Uluru (once know as 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 glowing redness which happens at both sunrise and sunset.
What is Uluru?
Uluru (known previously as Ayers Rock) 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 sandstone colossus, 3km (1. 9mls) long, 350 metres high (1, 142 ft), 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.
• Flies, heat! Flies and heat! heat and flies! Try to visit Uluru in Australia’s winter i.e. June-August.
• Crowds. Pretty well all year round but mid winter will be worst.
Photography at Uluru
Taking photos in the Red Centre 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 wide-angle 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.
Alice Springs Aboriginal community
Alice Springs is home to a sad and lost aboriginal community of around 3, 000 living in appalling and inappropriate ‘town camps’ that trigger alcoholism and violence. In 2007 The Alice won first prize in three gruesome statistical races: Stabbing capital of the world; highest murder rate in Australia; and clearly not unconnected – the highest rate of alcohol consumption in Australia.
The government has made an effort to resolve Alice’s aboriginal problems with emergency intervention and changes to the welfare scheme, but it hasn’t worked.
Tourists are harassed, attacked and robbed regularly. Local businesses have had enough and are shutting up shop, leaving the high street to the ‘Grog shops’ that supply aboriginals of all ages with large quantities of strong liquor daily.
King’s Canyon Tours? Just say no, mate. Alice too.
King’s Canyon. Not worth the expense or trouble, unlike Uluru, which is.
King’s Canyon is a tour option that extends a basic two-day Uluru and Kata Tjuta trip to three days.
Is it worth it? Absolutely not. The rim walk takes a couple of hours and is pleasant with pretty good views, but not worth another 24 hours of flies, heat, dull bus rides, tents and half-baked food, not to mention the extra expense involved.
Those punters who chose not to do the rim walk had a pleasant 15 minute stroll at the base of the canyon. . . in exchange for what? 24 hours of cost and extended discomfort! Just say no mate! Stick with Uluru!
Bush Flies are endemic in the Red Centre (Alice Springs, Uluru, The Olgas, Kings Canyon etc. ) as they breed in cow poo and the area is surrounded by cattle stations. The flies drive tourists crazy for much of the year and beating at them with a hand is not a solution. The little bug***s are suicidally desperate for liquid rich in protein and minerals and humans are the best source, whether it’s sweat or eyeball secretion.
Better to pick up a bit of broken eucalyptus and use it as a whisk, but this is not allowed in national parks as rangers assume that if every visitor wanted an anti-fly branch soon the nearby trees would be stripped bare. True.
The best anti-fly solution, though totally naff, unfashionable and not exactly comfortable, is a bag over the head, or more precisely, an elasticated nylon net. Sometimes this may come built into a hat, or with a little cloth bit at the top, but the selection in the Red Centre is poor, so try to buy beforehand. Cairns has a particularly good selection. $10 well spent, believe it.
The clichéd Australian hats with dangling corks don’t work well as once you stop moving, so do the corks, and bang goes your defensive system.
p. s. The other kind of Australia fly, the Blow Fly, is bigger, slower than the Bush Fly and doesn’t bother humans at all. The reason? It breeds in dead flesh, absorbing quite enough protein in the process, so it doesn’t need the paltry amount it could collect from sucking a human.