there is actually quite a lot of it still buried. A bit like a big red iceberg, I suppose. Uluru’s nearest and less famous neighbour, Kata Tjuta, was formed in the same way, but it has been eroded more quickly and is a series of domes instead of just the one big mound. So now you know. If you’re there, watch the dancing video. If you can keep a straight face, you are a better person than I. Unfortunately, there is something quite hilarious about large naked women with pendulous breasts painting their bodies and then bouncing up and down. There is something equally hilarious about naked men with pendulous penises and testicles doing the same. At least I wasn’t the only person to see the video to stifle a giggle, there are other people equally shallow and uncultured as I. The highlight of a visit has to be watching the sun setting behind Uluru. There is a special car park to view the sunset, and the coach park where the posh tourists have their silver service meals is somewhere else, thank god. The colour of the rock changes colour in quite an incredible way as the sun sets. It starts off orange, and goe
s red through to finally purple. Some people set their cameras up on tripods to take a photograph every few minutes or so. We weren’t that keen, but we did take a few and the difference is quite marked, although when you’re actually there watching it, it’s not always that noticeable as it changes quite subtly and slowly, but you do start to think “hmm, was it this purple a few moments ago?” Apparently sunrises are similar, but not quite as good. I can neither confirm not deny this, since we didn’t get up early enough. We got to the centre in the middle of winter and it was freezing. Literally, below zero degrees in the shade. Who said the desert was hot?! Nighttimes were unbelievably cold. We had to sleep with the poptop of our campervan down to keep in the heat, wearing every piece of clothing we owned in bed, with empty Dr Pepper bottles filled with boiling water in the bed to keep us warm and every spare piece of fabric on top of the bed. So, unsurprisingly, at 6am when the sun came up, we were still in bed trying not to get frostbite or hypothermia. Entrance into the park which contains both Uluru and Kata Tjuta was a bargain $15 – about £6. Getting to the park itself, however, is a bit of a trek, and that’s an understatement. It’s a 1000km round trip from Yulara, the town just a couple of km from Uluru, to Alice Springs, the next nearest town, and Alice Springs isn’t near to anything. It was another 1000km round trip for us to get there from the main highway encircling the continent. My God, it was worth it, though. You can fly to Yulara, but somehow that seems cheating. I can’t imagine that it would have the same impact if you hadn’t driven for almost a week through some of the most boring landscape the world possesses just to get there. A notable exception are the sublime Devils Marbles, a little known collection of enormous round boulders, some perched on top o
f others, purportedly laid by the Rainbow Serpent on her way through the landscape. They conveniently lie just next to the highway north of Alice Springs, and there is a campsite at the base with the customary drop toilets or “dunnys”. Another exception we visited on the way back was Kings Canyon, another 200km trip out of our way... but its walls are stripy, and there are smaller stripey domes at the top. It's worth the trip if you're there anyway and you've got the time. You can’t camp at the base of Uluru anymore, but the campsite at Yulara is well run, clean and has plenty of facilites. It was, however, the most expensive campsite we stayed in in the whole of Australia at $25 a night, but even that’s only £10. There are also hotels at Yulara, a hostel, a small shop, doctor, post office etc. but don’t expect anything else. It’s there to serve the tourists who visit the rock and that’s all. It is easy to see why the place has been part of sacred traditions for so long. Stranded in the vastness of the desert, this big, red rock has an amazing, majestic aura. It’s hard to explain, but it just looks so good. It’s like an old friend. I even felt a little sad when we left. This probably sounds like sentimental claptrap, but it’s true. I miss Uluru. I missed it the day we left. Maybe one day we’ll go back, but it’s undeniably a long way to go to see a large lump of red earth sticking out of the ground. Believe me though, if you’re in the area, give or take a couple of thousand miles, it’s worth it.
