I guess a trip to Central Australia is not complete without a visit to Uluru or Ayers Rock as it used to be known (especially to us Aussies). We actually went there several times close up and at a distance in our week there. Our first foray with this monolith was from a distance atop a sand dune at Ayers Rock Resort. We then went there on our first full day to view sunrise lighting up the rock. It was quite cold early in the morning, but worth the early rise. We had booked one of the tourist coach tours, which picked us up from our hotel and took us to one of the designated sunrise viewing spots, along with about 10 other coach loads, with 50+ people on each………….do the maths. Instead of scrambling up a sand dune with everyone else (and probably not seeing very much), we actually stayed in a little valley, with perfect views of the Rock and a great silhouette of desert oaks on the ridge where the sun came up. I thought it was perfect and breathtaking.
After the sunrise (in which we were whisked away much too soon), we went for a drive and walk around the base of the huge rock. We visited Mala Walk and the Mutitjulu Waterhole, again not enough time spent at either, plus battling the crowds. We came back later in the same afternoon (On yet another crowded tour) to view sunset over the rock with a glass of champagne and canapes……..a nice way to do it, very dignified and gentry like. However, I felt that during these tours, we were rushed and did not spend enough time to fully appreciate the full sunrise or sunset. Due to the make up and geology of this magnificent monolith, it appears to be different colors at different times of the day, sometimes red, or orange through to deep mauve, especially evident at sunset.
We ended up hiring a car and driving ourselves around, we indeed re visited the rock and re did the Mala Walk in more depth and a longer visit, as we did with the waterhole, we could wait out the tours and have these places to ourselves. Moth even climbed the first part of Uluru, the Anangu ask that you do not climb the rock as it is dangerous and against their cultural beliefs, but they do not stop you; unless they deem it too dangerous on any given day. Many people have lost their lives climbing the rock, whether falling, dehydration or exhaustion, and there have been many more injured or requiring rescue. The rock is extremely steep, slippery and dangerous, often high winds buffet unwary climbers, then there is the extreme heat in Summer as well. There is a chain to help, although it is only knee high. The first part of the climb (which Moth did) is only about 30m off the ground, but even that was enough to make him stop to catch his breathe and decide it was time to come down.
Apart from a lizard, a few birds and a lone Falcon, we saw no wild life at the Rock, they assured us it is there, we just never saw any.
During the day, there are many facets of the rock that people do not realize, they fact that the rock is not smooth it is pitted and full of holes, ridges and rises. It is actually one huge rock of iron ore, it is the surface dust which is rusty due to the elements, giving it the red ochre colors it is famous for. It is magical and mystical, in itself, ad the stories of the local Aboriginals and there are some wonderful tales. Some areas we are not allowed into due to secret rites and rituals, but you can walk around the base of the rock, it is approx 12km walk. I preferred the shorter 2km Mala walk which ended in a green, vibrant oasis, it was such a shame that this waterhole was completely dry. I have been told by fellow travellers, when it rains the waterfalls down the sides of the Rock are something to be seen.
We also photographed the rock from a distance, including sunrise behind the rock from Kata Tjuta (The Olgas), now that was truly stunning, especially with lots of time to truly enjoy the entire sunrise, and of course from the sand dunes at the Resort.
My one wish was to be able to shoot the Milky Way at night up close over Uluru, but this was not to be, the park was closed to the public before it was completely dark, and there for I was not allowed to shoot in the Park at night. I do however have one shot from a distance, you can just make out the silhouette of the rock in the bottom right hand corner. This was from a camp ground sand dune, just out side the National Park gates. I wanted to get a view with the Milky Way running vertical up the middle of the Rock, but we could not close enough on the right angle.