Uluru? I Don’t Even Know You!

We woke up bright and early to drive 1 hour to the Melbourne airport and catch our flight for Ayer’s Rock. The drive was uneventful, but upon going through security it was confirmed that you can bring as much liquid as you want on Australian domestic flights. Verified when we both went through with very conspicuous water bottles filled with water. Also, they didn’t check our IDs once. All these international travelers must be so confused when they come to the U.S.

We landed around 11:15 at likely the smallest airport either of us have ever been to only to learn that Lynn had booked our car for noon so we had to wait another 30 minutes for our car to be ready. In the meantime we learned that there are only 5 flights that leave (and presumably arrive) Ayer’s Rock each day from Sydney, Cairns, Melbourne, and Alice Springs. Seems to be a hopping place. When our car was ready, the lovely Avis lady mapped out the extremely small town (really, resort) for us that includes the following: 1 IGA, 1 gas station, 4 swimming pools, 5 accommodation options, and a handful of restaurants. That pretty much sums up Yulara a.k.a. Ayer’s Rock Resort. She also informed us not to worry about any small scratches on the car because “scratches are inevitable in the bush.”

Off we went in our red Holden Barina (still to be named) on the quick 5 minute drive into town. Our first stop was at the information booth to figure out what we needed to cover in our three days here, then check out some of the restaurant prices, and when we are inevitably disappointed check out the IGA prices. Luckily the IGA prices looked equivalent to those back in Melbourne so it looks like we’ll be cooking for ourselves once again! To satisfy the lunch hunger we picked up some bread, tuna, and honey (peanut butter is already in our possession) for sandwiches along with some apples.

We took our goods on to the Pioneer Lodge, our home for the next 3 days. If you don’t recall, this is where we are forced to stay in dorms because the next budget option is $250 per night. Yikes. We picked up our single key to our 4 bed dorm, dropped off our stuff, and sat down for some lunch while we planned our afternoon.

Flipping through our various flyers and pamphlets for the happenings around town and in the National Park, Doug realized that this afternoon would be our only chance to catch the Mani-Mani show, an aboriginal creation story show so that is what we would be doing first. We had some time to kill beforehand so we spent it wandering around a nearby gift shop which also conveniently had a mini-museum. Before we knew it we were well-learned on Uluru. The Anangu are the traditional owners of Uluru and the surrounding area. Their creation stories are entwined in the rock and the landscape of which it is a part. Englishman William Gosse named the rock Ayer’s Rock after the current Chief Secretary of Australia, Sir Henry Ayers in 1873 after being the first European to climb it. Australia made it a national park in 1958 called Ayer’s Rock-Mount Olga National Park, using the British names. In 1985, Australia gave the land back to the Anangu, with the stipulation that it would be jointly managed by the tribe and the parks department. Uluru and Kata Tjuta were forms from fans of eroded sand and rock from nearby mountains. When the area was covered with seawater, the rocky fan became conglomerate rock and the sand fan turned into sandstone. About 400 million years ago earthquakes led the fans being disrupted and tilted forming what we now see today. Uluru formed from the sandstone fan and Kata Tjuta from the conglomerate rock fan.

When 2 p.m. rolled around the Mani-Mani show kicked off. Lynn admittedly nodded off for a good portion of it, but did manage to catch the pretty cool 3D action that the show featured using two projection screens. Doug filled her in on the rest: There’s a male eagle who had his food stolen by a female crow. This upsets him and for some reason he decides he’s going to make the crow his wife so he can have a son. The crow doesn’t give him a son, so he gets angry and the gods give him a female cockatoo to have a son with, but before he can the crow turns the cockatoo into a white rock. Then he kills the crow. This is the reasoning used to by the Anangu people for explaining why eagles rule the dessert and crows are left with the remains. Where the white rock comes in, we haven’t the slightest clue.