One of the signs of Australia has to be "The Rock", or Ayers Rock. Before embarking on my 3 week tour of Australia which started and ended in Sydney, I decided to organise getting to the Rock in the first place. Getting There ------------- What I did not realise is that the country is much bigger than I first thought it to be. I was highly recommended to fly there from Sydney as taking a bus would have taken away precious days that we could use to see the rest of the country. Options for flights were either into Ayers Rock itself, or to Alice Springs, a little town 5 hours away by coach. We took the option of flying into Alice Springs as flying into Ayers Rock would have meant that we went straight onto the tour. I would highly recommend booking your flights to/from the Rock when you book your international tickets. International ticket holders get a significant discount for some reason. The flights inside Australia become cheaper the more you buy, so if you get a return ticket to either Ayers Rock or Alice Springs it costs about £200, whereas a single would cost about £120. I would also say that you don't fly with Ansett. They collapsed due to financial difficulties TWO DAYS after we left the Rock. Two days later and we might have been stranded. I'm not sure what their status is at the moment but they were briefly financially reprieved I think. Alice Springs ------------- The hostel I stayed in was typically hostelly and at Aus$22 a dorm bed get some sleep as the next day is a long one! Expect this part of your Australian adventure to be expensive so you may as well save money for tomorrow with an early night. Ulura the aboriginal name for the rock is home to an Aboriginal community who, in a deal with the government, are paid so that tourists can visit. This is achieved by charging entry into the groudns themselves. There is also an agreement with the Australian government
that does not allow the indigenous population to buy grog (alcohol). As a consequence they can beg the tourists to purchase some on their behalf. Don?t be tempted to as there are stiff fines if you get caught. The journey out --------------- If you start from Alice Springs. WARNING! You have to get up early. Don't do what I did and manage to actually miss your bus collection from the hostel by oversleeping. We luckily managed to weasel a transfer onto another bus. The journey out takes you down a dead straight road in the middle of nowhere. We stopped 3 times on the way. Once at some camel farm, once for restroom and petrol, and the third... for firewood. Eh? All will be explained. After a 5 hour drive into Ayers Rock you're itching to get out of the little minibus. We got out at a little mountain range called the Olgas which are not as well known as the Rock, but also retain a sacred value with the Aborigines. Tourists are only allowed on a couple of the 20-something rock formations. Sorry I can't remember the exact details, but this was a while ago and I have a poor memory. A little climb (about an hour) up into this formation gives you spectacular views and is just a taster of what's to come. Don't forget that the descent is likely to take some time as well! You are well advised to take a drinking water bottle and some comfy shoes as the terrain ain't exactly foot friendly. You can fill up your water bottle at umpteen places along the way. Sunset at the Rock ------------------ Later on, when the sun starts to head for the horizon, you get to join the largest champagne reception in the world. Apparently. At a designated spot there are simply coaches and coaches of people who arrive to jostle for a good place to view sunset over the Rock. Course you get a view of the Olgas as well, and the sun actually sets over the Olgas and not the Rock. You do get to see the Rock changing different colouts, but
more spectacular was the sun setting over the other direction. I really thought that the site should have been located over the other side of the Rock, so that you could see the sun setting behind it. Ah well. The night at Ayers Rock ----------------------- Now unless you're loaded and you want to part with your cash, you'll probably be taken to the dedicated camping site at Ayers Rock. Ahhh, this explains the firewood. Non-campers amongst you, don't worry about this. If you've never been camping before, it isn't really a camping site. It has electricity, a fridge, gas barbeque, toilets and pre-erected tents. You have the choice of staying either in a tent or outside. Either way you get to sleep in "swags". These things are basically thick canvas sleeping bags, with a mattress embedded in it. Comfy? Not exactly as space is limited as it is in a sleeping bag, but warm? Takes a while to get there. I chose to sleep in the billion star hotel, under all the stars that you will never be able to see anywhere which is populated. I've never seen more stars so do take the opportunity to gaze for a while. As the night rolls on you may have to put the frost flap over your head. Yep, frost flap. You could well wake up with frost on your face if you don't cover yourself. Well, at the very least dew. But what was the alternative to camping? Forgot to say didn't I? There are some hotel rooms that face out onto the Rock but at ridiculous prices apparently. Sunrise at the Rock ------------------- Having settled into your nice warm swag by the campfire, you wonder why it is your alarm goes off before the sun's even started to show. Did you really want to get out with it being so cold out there? Well the answer is immediately yes, but eventually it is. When you get to the Rock you have the choice of either climbing it or going around the base. Both are quite different but take around the s
