‘Oi, mate! Would you climb the roof of the Taj Mahal?’ The Indian gent that had just finished his descent looked slightly confused at the young Aborigine man at the bottom of the path. Needless to say the Indian tourist not getting the point that was trying to be made smiled and walked away. More about that in a bit.
The big stone in "The Red Centre" or middle of Australia, once known as Ayers Rock and now more commonly as Uluru, is one of those things that you really need to see to appreciate. There are few things that make you stop and stare like the first time you see Uluru. I’m not sure if it’s the size of the thing or the colours and textures.
This is something I had seen so many times before, in pictures and on television but somehow none of that can prepare you for how, well, bloody fantastic it is. Remember I’m English and miserable, and Uluru still made me sit down and stare. Join the rest of the people and sit and watch the sun go down. The range of colours takes your breath away. Photo Time!
Uluru - Kata Tjuta National park, is situated approximately 460km from Alice Springs. How you get there is not important, just make sure that you have the time and money to go during your time in Australia. I know the Alice Springs resort is expensive and that you can’t party all night but trust me; Uluru is something you don’t want to miss.
Before I made the journey to The Red Centre there were a few things no one told me. So to save you the embarrassment I shall pass them onto you.
- There are lots of Camels in the middle of Australia. So standing in the middle of the road looking for the man with the hidden camera is not necessary. (There are lots of places you can take a camel ride too)
- On the way to Uluru you will pass a very large object in the distance. This is not the ‘red rock’. This is Mount Conner. So don’t get excited too early!
- It can be very cold in the centre of Australia at night, especially in winter. Take your thermals!
- There are so many flies in the area that they will drive you mad. You could go for the sexy head net look. Doing 'The Aussie Wave' (waving my arms about and swearing) didn’t work, but tired me out enough that after an hour I stopped caring.
- The roads in the outback are long and straight, so don’t pull out to overtake someone when you are still 20 minutes away from catching them.
The other great surprise of the National Park was Kata Tjuta or The Olgas. Once thought to be a monolith about ten times the size of Uluru this is now 36 enormous domes of rock. In some ways the sight of this is more impressive than the rock itself. This may just be the fact that, if you are like me, you have no idea they are there. There are some excellent walks around and through these huge red ‘eggs’, and you could probably spend a day just here.
Entry to Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park is $25 and the entry is valid for 3 consecutive days.*
But wait... back to the Indian gentleman. The local Anangu, who are the traditional land owners of the area, would prefer it if you didn’t climb Uluru. One person a year on average dies climbing the ‘rock’ mostly from heart attacks and it isn’t the easiest stroll that you will do. The Anangu feel this is a sacred place and only certain people should climb. That said, as long as the weather is favourable, you can still climb it. It is your decision to respect their wishes or not. Me I didn’t climb it, well after all, you can’t see it if you are standing on it, and I’m scared of heights.
Before you rush off back to the East Coast for a cold beer and a hot body, there is at least one more thing to see while you are in the area.
Kings Canyon is around 320km from Alice Springs and is well worth a look. There is a well signed 6km walk that is worth 2 hours of your time. The strange rock formations and some of the views down the canyon are simply stunning and as long as you don’t try to do the walk in the middle of the day, apart from the first uphill section, it’s a relatively easy stroll. There are a few places to stay and camp in the area but none at the canyon itself. Most of the organised trips will have an option to see Kings Canyon and I think it’s an option worth taking.
Uluru and the areas around are just different to everywhere else. I’ve been to a few places around the world and I’ve never heard the phrase ‘ooh isn’t this just like Ayers Rock’, it just doesn’t happen. So make sure you don't make excuses to not visit Uluru in The Red Centre!
About the Author: Mick Bates went on a wander from Newcastle, England a few years ago. Trip advisor on facebook tells him he's been to about 140 cities in 20 countries, so lots more to see yet. He is as miserable as he seems.
*Price valid at time of writing