So much more than a Big Red Rock (Day 175)
Uluru - this is so much more than a big red rock. What an incredible experience
I looked out of the window, the landscape had changed, orange red soil with sandy coloured bushes. I was surprised how much vegetation there was. We arrived at Uluru airport and waiting for us was Ken from Rock Tours. He looks like pop star Will Young, sounds like Eddie Izzard with an Aussie twang and is a cool dude like our mate Big John.
We’d booked a 3 day tour in the area where we were sleeping under the stars. We waiting in the little rickety bus and eventually it was full – 21 of us, for all different parts of the world, a lovely couple from South Korea who have already invited us to stay, a young nurse, Yoko from just outside Tokyo, so perhaps we will meet up with her when we get there, some medical students from Sweden, and others from Italy, Germany, South Africa, Australia, Ireland and good ol Britain.
We drove to Uluru – oh wow – what a place! It is much bigger than I thought and what is amazing is that we can only see the tip of the ice berg so to speak (see day 176). The rock formation is amazing with smooth curved sides, then large caverns that the wind and rain has made in the sandstone. It is now frowned upon to climb this amazing rock and next year this will not be allowed. It is a sacred place of the Anangu people and is now recognised as a World Heritage Area and one of the few properties in the world to be dual-listed by UNESCO for both the cultural and natural values. In 1985, the title deed to Uluru-Kata Tjuta land trust was handed back to the Anangu people, who, in turn, has leased the land back to the Federal Government for 99 years. It will be interesting to see the relationship with the people when the lease runs out and what will happen. Sadly, I won’t be here to observe this.
As we were walking around Uluru to Lungkata and Kuniya to the Mutitjulu Waterhole, Ken, our guide shared with us some of the stories that are the backbone to the religion, culture and moral guidance of the Anangu people, such as one about a blue-tongued lizard man and why you should not take what is not yours. Every feature has a significant meaning, but the indigenous people tend to keep the stories to themselves and some we are asked not to share on social media, so you will just have to come here if you want to know more. (I highly recommend it – surpassed any expectations I had).
The sun was starting to lower, well, it wasn’t, but I’ll stick to this idiom, so we jumped into the minibus and headed off to the Sunset park, cameras posed, and then clicking away so that we could compare the change of colour of this huge rock; brilliant sienna to deep purple. Spectacular. When we returned to the bus, Ken had made dinner for us all, Veg and noodles with chicken to the side. We chatted to Sue and John. Sue comes from South Africa and John from Bristol and they recently got married; they are the only other #GrownUpTravellers that we have met. Travelling for a total 14 months, they are 9 months into their trip. More sensible than us as they have stayed in places longer, for example 3 months in New Zealand and 3 weeks in Tasmania. I think we need to learn a lesson from them. Sue shared that she often will look up to see if there is a Parkrun where they are travelling to. She has now ran in 20 different locations so is known as a Parkrun tourist and her aim is to run the A to Z of Parkruns. How brilliant.
We got to our campsite and Ken informed us on the next day’s activity, plus the early morning start. Got our sleeping bags and swag bags, Tim and I found an isolated spot and, snuggled up, lay under the stars. Absolutely incredible. I have never seen so many stars, even in Burkina Faso I don’t remember this many. For some reason, for me it was like looking at a deep navy sky with a very bad dose of chicken pox and the Milky Way spread across like calamine lotion. Not a very romantic image, perhaps too much sun has gone to my head. Tim’s description was that it was like a pint of Guinness being poured. Oh dear, we need a few more inspiring metaphors – what would you suggest?