After making the most of the hot showers we headed back into Alice Springs to use the internet where I managed to send my dad a birthday card and a father's day card. Mel and I both managed to successfully change our traveller's cheques at the aborigine dominated bank where there was more trouble between a local abo and the security guard. We then drove south down the Stuart Highway before taking the turnoff towards Ayers Rock. Along the Lasseter highway we pulled in at Curtin Springs and had a hot shower at the free camp site before travelling further along the highway where I was pretty convinced that I'd seen the big rock, however I'd confused it for Mt Connor which is a huge flat topped mesa which isvisible from miles around.
It was getting late so we pulled over and set up camp in a free site which lacked basic amenities but had a wood burning bbq and a seating area. James and I were about to rip down a dead tree when we heard a voice from the bush, it was the park maintenance guy shouting over to us, asking us would we like any wood. I drove the camper down a dirt track and over to his vehicle where we proceeded to fill the floor space with chunky dry logs, the type you would have to pay for back home. We cooked potatoes and chicken on the bbq which burned all night, the food was good but a tad burned because of the intense heat.
After a late start we managed to raise our weary heads and congregate outside for a melon and cereal breakfast, before heading towards Yuluru National Park where we'd see Ayers Rock (Uluru) for the first time.
When I saw the rock in the distance it sent a shiver down my spine; we'd finally made it through the outback to one of the natural wonders of the world. The rock was beautiful and I can honestly say I've seen nothing like it, for miles around 'nothing' then out of nowhere this monstrous monolith that seemed to have an luminous red appearance, caused by the sun refection bouncing from the oxidised rock face. It is thought the Aboriginal people arrived at the rock 20,000 years ago having occupied the centre more than 10,000 years earlier. The first European to set eyes on Uluru was the explorer Ernest Giles, in 1872, but it was a year later that William Gosse followed his afghan guide up the rock and thereby made the first ascent by a European, naming it Ayers Rock after a South Australian politician.
We paid a $25 entrance fee before driving into the park and made our way towards the base of the rock. As we got closer to the base of the rock it became even more magnificent with every angle proving a photographic opportunity. The rock seemed to possess supernatural and if someone had told me that the rock had fallen from another planet I think I would have believed it, it was like a huge living organism changing colour throughout the day like a giant octopus.
In the distance we could see Kata Tjuta meaning "many heads" which lies 45km west from the park entry station. Kata Tjuta is a cluster of rounded domes divided by narrow chasms and valleys, it is geologically quite distinct from Uluru, made from conglomerate rock the highest stands at 546m (Uluru - 348m). Uluru and Kata Tjuta have been an important focus of the spiritual life of the region's Aborigines for thousands of years. Aboriginal rock paintings cover the walls of many of the caves of Uluru and both sites also figure in Aboriginal legend.
Even though aborigines frown upon the general public climbing the rock we all wanted to do it; the climb was open but it was getting late so we thought we'd save it for another day and visit the cultural centre instead. At the centre we visited a couple of shops that sold aborigine artefacts such as ornaments and boomerangs we also learned a little more about the aborigine culture. One thing that interested us all was a huge book of sorry letters from around the world. The letters were from people who had stolen a piece of the rock and coincidently been plagued with bad luck after the robbery. I have a number of stones from around the world and don't believe in a rock having some kind of magical power, however the book was so big I chose not to steal a piece.
We watched the sunset which was behind the rock before making our way back out of the 'fire free' national park and onto the highway where we drove off road at the first available dirt track, and set up camp. The site was perfect, the ground was covered in red sand and there was plenty of bush and dead wood to burn. Once we collected the firewood we walked onto a sand dune to take a final glimpse of the rock, the west of the sky was a purple / orangey colour as a result of the sunset; this gave Uluru a unique tinge which was an unforgettable experience.