ame time. The walk up the Rock is about a mile and is quite strenuous if a touch hairy at times when you grip a worn iron chain to pull you up the steepest gradient of one in three. Its not recommended for the old or infirm and three people on average a year die here from the expectant heart attack or being blown off by the gusty winds. At the top you can chat to a guy that climbs the rock EVERY morning. The record run up to the top is 10m12s but somehow I think most of you will be taking it more easy. *** Please bear in mind, and you will be reminded by your guide, that the Rock is sacred and that the Aboriginies are not alowed to climb it unless they have been initiated. I therefore chose to go around the base and respect their wishes. It's up to you what you do. *** The walk around the base is 7.2km we were told. It's not a straight oval around it, instead it weaves in and out, in a star formation. This way you do actually stay quite close to the Rock and get to see all the colour changes from blood red to a pale brown to an orangy hue. In my opinion you are a bit too close to appreciate the whole rock change colour, but there is no other choice really. With the walk you get the advantage of seeing some old old paintings and stories on the walls of some caves. It's beautiful, but what does it all mean? ------------------------------------------ I haven't yet explained what this all means and why it is sacred. Either bear with me or skip this section if you're not interested. I know you must be bored to tears by now. Aboriginies pass down knowledge from generation to generation by means of stories. This is all verbal and nothing is written down. These stories are not passed on until one has been "initiated" or reached a certain age and maturity to have the stories passed on to them. The Rock is somewhere, I believe, where these stories are passed on as well as initiative procedures.
Although some parts are public-restricted, you do get to see some paintings that potray positioning of essentials, such as water holes (a necessity in the desert). What you don't get to see is the knowledge that should only be in Aboriginal hands. The return journey ------------------ If you're on the 3 day tour you can visit King's Canyon on the way back. This is something I missed out on, but seemed to be just a sheer face of rock that you can go up to and pop your head overto take in spectacular views. Finally ------- Take loads and loads of film. Local prices will exploit the fact that you're a tourist and that there is no other sho around for miles. Take layers of clothing for temperature changes during the day. Also take comfy shoes as there's a fair bit of walking to be done. And what tour company was this? Northern Territory Adventure Tours, which can also be booked through Oz Experience as Oz Experience don't actually have their own bus to run that route. You can try and drive it on your own but there's a heck of a lot of driving to be done. The guides are also fantastic in both knowledge and humour as well as the company of the rest of your bus. Well worth the effort to get here. This op probably does it no justice whatsoever. Thanks for reading.
Before I actually visited Ayers Rock (Uluru in the Aboriginal dialect), I thought of it as merely a big red rock and a great photo opportunity. However, I was soon enlightened and the visit was an amazing experience. I can't quite explain it but there was definitely something quite spiritual and moving about the whole thing. You could sit there for hours and not notice the time go by. It is mesmerizing. Uluru is situated at the red centre of Australia. Its about a 5 hour drive from Alice Springs. The scenery is quite spectacular and you have to be there to appreciate the vastness of the land. This is a stark contrast to the claustrophobic sites of London. It is surrounded by the Olgas Mountain range (known as Kata Tjuta to the Aboriginals which means 'many heads' - you'll understand why when you see it) THE CHANGING MOODS OF ULURU The rock is known for the way it seems to change colour throughout the day. The colours can vary from brilliant orange to brown to a crimson red. Of course, it is not the rock that changes colour but the way the light from the sun hits it. I have fantastic shots of the different 'moods of Uluru'. You should definitely take one or possibly two roles of film with you when you visit. I thought I would only take a maximum of 10 shots but 1 think I went through a whole film. (between Uluru and the Olgas). HOW DID IT COME TO BE? The site is a dream come true for those who are interested in geology and even for those who are not. You will notice that the lines in the rock run almost vertical. The reason for this is that many millions of years ago, when the continental plates were moving around and India hit the West side of Australia, this caused many shock waves throughout the land. This in turn caused land to shift and compress. Think of a flat piece of paper on a table with the ends being pushed together. It creates a hill. This is basically what happened at Ulu
