The Centre is a vast place, and you can drive around it for kilometres, enjoying its subtle diversity without seeing anything particularly stunning until suddenly the Western MacDonnells or Watarrka or Uluru or Kata Tjuta or one of the other sparsely scattered but dramatic landforms will appear.
Many explorers wandered Australia’s vast interior, some rather successfully like Edward John Eyre, John McDouall Stuart and Charles Sturt, and others more tragically like Burke and Wills, and Ludwig Leichhardt. Ernest Giles, who explored this region, “naming” Mount Olga (now known by its indigenous name, Kata Tjuta), for example, wrote the following in his Australia twice traversed journal
Its appearance [Ayers Rock, “named” by another explorer, William Gosse, and now Uluru] and outline is most imposing, for it is simply a mammoth monolith that rises out of the sandy desert soil around, and stands with a perpendicular and totally inaccessible face at all points, except one slope near the north-west end, and that at least is but a precarious climbing ground to a height of more than 1100 feet. Down its furrowed and corrugated sides the trickling of water for untold ages has descended in times of rain, and for long periods after, until the drainage ceased, into sandy basins at its feet. The dimensions of this vast slab are over two miles long, over one mile through, and nearly a quarter of a mile high. The great difference between it and Mount Olga is in the rock formation, for this is one solid granite stone, and is part and parcel of the original rock, which, having been formed after its state of fusion in the beginning, has there remained, while the aged Mount Olga has been thrown up subsequently from below. Mount Olga is the more wonderful and grotesque; Mount Ayers the more ancient and sublime. (July 1874)
Doing the Base Walk around Uluru
And so, on this visit we saw Uluru after rain, not enough rain to see water cascading down as many of us Aussies have seen in dramatic post downpour images (even if not in reality), but enough to see the water courses on the rock shiny black with wetness, and to hear the sound of trickling water. There was water pooling in places we’d never seen on previous visits, and the Mutitjulu pool was fuller than we’ve seen.
We did the full base walk which, with a couple of additional side trips and the path taking a wider arc around the back part of the rock than on our first visit here, resulted in about a 12 km walk. It’s not a hard walk, being flat and even all the way, but it’s a long one. Also, it’s very open and exposed for much of it, so the day’s cooler, more overcast weather, made it easier going.
We were thrilled to see what we believe is a rock wallaby. It was spotted first, would you believe, by an Englishman who’d never seen a kangaroo or its ilk before, except in a zoo. Very impressive. Len got reasonable video of it, which you can watch below. We’ve never seen one around the rock on our previous visits. We also saw a few birds, including Willie Wagtails swooping to catch insects, often in company with honeyeaters.
As always, the crowds (often in tours) at the beginning on the popular Mala walk section dissipated around the back, and we walked in peace with just the occasional walker overpassing us, or us them. The rock varies around its circumferences with caves, streaks, gashes and crevices. It’s no wonder it’s a sacred place for the local people, first just because of its surprising existence as a sole monolith in the area and second for these variations on its surface. There are all sorts of ancestral stories for how these came to be. There are sections along the walk where the traditional owners request that photos not be taken. We believe all our photos below have adhered to those requests.
Dining at Sails in the Desert
Before we left the Dining under the Desert Moon dinner at Kings Canyon Resort, we arranged to meet our Sunset Viewing/Desert Dining friends, Melita and Brian (from Melbourne), for dinner at Sails in the Desert here, as they too were heading around to Yulara for three nights like us. So, we met them at the appointed time and enjoyed their company over Sails’ splendid buffet … albeit also with a little mouse that had a great time running around the carpet under foot. Whether it was a normal house mouse or some native mouse we were not sure, but no one, including the staff, was concerned. There have been signs around the resorts about more little critters being in evidence after recent rains. Perhaps that was it?
and the slideshow …
and for the critter watchers, a black-footed rock wallaby? …
and some running water on Uluru …