What if I told you that the best place to have champagne is in Australia? Funny right? I did not mean in a literal sense, but I meant more metaphorical way. Uluṟu-Kata Tjuṯa National Park is what I have in mind.
Ayers rock or Uluru (pronounced: ool-or-roo) is a large natural sandstone rock formation located in the Northern Territory of Australia. It measures 348 meters tall and 9.4 km wide. The red sandstone is estimated to be around 600 million years old. Uluru is a sacred site to the Ananga tribes of Central Australia, the indigenous peoples of the Western Desert. The Ananga people lived and inhabited the area for more than 30,000 years and still remain to this day. Uluru is home to many ancient petroglyphs and rock paintings. For the locals, including the Pitjantjatjara and Yankunytjatjara (both are indigenous language groups), the site also holds sacred traditions, culture, and rich history. Uluru, along with the surrounding Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
When I accidentally saw this beautiful Red Rock in a magazine, I fell in love with it and decided that I will visit this soon. When I stood Infront of this giant monolith I gasped and my jaws were on the ground!
May is last month of Autumn in Australia. When we visited the outback, we had some cold showers which that made the place even more magical. What’s more magical is to watch the world's most beautiful rock change colors at dawn and dusk.
How to get there?
Flying in is the best option. There are direct flights available to Ayers Rock (AYQ) from Sydney, Melbourne, Cairns and Alice Springs. We flew from Sydney.
Remember: The nearest town is Alice springs and if you are planning to visit Ayers rock from this place then don’t expect a quick drive to Uluru from Alice springs, it’s 463km (288 miles), about a 4.5-5-hour drive (highway). If you are short on time, I recommend flying into AYQ.
The resort offers complementary coach transfers to and from the airport. These don’t require advance booking, just turn up at the airport and look for the AAT Kings coaches outside the terminal. A free shuttle circles the resort every 15 minutes.
We stayed in Dessert garden hotel in Ayers Rock Resort complex. It’s a hotel complex with 5 different properties in the town of Yalara, owned and operated by Voyages, which is pretty much the only option out near Uluru. These are positioned around a small-town square with a supermarket, bank, post office, cafe, art gallery, and museum.
The moment! It’s definitely worth getting up early for the sunrise or staying back for the sunset. 4 walking trails range from 1km (45 mins) to the full 10.4km loop (3.5 hours). Bring lots of water and make use of the 2 restroom locations near the Mala carpark and Cultural Centre. Climbing Uluru is not allowed. Uluru is highly sacred rock to the indigenous Anangu people, and out of respect they don’t climb the rock nor wish for visitors to do the same. Also, over the years climbing the rock have caused environmental damage and now the Park’s management board has announced the closure of climbing permanently.
Below is a short list of some significant, religious or sacred locations that would be used for ceremonies, teaching, and other activities related to the indigenous people at Uluru.
- Kulpi Nyiinkaku (teaching Cave) – For many generations, Ananga elders taught Nyiinka (bush boys) in this cave how to travel in this country and survive. Generations of grandfathers painted these pictures, like a teacher uses a school blackboard to teach nyiinka how to track and hunt Kuka (food animals). Nyiinka would then be taken into bush to learn about the country- where the water holes are, where to find the animals, where to source materials for their tools and weapons.
- Kulpi Watiku (the men’s cave) The Mala people came from the north and could see Uluru. It looked like a good place to stay a while and make Inma (ceremony). Men raised Ngaltawata (ceremonial pole)- the inma had begun. This is the senior Mala men’s cave. They made fire here and camped, busily preparing for inma. They fixed their tools with malu pulku (kangaroos’ sinew) and kiti (spinifex resin). From here the men could keep an eye on the nyiinka (bush boys) in th cave around the corner and watch out for men coming back from a hunt with food.
- Tjilpi Pampa Kulpi (old people’s cave)- Their spirits are still here, that’s where they are. This is where old people sat. You can see the ceiling is blackened from their fires. During Mala ceremonies the men who were too old to participate would rest in this cave. They would make sure the women ad children did not enter the men’s ceremonial areas.
Unlike some other ancient histories and traditions, the ancient Ananga culture still survives and thrives to this day. The aboriginals around this place makes the place so authentic and real. We picked up some of the paintings done by the indigenous people. Their art work is colorful and intricate.
Few things about the Ananga tribal art form:
The art form is mainly various geometric forms, these geometric symbols such as concentric circles, figures representing animal tracks, and the outlines of animals. Artists can use these symbols to represent different meanings. In some paintings, concentric circles may mean a waterhole or a camping place. In others, the same symbol may indicate a tjala (honey ant) nest, or ili (native fig). The symbol usually represents a site that is a part of an intricate story being recorded and told by the artist. The true meanings of the rock paintings at Uluru rest with the artists and their descendants.
The paints were made from natural mineral materials mixed with water and animal fat.The popular color used are red, yellow, orange, white, grey and black pigments. Red, yellow and orange pigments are iron stained clays called ochres. Calcite and ash are used to make white pigment and calcite and charcoal are used to make black pigment. Calcite is a chalky mineral which occurs naturally in calcrete deposits common in this area.
Few moments are truly unforgettable, this giant red rock was one such moments for me.
Celebrating a birthday in the cool breeze overlooking the magnificent Kata Tjuṯa and Champagne added an nice touch too. Now you know what I meant in the beginning of my blog!