When the show was over, we agreed that it was time to see the great Uluru so on to the National Park we went. We somehow managed to a free afternoon on our 3-day pass from the nice entrance lady (Lynn is attributing to her Loki-imaged credit card) before heading to the Cultural Center. All we could say at this point during our approach to Uluru was, “Wow, that is a big rock.”

The first sighting!
The first sighting!
The landscape surrounding Uluru
The landscape surrounding Uluru
The rain clouds were rolling in, but we aren't letting it stop us.
The rain clouds were rolling in, but we aren’t letting it stop us.

The center itself was nicely nestled into the surrounding landscape and provided us with more background on the rock and the aboriginal people who make this arid landscape their home. A lot of the information was similar to our earlier mini-museum, introducing other creation stories and discussing how the park was formed. But, there was something a little different here. In a few of the displays there were some quotes and descriptions of the aboriginal people along with pictures. Some of these pictures had be covered over with a note stating that images of those who are deceased cannot be shown due to tribal custom. It seems like they may need to do some image replacement in their future. There is also a lot of signs asking you to not climb, as Uluru is sacred to the Anangu.

A close up of the surrounding sand.
A close up of the surrounding sand.
Be respectful, don't climb
Be respectful, don’t climb
A Spinifex pigeon. We liked his spiked do.
A Spinifex pigeon. We liked his spiked do.

The late afternoon was spent completing two small hikes within the park. The first took us to what is usually a watering hole, but was dry even with a few showers earlier in the day. Being up close to Uluru was drastically different than our approaching drive. It is here we could see the pitted surface and the long canyons along with places where the rock had once broken apart. There were also paintings on some of the surfaces, indicating that this was indeed a special place for the Anangu. We also got to experience the beginning of the plight of flies. Luckily these flies don’t bite, but they do have an affinity for buzzing in your ears.

Circumnavigating the rock
Circumnavigating the rock
You are so big!
You are so big!
Anangu art.
Anangu art.
There are so many details to admire.
There are so many details to admire.

The second was a bit longer hike a little further from Uluru, but allowed us to see where people have climbed up. We had hoped to see some wildlife, but were not lucky unless you count the 10 or so flies buzzing around each of us.

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Where one would climb Uluru if they were so inclined. Be warned 35 people have died doing this and countless others have been injured.
Where one would climb Uluru if they were so inclined. Be warned 35 people have died doing this and countless others have been injured.
Some growth does happen on the sides.
Some growth does happen on the sides.

Before the evening was up we pulled into a sunset viewing lot, waiting for the magic to happen while storm clouds approached. And boy, Uluru did not disappoint. The reddish-brown turned a majestic orange-red, then orange-yellow with the sunset on the horizon and pictures don’t really do it justice. So, you will just have to make the trip yourselves. If you are lucky like us, you’ll even get to see a rainbow end on Uluru.

Sunset Phase 1 -less impressive
Sunset Phase 1 -less impressive
Sunset Phase 2 - Ohhhh!
Sunset Phase 2 – Ohhhh!
Sunset Phase 3 - OH LA LA
Sunset Phase 3 – OH LA LA!
Sunset Phase 4 - Ok, Mother Nature, now you are just showing off!
Sunset Phase 4 – Ok, Mother Nature, now you are just showing off!
A successful sunset
A successful sunset

The sunset was stunning and definitely not a disappointment, but we were starving. We quickly went to IGA, bought some pork schnitzel and salad supplies, and returned to the Pioneer Lodge to cook and eat. Not much else was going to happen from that point on, because we needed to be up to catch Uluru’s sunrise!

Daily Walking Mileage: 8.3

Fun Facts:

  • Uluru is in Australian Central Timezone, a weird half-hour timezone so we are now 1.5 hours behind Sydney.
  • Uluru get its red color, not from the natural rock but from oxidation of the iron content in the rock. The portion of the rock that is not rusting is grey.
  • When Australia gave the land back to the Anangu people, they negotiated a 99 year lease which allows them to operate the park as it is today. Who knows what will happen in 2084 when the  lease it up.

 

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