ru. Those vertical lines used to be horizontal and with the shock waves the rock there was rotated by a massive 80 degrees. THE ABORIGINAL CULTURE Anyway, less about the science and more about the culture surrounding Uluru. Uluru (unknown to me) is actually a sacred site for the Aboriginal people. It is one of the places where knowledge is passed down from generation to generation. This is vital to their society since there is no written language. Hence, some parts are closed off to the public out of respect for the Aboriginal people. It is also against Aboriginal law to climb the rock. However, many tourists still do. I chose the alternative out of respect for the Aboriginal's wishes - that is to walk around the base of the rock. It is about 7 kilometres around the base and takes about 3 hours to complete at a leisurely pace. Walking around the base, you get to appreciate the actual rock itself whereas if you climb, you get nice views of the surrounding area. The benefit of doing the base walk is that you also get to appreciate the Aboriginal culture a bit more. There are paintings on the cave walls and there are information boards relaying the significance of certain parts of the rock. ACCOMODATION As Uluru is in the middle of nowhere, you will find that the most popular option is to camp on a nearby site. The alternative is to fork out a small fortune for a hotel room. (I think its about £200 - £300 each per night) I would strongly suggest the camping option. I have never camped in my life and I am very much for the creature comforts. However, this camp site blew me away. We had a working fridge and proper showers and toilets. We even had a gas barbecue which was put to good use for our dinner. (steaks, sausages and fried rice). I decided to sleep in one of the comfy swags (a roll out mattress come sleeping bag) under the stars. You could have slept in one of the tents if you want
ed. I had never seen so many stars before. I was amazed that I could actually see the milky way - thats how clear the sky was. No doubt about it, you have to wrap up warm around Uluru and when you get up for your walk at sunrise, you will feel the wind cut right through you. There is no doubt that if you are going to Australia, you have to go Uluru to experience the heart of Aboriginal culture. If you don't go, you are missing out on a very important part of Australian history. You will also miss out on a huge cocktail party at sunset - about 400 people bring their drinks and snacks whilst the sun goes down. It is an amazing place which I will never forget.
The rock is an essential part of any visit to Oz and well worth the effort, but its stuck out in the middle of nowhere which makes any budget trip arduous to say the least because all the major cities are glued to the coast leaving at least 30 hours of dry mouthed, coach stopping, seat jumping agony. Trains only get out to Alice and the rock area rather sporadically so unless you want to shell out by booking in advance or maybe an expensive flight the bus torture awaits. I took a couple of days to arrive from Adelaide with the bus breaking down twice in the desert with me helping to change the tyre on the second occasion. The plus side is the ride over the desert which is strangely enchanting as the sand and rock gathers a tinge of orange as you near the countries Red Center.Be prepared for a wait when you change buses at a petrol station out in the wild blue yonder as the connection didn’t show and we had to get the next packed one 5 hours later. Being the Brit in the group I rallied the troops with a spot of cricket against pump two to lift moral.45*. If you don’t take the direct bus you can have a stop over at Coober Pedy which is a mining town famous for Opal and its subterranean accommodation. The rock is a real tourist trap and all prices shoot up. The hostel is very basic and sweaty in the hundred degrees plus noon temps only slightly dropping off at night during high season. At $22 oz dollars a dorm bed get some sleep as theres nothing to do at night as the small tourist village shuts down at nine. Expect this part of your Australian odyssey to burn up cash so save money for tomorrow with an early night. Ulhura the aboriginal name for the rock is home to a small representative aboriginal community who in a deal with the government are paid rent so tourists can visit the sacred rock. Sadly like most Abos they like to drink and the local agreement with the Australian powers that be dosnt allow the indigenous population here to b
