We had decided to get up to watch the sunrise (6.26 am) and then, as it is best to walk early before the sun gets too hot, to go straight off to walk around the base of Uluru, a walk of 10.5 kilometres.
Sadly when the alarm went off it tranired Keith had not slept all night and did not feel he could do the walk. My immediate reaction was that I would not go either, but in the end I was persuaded to go with the girls and leave him to catch up on his sleep. We emerged into the almost darkness, but against the yellow glow beginning to appear on the horizon, the trees of our accommodation compound were starkly silhouetted. It was a sight to behold in itself.
We set off, not realising that the sunrise area was some way away and in the end were hurtling along the road to get there in time. We arrived with about a minute to spare to join the assembled throng already gathered to watch the picture unfold. Families huddled together for warmth and the ardent photographic enthusuasists stood against the railings of the terraces, their tripods standing stiffly to attention, their expensive lenses trained on the large dark silhouette of the rock looming up in front of us. It must be remembered that we had the sun coming up behind us and as it rose the dark blue/black cherry colouring of Uluru turned to maroon and eventually a rich brown as the sky brightened around it and the suns rays penetrated its surface.
And then it was over. The lenses were retracted and the tripod legs were snapped shut. People started to chat and move away and the sunset viewing terraces were left to their lonely solitude for another 24 hours.
We, meanwhile, headed off for the Mala car park and the start of our circumnavigation of the rock. The Mala car park also marks the spot where the would be climbers of the mountain ascend. They do this despite the large number of notices requesting that people do not climb what is a very special place to the aboriginal people. However at 7.30 in the morning, no-one had arrived to ignore the sensitivity of the area and we almost had the place to ourselves as we crunched along the sandy path. It was still quite cold and the rising sun cast long shadows from the bushes and shrubs around the base of the rock.
Close to, the rock itself is not totally smooth but has fissures and undulations, holes and crevices, overhangs and outcrops. It’s surface outside of these areas is quite smooth although it also has a slatey quality and looks a bit freckly for want a of a bette description. The route initially skirts the rock itself quite closely but it then turns away to the road which runs parallel to the path. Soon it turns back to the rock and apart from car parking areas, where coaches lurk while they wait for their passengers to return, you see no more traffic as you wander along. Every now and then there is a sign indicating a particularly sensitive area where no photography is allowed. Sadly, like the request that you do not climb the mountain, this is ignored by the many of our fellow tourists.
I was very impressed with the safety precautions in place. Every few miles there was a shelter and emergency telephone and a map showing how far you had travelled around the circuit. Half way round there was a fresh water tank and tap. All geared.to ensure that you survive the experience – particularly if you walked it in the searing heat of summer I guess.
As we continued around the sun rose further and the day became warmer. At the same time the rock itself changed from brown to golden in the bright light. The amount of trees and bushes ebbed and flowed to reflect the a mount of rain that ran off the top of the mountain when it rained. Dark channels marked where these waterfalls occurred It was fascinating. Birds chirped and called and although the number of people we came across increased gradually either on foot or bicycle nothing detracted from the spell of the place.
We competed the walk in 2.5 hours and returned to our accommodation where we found Keith had caught up with some of his sleep and was ready for breakfast. This finished and after purchasing supplies for supper, we decided to head off to a place Kata Tjuta (the Olgas) which is about 35 kilometres from Uluru and is in fact higher. It is formed of a number of domes and can be seen on the horizon from Uluru. We walked part of the Valley of the Winds walk and looked back over the plain to see Uluru on the horizon. Kata Tjuta is also a special aboriginal site but seems less popular than the Uluru mountain, but to us I think it was equally impressive.
When we returned to our base, Keith performed his usual magic with the food we had purchased earlier in the communal kitchen provided for backpackers. There were a number of nationalities represented in the kitchen – so the food being prepared was very cosmopolitan. Keith cooked Lebanese.
Dinner washed down with a glass or two of an excellent Australian wine amazingly supplied by Sarah and Wendy who had brought it in their hand luggage from Sydney, concluded our day. Keith and I were to be up early as we had decided to walk the Uluru base walk so Keith did not miss out…
And so to bed!