Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Central Australia Part 2 - Uluru

So like I said at the end of my epic Kings Canyon post, we got to stop on the side of the road, run up a massive sand dune, and see the sun set over Uluru and Kata Tjuta. That's Kata Tjuta on the right, incidentally!

It was pretty damned impressive, I have to say.

Sara managed to get a couple of silhouette shots. I wasn't brave enough to mess around with my shutter speed without having a tripod to rely on!

From there, it was another 45 minutes in the bus to the campsite (permanent tents with actual beds in them - my kind of camping!). After a dinner of steak, roo steak, and camel sausages and a quick shower (nothing like showering with a massive grasshopper to make you rush...), it was off to bed after what seemed like the longest day ever. To be honest, the next day wasn't a whole lot shorter. We were woken up at 3.45, and breakfast was on the table until 4.30. Nothing like a nice bowl of Coco Pops in the middle of the night! :S

I will say one thing for getting up at stupid o'clock: the stars were TOTALLY worth it. I've not seen stars like that since the Inca Trail! Aaaanyway, we left camp at 4.45. It was a 45-odd minute drive from camp to the other side of Uluru where you can see the sun rise hitting the rock. On the plus side, it wasn't raining, which made a nice improvement on the previous day!

Anyway, sunrise was at around 5.45. We staked out a good spot, tried not to freeze to death, and stood around waiting...

Gradually, the sun began to come up, and the rock started to change colour from a grey colour to brown:

To red:

And then finally, FINALLY, the sun crested the hill:

And once that happened, the rock turned orange:

Once sunrise was over, we piled back into the bus, and headed around to the start of the base walk. I was slightly horrified when I realised that it was only 6.30 in the morning, that we'd been up for nearly 3 hours, and that we were about to walk 9.4km in two hours... :S

The walk around the base is incredibly worth the effort. At 6.30 in the morning, it was still relatively cool - you'd be nuts to try and do it in the middle of the day! - which meant it was fairly easy going for the most part. It's only when walking around the base that you can see Uluru for what it really is - enormous and ridiculously varied.

Does this look like an alien skull to anyone else???

The edges of the rock are so defined against the sky that a lot of the time, it looks like it's been photoshopped into the landscape.

The lines on the rock are actually stratigraphic layers - Uluru is actually a slab of sandstone bedrock that was pushed up during a mountain building period in the Palaeozoic era millions of years ago. That's pretty freaking cool, especially when you realise that there's another 2km of Uluru below the surface...

The black lines on the rock are a type of algae, and indicate where water's flowed during rain. Apparently Uluru is pretty bloody incredible in the rain, but frankly, I'm glad we didn't have to experience it!

It really is the most amazingly changeable scenery...

This bit, for instance, looked like a whale:

While this bit was just bizarre and amazing:

This is one of my favourite photos from the walk:

This is the waterhole inside Uluru - it's sheltered from the outside, and we got to see it when the water level was really high from all the rain in recent months!

Just around the corner from the waterhole was this rock art. It's amazing how different Central Australian rock art is from the rock art further north in Kakadu... Although apparently it serves a completely different purpose, so I suppose it's not all *that* surprising.

This bit was just cool. I really wanted to know if there was a little waterhole up over that lip:

And this ridge? This is where the climb is. God knows why the hell you'd think climbing it was a good idea...

Especially when you see this. This is the chain. Or, more accurately, the first THIRD of the chain, which is all you can see from the ground.

You still have to get up several more ridges to reach the top. Not only is it incredibly disrespectful to the local Aboriginal people to climb, but something like half of all people who climb the rock use the top as a bathroom. That's just wrong. Not to mention the fact that the strong winds at the top can actually knock you right off the side of the rock! Thank God the climb looks like it's going to be closed permanently sometime in the next twelve months...

We finished the walk at around 8.30 (which, frighteningly, was deemed morning tea time!), and drove to a lookout to get some photos of the whole of Uluru:

From there, it was a 45 minute drive out to Kata Tjuta. But that's a story for another time. A painful, painful story, filled with the cheesiest, worst Australian music imaginable... Isn't that something to look forward to?? ;)

K xx

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