Australia Day Fifteen: Uluru 30,000 Years Of Tradition Is Hard To Comprehend And Appreciate In A Day
It was another early start at the Ayers Rock Resort, most activities occur early in the morning and late in the afternoon, avoiding the brutal heat of the central Australian summer afternoon. I decided to explore Uluru on my own. I was going to take the Uluru express shuttle to watch the sunrise and then have it drop me off at Uluru. It left at 5;15 a.m and I was outside a half hour earlier to once again enjoy the spectacular Australian night sky. I immediately located the Southern Cross, Alpha Centauri, and enjoyed the five planets visible in the morning sky, Venus, Mars, Saturn, Jupiter and Mercury. Mercury was as bright as I have ever seen it. And of course the breathtaking beauty of the Milky Way again dominated this wonderful show.
I enjoyed the stars and planets for about a half hour when our shuttle arrived and drove us to the Talinguru Nyakunytjaku viewing area. It was twilight now and we saw the red glow of the approaching sun on the horizon. The viewing area was crowded with tourists who came to watch the magical shifting colors and shades of Uluru as the rising rays of the sun strike it’s surface.
The subtle changes on the rocks are really too beautiful to be captured with photographs or descriptive words. You just have to experience it. I just took in the splendor of these special moments, imagining the thoughts of many generations of the Anangu people who witnessed this same scene every day during their lives on this earth. Here is a link to some more photographs of the sunrise. https://keepyoureyespeeled.net/australia/nggallery/australia/australia-day-fifteen-uluru-sunrise-february-18-2016
After the sunrise our shuttle driver had some hot beverages and a light breakfast available for us and then dropped the other folks off at Uluru. I was dropped at at the Anangu cultural centre since I wanted to learn more about this people who have lived in this area for 30 millennium. That’s an awful long time. I read some of the exhibits but had so little time to learn about this ancient culture since I wanted to join a ranger guided tour of the mala walk to the Kantju Gorge at Uluru at 8 a.m. I took a quick tour of the many exhibits and hope a can return someday.
I took the Liru walk, about 1 1/2 miles from the cultural centre to Uluru. It was a nice walk on a path through the desert bush. I walked on the bright red soil common to central Australia. The vastness of Uluru loomed to my right as I walked. Here is a link to some more photographs of my visit to the cultural center and hike to Uluru.https://keepyoureyespeeled.net/australia/nggallery/australia/australia-day-fifteen-uluru-cultural-centre-february-18-2016
I arrived at the parking lot at Uluru where I met the national park ranger and joined a group of tourists on the mala walk. We learned of the legend of the mole woman who came here in the “dreamtime’ of the Anangu people and who they believed created the holes in these rock formations. We were told other stories that were part of the Anangu people and also of their law, their customs and their soul their “tjukurpa”. They really believe they and the land are one.
It was a most informative walk. We learned so much, but I am sure only a small fraction, of the culture and history of the Anangu people. A few other rangers joined our group, and added their knowledge to the discussion. . We learned that many areas of Uluru were sacred to men and others to women, and they were not allowed to enter the sacred area of the other sex. Photographs were not allowed in these areas. We did see some areas, were photographs were allowed and were older men thought boys hunting skills and older women, young girls gathering and food preparation skills.
We walked deep into the mountain to the Kantju Gorge, a source of water to the Anangu people for countless generations. We learned of bush food gathered by the Anangu and I even got to sample a bush plum, It was seedy but quite good. I was very glad to have accompanied the rangers on this truly amazing, and informative hike. Here is a link to some more photographs of this hike. https://keepyoureyespeeled.net/australia/nggallery/australia/australia-day-fifteen-uluru-ranger-mala-walk-february-18-2016
The walk ended and I hiked out to the Uluru base walk and proceeded to follow it around the base of the large mountain of rock. I knew it wouldn’t be an easy hike in the heat of the desert, it was already 10a.m. and the sun was getting hot. It was a seven mile hike and I had already walked two miles. I followed the path as it winded around the mountain through areas of different, and exotic, vegetation and various shrubs, small trees and plants of central Australia.
I soon found how quickly the hot temperature, intense sun and dry air will exhaust you. I thought I was in good shape but I sure got tired, and thirsty, on this hike. I enjoyed the changing contours, caves and indentations of the mountains as i walked as well as the changing desert vegetation. Here is a link to some more photographs on the Uluru base walk. https://keepyoureyespeeled.net/australia/nggallery/australia/australia-day-fifteen-uluru-base-hike-february-18-2016
I contemplated the hundreds of generations of the Anangu people who preceded me on this hike. I wondered what they were thinking and how well they must have know this harsh desert environment to survive in this persistent heat. I sure was glad to come to a rest area which had a source of water. I drank like a camel and once again proceeded along the trail
I was really feeling in the heat, it was near noon now, and I struggled the last mile to get to the parking lot. It was an exhausting hike but well worth the effort to learn a little about this living rock sacred to the local population for over 30,000 years. Here is a link to some more photographs on the Uluru base walk.https://keepyoureyespeeled.net/australia/nggallery/australia/australia-day-fifteen-uluru-base-hike-part-two-february-18-2016
The shuttle arrived at noon, and I was sure glad to see it. I headed back to the hotel and took a long cool shower and a nice lunch. I was tired and it was hot so after lunch I decided to spend some time doing what I hate to do, shop for souvenirs. At least the shops were air conditioned. It’s not only the shopping I dislike, it’s packing the purchases in my luggage and carrying the extra weight on my travels. I had purchased a print from the artist Pro Hart’s gallery in Broken Hill and filled up my luggage so I decided to ship it back along with the souvenirs I purchased in the shops at the resort. I spent a few hours shopping and having them packed and shipped back to the States. Hopefully they will arrive in a few weeks.
I headed back to my room and edited some photos and waited for the evening. I had decided to join the Sounds of Silence dinner the resort puts on every evening. A large number of the guest are bused out to one of two locations in the desert where we we served to champagne and hors d’ oeuvres as we watched the beautiful cloud formations and sunset to the haunting sounds of a didjeridu.
The clouds in the sky were spectacular as the sun set and we were led to our tables under the almost full moon and stars. I joined some travelers from the United States and we had a great meal under the desert sky.
Kangaroo and crocodile where on the menu but I passed on these local foods. After dinner we were given a presentation on the southern sky and had the opportunity to see it though a telescope. It was a truly enchanting way to spend my last night in the central Australian outback. Here is a link to some more photographs form our dinner under the stars. http://keepyoureyespeeled.net/australia/nggallery/australia/australia-day-fifteen-uluru-sounds-of-silence-february-18-2016
I have always loved the desert. One sits down on a desert sand dune, sees nothing, hears nothing. Yet through the silence something throbs, and gleams. ~Antoine de Saint-Exupéry