The first thing I noticed when I landed at the airport at Uluru was how friendly everybody was. From the man at Thrifty car rentals who offered us a lift into the city after we missed the shuttle, to the people at the reception of Outback Pioneer Lodge who dealt with our bombardment of questions with a smile and a solution. The second was the heat. Having spent the winter in Melbourne where it is cold and windy and generally finger-numbing, this heat was a welcome change and so the fact that we couldn’t check in till 3pm did not faze us – it meant that we just had to lie by the pool in the sunshine filled blue skies. Sigh. Such a hardship.
Spending time here at Ayers Rock Resort was like something I’ve never experienced before. It was worlds apart from the busy people-clogged streets of Melbourne and a breath of fresh air from the usual tourist stuff I have been doing. The resort itself is a little strange – it’s like one big campsite in the middle of nowhere – a huge tourist spider web. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great location for visitors all over the world who want to marvel at Uluru but I can’t help but feel a little sad for this once deserted area so sacred to aboriginal culture which is now being trampled all over by truck loads of tourists. Me being one of them.
Up bright and early on our first day, after a rude awakening at 3.30am by some girls who appeared to be having a competition as to who could make the most noise, we picked up our rental car, stocked up on snacks, got some music on and set of to Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. We decided to head over to the Kata Tjuta part first, knowing that we had plenty, perhaps too much, time to see everything. After a brief pit-stop to view the sight from afar, we found a car park and went on a short walk to see Walpa Gorge. Now, if we thought this was impressive, it didn’t prepare us for what we thought when we started the hike at Valley of the Winds. It was incredible. We couldn’t help but stare in awe as we slowly walked the circuit, taking in the empty landscape, the huge walls of the rock formations, the feeling that we were suddenly very small in a very big world. The hike took less time than expected, despite the numerous stops to take in our landscape and the obligatory camera shots. Although, the camera doesn’t really do this piece of geographical masterpiece justice. At all.
It was then we decided to head over to the sunset viewing spot in order to see Uluru at sunset. Only 3 hours earlier than scheldued..
With only 100km allowed a day with the car we rented (the only issue I had with Thrifty in an otherwise perfect service. And pretty snazzy car – and that comes from someone who knows nothing about cars), we decided that rather than wasting km driving back and then in again, we may as well set up camp and wait for sunset. And despite the cabin fever, the sugar rush from too much chocolate and the general boredom, it was most definitely worth it. As the sky changed into a beautiful smear of pinks to yellow to light blue, Uluru lit up in all its amazing orange glory. And that kids, is why I travel. Where else can you see something like that?
Day 2 consisted of a well deserved lie in before setting off and eating some breakfast with a picture perfect view of Uluru. By now, we had seen it from so many angles but it was still just as impressive as it was the first time. Today, we were going to walk around the base. A 10km walk which offered an up close and personal viewing of the rock and its many distinct patterns and crevices.
Feeling like I was in every geologist’s Heaven, it was amazing to see so many different textures and layers of the rock and it was interesting being able to point out the aboriginal meanings behind some of these markings which we had read about briefly at the Cultural Centre. The walk was windy and hot and tiresome on our already tired hiking legs, but in all aspects, pretty damn cool. (Although, I think personally that whilst it was impressive up close, the view of Uluru from afar is far more incredible).
My few days in the Outback is something I think I’m probably going to remember forever. I’ll be that Grandma that fondly tells their Grandkids about that time they spent a year in Australia and saw some awe-inspiring things that you just have to see to believe. If you are travelling in Australia, a visit to Uluru should be on your agenda. You may as well right? Why come all the way to Australia and not truly experience it. That’s my reasoning for spending all my money on travel anyway. I think it works…