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Trip to Uluru

Introduction

Ayers Rock, or Uluru to give it its Aboriginal name, is probably Australia's single most recognisable national icon. To visit it is such an authentic experience that you just cannot miss it off an itinerary. 400,000+ annual visitors can't be wrong!

Kata Tjuta National Park, in which Uluru sits, has been owned and run by the local Aboriginals since 1985 when the government returned ownership to the Anangu people. This is part of what makes it so special, along with its location - in the Red Centre and very close to the geographical centre of Australia.

The park is open from just before sunrise until just after sunset throughout the year and a three day pass costs $25 per person. You'll get a map and guide with your tickets, but you can also download a PDF copy here.

Facts and figures

Despite what you may have read, Uluru is not the world's biggest monolith (single block of stone) - that's actually believed to be Mount Augusta in Western Australia, which is over twice as long and twice as high.

The stats for Uluru are still impressive: 348 metres high, and 3.6 km long by 1.9 km wide. The rock is also believed to extend more than 2 km underground.

The incredible colours of Uluru, seen as the sun goes down, are due to the arkose sandstone makeup. The iron content produces a rusty surface, on what would otherwise be a grey stone. In the rain (they do get some!), the colour changes completely.

The rock was named Ayers Rock in the 1870s by the first European to visit the area, William Gosse, after Sir Hentry Ayers, the Chief Secretary of South Australia at the time.

Climbing the rock

When Uluru was handed back to the local people in 1985, it was agreed that the area would be leased back to the National Parks service for 99 years - and that the 1.6 km climb would remain open.

This is a real bone of contention for Aboriginals as the climb intrudes on a sacred Aboriginal site. Because of this, they ask that you respect their wishes and not climb.

There's a great webpage on the issues of climbing Ayers Rock on the Outback Australia Travel Guide.

Other things to do

There are a number of walks of different lengths around the base of Uluru, which are relatively easy going and absolutely fascinating. There is also a cultural centre which aims to introduce visitors to the Anangu culture. It's also where the cafe and facilities are.

The walks are:

  • Dune Walk: 500 metres, allow 30 minutes
  • Uluru Base Walk: 9.4 km, allow 3-4 hours
  • Liru Walk: 4 km, allow 90 minutes
  • Mala Walk: 2 km, allow 90 minutes
  • Kuniya Walk: 1 km, allow 45 minutes

Rock paintings

The rock is impressive enough just in its stature, but there are so many other reasons to visit. One is to see the ancient Aboriginal rock paintings, which can be observed in several areas around the Mala walk.

The artwork is well worn, but of significance because of the age and history of the Aboriginal people. They were the first known human inhabitants of the Australian continent, some 40,000+ years ago.

Sorry rocks

For a number of years, previous visitors to the area have been returning stones they had taken away back to the park rangers. These have become known as 'sorry rocks'.

The Anangu have appealed that tourists do not remove anything from the site, but the return of them is thought to have more to do with a superstition of bad luck.

Apparently one such rock sent back from South Australia weighed 32 kg - I suppose international visitors are at somewhat of a disadvantage with flight allowances!

See it on Google!


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