Uluru & Kata Tjuta Rocks : A pilgrimage to Australia’s Northern Territory

It being a ¬†UNESCO-heritage site and one of Australia’s most iconic landmarks, a visit to Uluru (and Kata Tjuta) is nothing short of pilgrimage. In our earlier posts, we had mentioned how the “soul” of Australia (the real aboriginal history & its associated culture, national parks, the rugged outback, wild life and bird watching ) resided in the least-visited state of Northern Territory. And so it was time to fly from Sydney to the tiny airport of Ayers Rock on our least favorite but highly punctual airline Jetstar. The crazy accommodation prices reflect the remoteness of the place so we chose the cheapest private room at Outback Pioneer Lodge, which still set us back by $150 a night. All facilities and hotels are situated at a tiny town called Yulara, 20 kms from Uluru rock.

We wanted to spend all afternoon at Uluru, watching its colors change till sunset. At 3 pm, the sunset viewing car park was deserted (and at 6 pm jampacked), allowing us to choose a vantage point to enjoy the rock.

It looks dark brown in early afternoon hours.

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Mika spent a couple of hours sketching the rock and you can tell it’s a cute effort.

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A close up of the rock reveals a very rugged surface.

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The customary silly pictures were taken with no one around.

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By now the color has changed to light brown.

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At around 5 pm, Uluru looks golden orange. A quick primer on Uluru: The monolithic sandstone rock is an astonishing 3.6 km long, 1.9 km wide, 348 high with a circumference of 9.6 kms. It was created 600 million years ago and the Aborigines have inhabited the region for over 10,000 years. To these indigenous “Anangu”people, the “rock” is of great spiritual significance as this is where their ancestors had interacted with the landscape. In their culture, these ancestral beings had created their culture at the beginning of time. Climbing the rock is prohibited by the indigenous folks even though a large number of visitors do it. Two-thirds of the rock is still underground.

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And as the sun goes down, the color changes to Ochre.
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The last shot of the day before we left around 7 pm. First project executed successfully.

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At 6 am the next morning, we set out for Kata Tjuta (also knows as “The Olgas”), which is as pretty as Uluru. It is a series of 36 rock domes dating back 500 million years. The sunrise view point beautifully revealed the morning colors of the rocks.
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The 7.4 km Valley of the Winds walk at Kata Tjuta has been rated by seasoned travelers as the best of the region. After the sunrise, we gobbled our packed breakfast and headed off for the spectacular walk. Full of gorges and lovely rugged scenery, it took us around 3 hours to finish including water breaks and photo stops. Very cool.

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The indigenous cultural show back at the resort, frankly, was a little lame mainly due to extremely bored-looking dancers.

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Kings Canyon, part of Wattarka National Park in NT, is 4 hours away from Uluru and its famed 6 km “King’s Canyon “Rim Walk” has been rated by some travelers as bettering even Uluru & Kata Tjuta. We were on a mission, so brushing the distance aside we started at 3:30 am and drove non-stop for 4 hours. At 5 am, we got super excited looking at some wild dogs which ended up being cattle! ¬†Due to excessive heat, the walk is usually closed by the rangers by 9 am to protect the hikers, oops.. sorry, “Bushwalkers”! We managed to start much before that.

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The EXTREMELY steep 100-150 step vertical climb at the start has been named as “the heartbreak hill” ( or “heart attack hill” by some morbid souls) by the locals. But once you are past it, the enchanting views of the gorge and the valley below makes the whole effort worth it.

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This is my favorite shot. We were constantly (with oodles of nostalgia) reminded of the rim walk at Grand Canyon Arizona. Of course the distance between the two rims at GC was vast but there are no clear winners !

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Sometimes it is good to pause and introspect on the purpose of life which these two seem to be doing remarkably well !

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A morning well spent and we were done by 11 am. After a four hour drive back, we had no energy left but we still enjoyed the live one-man blues band at the lodge over dinner.

Our last morning was spent again at the Uluru rock enjoying the mesmerizing morning colors of rock, from the sunrise viewing point called Talinguru Nyakunytjaku. In retrospect, I feel funny having spent countless hours googling for the best sunset and sunrise viewpoints, in the end choosing the obvious and official ones. But that is the human spirit – it does not stop till it has satisfactorily found an answer howsoever lame it may be. This is how the morning colors changed from dark to light:

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We then quickly drove around the circumference of the rock to get a wider perspective in addition to bush walking the short Kuniya and Mala walks.

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Feeling the spiritual energy up close.IMG_8950

The closest shot of the rock reveals a rugged surface with loads of moon-like craters. It’s like life – a situation or a person that looks picture perfect from a distance, reveals its true colors or imperfections at worst, when you come too close !

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The pilgrimage had come to an end. As we boarded our Melbourne flight, Mika managed to click these lovely pictures of Uluru from the plane – putting its vastness into perspective. Thanks for reading and see you in Melbourne & Great Ocean Road !

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