Now at Uluru (Ayers Rock). Uluru is all that it's cracked up to be. We've already taken a quick run around the area and the views of Uluru and Kata Tjuta (the Olgas) in the distance are wonderful. The short walk up to the water hole at Kuniya gives a really good understanding of the rock - you can understand how it is spiritual to the Aborigines. Despite gentle requests not to climb it is allowed but the first day it was closed due to high winds. It is also colder than expected so we are contemplating a revision of our onward travel plans.
On Monday we enjoyed the Sounds of Silence which involves sitting in the bush watching the sun going down over Uluru and Kata Tjuta. It is even better when you add drinks, canapes, a wonderful buffet meal, didjeridoos, and a star-gazing experience. A wonderful evening even if a little chilly. Met some nice folk - Janet (Nettie) and Stephen from Bayview, North Sydney who were on their 25th anniversary. Also a woman who claims to be a relative of George Bush - Janinine Bush from USA.It’s really nice to engage in conversation with other people and Nettie and Stephen were no exception. One line of questioning that we often come across is how are you liking Australia, would you like to settle here etc. This usually brings a response that yes, it’s a wonderful country geographically and otherwise but there are things we don’t particularly like, such as the standard of journalism, TV and radio, and what appears to be a very untrustworthy political system – even by UK political standards. When Stephen asked for an example Eric quoted the Gunns issue and his encounter a few days ago with the managing director. Well, it turned out that Stephen had an interest in this too, from an environmentalist point of view. Won’t go into details of the discussion but E was clearly enjoying having the ear of someone with a view more akin to his own. But it’s funny how in the Red Centre you can come across two people who have a direct interest in something happening away down in Tasmania (shows how ‘small’ a country it really is). After a late night we were on the go again early next morning for an 8 o’clock flight over the Red Centre. We had the five-seater airplane all to ourselves (apart from Brett the pilot that is, who was also our taxi driver, receptionist and manned the check in desk) as we circled Uluru, Kata Tjuta. It was fantastic to get such a different perspective from the air. From there the flight took us over the outlying desert to Lake Amadeus (a huge salt lake) then on to Kings Canyon (where we’ll be on the ground in a few days time). Back on terra firma M and Tam went into Yulara for a coffee while Eric caught up on some business. In the afternoon we met up and returned to Uluru and did the Mala walk. The following day we had intended to get up early to see the sunrise but, as it’s very tiring enjoying ourselves we decided to give that a miss and headed straight to Kata Tjuta (The Olgas). The walks here were harder than Tam could manage so we left him in Annie with a box of tissues and his feet up watching Brokeback Mountain (which he thoroughly enjoyed). E and M set off to the Valley of the Winds which is a lovely, spectacular three hour walk among the Olga domes. Afterwards, with time still on our side we were able to take in the one hour Walpa Gorge walk. Four our last night we popped in to our nearby watering hole for a couple of beers before returning to Annie for a bite to eat. It was then time for Tam to pack. He’d brought loads of pairs of shoes - five pairs in fact (more than E&M have between them) – plus he had his new purchases from Alice. In return M did a Trinny & Susannah number on him chucking out old tee shirts, slippers, etc in addition to the old jumper that was deliberately left in a shopping trolley in Alice. Thursday was an extra day for us because the Uluru climb had been closed all week because of wind (funny how it affects more than humans!!!). Today it was open so we dropped Tam off for a coffee while waiting for his plane, and sadly said our goodbyes as we’d all had such a great time. Then it was hotfoot back to Uluru where we donned our trusty Brashers and set off for the summit. It is certainly a very steep climb and the steepest part has a low chain that you can hold on to for extra security. But at least 35 people have died doing this climb and it’s easy to understand why – the rock is very smooth, there are no corners, nooks, crannies, rocks jutting out, trees or bushes to break your fall and from any height you’d just roll and roll and roll down to the bottom – scary! However it was easier than we expected from the look of it, a wonderful experience and fantastic views from the top. We were even able to watch Tam’s flight take off in the distance – we waved but we didn’t see him waving back.
To climb or not to climb – the climb is permitted (otherwise how can it be open or closed?) and we did consider the request by a section of the Aboriginal community not to climb. But we decided we would climb because it has got such a tremendous feel and pull to it. It makes you want to touch it, feel it, see it from all angles and walk on it. Also, the walk isn’t on any sacred site and in fact there are many other more important Aboriginal sacred sites in the area (we are very respectful of the land – in fact yesterday at Kata Tjuta Eric took issue with a German family who were trying to smash rocks “to see what was in them”!!). On the way back down who should we bump into but Col who was striding for the top while Kath waited at the bottom. As we were desperate for a much needed coffee we whisked Kath away to the Cultural Centre for a flat white and a chat.
We finished our stay in the area with a 3 hour walk around to base of Uluru to appreciate it from a different angle - very pleasing indeed.