We ate pasta and steak for supper and sat around a huge campfire, James had met a few Canadian campers who were camping relatively close to us (but out of site) and decided to spook the girls again. I kind of knew what was going on but was still slightly spooked when James and Sean both got kidnapped by the hooded Canadians and dragged into the bush. Mel and Tracey were hysterical so I quickly told them it was a prank before one of them stabbed somebody or called the police. By the time the lads had come back the girls had gone to bed and not happy, Tracey pretended that she had cut her ankle on the knife she was wielding and all the lads believed her, only adding to the guilt they were already feeling. I decided to watch a film with Mel whilst the other lads stopped up chatting to the two loud Canadians that I really couldn't be bothered to chat to.
6.30 James and I drove the vehicles back into the national park ready to view the sunrise at 7.30. We parked the vehicles at one view point and watched the sunrise before moving them to another view point which had a better vantage point, by this time the sun was casting a beautiful light on to the dark rock; it was as if the rock was awakening for another day.
After sunrise we drove to the base of the rock but were disappointed as the climb was now shut due to heavy wind. We decided to drive across to Kata Tjuta and walk the 'Valley of the Winds' which was spectacular. We walked along some pretty rough tracks making our way deeper into the the 36 monstrous domes, where the smooth rounded rocks were divided by slender chasms and broader valleys before returning to our vehicles for a well deserved drink.
We drove back to Uluru to see if the climb had reopened, on the way back we spotted a group of about 20 camels, the artiodactyls (even toed mammal) were just grazing at the side of the road and seemed to be unfazed by Mel and I as we moved in closer for a photo.
The climb was still shut, we were slightly disappointed but had our fingers crossed for the next day. We watched the sunset from the sunset viewing point before making our way back to camp stopping off at the resort for petrol and snacks.
It was pitch black and we failed to locate our original campsite so headed up another dirt path and into the bush where we built another huge fire to cook on; Thai curry followed by an earlyish night.
After a really cold sleepless night, James and I drove to the National Park for what was another beautiful sunrise. Whilst watching the impressive rays of light bouncing from the rock we began to chat to two southerners called Ash and Jack, who followed us to the base of the rock only to find out that the climb was closed again due to excessive wind at the summit.
We had a bit of time on our hands so we made a sausage ad egg butty and cups of tea all round which was suppose to be a bit of treat for us all, however the brunch was spoiled yet again by the pestering flies.
We had a walk around a few shops in the park complex before watching the sunset again, whilst waiting for the sun to go down we began to do kick up with the football, we've been trying to get 50 between the four of us lads. We've been trying on and off for a while now and knew it would pretty good to get 50 with the sun setting behind us, we managed 65 that evening - must have been the power of the rock.
I jumped on the roof of the van with Mel and watched the sunset which was probably one of the nicest we've seen to date. Once the sun had set we drove back to the bush with Jack and Ash to set up camp for the evening.
Our National park ticket had expired so we could no longer get into the site, however two of our tickets had been stamped with the wrong date (the 21st). We parked our vehicle in the national park complex just on the outskirt of the park and jumped into one van. Mel and James jumped in the front and drove right through the security barrier without any problems. We all watched the sunrise before driving to the rock base where we discovered that the climb was closed once again. The aborigines are trying to permanently close the climb because climbing the rock is an insult to their culture, however I was pretty set on the challenge and a little disappointed not to have reached the summit but still over whelmed just to have climbed part way up it and seen the sun sets and sunrises which were a different experience each time.
We said good bye to Ash and Jack and headed back to the park complex for petrol and supplies, we met a couple of coppers who pretended to arrest me and handcuff me over the front of their car - anything for a decent photo.
Back on the road again we drove back to Curtain Springs for a free shower where a cheeky emu tried to rob food from James's van. We drove back down the Lasseter Highway stopping off at a tree full of people's underwear, Mel and I added to the collection with a pair of my boxers and a pair of Mels knickers. Back on the Stuart Highway we passed through the one road hick town of Marla stopping off for a cheeky beer and a game of pool before driving a few kilometres down the road where we set up camp for the night. It was dark and there wasn't a lot of wood around, we couldn't believe our luck when a couple of travellers left the car park and left us a huge fire that burnt all night.