Ayres Rock, More Than Just a Rock
You’ve surely noticed by now the pictures of that huge rock smack in the middle of Australia. In Aboriginal, it’s called Uluru (said to have no true direct translation), but in English it is recognized by the name Ayers Rock. To reach it requires either a flight to the nearby town of Alice Springs (existing mostly to service the tourism related to this natural phenomenon) or a grueling bus journey from the ‘closer’ regions of Australia – although in a country this size, nothing’s really that close.
Ayers Rock, during sunrise.
Most tourists take a quick glance at the brochures for trips to Ayers Rock and simply comment, ‘Oh, it’s just a rock’. While it’s easy to dismiss it as such –yes, technically it is a rock, the world’s largest monolith – this simple rock has a spiritual quality to it, and not just because of the stunning views.
Uluru features heavily in the religious subtext of the Australian Aboriginal culture. Many of the tales about the world’s creation, called Tjukurpa or Dreamtime, make mention of the rock in one fashion or another.
In one tale, for example, the structure of Uluru rose out of the ground as the earth wept while watching a particularly nasty battle. Needless to say, the Aboriginals find the rock to be quite central to their core beliefs; one can only imagine the first settlers to roam these desolate plains to wander upon such an unbelievable sight.
It is likely your stay will be based in Alice Springs, where visitors are spoiled with choice for accommodation, from motels and hotels to charming bed & breakfasts or budget backpackers. Believe it or not, ‘the Alice’ is a hub of social life, with loads of Aboriginal art exhibitions and some bizarre events such as the Beanie Festival and the Camel Cup.
Birds eye view of Ayers Rock. Photo credit
The real attraction, though, is the rock. Most tourist aim for a sunrise (with a blistering 4AM departure call) or sunset viewing, as the heat during midday can melt the hardiest of traveler. Check out this guide for more information about the Uluru base walk.
Uluru really comes to life when the sun is near the edge of the horizon; the outer skin of the rock glows as if it is on fire and might just levitate up and away into outer space. That orange glow graces the covers of many Australia tour books, but seeing it just isn’t the same as it is in person.
There is still a lot of controversy surrounding the practice of climbing Ayes Rock. While it is technically possible to do so – a chain rope was installed in the 60s to make the grueling climb a bit easier – being on the rock is against the religious beliefs of the Aboriginals. It is a personal choice, although I wouldn’t suggest it. Walking around the mass gives one plenty of perspective and the view really is better from the ground.
A little consideration for you, to the religious beliefs of the Aboriginals it is forbidden to photograph some sections of the rock. It is asked that you respect their wishes; besides, some of the best and most stunning shots can be had without any problem.