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Thursday, 15 July 2010

Uluru Part 1

Next instalment of our Aussie trip.

We flew to Alice Springs from Cairns, then drove a hired car to the Yulara Resort, next to Uluru.
A little digression here.
I'm an idiot.
When I booked the holiday through Expedia, I assumed that Uluru (Ayers Rock) was quite close to Alice Springs. It was actually, by Australian standards. It was over 400 km distant. It became too complex to change the Expedia bookings without major financial penalties, so I arranged to hire a car in Alice and drive to the resort and back.
I'm actually glad we did the journey this way, as it quickly established in our minds the absolute hugeness of the Australian continent.
Another way in which the country surprised us was that it actually felt a bit claustrophobic.

The bush, some of it about 2-3 metres high grew up very close to the road, so we didn't always see the vast open landscapes we had imagined.
The road was good, sealed and metalled (I may be an idiot, but I'm a computer literate idiot, and I had previously checked using google maps street view to check the state of the road)so we hired a Ford Falcon (unlimited mileage through Europcar). I was really glad the car had cruise control, because the 130kph was easy to set for the long, long straight stretches.
We took the Stuart Highway (130kph)from Alice, then turned of onto the Lassiter Highway (110kph) at Erldunda.
After about 20 minutes i thought I had a visual sighting of Uluru itself.
As I have stated earlier, I'm an idiot. A fact my beloved clearly told me. Repeatedly.

Uluru was still 200 km away. What I had seen was Mount Conner. A wide table topped mountain, which looked very much like the mesas in Colorado.
Finally got to the hotel, "Sails in the Desert". Friends of ours had stayed there 10 years ago, and it had seemed pretty luxurious to them.
It probably was 10 years ago, and I don't think it's been touched since.
The rooms cost about A$480 per night. Breakfast and everything else was extra.
All the hotels in the Yulara resort complex are owned by the same company, so there is no competition.
However the beds were comfortable and the rooms were clean.
Dinner that night was just OK, but cost about A$140 for the 2 of us, with 1 glass of wine. Get the idea? Rip-of city.
We set of to Uluru next morning, and I must admit it was far more impressive than I had thought it would be.

It looked different from every angle. It's covered in rills, ridges, holes, caves, buttresses and waterfalls.

The colour changes from a basic sandstone red to purples, browns, blacks and pink. The texture changes across the surface, from a gritty matt to a glossy black.

We went into the cultural centre which was pretty interesting. It explained the historical and spiritual significance of Uluru to the local Aboriginal peoples, and asked tourists not to climb. There was no direct prohibition to climbing by Australian Law, unless weather conditions merited it, but I liked the polite way in which the requests were worded. I have no intention to climb Uluru, not because I believe any of the gobbledygook spouted by the locals (no offence, I think all religions are gobbledygook) but it's their country (especially this part) and I respect their wishes in their land.
We walked around most of the rock, but not all the way. They have cleverly laid out a metalled road that surrounds Uluru at a fair distance (about 500 metres), with car parks spotted strategically next to designated walking paths to points of special interest.
I should have mentioned earlier that the weather was now a bit variable. Alice Springs had just had the lowest recorded temperature of 60 C, and there was heavy threatening clouds overhead.
So we drove, parked and walked, drove parked and walked, repeated until we had seen all the major points.
All done with the looming bulk of the rock above you. (Oops, I forgot to mention the herd of feral camels which went trotting past. Surreal.)

I was certainly glad to be here, rip-of prices or not. It was an experience I would not forget.
I believe the correct term is awesome.
More tomorrow, including the most romantic dinner ever!


  1. That guy in the foreground in the last photo looks like he's wearing a parachute. Why? Also, why is it lighted up?

  2. Parachuting off the rock is an old Aboriginal religious ritual. Off course, the original jumpers were slimmer and hadn't yet worked out the value of the parachute thing.

    TSB, you are wasted in teaching, you should write travel guides.

  3. I hadn't noticed the backpack which is actually hanging of the back of the guy's chair. It looks lighted up because its made of reflective material for night bike riding, and the flash from my camera causes the reflections. It looks quite bright, but I had my camera in night mode, which is why the picture is grainy, as it uses a photomultiplier to increase usable light. It was pretty dark by this time.

  4. Honestly you are saying a lot of the things that Bill Bryson said in his Down Under travel book, it is like reading it twice

  5. Sorry if it's boring you Fflur. I have read Bill Bryson's book, but it was years ago. I honestly am not copying it. I'll try and make it more interesting.


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