We flew into the Uluru airport via Alice Springs. We taxied to a canvass tented community just outside the National Park. There were large canvass tents for sleeping, an outside meal over fireside, and a starry night sky to enjoy. The host pointed out the southern cross and some other constellations unfamiliar to northerners as well as stories about the area and baby-stealing dingoes.
Like Uluru, early explorers called the area what they wanted and wrote it down.
In this case, the colonial explorer called the tallest peak Mt. Olga in honor of of the Grand Duchess of Russian who had bestowed the honor of baron upon him. The area then became known as the Olgas. For many thousands of years prior to that, the area was know to the Aboriginal people as Kata Tjuta, which means many heads. They also consider it a sacred site. Although, the mountain doesn’t care what it is called, it is impressive. We walked through the valley of the winds as our host explained hunting strategies of the aborigines. He also said the pre-colonial Aborigines migrated throughout Australia following the clouds as that was rain, life, and good hunting opportunities. After a half day at Kata Tjuta, we headed over to Uluru.
Sharleen and I disagreed ardently as to whether to climb to the top of Uluru. The national park area is considered a partnership between the Australian government and the Anangu Aboriginal people. To the Aborigines, Uluru is sacred ground. Climbing the mountain is disrespectful. To tourists, it is a mountain to climb and badge that says I did it. (In fact recently, the national park has decided to honor the partnership with the Aborigines and ban people from climbing to the top of this amazing mountain. [Click here])
High winds settled the debate and we did not climb. Instead we walked around the base of this great mountain. There were dozens inlets and crevices to explore. Unfortunately some smelled like urine and had garbage and others contained some amazing rock art.
It was a short walk and took at most about an hour. We saw some wildlife along the way, but not much. Mostly we marveled at how out of place this giant rock was. The rangers explained how this was the bed of a pre-historic ocean and geologic forces cause the rock to shift up. In fact it resembled a land iceberg, with a just a small fraction of its bulk showing up above land. Yet other than the similar formation of Kata Tjuta nearby, there is nothing like anywhere else in Australia.
Towards the end of the day we ended up at a viewing area with a throng of photographers to view the sunset. “It really is amazing…you have to see it. Minute by minute the color of the rock changes.” We did see Uluru change colors from reds to purples, but we lacked the sophistication of the masterful photographers to really capture the gradations of colors.
Uluru and Kata Tjuta are a UNESCO world heritage site.