Written by: Dian
(This post was delayed because of our Real Life™ commitments. Oh well!)
We probably did the most sightseeing on Day 6 of our trip. First we explored Kata Tjuta. Next, we visited one of the natural wonders of the world. So here’s part 2!
Since it was only midday when we were done with the Kings Canyon Rim Walk, we decided to head on over to Uluru from there rather than head back to our hostel. More convenient, and also less time wasted.
Uluru and the Cultural Centre
Somewhere along the way during the 40-minute drive, Uluru came closer and closer into view. She’s definitely a beaut!
Uluru is sacred to the Aboriginal people. It is debateable when the first Aborigines moved into the area but evidence suggests that it was at least 20,000 years ago, with the Anangu people dating back 60,000 years, making it the oldest culture known to man.
Uluru is also known as Ayers Rock, the name given to it by a British surveyor who discovered it, but people in the area generally call it Uluru. Some think calling it Ayers Rock erases the legacy and legitimacy of the Aboriginal Australians who first settled there. Which is perfectly valid, I think, because they were there first after all!
There’s a LOT you can do in the general Uluru area, as you can see in this map right here:
To walk the entire base of Uluru would take 4 to 5 hours, but we didn’t have enough time for that.
We decided to head to the Cultural Centre first to get a taste of Aboriginal culture.
Spotted this at the carpark. You’ll definitely catch a glimpse of campers spray-painted like this when you do the NT.
In fact, we did consider hiring from a rental company which specialises in graffitied vans like this (they were cheaper!), but ended up deciding against it when we 1) read bad reviews about the service and 2) found that some of the stuff on their vans was rather tasteless… misogynistic jokes, crass humour, and the like.
Unfortunately this is all we have for the Cultural Centre since photography isn’t allowed when you’re inside. We walked through the museum, observed Aboriginal artists at work painting cloth and tapestries, bought some touristy trinkets, and had some overpriced and bland chicken veggie stir fry thing for lunch.
On to the next stop!
We decided to walk a portion of the Uluru base named the Mala walk.
This is the sight you’re greeted with when you’ve walked over from the carpark. You can start a climb on Uluru at this point, BUT…
1) The Aboriginal community generally regard this as a dick move. If you do your research (and you should) you’ll get a whole bunch of web pages discouraging you from climbing Uluru because it is sacred. When you’re there, the signs reiterate this (“Please don’t climb”).
2) It’s a steep slope up, so it’s dangerous and definitely not for the faint-hearted. People have died attempting to climb Uluru.
3) They make it difficult for you to climb it anyway. You can only climb Uluru under very specific favourable weather conditions. On the day we were there, the climb was closed because of wind conditions and storms in the surrounding area.
The people who DO climb Uluru do it based off the technicality that climbing Uluru is not banned, just discouraged. People also like to argue that not climbing will “detract from the experience of visiting the rock.”
All you need to do is walk the base of Uluru to appreciate its beauty. The most famous pictures you see of Uluru are taken from afar, not on top of it. Also, I think the least any tourist could do is respect the wishes of indigenous people (not just in Australia, but wherever). So… is it hard to be culturally sensitive? No! Don’t climb it!!!
The Mala Walk
Moving on, it was time to start the Mala walk. It’s a short one, about 30 minutes one-way.
I wanted to see a Mala but there were none. ;< There was only this pawprint out in the fields.
… it only kind of occurred to us later on that Mala are nocturnal. Slim chance you would see them out and about in the day, not to mention the tall grass. D’oh.
See those dark trails? They’re formed by rainwater flowing downwards. This won’t normally happen unless it’s the rainy season.
Aboriginals used to settle in these caves. The signboards told the origin stories of the Mala people (yes, named after the critter!) who originally came from the north – which ties into the Aboriginal myth about how they had to flee an evil dog-like spirit.
Uluru is of cultural and spiritual signifiance to the Aboriginals. These caves were used for traditional ceremonies and rites of passage.
Look at the wall paintings! They’re thousands of years old.
You can walk into some of the caves.
Like in many ancient cultures, the women would stay behind and forage for food while the men went about hunting.
This particular cave had metal railings, so you could climb onto the rock and take a peek inside.
The Anangu believe that the bodies of men and women were often transformed into isolated boulders or piles of rock after they passed. The signs prompt you to stop and look at the boulders amidst the quiet.
An important thing to note is that photography is prohibited at several parts of the walk due to the sacred significance of that particular area. There is clear signage indicating this. So put your camera down and just embrace the silence and mystical aura that this place brings.
More water trails!
The Mala walk eventually brings you to this point, a gorge with a small pool. That’s probably how the wildlife manage to survive in such a hostile environment.
Next up, we drove 10 minutes away to do another short walk called the Kuniya walk. It was evening at this point, so we didn’t have time to do anything that would take longer than an hour.
The Kuniya Walk
Look at the sandstone formations! What a sight to admire.
The Kuniya walk is quite a short 45-minute return walk, great for quick sightseeing.
This walk is great for bird-spotting, but you’ll have to know what to look out for. We don’t recall seeing many birds!
See the black marks on the ceiling of this cave? They were caused by fires lit by elders who sat here, particularly those who were too old to do much. They supervised children here too.
The mid-point of the walk is the Mutitjulu waterhole, home of a wanampi, an ancestral watersnake.
You can see waterfalls along this walk in wetter months. What a sight that must be.
We still had a 45 minute drive ahead of us back to our hostel, so we had to get going. But first, we stopped to take photos of Uluru from afar!
We may not have had the time to walk the entire base but we’re happy enough with what we managed to see of Uluru AND Kata Tjuta that day.
So off we went to our hostel. We bathed, rested and went to the supermarket to replenish our groceries.
Finally, after a long day dinner!
Hobo food, but atas. We had boiled pasta with canned soup and some sausages we got at the supermarket super cheap for 2 AUD.
This was one satisfying meal and a LOT for two. Turned out the sausages were oily enough without us adding oil to cook them, so they turned out really oily. Oh well.
We thought this was nifty – two shelves of free stuff left by other visitors! We used oil and salt from here. We ended up leaving the rest of our uncooked pasta and a small gas canister we got for the stove that came with the car (which we didn’t use… y’know, no camping thanks to the busted tent).
There was supposed to be a meteor shower that night peaking at 1 am. We headed out to see it but I headed back to the room because it was TOO DAMN COLD. 12 degrees out, and it later dropped to 10. Brandon stayed out to take photos but headed back eventually too because of the cold.
Just like that, we were roughly 80% done with our entire trip! Such a bummer. Stay tuned as we detail our final leg of our road trip en route to Stuarts Well Roadhouse!