Mum and Dad arrived on Easter Sunday to spend 2 weeks with me here in Australia for my graduation before I head off on my gap year. We spent a pretty cruisy first couple of days visiting my partner’s family, a museum in Sydney, a good friend of ours and Featherdale Wildlife Park where we saw all sorts of Australian animals and even got to pet a wallaby and a kangaroo. The really awesome activity came on Wednesday though. We only found out about a month ago that my Dad would be able to come visit with my Mum so I cancelled our trip to Port Stephens (couldn’t get an extra hotel room) and booked 3 seats to Uluru. Uluru has been a place both my Dad and I have always wanted to visit so I was waiting for him to come to Australia before going myself.

Ivo spilled the beans about Uluru to my Mum (it was supposed to be a surprise for her too) but we all somehow managed to keep it a secret from Dad (only because he’s basically deaf though). Seriously, he didn’t know where we were going until we got to the terminal at the airport about 10 minutes before boarding thanks to extremely lax security in Australian airports. Needless to say it was a very nice surprise for him.

We spent the first half day we had at Ayer’s Rock Resort just chillin’ for the most part. Checked in, checked out the resort, did some grocery shopping, watched an Anangu (the local Aboriginal tribe) dance and music demonstration, went to dinner, etc. Nothing terribly exciting. Our first full day at Uluru we decided to take a shuttle to Uluru and walk the base. A couple things to note before even taking off for this excessively large monolith:

  1. While you are allowed to climb Uluru weather permitting it is EXTREMELY disrespectful to the local culture and religion to climb it. Before white people arrived it was only an activity done by men for religious and initiation purposes. It is an inappropriate thing to do and should not be done no matter how you feel about the local religion. How would you feel if someone came into your church or mosque or temple or general place of worship (or your house for that matter) and started climbing all over the alter or other places of significance or started jumping on your beds and furniture with their dirty shoes on? While I would love to rise to the challenge of climbing Uluru it is disrespectful to the Anangu peoples, it increases erosion on that part of the rock and defecations from people reaching the top (where there is no toilet) is a contributing factor to higher levels of bacterium in the water surrounding the rock which does affect the environment. Basically, DON’T CLIMB THE ROCK!
  2. There seems to be a problem with information in this place. Online and at the resort all the tours are extremely vague and it’s difficult to find specific information on anything. The tours are expensive and I wouldn’t really recommend them unless you enjoy large and slow moving tour groups with lots of cameras or spending a short amount of time at each place. If you are traveling with someone I recommend hiring a car. Book well in advance to get a cheap car. There is a shuttle that goes to Uluru and Kata Tjuta several times a day, but it is extremely expensive. If you are traveling alone the Shuttle Express is the way to go.
  3. Bring a hat, sunscreen, a large water bottle or two and a backpack.
  4. Australian domestic airlines allow you to bring as much liquid as you want on board. Bring enough alcohol to last your stay because it’s expensive and there is limited selection.
  5. Don’t take pictures of the locals. Apparently the Anangu tribe is rather averse to having their picture taken. If you are hell bent on getting a photo, make sure you ask first.

Okay, now we have that out of the way, let’s start with Uluru. Nothing can do this giant hunk of stone justice. At about 350 metres high and nearly 10 km around the base, this thing is gimasinormous (giant, massive and enormous). All the pictures in the world and all the descriptions in the world cannot in anyway prepare you for it. I grew up in the Rockies and I was awestruck by it. The base walk is quite pleasant, with signs regularly posted telling you about the significance of an area, local flora and fauna. Expect to spend about 4 hours walking so pack comfortable walking shoes, plenty of water, a hat and sunscreen. I think it would be pretty awesome if there were some kind of podcast or guidebook explaining things about the culture and the history and stories of certain parts of the rocks, but they don’t have that and there are parts of the rock that are of the utmost importance in their religion so photography isn’t allowed and they aren’t allowed to tell anyone except the uninitiated the stories. I find this greatly irritating, but that’s religion for you. Anyway, there really is no way to describe Uluru in such a way to impress upon you the size and significance of this place and all I can say is it is definitely on my list of top 10 rock formations. If you make it to Australia (or live in Australia) I can only recommend this place for a holiday. It is definitely a place you must see before you die.

Kata Tjuta

If Uluru is the centre and heart of Australia then I don’t even know how to describe Kata Tjuta. Kata Tjuta is another rock formation about 50 km away from Uluru and, in my opinion, even more impressive than Uluru. Uluru was made famous for its semi-symmetrical middle of nowhere jutting out of the landscape. Everyone knows Uluru. Most tourists, myself included, know jack all about the Kata Tjuta rock formation. This is another sacred rock formation to the Anangu people and they do ask that you don’t climb on the domes. There is a great 7.4 km hike called the Valley of the Winds hike and I cannot recommend it enough. If you only had one full day at Ayer’s Rock Resort I would say do one of the short hikes or just go to view Uluru during a sunset or sunrise and spend your day hiking at Kata Tjuta. Once again, no picture or description could ever do this place justice.

The first part of the hike from the carpark has a bit of greenery, but no more than you would see at Uluru, and all you can see to the right are these massive dome shaped rocks, which I think may actually be higher than Uluru. You get to a part of the trail where you could be in Southwestern USA there is that much red dirt and rocks. Unfortunately, if the weather gets to 36 degrees Celsius they shut the rest of the trail after 11am. We continued on to the second lookout and after a fair amount of hiking up and down (this is not a hike for disabled or injured persons) we came around one of the first corners of one of the larger domes and it was like stepping into an oasis. We went from barren dessert like conditions to beautiful little streams, rocky hills and trees everywhere. It was an extremely serene and beautiful area and I would not have minded an opportunity to stay longer. Unfortunately we only had 3 hours in total to do the hike.

We spent another 20 minutes walking uphill amongst this gorge forest before coming up a crest and opening our view onto a green valley that could be viewed between the two massive domes we were walking between. In the background we could see numerous smaller domes as well. You’ll have to take a look at the photos, the link which is below, but even seeing those photos you couldn’t possibly understand just how beautiful this landscape is. Kata Tjuta also makes the top 10 list by the way.

Needless to say, I think this surprise holiday was definitely a success. We had an absolutely amazing time, worked off some of the alcohol we drank and food we ate and experienced some of the most amazing rock formations I will probably ever see in my life.

Pictures can be seen here.

What I am reading now: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (don’t watch the movie, it was crap).