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Published: December 22nd 2009
On day six we were up early as we had another day with lots of kilometres to cover. The morning was spent dozing in the bruck, stopping occasionally to refuel and stretch our legs before we stopped at a service station for some lunch. There was a nice patch of grass under some trees for us to sit while we munched away on our sandwiches. The service station was also home to a variety of bush animals that had been rescued from the wild after various accidents or misfortune. In an enclosure a orphaned and blind baby kangaroo shared his home with an emu that the service station owners had taken in after it had been hit and injured on the road. There were also a couple of emus wandering around without enclosures which was a very bizarre sight to behold as we sat and ate our sandwiches. Before lunch we had petted one of them but after we sat down with our food he came back over to us and scurried between various members of our group trying to pinch sandwiches while we weren't looking which was very amusing. When sitting down trying to eat a 5ft emu towering hungrily
over you is quite an unnerving sight!
After driving another couple of hours after lunch we spotted what we thought might be Uluru (Ayers Rock) in the distance. But it didn't look quite right. Ian explained that it was actually Mount Connor and that so many tourists mistake it for Uluru that it has earned the nickname Fooluru from locals and tour operators. Apparantely you can often see excited tourists parked by the side of the road taking pictures of Mount Connor in the distance only to be confused when a second one appears on the horizon half an hour later! We passed by and eventually the real Uluru appeared in the distance ahead, clearly much bigger and impressive than Mount Connor. Although I had been excited about seeing Uluru in person after seeing hundreds of pictures of one of the world's most photographed icons, I had thought that it had the potential to be disappointing. Essentially it is just a large rock in the ground. However, as it loomed in front of us, bright red and growing steadily larger as we got closer I did feel a strange hush descend on the bruck. It is a strangely intimidating
sight and I was suddenly more excited about being up close to the enormous monolith that I thought I would be.
Before long we arrived at the entrance to Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, the UNESCO World Heritage listed site that is one of the few places on earth to be recognised for both it's natural and cultural significance and is home to the spectacular Kata Tjuta as well as Uluru. Ian paid our entrance and we drove towards the car park at the base of the rock, the reverential silence now broken by excited chatter as we approached.
We had originally planned to do the full 10.6 km walk around the base of Uluru but as we had arrived later than planned we didn't have quite enough time to complete it before the park closed. Instead we opted to do a combination of the Mala and Lungkata walks. Ian had warned us that after five days in the bush seeing only a few people a day we might be a little overwhelmed by the crowds around Uluru but fortunately it was relatively empty by the time we arrived in the late afternoon. We started off with the Mala
walk and saw different sacred areas of the famous rock that, under Aboriginal tradition are reserved for either men, women or children. In each of these areas photography is forbidden in case an Aboriginal person sees an area that is reserved for the opposite sex in a photograph in the outside world. We also saw some cave paintings and heard some of the stories that the Aboriginal people pass down from generation to generation about the way the rock came into being and some of the events that happened around it. Some of these stories are protected by law and only authorised Aboriginal people are allowed to tell them to other Aboriginal people. Ian had actually been told a couple of these stories by an Aboriginal guide but was unable to relate them to us as he explained it would actually land him in a lot of trouble. We contented ourselves instead with marvelling at the sheer enormity of the huge rock and the real sense of age that it projected. It sounds strange but just walking around the base we really felt that we were in the prescence of a truly ancient object that was one of the oldest
things on earth. The Lungkata walk took us to another section of the rock where we learned a traditional story that has a moral about stealing. It also has an ending that serves as a still relevant warning not to climb Uluru!
Although it was very tempting to take a small rock as a souvenir of our visit to Uluru we resisted. As such an important piece of national heritage it didn't seem fair to remove anything and if everybody took a small rock home soon there would be none left. We had also heard of the famous "sorry rocks", stones that people had taken as mementos and then sent back when they realised the error of their ways. The rangers at the national park receive these parcels from around the world every day, often with notes containing apologies and even accounts of how bad luck had been upon them since they removed the rocks. We decided we wouldn't take our chances with the Aboriginal spirits and left Uluru with only memories and photos as souvenirs.
We then drove to the small town of Yulara just 18km away from Uluru. Yulara is a new town that was set
up by the Northern Territory government in 1976 to accomodate the growing tourist around Uluru and Kata Tjuta and reduce the detrimental effects that the rapid increase in visitors was having. The whole town is essentially a large resort that serves as a one stop shop for tourists visiting Uluru and Kata Tjuta with a variety of accomodation from luxury rooms to a patch of sand for swags. In case you were wondering, we had the swag option. We considered it luxurious because the sand was soft and that was enough for us! We parked at our reserved area and freshened up before jumping back in the bruck and heading out to the Uluru sunset viewing area a few kilometres away. When we got there we found hundreds of other tourists along the walkway but managed to find ourselves a quiet spot where we could watch the effects the setting sun and fading light had on the ever changing face of Uluru. Ian revealed some champagne that he had stashed in the cool box (known in Australia as an esky) and poured us all a glass. After a hard day's driving in the heat with no air conditioning it was
clear poor Ian was dying for a glass himself but he nobly resisted, even though the drive back to camp was only short. As we watched, glass in hand, and feet in sand, the rock turned from red to sandy brown and then finally black. If it was an intimidating sight in the distance during the day it loomed almost threateningly over us at night. Not for the first time I wondered what the first people to discover Uluru would have thought when they spotted it on the horizon. I can understand why the Aboriginals thought it sacred. When the sun finally disappeared below the horizon behind us we drove back to camp, seeing our first dingo on the way. We had a quick dinner before settling down for a very restful sleep in the dust.
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