Like all of the world's great marvels, it doesn't matter how many pictures you've seen over your lifetime, the real thing, when you eventually see it in front of you, does not fail to impress. Whether (wo)man-made like the Parthenon, or the Eiffel Tower, or made by nature, the real thing in real life scale, will amaze. And so to Uluru or as it used to be known: Ayers Rock.
The size alone is awe inspiring, but what I never expected was the detail, the changes in morphology as one walks around it. Crevices, caves, overhanging bits, holes and indentations; slide-like grooves where waterfalls gush in the rainy season and pools of water, filled with tadpoles, collect; gullies and oases, greenery and more vegetation than I ever imagined. Every step brought a new vista, and step we did, right around the entire thing.
Known as the Uluru Base Walk, it is a flat 10.6 km loop. The pamphlet says "Heat exhaustion and dehydration risk. In hot weather finish this walk by 11.00 am." No such risk for us, with a winter time temperature of about 17 C. The estimated duration of the walk is 3.5 hours. It took us exactly 4, with frequent stops to take photographs: me with our small camera, Ali with her iPod. We also took a break half way for lunch.
Every time I have talked to people about going to Uluru I have been asked the same question - Did you climb it? The traditional custodians (Aboriginal people do not "own" their land in the same way Westerners, for lack of a better word, do) - do not want people to climb Uluru. For them it is a sacred place and I (for one) could never, knowingly, be so disrespectful towards another culture. The pamphlet says, "That's a really important thing you are climbing. You shouldn't climb. It's not the real thing about this place. The real thing is listening to everything. We are obliged by Tjukurpa (traditional law) to teach people what behaviour is appropriate."
As we walked around the Rock, I tried to imagine the time before invasion, a mere 200 odd years. I saw groups of elders by a fire under a shelter, women and children crushing berries to prepare a meal, men coming back from a hunt. I heard birds chirping and dingoes howling. I felt the spirit and stillness of this special and sacred place.
|Vegetation amongst the rocks|
|So many trees at the base|
|Ali on the walking path|
|View to the horizon|
|A new shrub growing betwixt a dead one|
|We called this detail, the Brain|
|These shrubs reminded us of plants from Dr Seuss books|
|The traditional view|