Onto the rock.
The drive here was filled with fire, there were fires spreading for kilomtres along the road, jumping the road and in many sections the heat could easily be felt through the windows of the car, oh well, keep driving and hope for the best.This is a rather poor video of either flies buzzing around the front dirty windscreen of the troopy, or fires along the main highway to Uluru, you choose.
I arrived at the free camping area and decided to go “out the back” closer to the rock, after all, I was in a 4×4. The first dune was easy to get across, low and not so boggy. The second dune was quite large and pretty boggy and a couple were stuck after trying to get their caravan up it, they were blocking the track for anyone else. Never fear. Super Backpacker was on his way down the track to save the day.
These backpackers had made it over the first dune by having a small light car and three people to get out and push. This photo was going to be saved for a list of do’s and don’ts for backpackers and grey nomads but I’m sure that I’ll get some more crazy pictures of things not to do.
I made it way down to the third dune before I decided to stop, the area was beautiful, only a couple of other people camped there and a great view of the rock with the sun just starting to set. This area was really special, it was only once I got up in the morning and started to look around I realized all the life that was around. These lifeless looking red dunes are crawling with life in the cool of the evening. In the morning there are animal tracks everywhere, including this crazy one. I don’t know what it was, perhaps a mole?
It’s over the top of my tyre track from the day before, with a start and an end. I’d taken many pictures of all the different tracks, well over a dozen different animals, lizards, small marsupials and plenty of ones I have no idea about.
Although still a far distance from the rock, it was nice to watch the sun rise over the landscape.
Next time I’m here I’ll go down to the 4th dune, you can see the track heading off to it, and it’s perhaps a kilometre closer to the rock
And the rock? well, what can I say. It’s just awe inspiring. Literally, awe inspiring, drop jaw, unbelievable, belittling, amazing, I could go on and on with superlatives. I spent many hours just sitting looking from all different angles. Touching it and marveling at it.
While doing the walk around the base of the rock I took my time soaking it all in. There were a few times when tears just welled up in my eyes, no particular thoughts running through my head, no real reason for it, just goosebumps and tears for no real reason, in fact I feel goosebumpy now just thinking about it.
There’s no way to give you any real concept of the enormity and power of this rock, so I will just post a few pictures, I took hundreds over a few days.
Break up the rock pics with the odd plant.
Then of course there were the things that I found annoying. I know, I’m getting old and grumpy. So many people here just to hurry around, all jabbering away laughing and carrying on, just not getting it, not taking any of it in, they could have been walking down their local street at home. I guess they’re here to get a couple of quick pictures and say they walked around the rock, that’s it. But they don’t experience it, it’s just another postcard in their little lives filled with so many postcards and so few real experiences.
Stop for a minute and take it in!
Even the places specifically sign posted saying “stop, take a moment, listen, this is a special spot, just imagine…” Or the areas carefully sign posted as having significant cultural importance asking people not to take photographs, many ignored this and kept snapping away.
It also upset me to see all the people climbing the rock. There were many signs asking people not to climb, explaining why the local owners don’t want people to climb the rock, the importance the rock holds for them in their culture and their beliefs. And outlining the damage done to the rock and the immediate environment by people climbing. The signs also explain that in recent times over 30 people have died climbing and this weighs heavily on their conscious. But they climb anyway, they ignore the requests, because it hasn’t been outright banned.
My time here was a bit of a comedy of errors, I went early to the sunset photo area for Uluru and waited for about 3 hours for the sun to set. I spent time walking up and down the hundreds of metres of area working out the best spot for photos and claimed my spot by the fence. Then as time wore on, more and more people arrived, jamming me into my little spot against the fence I was stuck with people crammed about 3 deep behind me. A multitude of languages, smells and sounds. After a while I decided that the best photo chances had gone, the sun looked like it wasn’t going to poke out from the clouds again, time to get out of the mad house. Just as I started to drive out, the clouds opened and the rock lit up. Damn! Still pull over and get a few more snaps. As the sun sinks lower, the rock takes on a deep velvety glow as though it’s glowing from within.
So I planned to sleep in the camp spot near the road tonight, still about 30km from the national park, but I wanted to get up early and be at the Olgas or Kata Tjuka for sunrise. Bad move, pulled into camp and stopped to find that there were multiple generators running around me, someone trying to learn to play the didge, and a baby crying. I could swear that the crying was the same child as I’d struck a week or so earlier. Then once the generators died off, the young backpackers began their partying in earnest. Yay for earplugs, the most essential travelling item. Further back over the dunes was far more peaceful.
Up at sparrow fart in the morning I headed off in the dark, about a 70km drive to get to the sunrise viewing platform for Kata Tjuka (Olgas). The sky in the east was just starting to get a little light as I arrived to find the car park almost full. A short walk up to the viewing platform and the place was chock a block, people trying desperately to hold their cameras and phones higher than everyone else to get pictures above the others.
Bit of a let down, but it wasn’t a great morning for photos anyway.
The walk through Kata Tjuka was great though, I did the Valley of the winds walk that takes you in a loop right through the heart of a huge chasm.
From a distance this looks very similar to Uluru, but when you get closer you realize that the giant rocks are a conglomerate of small water worn rocks all stuck together. The whole thing is all water worn boulders stuck together. When you start to think about it in geological terms, the rock has formed originally, then broken up and rolled around in rivers or oceans or both forming lots of water worn smooth rocks, then these rocks have all been deposited in the same place and stuck together to form solid rock again. I have no idea how deep underground the deposit of this rock is but it’s mind boggling to think it was all deposited here, and now it’s all being weathered away again.
The Valley of Winds walk is well worth it.
The whole trip to the red heart here is fantastic. The masses and masses of tourists put me off a bit, but I’ll be coming back here some time, mainly to spend more time in the red dunes and soft spinifex, I want to see some of those animals, to experience the life living within that harsh environment. Although I call it a harsh environment and it is by definition, it’s also quite soft and nice. Perhaps because of the many flowers, the soft spinifex blowing in the wind and the soft red sand under foot.
Like the honey grevillea above, grab the flower, stick it in your mouth and suck the sweet nectar straight from the flower, and yes, it tastes just like honey. There are far harsher places I’ve been with nothing but hard, hot, sharp rocks and prickly plants which dig into your skin with barbed sharp spikes.
Many thanks and much respect to the Anangu traditional owners for sharing this magical place.