uy grog (drink) so they beg the tourists to purchase some on their behalf. Don’t be tempted for a percentage, as there are stiff fines if you get caught folks. Ayres rock does change colors but its more likely your blood shot eyes lending it an orange tinge as the first change is a 5 am sharp, after a long trip the day before in most cases its a tiring day ahead as you begin the optional climb at seven and the colour changes through the day until the evening finale at dusk, the best and most prominent of all. To be honest it’s not worth getting up at four to be driven out when you can do it at your leisure in the day. The walk up is about a mile and is quite strenuous if a touch hairy at times when you grip a worn iron chain to pull you up the steepest gradient of one in three. Its not recommended for the old or in firm and three people on average a year die here from the expectant heart attack or being blown off by the gusty winds. You can sign your wiggle at the top where you can chat to a guy that climbs the rock EVERY morning. If your interested the record run up to the top is 10 minutes and 12 seconds. It’s a stunning thing to see in the middle of nowhere and I would recommend it fully .If you are flush you can hire a Harley Davidson or a car at tourist trap prices (80 quid) and take in more of this desert scape including a near bye rock feature that slips my mind but its of the same ilk. If your really adventurous try a spot of amateur meteor hunting in the local Gibson Desert where because of the earth’s unique consistent colour of the ground and with nothing much else here since time began they are easy to spot although rare. Leaving here is as tiring as arriving. Northern territory is another 24 hour trip .If your driving by car to Darwin or Perth or anywhere else make sure you obey all the rules of the outback, people die out there every year. Alice Springs is quite near and I suppose you could use it to break you
r trip although theres not a lot to do and its just extra money so you may as well get it over in one big move. If you plan to take in the Rock and you flew into Sydney or Melbourne invest in a bus or train pass purchased from home as it will save you a ton of money and panic as you can make multiple trips within your ticket period. The draw back is like the Greyhound buses in America when the pass is stolen they WONT replace it.
Ayres Rock or Uluru as it is now known is a sight not to be missed when visiting Australia. Indeed it is now one of the major tourist attractions, and rightly so. It is an absolutely stunning geological feature. Rising up 1100 feet from the flat desert of the outback, this amazing red rock can be seen for many miles around. In view of its remarkable appearance thousands of tourists flock to see it each year, and it is also a spiritual place for the aboriginal people. The rock is located in Aboriginal owned land. In addition to this great care is now taken to ensure that the environment around the rock is not damaged any more than is necessary. To accommodate the thousands of tourists who come to Ayres Rock each year there is a hotel complex located just outside the Aboriginal people's area. Known as Yulara it is only a couple of miles away from Ayres Rock and is very convenient. Here there is a good selection of hotels, with a range of prices to suit many people. There was rumour of a camping area, but I never saw it. Travelling to the Rock Most people arrive at Yulara by road. It is about a 6 hour drive from Alice Springs, first along the Stuart Highway and then along the Lassetter Highway. Many of the coaches stop off a couple of times along the road. There are a few cafes, and even a camel farm where you can have a ride on a camel for a few dollars. It is also possible to get to Ayres Rock by air. There is a small airport not far from Yulara and just outside the Aboriginal controlled area. Flights are available to a number of cities in Australia including Adelaide. Visiting the Rock Most people visiting the rock come on organised tours. These give plenty of chance to see the rock from the best view points. A favourite is the sunset viewing. There is a special sunset viewing area where many coaches and vehicles congregate before sunset. Many of the tours offer a glass of wine, making the even more special. As the sun
goes down the rock changes colour. However for the most stunning views the sky must be very clear. The evening we went the sky was not totally clear and the rock did not "light up" as it sometimes does, but even so the view was quite stunning. For those wanting to take photos a 35 mm wide angle lens (on a 35 mm film camera) gave a good view. A 50 mm lens should also be able to get all the rock in from this viewing point. It is also suggested that photos are taken every five minutes to capture the colour changes from about half an hour before sunset itself. Also be aware that looking away from Ayres Rock towards the sun itself there can be a really amazing sunset as I discovered. Many tours offer a sunrise viewing as well. This means getting up really early. We were met at 5.30 am! And we drove towards the sunrise viewing