The Red Center

Yulara -The Olgas - Kings Canyon - Alice Springs

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We set off in the dark and watched the rising sun bring the outback to life for us, with it's rusts and reds, pale yellows, sage to emerald green and the ever changing big blue sky.  We were relieved to see more dead tyres than wildlife at the edge of the road but soon the carnage became apparent, usually signalled by hovering birds of prey.  Live stock are less of a problem as they tend to run away, the roos sadly are no more sensible here than they were in Victoria.  The road sped beneath our wheels and we covered the 720km with breaks in 8.5 hours

Galah Cockatoo

 

The campground at Yulara, the only option for visitors to Ularu is particularly nice.  We had a good grass site with shade trees, all the usual amenities plus a pool and of course, a wonderful location.  Tony was a little too quick to point out that the fence I was hanging our towels on was the infamous "dingo stole my baby fence".  Very reassuring

The temperature was in the low 30's (low for the time of year) with an ever present breeze making it very comfortable walking weather and pleasantly warm at night for sleeping outdoors

There are many things to envy the Australians but if I could only choose one, it would be their many species of beautiful strikingly colourful birds,  they are everywhere and in great numbers 

Uluru

The first European to see Uluru was William Gosse, he named it Ayres Rock after Sir Henry Ayres,  Chief Secretary of South Australia

In the 1920's it was declared unsuitable for farming and  became  a 'reserve' aka an Aboriginal sanctuary, very few non aboriginals  saw the rock 

By the 1940's the powers that be decided they needed to reduce the area of the reserves to allow for mineral exploration,  a dirt road was built to Uluru in 1948,  becoming a bus route in 1950.   Ayres Rock - Mt Olga became a National Park in 1958

 The land was handed  back to it's Aboriginal owners in 1985 to be leased back and jointly managed for 99 years

The name of the park was officially changed to Uluru - Kata Tjuta National Park in 1995

We were thrilled when our Ranger guide for the free Mala base walk was Aboriginal.  Maybe the spiel was the same but hearing it from someone who's ancestors have been here for at least 30,000 years made it very special.   Until this time we had been in Australia 4 months and had never encountered any of Australia's indigenous people
In 'the wet' waterfalls turn the rock black  and reflecting pools form  around the base
Wall Paintings

There are many layers of pictures on these walls because they have been used for education for tens of thousands of years.  When tourists first started visiting, guides would throw buckets of water over the paintings to bring out the colour.  That was stopped decades ago but that effect can now be obtained with  PhotoShop 

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It is impossible to date the paintings as carbon dating can only determine the age of the rock and the pigments used

The paints were made from natural materials and ash.   Dry materials would be crushed on flat stones and mixed with water or animal fat.  The most common colours are red, yellow, orange, white, grey and black.  The red and yellow ochre were particularly valuable and were a widely traded commodity

The Anangu no longer make rock art but they paint on canvas and use the original paintings to teach their creation stories and keep their culture alive.

 Their main focus now is on conservation, the paintings are under threat from water, dust, minerals leeching from the rock, insect nests and of course us

They are now protected by viewing areas and must never be touched

 'Take only photographs leave only footprints' and in many places you will be requested not to do the former

Since they announced the closure of the climb the staff at the Uluru office receive packages on an almost daily basis from guilt ridden visitors who had removed rocks in the past and now want to send them 'home'

To Climb

Or Not
 

The post and chain fence was installed in 1966 and people flocked to climb the monolith heedless of the danger from exertion, sunstroke but mostly heart attack and despite the polite notice from the traditional Aboriginal owners not to do so. 

In 2017 conditions set at the 1985 handback were judged to have been met, the board of managers advised their intention to remove the climbing aid and that a ban would go into effect on October 26th 2019, the 34th anniversary of the handing back to it's Anangu owners. 

I can understand the desire to climb but I had decided before our visit that I would not.  Once I got there however the desire to climb was almost overwhelming

To Climb

We saw very few climbers from March 29th to April 1st 2006.  However by June 2019 some 300 to 500 people a day were trying to make the ascent before the deadline
Rock Shelters along the Mala Ranger Walk

 

 

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We were so fortunate to be able to take the time and effort to drive here from Castlemaine via Tasmania and to see this wondrous sight several times at dawn and dusk and in between

Our timing was serendipitous. The campground was only half full, the hotel likewise.  Our driver at the Sound of Silence told us in a few weeks there would be thousands of people here, no rooms or campsites available and all tours booked out weeks in advance.  The line up to get into the park and for a spot to view sunset would be horrendous.  Fifty people lining up for every toilet and there are precious few of them at Uluru or Kata Tjtua and long line ups at the checkout at the most expensive supermarket in Australia

In the predawn dozens of tourists sat beside their mobile kitchen tucking into breakfast.  They left the minute the sun cleared the horizon and missed the amazing play of colours on Uluru as the sun climbed higher and higher.  What a shame to go all that way and miss the magical spiritual experience which is Uluru at dawn

The Sound Of Silence

Took place on the Sails of the Desert Hotel private dining dunes about 15 minutes from the hotel, down a rough un-surfaced road in an ultra luxurious coach.   At a distance to our left was the magnificent Uluru and at a greater distance to our right, Kata Tjuta

As  the sun began to set we were plied with champagne and canapés.  I tried some kangaroo meat at the insistence of a young waiter urging me to "try some Skippy".   I also sampled the crocodile and macadamia nut filo tarts.   Much more to my liking were the smoked salmon rolls, I left the vegetarian sushi to the vegetarians

As the reds and oranges of sunset suffused the sky we made our way down to the dining area to meet our dining companions, a delightful young couple from Montreal.  The all you can eat (and drink) buffet included 'bush salads', bush only I think in their fabulous location, (from what we have seen of bush tucker, that was fine with us) and a variety of meats and fish.  Kangaroo featured again, along with lamb, beef and barra mundi

Tony had a mixed plate of delicious desserts but I had a yen for bread and butter pudding and custard, sorry creme anglaise

After dinner our hostess turned off all the lights and began:

May the calm be widespread - May the desert glisten like gold - May the shimmer of moon light - Dance across your pathways

Ladies and Gentlemen, now and forever - Please listen to the Sound of Silence.............

The voice of the astronomer brought us out of our private reverie as she began, with the aid of a laser light to take us on a tour of the southern sky.  First of course, the Southern Cross.  It's a pity I won't be able to show off my newfound knowledge to the 'grands' when we return to the northern hemisphere

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