Saturday, September 24, 2011

#90: Uluru!

Our final destination in Northern Territory was the one that I was most excited about:  Uluru!  Also known as Ayers Rock, Uluru is the world’s largest monolith – or world’s largest single rock.  Pretty sweet.  What is visible above ground is merely a fraction of the entire rock – it goes many kilometers down into the earth.  We started one afternoon with a quick mini-walk around a small portion of the rock and followed up the next day with a longer walk almost all the way around the rock.  The shape of the rock was not what I expected.  I expected it to be somewhere between an oval and a rectangle, but an aerial map showed a very irregular figure:

I was also surprised by the texture of the rock.  I’m not quite sure what I was expecting, but Uluru seemed a bit lumpy.  It’s very different up close than it is in all of the far-away pictures you find on the internet or in books:

The lumpiness was accompanied by some pretty cool shapes and terrains, like the Wave Rock:

And this one I called the Whale Rock because it looks like a big sperm whale or something:

There were black streaks from the top down the sides of the rock caused by water flowing down.  This isn’t a normal feature as it hardly ever rains, but it rained every day when we were there.  The one good thing about that was that the Mutitjulu Waterhole was all filled up:

Uluru is a sacred site for the local Aboriginal people.  This was evidenced by the Aboriginal cave/rock paintings found all around the base.  Aboriginal cave paintings depict things as seen from above, so these bird tracks actually represent an entire emu:

As it is a sacred site, the local populations ask that you not climb to the top.  Now, the Minister of Tourism wouldn’t dare actually close the climb for good as the allure of climbing Uluru brings many tourists to the region, but they do try to deter people every chance they get.  The climb is actually quite dangerous and it was closed for safety reasons when we were there (as it is nearly 75% of the time), so it wasn’t something we had to consider, but while I was walking around, I thought I’d at least stand on the side of the rock for a few seconds:

Just like the Grand Canyon, Uluru changes colour at sunset.  Unfortunately for us, the cloud cover persisted and the sun was nowhere to be seen setting, so we didn’t get to see the spectacle.  But that didn’t stop Kei and I from having a little photo shoot:

Sunrise was actually worse…

Despite the crappy weather, I must say that Uluru was pretty cool - it was educational, geological, cultural, scenic, and iconic... I kept quiet, but I really was just nerding out on the inside the whole time.  Plus it was huge - just a massive rock - and there isn't one anywhere in the world that is bigger, so there was no fear of something outshining it (like the Grand Canyon outshone Kings Canyon).  But I will say this:  Kata Tjuta could give Uluru a run for its money.  Good thing you can do both in the same day!

We hopped off our tour early without returning to Alice Springs.  We had booked in the Sounds of Silence Dinner – an expensive, fancy buffet dinner with all you can eat Australian foods (kangaroo, crocodile, emu, etc.) and free flowing beer and wine – at the Ayers Rock Resort and were to spend the night at a hostel there and fly back to Sydney directly from Ayers Rock Airport the next day.  As the dinner is set outside under the stars, it was cancelled when we were there… because there were no stars thanks to the rain and cloud cover.  But luckily, our hostel had a great view of Uluru and we took some time that afternoon and did another quick photo shoot:

I call this one Self-Portrait with Rock:

The hostel also had a pretty good view of Kata Tjuta too!

So, what to do when your fancy dinner is cancelled?  Go to the pub of course!  I ordered up an NT Draught:

While at the bar I noticed a sign regarding alcohol rules.  You must be a resort guest (and present your room key to prove it) or have a resort resident pass in order to purchase beer from the bar.  This is intended to keep the Aboriginal populations away from the alcohol.  As this is a resort full of tourists from all over the world, the sign was translated into every conceivable tourist language:  Japanese, Chinese, Korean, French, Spanish, Italian, Dutch, Portuguese, German, etc.   And next to each language was a flag of the country the language was from.  And next to Korean, they had this:

The flags of both South Korea and North Korea.  Because, you know, there may be a lot of North Korean tourists visiting here… because they can book trips on their internet… and they have passports…

Anyway, we sat down with beer and dinner and watched the live entertainment.  And it took about five seconds and I looked around all confused and thought I was back in Texas momentarily.  Watch this:

Rude awakening:  I was in the Texas of Australia.

Scary, but entertaining nonetheless.  Kei and I may have gotten up and danced a little later on.  Maybe…



  1. So what's your final review? Was Uluru better than Kata Tjuta?

    And I don't recall you being so shocked when we went to Billy Bob's ;)

  2. Eric! I just revised the blog with my final review which I can't believe I forgot in the first place. Thank you for reminding me!

    And I wasn't shocked at Billy Bob's because we were in Texas and in some sick and twisted way I may have sorta been expecting some shit like that... Frightening!