Uluru / Ayers Rock, a long drive from Alice Springs, beautiful countryside, the centre of the centre in Australia,
October 29 Alice Springs and Ayers Rock
Alice Springs: early morning pick up by coach to drive to Ayers Rock began at 7:00 AM. Our trip was to take 6 hours, with two stops, 450 kilometres . The coach was almost full, 50 people, all taking the same journey. It is a straight road, called Stuart Highway, with only two right hand turns!! The bus driver joked about it when he made the two turns, wondering if you could manage to make them, given that he hadn’t made a turn for so long. He was quite a character and gave us an interesting commentary along the journey.
The first stop, about an hour into the trip, was a little gas stations, grocery / snack store with a few animals and a washroom facility. We made friends with a resident camel (see selfie!) and an emu! We also grabbed a quick breakfast sandwich and a coffee.
Back on the road, after another hour or so, another stop at a larger facility with similar amenities. It was noted as the ‘centre of the centre’ meaning it was at the centre of Australia from north to south and east to west.
There is a monument erected there, indicating this notoriety.
Along this highway, the primary transportation route between Adelaide or Darwin and the Outback there are many huge trucks, called Road Trains, which carry supplies to the Outback. They can be as long as a small train and one must take great care if trying to pass them as it takes a looong time to get by their extensive length! These trucks can haul over 175 tons of goods and have a maximum length of 53.5 meters and they burn a litre of diesel every 400 meters!
We passed the Pine Gap Satellite Tracking Station, which employs 1500 people of which 900 are American. Their top secret job is to track satellite activity world wide!
We made one more stop along the way at a big sand dune, which I climbed to see a large salt water lake, and from where we caught our first glimpse of Mount Connor. Some people mistake this for Ayers Rock, which is similar in shape, but Ayers Rock is much bigger.
We passed the Finke River, a dry river bed (lots of water one meter under ground), is the oldest river on planet earth, over 300,000,000 years old!!
When we arrived in Ayers Rock at 1:30 PM, we were taken to our hotel. We had an hour to get settled before our afternoon tour headed out to the Cultural Interpretive Centre. We spent some time watching the Aboriginal artists painting, saw a video on the cultural and sacred beliefs of the Aboriginal community, viewed many artifacts, heard about the traditional stories about Uluru (Ayers Rock) and wandered through the Souvenir Shop. It was most interesting, but no photos allowed so you’ll have to use your imagination...
From there we went to Ayers Rock, and began a tour to learn about the Rock, how it was formed, and the history. It is the oldest continuous civilization in the world, spanning over 30,000 years! It is the largest rock structure in the world. It was beyond amazing!!
Uluru (the aboriginal name) or Ayers Rock (named by the first European to discover it in 1872) is the world’s largest monolith and rises 348 meters above the surrounding desert plain. The monolith is oval in shape, measuring 3.6 km long by 2.4 km wide, with a circumference of 9.4 km. It is composed of sandstone and the rock changes colour according to the position of the sun. Uluru is within Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, which was established in 1958 and official ownership was given to the Aboriginal people in 1985. In 1987 it was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site.
For many years people have been able to climb one part of Ayers Rock. The Australian Aboriginal People have been opposed to this, indicating that the site is sacred ground; at the same time it has been deemed unsafe to climb the steep rock. So just a few days before we arrived the rock climbing has been banned! There was much controversy over this decision and a good deal of media coverage in the days before we arrived. That small area has been fenced off, however, the rest of the rock is free to walk around and ‘touch’. Our tour guide gave us a wonderful overview of the history and traditional stories of the rock. And yes, we did touch the rock!!
As a side note, there are very few mosquitos in this area, however, there are millions of little black flies that are most annoying!! They do not bite, but with the extreme heat and dry air they are seeking moisture, so dive for your eyes, nose, mouth and ears. As a a result it is recommended that you wear a net over your face. At first we thought this was a bit bizarre, but bought one anyway. About one minute into the tour we were covered in little black flies and going crazy...put our nets on as fast as possible!! So grateful we bought them! Lesson: listen to the advice of your tour guide!
Uluru is at its best at sunset, when it is coloured a fiery orange-red by the sun’s rays. We witnessed an amazing sunset, complete with wine and cheese. It was another pinch me-moment as a couple of hundred people cheered on the sunset and took thousands of pictures.
About 20 minutes after sunset, we boarded the bus and headed back to our hotel, ‘Sails in the Desert Hotel’, which is a 5 star resort. We stopped for a quick bite before retiring for the night. Bed came early as we have a sunrise tour tomorrow morning at 4:30.
And that’s a wrap on an amazing day! More to come...Carol on the go!