It is our third night here in Yalara, the resort town just outside the Uluru/Kata Tjuta National Park. We will be moving on from here sometime tomorrow afternoon and as I will probably lose access to the internet from then until we reach Alice Springs, I have just spent the last four or so hours working through my photos so that I can publish another blog before we go.
My first comment is to explain the title of this blog ... this "dead" center of Australia is lush, vibrant, green, gold and beautiful at the moment following on two seasons of very good rain. It is almost rare to see a large expanse of red dirt ... its there, the red dirt, you just need to look under all the growth.
We have just had two enormous, very physical and amazing packed days. We arrived in this beautiful place mid-morning last Monday after a beautiful drive through dazzling early morning sunshine from Curtain Springs. Not long after leaving Curtain Springs we had our first glimpse of Uluru in the distance and even that far off, it was impressive and we were very excited. We stopped to take photos (of
course) approximately 40 kms away at a lovely sand dune free camp spot (to which we plan to return tomorrow night). While I climbed the highest dune around to get a view of Uluru, my companions were immediately captivated by the huge flocks of wheeling, speeding, diving finches that filled the bushes all around them and were in fact quite noisy.
On arriving, we checked into our camp site and spent the remainder of Monday getting our bearings, perusing all the brochures, maps and other information we had collected and planning how we were going to spend our time. And this is how it went ….
Tuesday morning we were up before dawn and heading into the National Park by 6.30am. We were due to collect bikes at the Cultural Center at 7.30am for our ride around the base of Uluru. As we had a few minutes to spare, and the sky looked appealing beautiful, we spontaneously decided to whip around to the sunrise viewing area on the southern side of Uluru to catch the sunrise. Oh my goodness … I don’t think I have ever seen, or had the good fortune to photograph, such a beautiful sunrise.
It was captivating to say the least. We only just arrived in time and were not really sure where we should go to get the best view. As it happens, the crowd was way up on a completely different track behind us and the decision on where to get the best vantage point was taken completely out of our hands due to lack of time. And it was perfect. I have included about four photos of this sunrise … so beautiful. I have many photographs (of course) and had a very hard time choosing which ones I should share with you in this blog.
The sunrise was so captivating that of course we then ran late for our appointment with the bike hire man. Never mind, he didn’t seem to mind so all was well. By 8am we were fully fitted out with our bikes, helmets and dilly baskets on the front handlebars and off we went. It was a fantastic, very stimulating and awe inspiring ride. 15 kilometers from start to finish with 10 of those riding up close and personal to the base of Uluru, and the other 5 getting to and from the Cultural Centre. We
rode anti-clockwise because the walkers walk clockwise – that way cyclists get to see pedestrians and have time to avoid them on the track. So for the first part of our trek, we were on the shaded side of Uluru.
The markings, tones and surface of the rock are amazing. Several sections are marked clearly as sacred sites and visitors are requested not to take photographs, and we were happy to comply. My favorite sacred site was that noted as a Women’s Place and it was in stark contrast to another which was a Men’s site. The “scriptures” as they are described for the women’s place were intricate, flowing, and magnetic. And being in shade as they were when we were looking at them, very soft, gentle and appealing. By contrast the men’s site was in harsh and powerful sunlight by the time we arrived there, and I personally found that area much less appealing and attractive. Very strong and forceful.
On the shady and southern base of the rock, we were very close all the time. But on the northern and sunny side, the track swings wide and further away and passes through some lovely mulga bush
where there were a variety of birds … all very shy and hard to catch on camera. I saw only one Budgie, and kept waiting for the rest of its flock to catch up, but unfortunately that did not happen.
It was after 11 am by the time we dismounted from our bikes, and by then we were all quite saddle sore and very hot. I retreated to the Sallywagon to shed a few layers of clothes and my backpack and camera, and after a much needed bite of lunch, I succumbed to a nanna nap. Eventually I got back on my feet and took myself into the Cultural Center for a good look around. I then realized that on our bike ride we had completely missed called the Kuniya Waterhole, so I decided to take the drive which circumnavigates Uluru in a much wider circle and call in and walk into the waterhole.
By the time I had completed all that I was well and truly worn out and headed back to camp.
This morning we again rose before dawn … even earlier. We were off on a Sunrise Camel Ride. We assembled at the Camel
farm at 6am and by 7 am we were all mounted and heading off into the twilight predawn. Quite obviously these people have run this ride before … we arrived atop the appointed sand dune at exactly the right time to watch the sun pop up over the horizon and illuminate Uluru off to the south of us. This was a lovely fun adventure. A very different experience and a wonderful way for someone like me who has limited walking ability to get to pass through some beautiful country with ease and relative comfort.
On return to the camel farm, breakfast awaited … hot tea and coffee, orange juice, and freshly baked and sliced beer bread with a variety of spreads. This we all hoed into eagerly while the photographs taken by the official photographer filled the big TV screen on the wall for us all to view (and buy if we were so inclined … which we were not).
Well fed and with our senses heightened by our dawn ride, we set off for the Kata Tjutas, again enjoying the splendid golden early morning light as it dusted endless fields of golden spinifex waving in the morning
breeze, studded with desert oaks and other arid zone bushes which looked for all the world to me like islands floating in a golden ocean.
The Kata Tjutas (an aboriginal name which means “many heads” are fascinating … completely different to Uluru, and breathtakingly beautiful in their own right. The closer you get on this 40 km drive the more appealing and fascinating they appear.
We went straight to the Valley of the Winds and attempted the walk … we made it to the first lookout only and then foot sore and weary, retired defeated, but happy (very happy) back to our vans.
After a quick look at the Walpa Gorge where we ate lunch, we all decided that was enough and headed back to camp.
Altogether it’s been a wonderful two days … jam packed with sights and sounds to make our hearts soar and our senses reel.
And now as it is 10.30 at night (and remember my day started at 5am), I have no more words. I hope you enjoy the photos I have chosen for this blog. Tomorrow we will do a ranger led walk back around parts of the base
of Uluru, revisit the Cultural Centre and then head back out to our sand dune camp site for a rest and to contemplate all that we have seen and done. Then it will be off to Alice Springs.
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