Understanding Uluru and Kata-Tjuta

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June 14th 2019
Published: June 15th 2019
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After a pleasant stay in Coober Pedy we set out on Thursday morning to drive further north. Our destination was Uluru, or rather the town from which visitors can base their exploration of the rock, called Yulara. It was 8am when we filled the car with petrol and started driving. This was to be the longest driving day in our plans , nearly 8 hours to reach the destination. It was a beautiful morning and as we drove along the Stuart Highway we noticed all the opal mine heaps along the way. We had an audio book of On Her Majesty's Secret Service in the CD player, (thanks to Sam and Tracey) and as this was narrated by David Tennant, certainly kept us entertained as we drove. There wasn't much traffic on the road so progress was steady and thanks to the Cruise control, it was an easy drive. Our first stop was at Kulgera, just over the NT border as I needed a loo stop. We had switched drivers before. Then we filled up the car with petrol at Erldunda, where we bought a couple of Ned Kelly pies for lunch and then turned off the Stuart Highway to head west to Yulara.

We drove on, with beautiful, sunny weather and made a stop at a lookout for Mt Conner. We had momentarily thought it was our first glimpse of Uluru, but it was too straight across the top and receded quickly in our wake. It was to be another couple of hours before we sighted the real thing. That appeared further down the road and was in and out of sight along the way. The terrain was red sand and spinifex with some low trees but fascinating country side. We rolled into Yulara about 3-30 and negotiated the roundabout and arrived at the Pioneer Hotel and Lodge where I had booked for two nights. The Ayers Rock Resort covers all of Yulara and when I tried to book the prices were outrageous. This hotel had been the cheapest but had been over $200 a night for basic accommodation. We checked in and found that we had a very small room which contained a double bed and double bunk, with a fridge, and TV but no separate bathroom. We had to use the nearby shower and toilet blocks! This place is definitely not for the more impoverished of the world.

Having settled in we explored the complex. We went to the lookout and found a great view of Uluru. There is also a bar and a couple of "restaurants", which are mainly outdoors type of places. We decided that as we had been very frugal in meals for the day we would have a nice meal for dinner. I checked on line, (they did have free WiFi at least) and decided to try Ikarli, the main restaurant in the Sails of the Desert hotel. I booked through reception and we headed over there for a meal at 7pm.We had earlier got some information from the Tourist Centre in the Town proper, but Fletcher had not been impressed with the signage and layout of the place so he was very critical of the one-way car parks and lack of lighting. When we got to the restaurant, we found it was a Buffet arrangement, (which Fletcher hates,) but with lack of alternatives we stayed. The food on offer was of a high quality. Fletcher spent most of his time at the Seafood table, with good oysters, prawns and smoked salmon for consumption. I enjoyed the pumpkin soup with thyme and honey and the Thai fish in coconut sauce , but the mains were a disappointment, with either a Wok or roast meat or pasta available. Fletcher opted for the beef wok, but this was a small bowl of stir fried veggies with some bits of tough beef. In the end we found that the $75 cost per head was not worth what we had. We returned to our room and cheered on the Crows in their win over Richmond. At least that was a satisfactory end to the night!!

On Friday morning we left the hotel about 8-30 for our encounters with Uluru and Kata-Tjuta. I made tuna and cheese sandwiches for lunch and we had plenty of water. We drove to the Park entrance. I had bought our passes on line and and scanned them from my phone. The rock looms above the road and with every twist and turn presents a different vista. We drove to the Cultural Centre where there is an interesting introduction to the Anangu people who belong to this land. The land was given back to these people in 1985 and they have leased it back to the Government for 99 years. From there we drove to the car park at Mala Walk. We did not intend to do the complete base walk but decided to try the two shorter paths. The Mala Walk follows a path around the base of the rock and has intrepretive signs explaining the sacred sites. We saw some interesting caves, one for the men, another for secret women's business, one smaller one for the old men to sit in and another especially for cooking. Some had rock paintings. it was easy to understand how the original inhabitants sought shelter in these large cavernous spaces. The cave of the men had three rock formations on the wall which can easily be interpreted as three men staring out! The walk took us around to Kantju Gorge. This area was stunning. The high, sheer sides of the rock with the dark algal trails where water gushes down when it rains, led to a peaceful waterhole which still had some water in it. I could imagine this place in a rainstorm with the water streaming down the sides. It was so peaceful there, and if it were not for the ever present flies, very pleasant. We walked back and saw some idiots were climbing the rock. There are signs everywhere asking people to respect the culture and not climb, but it has not been banned yet. It is sad that there is no respect for the wishes of the Anangu people for whom this is a very sacred place.

From there we drove around to the other side of Uluru, stopping along the way for a photo or two. It is amazing how different it looks from different sides and angles.The colours change from bright red to ochre to purple, depending on from where and at what time you are viewing it.We parked at Kuniya Car park and took the short walk into Mutitjulu waterhole. This place is where Kuniya, the woman python, encountered one of the Liru or snake men and saved her nephew from their clutches. She killed the one who was holding him and the cracks from her blows are still seen on the walls near there.The rock formations on the towering red outcrop are representative of this story. There is also a cave, covered with paintings where the young boys were brought to learn the stories which led to manhood. The walk took us to another beautiful waterhole, surrounded by high cliffs.We really enjoyed the beauty of this place and understood why it is a sacred site for our indigenous brothers and sisters.These stories form the basis for Tjukurpa, the ancient lore which is still followed today.

Having spent the morning there we now drove to Kata-Tjuta or many heads. Europeans called them the Olgas. These are just as sacred to the local people as Uluru.Our first stop was at a great viewing platform where we were going to eat our sandwiches, but the flies were so thick we didn't dare. I understand why so many people buy and wear the fly nets over their hats. We stopped at another viewing spot where we had the sandwiches, (in the car) and we saw another facet of the rock formations. Then it was on to Walpa Gorge.Here we walked up a steep, rocky slope and entered a gorge with tremendously high walls dotted all over with large holes. The going underfoot here was much tougher as it was all rocks and pebbles and being up hill I found the it tough. We finally came to a seat overlooking the watercourse, containing some pools. I stayed there while Fletcher ventured the last 5 minutes into the narrow opening. The quietness and beauty were overwhelming and I was happy just to sit and look. The walk back was much easier, mainly down hill and we could find easier tracks to take. However, I decided that was it, I had done over 15,000 steps and felt my age enormously!! We drove to the other walk site, The Valley of the Winds, but just looked and went on. We had seen what we had come to see and now it was time to head back to the hotel for rest.

The night was spent there quietly with a drink or two and watching some TV. I was pooped. But it had been a magical experience and another one to tick off our bucket list.

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