point. Tea or coffee was offered with our tour and this appeared to be quite common. From this viewing point a 28 mm wide angle lens is needed to get all the rock in. My 35 mm one did not could not capture the whole rock. Again the view of the sunrise was quite amazing, although we were told it could be much better when the sky was much clearer. Climbing the Rock Many people like to climb the rock. There is some discussion over whether this should be allowed. As it is an Aboriginal spiritual place many of the people do not like tourists climbing all over it. There is also some discussion about why this is. Some Aborginal people say they do not like people climbing the rock because there have been so many deaths over the last few years. Others say they do not like it because they are crossing ancient Aboriginal paths, and others because it is a Aboriginal spiritual place. Whilst it is still possible to climb the rock it is by no means easy. A chain is set into the rock to help people up and down, and there are also some nasty drops either side - not for those who do not like heights. Climbs must start reasona
bly early in the morning so that the summit can be reached before it becomes too hot. The rock is closed by park wardens after a certain time. It may also be closed if the conditions are not suitable. On the ground For those not wanting to climb the rock there is plenty of interest to see around the rock. There is a path all around it - about a 9 km walk. Caves, small ponds, aboriginal drawings and much more can be seen. It is well worth doing at least part of this. A little way from the rock there is an Aboriginal "Centre". Here there are displays explaining their way of life, the significance of the rock and much more. There is even an outside area where we saw Aboriginal people making some of their crafts. (NB please do not take photos of them as they believe it takes some of their spirit away). As one would expect there is also a souvenir shop. The Olgas A few miles from Ayres Rock, there is another formation known as the Olgas. They consist of a number of large rock formations - 36 domes in total - that spread over and area much larger than Ayres Rock itself. The largest dome is called Mount Olga and over the years the name . These rocks, like Ayres Rock, have the distinctive red colour. Many millions of years ago it is believed that the Olgas were a single dome, much larger than Ayres Rock, but large cracks enabled them to be eroded to their current shapes. Flights over the area It is possible to get an excellent view of Ayres Rock and the Olgas from the air. A number of small companies provide flights over the area, either in fixed wing aircraft like Cessnas, or in helicopters. These give the opportunity to get a very good view of both attractions from the air and gain an appreciation of their size and shape that is not possible from the ground. However on hot days there are plenty of thermals that give a bumpy ride after mid morning in a fixed wing plane. Helicopters are said to give a much smoother
ride. The cost is around Aus$85 per person for a fixed wing half-hour flight and Aus$150 for a helicopter. Summary Ayres Rock and the Olgas are well worth a visit if you are going to Australia. Their distinctive red colour, the blue of the sky, and the flat surroundings make them a sight never to be forgotten.
This has got to be one of the greatest land marks I have seen, it's sheer size is overwhelming for just a mere rock, Ayres Rock (Uluru as it is known to the aborigines) is well worth a visit on your travels around Australia, there is a great selection of package trips you can take with different operators, my advice would be that you should book closer to the time that you want to go to the site and not book before leaving the country you are coming in from. There are always new deals every week and they seem to be a lot cheaper than through a tour operator from your origin. The package, which I took and would recommend, was with Greyhound coaches, their package was the best value for money, which I heard of while I was out there. They offered a three-day package, which includes two nights accommodation at the national park. On day one you are taken off to the rock at the very early hours of the morning with the opportunity of climbing the rock, not one of the safest things to do, but it was a good storey to come home with, to say I climbed Ayres Rock. It took a total of two hours to climb to the top of the rock, but it is definitely worth it. When you reach the top you get the most amazing view of the outback and of the Olga’s, which is another rock formation, which is two miles away from Ayres rock. On coming back down from the climb you get to see one of the best sunrises, provided the weather is clear and you see Uluru changing colour from the reflection of the sun (produces some excellent landscape photographs.).
Uluru (Ayers Rock) is situated in the Uluru National Park, Northern Territory, Australia, it is believed to be about 550 million years old. Uluru is 348m high and 9.4km around. It is arguably the world's most famous monolith.