Before taking a good look at a detailed map of Australia I was under the impression that Alice Springs and Uluru (Ayres Rock) were very close to each other. I was surprised to learn that this big rock was actually 500 km away, but then I suppose that in Australian Outback terms that is actually just down the road.
It was well worth the journey though and the lonely barren 500k just served to add to the feeling of how remote it really is (boo to all those who fly in).
Despite the fact that it is just a big rock, one cannot help but be awed by it. It is truly colossal, as looking at climbers through binoculars are testament to. I didn’t climb out of respect to the traditional (aboriginal) owners request and beliefs, although I would have loved to. To make up for it we walked around it instead. All 8km of it, in the searing winter sun, despite being flat it was hard work but worth it seeing all the bizarre effects erosion has had on the rock.
At sunset is when the rock really comes into it’s own with the hue changing by the minute. This is the best time for photography as could be seen by the hundreds of cameras all pointed at the rock from the sunset viewing area. I got some good shots (interestingly long exposures after the sun has set give more of a red hue than those taken in the setting sun light) and took a sequence of shots to make a stop gap animation. I’ll post that once I’ve created it…
In yet another coincidence with timing, we witnessed the moon rise behind Uluru only to see it halfway into an eclipse. The following hour and a half provided us with a full lunar eclipse. The chances of actually being in the right place at the right time to see a lunar eclipse are slim, but to see one as the moon rose over Uluru, by chance, was really pretty special.
The following day we went to the Olgas (or Kata Tjuta to give them their aboriginal name) which is a collection of huge rocks in the form domes, identical to Uluru in colour, structure and size. Lesser known but actually more impressive, if that is possible. We did two walks into and around them and along with the stunning views we were treated to sights such as two Kangaroos feeding in Walpa Gorge and a few smaller beasts too.
Leaving the sunset viewing area, after talking with an Indian chap who had made the trip especially to photograph the eclipse that we knew nothing of (you should have seen his face when we told him of our Rickshaw Run exploits), we were treated to a stunning view of a huge golden moonrise next to Uluru followed by a close encounter with three camels crossing the highway in front of me.
Day three in the Red Centre (after an emu tried to eat our van) we headed over to Kings Canyon, a mere 300 kilometres away, which I have to say, for me, was the most impressive of the three geological wonders in the “area”. We attended another one of these free guided ranger walks up the canyon learning as we went and spotting some wonderful wildlife.
While returning to the car park we bumped into a couple that we’d seen at various places over the last previous days including on the Uluru ranger walk. Some people rush in, see Uluru and rush out again (their loss) but others take time to see Uluru, Kata Tjuta and Kings Canyon and unsurprisingly it was the people with that itinerary who we saw repeatedly (including a Brazilian couple who are driving around the world in a Land Rover : www.mundoporterra.com.br). After a brief chat with Tony and Alison in the canyon we met up with them later that night at the campsite. A lovely, friendly, intelligent couple who have followed the government ranger training and now run eco tours, we spent the evening discussing all sorts of things including getting the low down on the current conservation plight in Tasmania. A true pleasure to meet them and an educational experience at the same time.
The following day we tackled the longer strenuous rim walk where you climb to the top of the canyon, walk along one edge, drop down into some really peaceful and beautiful pools near the start of the canyon, then return on the other side. The views, rock formations, sheer drops and wildlife, once again were breath taking. This truly is one amazing country.
Note the people at the top left for scale.
Oh, and the red colour, that comes from all the oxidised iron minerals in the rock, so yes, they are rusting!