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Thursday, June 2, 2016

From Sea to Desert - Uluru and Kata Tjuta

Some people might ask "What's so great about a big rock in the middle of no where?" It's a valid question, at least before you see Uluru (also known as Ayers Rock) rising up from the plains of the desert. We were told on our camel tour (don't was actually pretty cool) that "the Rock" is like an iceberg, with only a small part showing. It actually goes about 2 and a half kilometres into the ground.
First look - view from the plane
The desert wasn't what we'd expected - there were trees (desert oak) that are hundreds of years old, they grow very slowly. The brush was full of flowers and every where we looked we could see green, growing things. This was due to a recent rain fall. On our trip from Sydney to Uluru we flew over Lake Eyre, usually a dry salt flat, but this time it had water in it. It's not a usual thing, so we were, once again, very lucky.

Lake Eyre
The Uluru resort is exactly that. A place where they have a "captive" audience with no surrounding amenities, so they charge as they wish, they offer whatever quality they care to (but keep to a fair standard) and milk the link to an 600 million year old site for all it's worth. As long as you can be okay with that, the experience is great. We opted for a camel tour for our first official encounter with the rock. It might sound random, but camels actually helped build Australia. The country is also home to the largest wild camel herd in the world with around a million dromedaries frolicking in the bush. (Going "walkabout", if you will.) Our noble steed was called Pete, sure not the most romantic name, but he was the camps tallest camel and of a biddable nature that we enjoyed. 

What we did get to witness was the changing colours of Uluru. The rock itself is actually grey, but because of the high iron content (much like in Prince Edward Island) the surface layer oxidizes and the rock takes on a reddish hue. As the sun lowers, the surface reflects the light in such a way that the colour deepens. After the ride, we enjoyed a couple glasses of wine and some local snacks back at the camel farm and headed back to our hotel for an early night. Predawn was calling.
Ron gearing up for the camel ride
Petey, our noble steed
So strangely green
Shadows are lengthening
Looks like a fake back drop, right?
But we were really there!
Coming to the end of the day
Nearly a full moon
The deep purple of last light
We were blessed with a clear night and the stars were incredible. We laid out on a hillock and watched as Venus's belt (the purple of night) rising on the horizon and eventually turning into the velvet blackness of night, studded with planets, stars and the occasional  satellite. It was a good way to wrap up the day.

The next morning we took the shuttle to Uluru to watch the sun rise and then hike around the base. (I'm starting to think that Ron secretly delights in making me get up early - which goes completely against my nature.)The sunrise was a bit of a gong show with huge tour buses dropping off scads of tourists that flocked to the viewing deck for the break of day. 
This is the opposite side from the day before

Once the sun was up, almost everyone loaded back up onto their buses and headed to points unknown. We hopped back on the shuttle to go to the base and did the almost 10km hike. I'm glad we didn't do it in the afternoon, as the flies started coming out as we were wrapping up and although they don't bite, they're irksome; getting into you ears, eyes, nose etc. There are several sections of the rock that are sacred to the Anagnu people and signs have been placed requesting that you not take photos, which we respected, even though some of the rock face was stunning and it was hard not to sneak a picture. 

The rocks in the middle left are Kata Tjuta
 I think that what surprised us the most was the textures on Uluru. In most photos it looks pretty smooth, with signs of erosion, but up close, it has several textures and several caves that play a large part in the history of the aborigines. These photos are trying to capture that.
Close up of the surface

The guardian of the Anagnu people

Before long it was time to head back to the resort town and get ready to fly back to Sydney. We regretted not staying an extra night so we could take in the little known, but stunning Kata Tjuta; a rock formation 40kms from Uluru and worthy of equal attention.

Our zoom did the best it could, but I don't think the photos do Kata Tjuta justice. If we'd had more time we would have gone there and also checked out Valley of the Winds (don't you love that name?)

It was well worth the whirlwind visit and we left satisfied. Next post? The amazing Blue Mountains and then Sydney. You've almost made it, we only have a few more weeks and then back to the usual stuff.

1 comment:

  1. Nice pictures, love that one with you and Ron on the camel with the rock in the background, you should frame that when you get home.