It was sad for us to say ‘good bye’ to our new found friends, but you could not help but feel that they were somewhat relieved to get rid of these ‘greenhorns’! However to us it had been a great and unforgettable experience.
Packed up and ready to go, our departure was somewhat delayed by Rosie the house dog having run off with my shoe. This was eventually retrieved from her igloo bed…….
Eventually, goodbyes having been said and addresses exchanged, we were off with me at the wheel, to drive to Uluru. We filled up again on the way, but were soon heading along the long straight, sun drenched highway. It was the weekend and there seemed to be more traffic on the road, but it was still the exception to see another vehicle. We must have left De Rose Hill at around 7.30 and we reached Uluru National Park circa lunchtime.
The Uluru rock came into view, bright red in the mid day sun many kilometres before we arrived at the National Park. I am not sure how I imagined it would be – my knowledge rather embarrassingly being of the dingo/baby tragedy of many years ago. However, in reality it is an awesome sight, seeming as it does from a distance, to rise as a hot red glowing rock standing four square in the middle of a flat outback plain. Up close it is very much more complex, with holes and gouges and runnels and bulges. Its surface is almost slate like. Indeed it is like no other rock I have ever seen. But more of this later.
We paid for our three day pass at the National Park boundary. It was noticeable that although the area was handed back to the local aboriginal people some years ago, and is sublet by them back to the state, there are no aboriginal people working anywhere in the park that we could see.
Everywhere is very organised and after lunch under one of the purpose built shelters, we visited the culture centre to get a feel for the place and learn something of its history. This was really useful but we decided to get the most out of the afternoon by taking a short walk along one of the tracks that run along close to the base of the rock. It was warm but not overpowering and we walked along with the awesome presence of the mountain very evident to our right. It was only a couple of kilometres each way, but it was very pleasant and got us into the place nicely and served as something of a taster for our time there. There are a number of walks around the mountain, the longest being the walk around the base which we decided was a ‘must do’ for the next day.
The sad thing that we really picked up from the film we saw at the cultural cantre and the signs along the path was the lack of respect shown to the culture of the aboriginal people, for whom this is a very important site. Signs requested that certain areas were not photographed and that you did not climb the rock face. The fact that both requests went unheeded by many of the sightseers was very evident. We were somewhat dispirited by this but this apart enjoyed our first encounter with the mountain and its surroundings.
The walked finished, we went back to find our accommodation. This was in a sizeable back packers centre close by. We all four shared a room, somewhat reminiscent of a prison cell, and a long way from our yurt experiences on the Silk Road when the four of us first shared sleeping accommodation! It was probably more Santiago pilgrim hostel! However it was very clean and was ideal for our needs.
Around 6.00 pm everyone (including us) evacuated the area to watch the sun set over Uluru. We were not sure what this entailed but had passed a ‘sunset viewing point’ earlier in the day so headed there. We were first amazed by the numbers who had gathered and were then equally surprised to have the sun behind us! Watching the sun go down on Uluru means watching the colours change on it rather than the sun go down behind it. Of course. I have to say it was very impressive as it shaded from red to deep purple. It is a very special place.
Once we had seen the demise of the sun for the day our thoughts turned to food. The accommodation might have been sparse but the facilities were very comprehensive and Keith and I opted for the self cooked burger approach to supper. It was excellent! I shared the lashings of salad with Sarah and, washed down with wine the girls had thoughtfully brought with them, we had an excellent repast.
As it is better to walk early – it was an early night for us and 9.30 saw us all tucked up in bed.