I had always loved Australia and dreamed of visiting the outback, my childhood was filled with episodes of Blinky Bill, Round The Twist and Crocodile Dundee movies, however, my favourite was The Rescuers Down under. That’s how I imagined Uluru would be, not quite with mice that could talk however something quite magical and adventurous. So I hopped on a plane to Alice Springs, not knowing that I would later be living in the desert for a year.
Uluru (Aboriginal Name) was named “Ayers Rock” by an English explorer in 1873 after Sir Henry Ayers, the then Chief Secretary of South Australia. The land is extremely important to Aboriginal people and a deep part of their cultural identity. Uluru is considered sacred to the Yankunytjatjara and Pitjantjatjara people and they believe that the spirits of their ancestors continue to reside in these protected places.
Uluru is an integral part of the Aboriginal Dreamtime which is the story of how the world was created. Each side of Uluru has a different creation story associated with it, there is one side that you are not even allowed to photograph as it is so sacred. I don’t usually buy into tours but when visiting Uluru with an experienced local guide, you can hear the incredible Dreamtime stories and learn all about the many rock paintings that are thought to date back at least 5000 years.
On my first day in Alice Springs while waiting for my tour to start I met a photographer in the Botanical Gardens, she had complimented my felt hat. I had told her about how I would love to see rain at Uluru, she assured me it was very rare and that she had lived in Alice Springs her whole life without seeing it.
The first time I saw Uluru it was raining. The rain cascaded off the rock creating multiple waterfalls and rainbows. It was so beautiful and exactly as I imagined, mysterious and spectacular, although we had the Spice Girls playing at the time, this sort of added to the excitement. A year later I went on to work alongside the photographer at the Alice Springs newspaper, I asked her if she remembered the girl in the felt hat and of course she did.
You are allowed to climb this magnificent rock, however, it is very offensive to the Aboriginal people who consider it sacred. The walk across Uluru is part of the traditional route taken by Mala men and is of massive spiritual significance, not just a tourist attraction. In the last 60 years, more than 35 people have died climbing the 348m rock and many more have been injured, some even needing helicopter rescue. So there are plenty of reasons to admire it from the ground. In the visitor centre, you can sign a petition to ban the climb.
The sunset viewing point proves most popular when visiting, crowds of tourists pop open bubbly and backpackers knock back some beers. The rock changes colour as the sun sets and makes for a beautiful display. There is also the sunrise viewpoint if you can get up early enough which is equally breathtaking. Entry to the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park is $25 for three days and there is plenty to see. If like me and my partner your drove via The Great Central Road then the entry is free although it does require a 1126 km dirt track drive from Laverton in Western Australia with only camels for company.
On my final day in Alice Springs I met my partner, one month and a few countries later I moved to the unusual desert town that is Alice Springs. This was my most favourite trip in Australia, there is something magical about the Northern Territory that I love, it’s unlike any other state. I lived in Alice Springs for one year, and a few other months on and off. You can read about my outback adventures in one of the most remote towns in the world below and of course, the magical story of how I met my partner.
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