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Published: August 31st 2013
Curtin Springs to Uluru
Sunday 25 August
Definitely a cold morning, we didn't get up until 7.30, Andy got the kettle on and I started to prepare the inside of Gypsy for our departure. We had a quick bacon and egg sandwich and finished packing up.
It looks like Emu had some fun in the night, we think she must have walked into the poles of our awning, they had moved and the guide ropes had gone saggy, poor thing must have wondered what was in her path. She looks old but quite content hanging around the campers.
We were on the road at 8.52, we seem to be much improved on our start times, I remember our last trip, most often we were not on the road until nearly 10am with all the packing up we had to do.
This morning we head out of the Curtin Springs Roadhouse and turn right towards Uluru, we are both excited about seeing Uluru and hope that we are not disappointed. We will also have Telstra access, which is good news.
I feel very excited to see
this great Australian icon of Uluru (Ayres Rock) some people have said that they prefer Kings Canyon, others have said we should do Uluru first and then Kings Canyon otherwise we would be disappointed, one lady was very indignant about which way round we should do things, but we are doing this the way we want to do it and for convenience because we are crossing the Great Central Road we have to do Uluru last.
My general feeling is that we will enjoy it for what it is, an Australian Icon that we see in pictures all over the world that encourage you to come to Australia, and we are going to see it very soon.
We sight Uluru in the distance, big wow Uluru looks like a loaf of bread rising in the oven, except that it gradually rises in the distance until it dominates the landscape. Kata Tjuta (the Olga's) also suddenly appear on the landscape, both of these icons look pretty amazing and I cannot wait to get up close to them.
Within an hour of leaving Curtin Springs this morning we arrive at Yulara, we drive
up to reception of the Ayres Rock Resort and get booked in, because it is before 10am which is checkout time, the receptionist explains that someone may still be on the site, this is ok, we can wait for a short spell if necessary. Driving in, we see that the camp site is really empty, we find our spot a nice little site on the edge of a sand dune at the back, by 10.30am we were all set up.
After getting ourselves sorted out we headed out of the resort and to the border of the Uluru Kata Tjuta National Park, there is a kiosk on the border where you purchase your entry passes for $25 per person, it covers 3 days for both Uluru and Kata Tjuta.
We purchased our passes and off we went into the park with great excitement to get near this natural masterpiece, Uluru stood out on the landscape, it felt like I wanted to reach out and touch it, the textures in the sunlight were pretty amazing, it was like nothing I had ever seen and really wanted to comprehend the size, we were driving toward it
and it felt like we were not getting any nearer.
Arriving at the cultural centre first, but as we really wanted to get on with the base walk which was our target for today, we bypass the centre and drive toward the Mala walk which takes us to the start of the 10.6k base walk.
I could see the where the climb took place but could not see anyone climbing though, so it must be closed and first look tells me this is something that I do not want to do. Good excuse as it is closed, which was confirmed by the signs when we drove into the car park.
Despite this, it is very busy here, Andy and I gear ourselves up, sunscreen, hats, fly nets, water, sun glasses. All pieces of equipment as important as the other, the heat can kill you so you need to stay hydrated and protect yourself from heat exhaustion. On that note the recommendation is one litre of water per person per hour and there is a water point at around the half way mark on the walk, so there is opportunity to refill,
we both have Camelbaks which come in exceptionally handy in this environment.
Just as we get kitted out, we see the ranger come up and unpadlock the closed signs, I ask him if he is reopening the walk, just as a gust of wind comes through, he said he was but as that gust just came through he needs to measure the windspeed again, so we watched whilst he did this and then he went on to reopen the climb, there was a flurry of activity as people suddenly walked up ready to take the climb, they must have been sitting in anticipation.
We wandered off to start the base walk, taking the anti clockwise route, by now it is midday exactly when we leave the car park, in the hot weather they do advise that all walks should be completed by 11am, but today's temperature is fairly moderate with a cool wind (still lots of flies though). Remembering it is winter here, the days can still hit the 30's so imagine what the summer months could be like.
This feels really exciting, I have been looking forward to doing this
Uluru Base Walk
10.6k - well worth doing!
walk, putting it into perspective it is only like doing the central basin of Lake Burley Griffin in Canberra twice round, so it should not pose too much of a problem, providing we keep a steady pace, drink plenty and take rests on the way.
Neither of us can help ourselves but we do stop to take lots of photos of this impressive natural wonder. the only problem is that there are signs every now and again that tell you where you are requested not to photograph due to cultural sensitivity, and we choose to respect this request (remembering that I had a camera lens breakdown in Kakadu when I photographed an aborigine, so I am not taking that chance again!)
There are plenty of wild flowers growing around the base, trees are in abundance in places, if you look up into the rock there are even trees growing out of the fissures.
Signs tell us the stories from the aboriginal dreaming, but nothing tells us about the geology of the rock which is a bit disappointing really so we will have to look that up online. What we do know
is that there are 9/10ths of this rock underground.
