Uluru (Ayers Rock)
at sunset: reality check, little magic here! Throngs of fly
swatting, wine quaffing overheated tourists fighting (good
naturedly, this is Australia) for the best place to
take photos of the Big Red's ultimate redness.
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Travel Guide |
in the Red Centre, whether digital or film, is tricky due to the contrast
between intense light and, for example, shadowed faces, so if
good Uluru pictures are your target, study up on spot metering
or any means of avoiding overly contrasty photos.
Also, mandatory sunset and sunrise spots are fairly close to
the red rock. A 28mm lens from the front of one of those spots
can just accommodate Uluru, but the usual 36mm of a
small digital will not capture the full rock unless you stand
way back, in which case you will also capture all the other
tourists snapping away. Ergo, bring a wide-angle lens if you
can, or narrow your expectations.
is the second largest monolith (single chunk of rock) in the
world. The biggest is Mt Augustus in Western Australia, twice
as big but half as magical.
In the middle of Australia's massive, parched outback sits this
lone brooding, red colossus, 3km (1.9mls) long, 350 metres high
(1,000ft), with another 3kms beneath the surface. Uluru and
the land around is owned by Anangu Aboriginals and jointly managed with the Australian National
Park Service on a 99 year lease.
Uluru at 7.30am. It's steeper than it looks!
Uluru: this is usually possible though not encouraged
by the Anangu as the path is the route taken by their ancestors
on spiritual journeys and known by them as the Mala
What especially upsets the Anangu is
when a tourist dies on the rock, usually by exertion-related
heart attack, so if you are unfit or medically wobbly, don't
try it, and if you're in good shape you could still respect
their wishes and walk around the rock instead.
Red Centre desert around Uluru (Ayer's Rock) shot from the top
of the rock.
Picture © Denzil Watson
At 1.6kms (1mile) a climb will take about an hour - with the
help of a chain - and require good soft shoes and lots of water.
The middle of the day should be avoided; in fact climbing after
8 a.m. is usually forbidden in the hot season.
Anangu, however, are fine with tourists walking the 10 km track around Uluru.
around Uluru: An excellent alternative to climbing
the rock - and much preferred by its aboriginal owners - is
walking the 10kms (6mls) around it on the flat, well-laid path.
Uluru's views and features change constantly (including some
ancient aboriginal rock paintings on the way) and the walk will
take from 2-4 hours depending on the walker's dreamtime.
Uluru's circuit at 7.30am.
Kids, don't try this at home! This jogger
is seriously disturbed. Although it's early the temperature
(in February) is already 30C and rising fast.
excellent alternative to climbing the rock - and much preferred
by its aboriginal owners - is walking the 10kms (6mls) around
it on the flat, well-laid path. Uluru's views and features change
constantly (including some ancient aboriginal rock paintings
on the way) and the walk will take from 2-4 hours depending
on the walker's dreamtime.
One great advantage of this version of the Uluru experience
is that you're unlikey to die on the walk. Unless you jog it....
famous aboriginal rock face, with two lesser known faces disguised
by fly nets.
aboriginal art, under a rock overhang.
are specific sunset and sunrise viewing points and visitors
are herded into these different locations, so don't expect to
be alone here.
Most tours of the Red Centre start from the town of Alice
Springs, 400kms (250mls) away and take about 5 hours
to get there with little entertainment en route, though you
could fly direct from Alice (or Sydney, Cairns, Perth) to Yulara
(Ayers Rock Resort) if time was more important than money to
Alice Springs is not a wildly interesting town and not worth
making a special effort to see, though it does have some good
but pricey restaurants, lively bars and a couple of culture
Tours are an effective way to see Uluru as a) it's a seriously
long and tiring drive b) the driver/guide knows exactly where
and when to go for the best pictures or walks c) the guide can
advise on snakes, spiders and other exciting wildlife possibilities.
Tours have their own fixed camp sites and food supplies.
accommodation: Yulara (Ayers Rock Resort) is
20kms from Uluru and offers a comfortable - though not cheap
- hotel and a camp site. Camping nearer to Uluru is not permitted.
Tours have alternative accommodation arranged, mainly in fixed
tented camps where facilities are a little basic but sleeping
under the stars is a terrific option (especially if you have
a tent to retreat to). Mosquitoes are not a problem. Flies are,
but not at night.
Not very much! Don't imagine you're going to
see 'roos bounding around; the few 'roos in the Red Centre are
nocturnal and will be lying in shade while you pass by.
Strangely there are an estimated 1,000,000 wild camels in Australia
as they were used to carry supplies to central and north Australia
for many years, in 'trains' of up to 70 camels, until the arrival
of steam trains and trucks in 1929. At that point they were
released into the wild and have been multiplying ever since.
But you won't see them either as they stay well away from civilisation
and don't have to drink for up to 17 days so they have plenty
of space in the wild.
The most likely wildlife sightings will be of the occasional
rabbit and hordes of flies. Mosquitoes are a rare sighting.
Tjuta (The Olgas), also in the Red Centre: 52kms (32mls) away, Uluru
has a group of rocking buddies, Kata Tjuta (The
Olgas), a cluster of giant domes that are as almost as
impressive as Uluru, depending on the number of tourists spoiling
the ambience at either place.
Tjuta (The Olgas).
Next, Cairns Pictures
On the way to Uluru tour groups often do Kata
Tjuta (The Olgas) first - even though it's 50kms further
Due to its significance as an aboriginal male initiation centre,
Kata Tjuta is more sacred than Uluru.
Uluru was chosen
as Central Australia's tourist target in the 50's because Kata
Tjuta was 50kms further away from civilisation (a long way,
there and back, in the days of slow, unreliable vehicles) and
200m higher (tougher to climb).
cannot climb Kata Tjuta.
The Valley of the Winds walk, about
7kms (4.3mls) is impressive and should take about three hours
to complete if the flies don't drive you crazy first. The Red
Centre is usually extremely hot so walks are best tackled very
early. On particularly hot days parts of the Olgas walk will
be closed from 11am.
there is another bigger rock about 50kms before
Uluru, Mt Conner, also sacred but
on private land - a huge cattle station and not monolithic -
it's in three layers.
heat, heat. Try to go in Australia's winter.
Pretty well all year round but mid winter will be worst.
time to go to The Red Centre: Winter, but outside the
holiday season, so May, June, September
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