I’ll do separate posts, 1st Uluru and then Kata Tjuta.
Uluru/Kata Tjuta (U/KT) National Park is almost 500ks and a 6 hour drive into desert country from Alice. They’ve built a resort town called Yulara nearby to house the visitors. There’s a petrol station, a hotel, a supermarket, a campground and of course a pub – that’s about it. Some folks say the area is over commercialized now, but I don’t agree. I think they’ve done it tastefully and kept the town site well away from U/KT.
The visit to this national park was the highlight of my trip around Oz. U/KT and the surrounding country don’t disappoint. Just awe-inspiring. This was one time when the reality of the event met all of my expectations and even exceeded them. There were many more natural wonders to see in the area and I wish I had allowed a few weeks instead of the 4 nights I camped here, but by this stage of the journey I was on a mission to finish.
For me, it was an emotional experience driving up to Uluru, alone, late one afternoon. You just go “tie me kangaroo down, sport”! Words fail. It’s just too much to take on board. It’s 348 metres (1,142 feet) high and is 9.4ks (5.8 miles) in circumference. The photo doesn’t do it justice, but stand here alone, on the side of the road, listening to the sound of silence of the desert, and well … Do the 2 click on these.
Folks that climb Uluru, follow the ridge traveling upwards across the centre, left to right, and then walk across the top to the highest midpoint of the rock. About 35 people have died doing the climb. They drop things, try to get them back and fall off – 348 metres – a one way trip.
I walked around her – 10+ks given the course of the track – 3 1/2 hours in the hot sun, 35 degrees, with five, 600ml water bottles in my pack – no sweat!
There are several water holes around the base of Uluru – difficult to comprehend when you consider the surrounding desert country. They say it’s an incredible sight when it rains out here and the water pours off the cliff faces. This particular cliff rises straight up, probably 100 metres above the water hole.
It’s a single rock and like an iceberg, 7/8’s of it is below ground level. Could it be a giant brain, placed here by folks from outer space? A kind of control centre for our section of the solar system?
My constant companion around Alice/Uluru/Kata Tjuta. You’re never alone.
Aug 28 – up at 6:30 for my last day at Uluru/Kata Tjuta. Headed to Uluru for a tour with a park ranger. I love these. The last one was at Kakadu and these guys/gals know their stuff. A chance to learn about the history, geography, flora and fauna at Uluru. The tour started at 8. It was a cold morning ~7C (45 for those Fahrenheit folks). It would be 35 by afternoon.
A small group of 20 or so tourists showed up and we met our Aussie national park ranger, Mate (not his real name).
Off we went on a 2 hour walk/discussion. Along the way, one of the visitors asked Mate some questions about the local aborigines. Questions related to the condition of the people.
Mate said that while it wasn’t the purpose of the walk, as he’d been asked direct questions, he’d do his best to give answers. Not opinions he said, but facts as he knew them.
This is a précis of what he told us, not a quote, but his message as best I can summarize it:
Mate began by saying that he didn’t like talking about this part of the local history and felt ashamed to tell the story. He said that he would be in a fight within 5 minutes of walking into a local pub and having this discussion.
The Anangu (local aboriginal tribe) people have lived in the Uluru/Kata Tjuta area for thousands of years. Anangu here today are directly descended from those who lived here 10,000 years ago. You could consider them one of the oldest and most successful cultures on earth. They lived in complete harmony with their environment and coexisted with their neighbouring tribes, flourishing all that time.
Then, about 140 years ago, the 1st British explorers arrived. The Anangu didn’t know what to make of them. They arrived on the backs of other animals – horses and camels – something completely unknown to the Anangu. When 1st seen, the new arrivals seemed joined with their animals, and then magically separated themselves from the animals as they dismounted. They ate food from bags they carried with them and didn’t have to hunt and forage for food. On and on it goes.
We’re better prepared for the arrival of beings from outer space than the Anangu were for the arrival of the British. There are Anangu alive today that can remember the 1st time they saw white men.
The British arrogantly claimed all land in the name of the monarch – all the land across Australia. Later, some of the land was leased to settlers by governments of the day.
The Anangu were driven off their land, rounded up and assigned to stations leased by the settlers. Anangu worked on the stations and were paid, not in cash, but in food and provisions, effectively making them prisoners of the station managers. The Anangu were not permitted to leave the stations they were assigned to.
Police hunted escapees down, returning them to station managers in leg shackles and neck irons. And police units also hunted Anangu down and shot them on sight, killing as many as possible.
The story goes on ……
As Mate said, you can destroy a people in a very short time, but it will take generations to re-build their dignity and sense of self-worth.
The end of Mate’s talk.
Well, things are improving slowly.
Prime Minister Bob Hawke returned the Uluru/Kata Tjuta land to the Anangu some years ago. The Anangu lease it back to the government as a national park. Today, a committee of 4 senior Anangu women, 4 senior Anangu men and 4 government officials manage the park.
After the walk, I sat down on a bench at the base of Uluru where the climbers ascend. I watched the climbers and thought about what I’d heard and seen. The Anangu ask visitors not to climb. Uluru is woven into their history and is culturally sacred to them.
While I sat there, along came a group of about 15 school kids in uniform, with their big floppy hats, bright eyes and eager faces. Boys and girls about the age of 12 or 13, I’d guess. They ignored the geezer (me) on the bench and sat together as a group just next to him. Soon a school teacher came along and began to quiz them about climbing the rock. As teachers do, he didn’t lecture, but asked them why you might not want to climb the rock. Well, the kids soon came up with the 3 reasons – safety, environment and culture (aboriginal).
So I thought, “this is how it goes, little by little, step by step”.
Rangers talk with the visitors. Teachers talk with the children. People talk with each other. Things improve over time. “Slowly, slowly Putu.”
I walked away feeling a little better, impatient maybe, but better.
Poor photo below, but it demonstrates the challenge. According to surveys most visitors choose not to climb. Apparently, they’ll close the climb permanently when the number of visitors wishing to climb drops below 20%.