travelling the seven parts of the world
Feb 26th, 2008




Voyages Sucks

Uluru, or Ayers Rock, as it has been known to everyone but aboriginals, is a giant rock monolith in the middle of a flat plain. Scientists assume that this monolith formed by wind, over millions of years, blowing around the rock and clearing land around it, but nobody really knows. The rock itself supposedly goes 5km below the surface, but down there it is not solid rock, but rather a layer of rock that's awkwardly placed. Uluru is red, believe it or not, because it is rusting. Yes, the rock would be the same color as any other ordinary rock in the world, but the iron minerals inside it are rusting and giving off orangish-red color.

The first problem about visiting Uluru is logistics. The nearest town is Alice Springs, about 500km away. The only hotel near Uluru is Ayers Rock Resort, which caters to all budgets, from rich to super rich (as it always is when there is only 1 hotel in any given place). A budget room with a shared bathroom goes for ONLY $170 per night. By booking 3 nights in a row we managed to get a "special" price of just $150/night in a our boutique hotel, and "boutique" here means the toilet is in the same room as the bed. But at least its not in a different building.

And you really need 3 nights here, because otherwise you're gonna get nowhere. You land at about noon time, you're at the hotel by 1PM and by then the day is over, because most attractions are closed after morning time due to the heat, even when there is no heat, such as is the case with climbing Uluru. They ask you not to climb, firstly for spiritual reasons, and secondly because stupid people like to get themselves stranded and killed in the most idiotic ways conceivable to man. But we wanted to do it. And when we arrived it was the perfect day to do it - the temperature was 28 degrees C (so not hot at all), there was high cloud so there was little heat, and there was low wind.

But the Uluru climb was closed. Apparently in summers it closes every day at 8AM. At first they were closing it only when the temperature forecast was 36 degrees C or more, or when there was a lot of wind, or when a cloud was sitting at the top. But then the park rangers realized that they can simply not give a damn about the weather and close it every day irrelevant of the conditions, and nobody would be able to do a thing about it. On the day we did end up climbing I met a ranger who had caught some guy who had tried to sneak into the climb area moments after 8AM and was giving him a talk about how he could take him in and fine him $5000 and blah blah blah, and I asked him why the climb is closed, after all, it wasn't too hot, it wasn't windy, and it wasn't cloudy either, so? He mumbled something about consistency and tour groups and other irrelevant things, but I think what he really wanted to say was "Because we can!"

Later on, in Kings Canyon, we met a French couple who told us that the day we climbed was the only day anyone could climb, as the climb was closed for all days before and after. Lucky!

To climb Uluru we set out on a sunrise tour that would take us to the rock before sunrise, watch the sunrise, then take us to the climb spot, and take us back after we were all done.

The sunrise was spectacular like it always is, but we didn't see the magnificent color changes of Uluru because there was some cloud and the sun wasn't shining directly on it.

After that we did the climb. And oh boy what a steep climb it is. In fact, I'd venture to say this is the steepest climb of my life I have done on sliprock. There are some railing in places to give you additional support, but they are not really that great. Additionally, on the whole way up, the thought of precisely how you're gonna get down never leaves you. And what a scary thought it is. Uluru is 352 meters high from the base, so this is no joke. Most people going down were doing it on all fours, but with some effective footwork you could do it on two feet without the railing support.

When you do get on top you are awarded with some magnificent views of the surrounding plains and The Olgas, an Uluru-style formation nearby.

After doing the climb we decided to do the base walk, which is a walk all around Uluru and really lets you appreciate the size of it. The whole walk is about 10km long, and we managed it in just a couple of hours. Liene's knee started to hurt badly during the walk for some unknown reason, so it took us a bit of time. Also, you really need fly-nets around here because the flies are just impossible to deal with.

Most flies are normal. You a wave a hand, they realize they are in the presence of an enemy, and they fly away. Not so with the Australian fly. These flies are far more persistent and can really test your patience. They will harass you to the point where you will just want to SCREAM. So what the Australians do is they put a bag over their heads. A few generations of design and innovation later they have turned this bag into a comfortable net that you can put over your head, hat or no hat. But we hadn't discovered the wonders of the fly-net until days later, so this walk turned out to be very annoying.

Now, most people assume Uluru is a single solid rock. Its not, its more like cheese as can be clearly seen from the picture above. Additionally, there are several very different formations, like waves and great pillars.

Overall, despite the costs and setbacks, this is THE place to come and see and if you are in Australia. At the moment when I'm typing this, I have been nearly everywhere in Australia, and I have to say that if there is one thing you should come and see in Australia, it is Uluru.





Voyages Sucks


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Jasmine says:
Wow, thanks for you insight on Uluru. I want to climb it so badly when I get to Australia. But, seriously..the hotel is that expensive?! That's ridiculous! Is it at least nice? Also, I'm confused as to why the park closes at 8AM...that's when most people are getting up. Is the sunrise/set different in Australia; like, is it dark at 8AM or something? I'm from the USA so that was a bit confusing.

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