Australia – Ayers Rock – Uluru and Kata Tjuta

– APRIL 15-18, 2015

The key word here is controversy.  I won’t get into too much detail on this topic, as we have had conversations on this over and over and over with so many people…its tiring.  Here is the general overview of this national park.

Years ago, the Australian government forced the Aborigines off this land and tried to convert them into the European way of life.  This didn’t work out so well, so they eventually allowed the Aborigines to resume control of the desert landscape around the park.  The park itself was also given back to the Aborigines, but under the condition it be leased back to the Australian government for 99 years.

During this time the Uluru rock was advertised as a climbing destination for all people.  This set the tone and expectation for the majority of people to come visit Uluru and climb it as a bucket list milestone.  The board running the park now has 8 Aborigine members and 4 Australian government members.  They have recently changed their stance to not want people to climb Uluru.

So now they are happy to have tourists pay to take the flight to this area (where there is literally nothing else to see), pay for the accommodations/food, pay the park entry fee, but then not to climb the rock.  They don’t advertise it as a climbing destination anymore, but they really don’t advertise it as a non-climbing destination either until you enter the park (and have paid all of the large sums of money as mentioned above).

Here is the point…it is entirely legal to climb Uluru.  They have NOT closed the climb.  But they will do everything they can to guilt you once you enter the park to not climb it.  Why?  The reasons change every time you speak to someone.  The Park Rangers, the Cultural Center workers, the tour guides…they all had different reasons.  You would think the reason to not climb would be the same everywhere, but that’s not the case.  This is the first reason it seems like an uncoordinated effort to prevent people from climbing.

The fact is this…if they did officially close the climb then I believe 50% of people (or more) would not travel to Ayers Rock.  This area is completely dependent on the tourism dollars coming in, so a hit like that would virtually close it down.  The board majority wants to close it (we hear its so they can just charge another fee to climb it) but they know if they do close it then they won’t stay open.

Its always been advertised as a life event to climb Uluru…it is still completely legal to climb it…and their guilt trips aren’t enough to convince people to spend all of this money and then not climb.

However, this is not the end to their “tricks”.  The Park Rangers can decide to close the climb on a daily basis if they feel it is too hot (above 36 degrees celsuis), too windy (above 20 km/hr) or if rain could come within 3 hours.  As such, the Rangers do in fact close the climb far more days than it is open.  If you plan to come to Ayers Rock then do not plan it for one or two days…you likely will not find the climb open.

You’ll be standing at the rock and it will not be hot, no rain and no wind…yet they will close the climb for the day and cite reasons like “too hot” or “too windy”.  Clearly they are in the process of closing the climb, but they know if they do officially close it then people won’t come.

A sad tactic…and anyone reading this doesn’t have to agree with me on this.  But this is how I feel, so when it was closed the first three days without a valid reason (or with the reasons changing every time someone spoke to us) it was a bit annoying.  On the last morning it opened for only a 2 hour window and we climbed it ASAP.

That was more than I wanted to type…but this sensitive topic really only seems to be about money.  Its not really about safety or any cultural reasons why people shouldn’t climb.  A local Aborigine father with 5 kids let them go past the fence barrier and throw footballs at Uluru…so this isn’t anything to do with cultural or religious reasons to stay off it.

We climbed it and we had no regrets.  I recommend anyone else to climb it as well.  Now off my soapbox and onto the story.

On the plane ride we had a great view of Uluru from the plane, see below.

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The view of Uluru from the airplane arriving at Ayers Rock.

We went out to catch a picture of the sunrise at Uluru, which created some dramatic effects on the monument.

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Uluru at sunrise

 

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Uluru at sunrise

We did the 11km long base walk around Uluru.  It is much bigger than you think.  In locations you can see black streaks down the side, which are from rainwater runs.

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View around Uluru.

 

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View around Uluru.

The aborigine people didn’t live here, instead they camped away from Uluru and came to it during the day to get out of the sun and to prepare their food reserves.

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View around Uluru.

The wind catches the red sand and is blown onto the side in these inlets, creating a whirlwind affect which makes these dramatic mini-caves.

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View around Uluru.

This area was used by the women to grind grass seed into flour for their special breads.

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View around Uluru.

 

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View around Uluru.

 

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View around Uluru.

 

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View around Uluru.

 

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View around Uluru.

 

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View around Uluru.

 

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View around Uluru.

 

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View around Uluru.

 

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View around Uluru.

 

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View around Uluru.

 

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View around Uluru.

 

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View around Uluru.

There were sections with cave paintings in them.  Strangely, there was no barrier to prevent people from going right up to them.  You would think this is something they would want to protect, but apparently not.

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Cave paintings in Uluru

More cave paintings below.

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Cave paintings at Uluru

 

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View around Uluru.

A couple of days later we had the climb finally open (we had some very spirited discussions with everyone at the park as to why the climb wasn’t open for the first few days).  When they said the climb was opened up we drove back there and had just enough time to climb it and still get to the airport on time for our flight.

The pic below is the start of the climb.  The first steep part is up to you, then a chain with steel poles has been installed for climbers to hold on to for their climbing efforts.  The pic below only shows a quarter of the climb to the top.

The start of a difficult climb.

The start of a difficult climb.

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The ascent by the chain line.

 

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Climbing at the start of the journey.

 

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The view back about 1/4 the way upward.

 

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It’s a long way up.

 

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Another look back.

 

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That’s Kata Tjuta in the background.

 

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Sections at half way mark tend to flatten out. These were sections where Aborigines camped out for ceremonies.

 

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White markings at the top show the path.

 

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Sections at half way mark tend to flatten out. These were sections where Aborigines camped out for ceremonies.

 

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White markings at the top show the path.

 

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White markings at the top show the path.

 

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White markings at the top show the path.

 

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The peak statue marker with directions to key locations.

 

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Mission Accomplished!

After the chain area it flattens out with a white dashed line to show you the way.

The top has a monument with arrows pointing to specific locations from Uluru.

One night at Ayers Rock I had to try a kangaroo burger.  It tasted pretty much like a beef burger, but I had some salami sliced up beside it in case it had a strange taste.  It was good…you wouldn’t even know the difference.

Kangaroo Burger

My first kangaroo burger (with some salami on the side). Tasted just fine.

While many people think that Uluru is a huge rock in the middle of nothing but flat desert, there are actually quite a few hills/mountains within sight of Uluru.  The other main attraction (that nobody seems to know about) is called Kata Tjuta.  Kata Tjuta means “many heads” in the local language.  It has multiple small mountains that are made out of the same rock that Uluru is (it is the same exact geological formation that was pushed upward at Uluru).  This area has a few walk options that involve the “Walpa Gorge” and the “Valley of the Winds”.  It was about 2.5 hours of hiking to complete this walk.

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Kata Tjuta

 

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Kata Tjuta hike views

 

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Kata Tjuta hike views

 

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Kata Tjuta hike views

 

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Kata Tjuta hike views

 

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Kata Tjuta hike views

 

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Kata Tjuta hike views

 

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Kata Tjuta hike views

 

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Kata Tjuta hike views

 

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Kata Tjuta hike views

 

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Kata Tjuta hike views

 

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Kata Tjuta hike views

 

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Kata Tjuta hike views

Now its time to head to Sydney!

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For more photos of our adventure go to our flickr account here.

One thought on “Australia – Ayers Rock – Uluru and Kata Tjuta

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