Every now and then, there is a shelter with a thatched roof and some terrific chairs made out of old tree's homed underneath, we take advantage to shelter from the sun and rest our feet for a while, we stop and have lunch at the half way mark, where there is a shelter, an emergency telephone and drinking water.
They do not mess around with safety here as signs everywhere tell you the risks and how to mitigate them, as I mentioned before the biggest threat to life being heat exhaustion and dehydration. It is good that they have emergency telephones located at intervals (they had the same in Kings Canyon, so if there was any problem you can call the park rangers for emergency assistance.
We stop to chat to some people we have met a few times on our journey since leaving Alice (we are all on the same circuit following Ormistion, Palm Valley, Kings Canyon etc.) now we are more than half way round Uluru's base and the wind seems to have disappeared so it is hotter and we
really need to keep moving to take advantage of finding shade.
The title deeds to Uluru and Kata Tjuta were handed back to Anangu the traditional owners who then leased the land back to the Australian Government for 99 years, they work together with National Parks to jointly manage this area which has been recognised as a World Heritage Area for it's natural and cultural values.
In the few days that we were at Uluru, we kept coming back to have a look at the climb, sometimes it was open and sometimes it was not, to me the climb was looking less scary than it did at first, but something in me was telling me not to do the climb, I don't know why, I cannot say that it was to do with respecting the culture of the traditional owners, 35 people have died climbing Uluru and most of them were heart attacks, it is a steep climb and physically demanding. The warning signs here are clear and tell you not to risk your life.
The traditional owners here ask you not to climb Uluru and I quote "That's a really
important thing you are climbing, you shouldn't climb. It's not the real thing about this place. The real thing is listening to everything. We are obliged by Tjukurpa (traditional law) to teach people what behaviour is appropriate".
I don't think it is my place to question their beliefs, I know sometimes I am sceptical about some things but here you can feel something in what they are saying and for now I will respect that.
They are continuing with a campaign to stop people climbing.
Just over 3 hours later we finish our walk, we watch people heading up and down the climb, we see one woman come down on her butt, it is steep and a number of people do this. It is hot now and I would not like to be doing the climb in this heat.
Exhausted from our hike around the base, we head back to camp and loll around in the shade. Later we attempt to cook our dinner on the gas barbecue provided by the camp site, but it runs out of gas so we go back to camp to finish cooking
Bedtime is a welcome relief, we will sleep well tonight after all that exercise, I close my eyes and I can hear the generator running in the distance, in hindsight I don't think it makes any difference to the camp site where they put you, I am sure they have a system, but perhaps not based on being close to the generators or not, we are on the back row of a very empty campsite, there is one camper van in the bay next to us and then no one for at least 10 bays either side of us and the two rows in front are almost completely empty.
Monday 26 August
The day starts like any other, quite cool until the sun rises over the dune and heats up very quickly, we are heading towards spring so I am wondering if the temperatures are now going to sit quite high on the scale.
Sandwiches and plenty of water packed, we head off to the cultural centre for a look around, they do recommend you do this first before you go to the
rock, we chose to do it this way round because we were keen to get the base walk done yesterday.
The cultural centre takes you around the story of the dreamtime and what has been handed down to each generation, we then head into another room where we can see and understand a little bit more about the environment and the traditional owners.
A book is lying open, which invites tourists to sign if they have not climbed the rock, it has a lot of signatures, some say they did not climb because they respect the culture, others say they just chose not to climb. I have not decided yet, so I am not compelled to sign it.
There is an art gallery here, some of the artists are sitting outside painting, we take a look inside, there are some really lovely pieces of indigenous art here, one painting in particular I wouldn't mind buying but we have no room to store it safely at the moment, so things like that will have to wait.
Sitting down for a coffee we can see Uluru, it still looks magnificent
in this landscape that looks so flat around it.
Our day is spent driving around the base, filling in some little walks that we had not done, we stopped at the resort shopping centre to grab some necessary provisions for our onward journey. It had been an exceptionally hot day and I was glad we were not walking this afternoon.
Andy had a telephone interview scheduled for this afternoon, he found a job in Alice Springs that he quite fancied, so we were pleased to be in a Telstra network area, otherwise it would have been satellite phone. He was on the phone for a long while, we are not sure if he will get called back to Alice Springs for a second interview, but we will see, it is all good experience, Alice Springs would be nice, but I still hope that Perth will be home for a while.
Before sunset we grabbed a cup of tea each and headed out to the Uluru sunset area, it was already very busy with people but we did manage to find a parking space, people were sat having cheese and wine, others
were cooking their meal for the night, what a great place to sit and dine.
The sun went down at 6.30pm, it was a clear night, the colours of the rock changed as did the sky, but soon it was dark and time to head back to camp. After dinner we headed out to the Outback Pioneer Lodge for a drink, the take away alcohol was expensive, you couldn't buy anything larger than a 6 pack or a bottle of wine, the wine was about $28 a bottle, which is 50% more than a 4 litre cask of wine in some places.
Sleep came along very easily despite hearing the generator in the background which seemed a little bit noisier tonight.
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