Australia 2010

A circumnavigation (with risks).

Uluru (Ayers Rock).

Alice Springs is in the Hot Red Centre of Australia. It is mostly famous for being near Uluru (Ayers Rock). Actually, it's not always hot (or even very red) and not very close to Uluru.

Several hundred kilometers to the south west of Alice Springs there is a very large red rock.

And it's called Mount Conner.

Another hundred kilometers west brings you to Yulara and the Ayers Rock Resort adjacent to the Uluru - Kata Tjuta National Park. You cannot camp in the national park nor by the roadside (Penalties Apply), so short of returning one hundred kilometers to Curtin Springs, the only place to camp is in the resort campsite. Which is of course booked up.

Luckily, the resort does make an overflow camping area available for a modest €12 Euros (no water, no toilets, no electricity and no grass).

Uluru (Ayers Rock) is one of the great natural wonders of the world. A sandstone monolith 350 metres high and about 3,500 metres long.

There are a limited number of things you can do with 3,500 metre long rock. You can look at it at sunrise, at sunset (or some time in between), you can walk round it and you can climb it.

The great thing about looking at Uluru at sunrise (or sunset) is that it changes colour! The park thoughtfully provides two car parks, one optimally positioned for sunrise and one for sunset. On our first evening at Uluru we parked Man at the sunset car park with a good view of Uluru and waited.

As sunset approached the car park filled with other campervans and 4x4s (there is separate area for coaches).

A rather malnourished dingo tried, unsuccessfully, to scavenge food from the onlookers (Penalties Apply - for feeding the wildlife).

About 15 minutes before sunset a hushed excitement descended on the car park as Uluru started to change colour...

from a subtle reddish brown to...

...to a sort of soft brownish red. Then to a dim...

...reddish brown. And finally to...

... dark greyish reddish brown. Awesome!

It is about 10 kilometers round the base of Uluru. On the day we walked round Uluru we saw a total of about 50 people. The Ayers Rock Resort contains several large hotels and a large (full) camp site. Dozens of busses make day trips from Alice Springs to Uluru. There is a significant airport. So what do all the other (2000?) people do between sunrise and sunset?

The rock is remarkably interesting close up.

Uluru has great significance to the local Aboriginal community and this is explained in some detail at the visitor centre (no photographs are permitted) and on notices around the base of the rock.

Even if we had wanted to climb Uluru we could not have done so on the day we were there.

It is rather strange that whilst some areas of Uluru are protected by "No Access" signs (with severe penalties) the decision on whether to climb the rock is left to the visitor (at least when it's dry and cool).

I only saw one Aboriginal person within Uluru - Kata Tjuta National Park and no Aboriginal person within the Ayers Rock Resort.