Its almost overwhelming visiting these three areas together as all are distinct and very impressive. We started with an Uluru Day and even got up at 6am so we could make the 10 am Guided Ranger walk at Uluru. In 1985 Ayers Rock was given back the the traditional owners and then leased back to the Federal Government on a 99 year lease. It is now under joint management and the local aboriginal people, The Anangu, have a major say in how the park is run. On the guided walk we learned a lot about the aboriginal history, stories and legends at Uluru. The ranger was very respectful of the aboriginal history of the rock and he strongly reinforced the messages we had been given about not climbing the rock and being respectful and not photographing areas marked as ‘sensitive areas’, and there were a lot of those areas as we walked around the rock- some were marked as men’s places and some were women’s places. After the 1.5 hour guided walk we carried on walking around the 11km base of the rock, so we walked from 10-3:15pm. We saw two gorges with water, lots of caves and interesting indentations. Its an impressive and imposing monolith. The day we were there the rock was closed for climbing, and although climbing is offensive to the local people, each year 30-40,000 people still climb the rock and people still die doing the climb. It is not easy, and I know that from personal experience over 30 years ago, before it was known to be offensive to climb the rock.
Our base walk was a big effort as it was quite hot doing the walk, but we had already booked that evening to see Bruce Munroe’s Field of Light, a major light installation (the size of seven football fields) in the desert near the rock, so we caught the bus at 7:30pm and headed off for another new experience. This man-made light installation is also impressive but in a totally different way. All in all it was a big day and I was so tired I could hardly speak at the end of the evening.
Gave ourselves a bit of a rest day but did visit the large Cultural Center in the national park near Uluru – the history relating to the white settlers and their treatment of the aborigines is covered extensively through film and displays and is a shameful reflection on the behavior of non-aborigines toward aborigines around Uluru from the days of early settlement to today. We were not aware that the park is dual listed by UNESCO for outstanding natural and outstanding cultural values (this honors the traditional belief systems of one of the oldest human societies on earth).
Then we had our Kata Tjuta day – which means ‘Many Heads’ and is how the aborigines describe the 36 domes that make up this rock formation. We went to some viewing spots before tackling the main walk through the Valley of the Winds. I had just had the stitches taken out of my knee and it had been more swollen after the Uluru walk, so we only went to the first lookout (2.2kms) but would have loved to do the complete circuit as it looked lovely walking through the very unusual dome shapes. We did also do the Walpa Gorge walk (2.6kms) so got a sense of the various formations. The sun came out in the afternoon so we headed back to do a sunset viewing session of Uluru at the nominated viewing place. It was a bit of a circus with lots of cars, people, tripods etc but we did see some nice colors on the rock. Everywhere in this area has been crowded since its one of Australia’s top tourist destinations and we’ve noticed lots of overseas tourists as well as locals. Looking forward to going to less popular spots! and already noticed a difference at the next stop-Kings Canyon.
Our Kings Canyon day was really good. After much deliberation and probably against my better judgement because of my sore knee, I did do the stand out walk – the Kings Canyon Rim Walk. It was a spectacular 5km walk, with an initial steep climb and then wonderful colors, shapes and views. Not good for the knee but good for the soul. Probably one of the best 5 km walks I have ever done. We had a mild, sunny day which was perfect for walking and between us we took 137 photos but severe culling has already been done.