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Ayers Rock (Uluṟu), Australia

Ayers Rock (Uluru) with full moon
Source by Florian Rohart on Flickr – Under Creative Commons license

Once you enter the Uluṟu-Kata Tjuṯa National Park, in Red Centre, it doesn’t matter where you look, your eyes will surely be captured by Uluṟu, a giant red-colored rock, as it breaks the flat horizon, making it impossible to ignore. Once you get closer to the giant rock, it completely fills your visual field and your car’s windscreen, and even if you tried to look away, you couldn’t. But believe me, you won’t want to look away.

Ayers Rock (Uluru) from a distance
Source by atishp on Flickr – Under Creative Commons license

Also known as Ayers Rock, Uluṟu is the largest monolith or single piece of rock in the world. It’s made of sandstone, and although sandstone is normally grey, Uluṟu turned its reddish color after a process of oxidation.

When you look at Uluṟu up close, you notice it is rich in details and textures. Walking around the base of the rock you can see numerous furrows decorating its surface, where torrential waterfalls flow whenever it rains. And it rains quite often. Here and there you will find caves and crevices, eroded into the rock by water and air with the passing of time, and turned into Aboriginal creation tales. It’s another one of nature’s works of art.

Uluru (Ayers Rock) crevices

Source by Freddy Rhoads on Flickr – Under Creative Commons license

Uluru (Ayers Rock) erosion

Source by Evamaria on Flickr – Under Creative Commons license

The Traditional Owners of Uluṟu go by the name of Aṉangu; they are the local Aboriginal people, and the great rock has just as great cultural meaning to them. Even if at first it appears as irrelevant details, two of the walks illustrate their respect for nature and natural places through paintings and images carved into the rock; the landscape is genuinely sacred for them since they believe it is still inhabited by ancestral creator beings.

The Mutitjulu Walk takes you through an area that has been inhabited by Aboriginal people for about 10 thousand years and finally to the Mutitjulu Waterhole. Various features and marks along this walk are said to be the results of many great fights waged by ancestral serpent beings; the tale of Kuniya, the woman python, and Liru, a poisonous snake, being the most commonly told.

Uluru (Ayers Rock) natural wave

Source by rhoadeecha on Flickr – Under Creative Commons license

Uluru (Ayers Rock) cave

Source by Matthew Klein on Flickr – Under Creative Commons license

Spiritual significance

The Mala Walk takes to some of the places used by the Mala people for Inma, a religious ceremony which required their menfolk to climb to the top of Uluṟu. In the past, following a route to the top of the rock was a must for tourists, but getting to the top actually offends the Aṉangu people. No one prohibits you from climbing Uluṟu, but the Anangu themselves kindly request not to do so, and out of respect, many people have stopped trying.

This spiritual significance makes it hard to balance the needs of the Aṉangu people, and the needs of tourists who visit the rock formation; a culture that values and worships their sacred territory, and a culture without limits, that seems to worship almost nothing.

Ayers Rock (Uluru) from above
Source by Maarten Danial on Flickr – Under Creative Commons license

Kata Tjuta (Olgas)

About 40 km west from Ayers Rock, lie the group of large, dome-shaped rocks known by the name of Kata Tjuṯa, or the Olgas, the second major feature that gives the name to the Uluṟu-Kata Tjuṯa National Park. Some of the peaks are taller than Uluṟu itself, and they are just as sacred to the Aṉangu people; and just like Uluṟu, these peaks look spectacular at sunrise and sunset. Spending a day exploring them should definitely be on your bucket list.

Kata Tjuta (Olgas)
Source by Thomas Garcia on Flickr – Under Creative Commons license

Forbidden wonder

And just as if it wasn’t enough encouragement, let me inform you that photographing in almost half the sacred site is prevented, as it offends the Aṉangu people, meaning you won’t find views of Uluṟu at sunrise or dawn anywhere, when it glows bright red. Seeing these changes of colors throughout the day makes the visit totally worth it, as you won’t see it anywhere else.

Connellan Airport is just a few kilometers away from the town of Yulara, or Ayers Rock Resort, and the only airline that flies there is Qantas, so keep in mind that to get reasonable fares you should book in advance. There are also organized tours around the park, but unfortunately hiring a car at the airport is more expensive; seriously, book in advance. Last but not least, accommodation at Yulara ranges from a campsite to a luxury complex, and the small town has various restaurants and shops, making your experience and stay more pleasant.

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