Speeding towards Uluru National Park the next morning we past the “Grismacks” heading in the opposite direction, the last time we will see them on this trip as we head in different directions.
Uluru, also know as Ayers Rock, is a massive monolith (single rock) made of sandstone, that erupts from the flat surrounding landscape, famous for its changing colours as the sun sets in the evenings. It is over 400km from Alice Springs and many people, including a couple in our car, mistake their first glimpse of Mt Connor for Uluru. They are actually very different, Mt Connor having a flat top and precipitous walls surrounding it, whilst Uluru is much more rounded in appearance.
We had decided to try and climb Uluru and given that it had been windy and closed for climbing in recent days, had crossed all fingers and toes, hoping for a calm day. With the wind definitely increasing as we arrived we filled up our water and headed through the gate. The first section is the steepest as you follow the chains up the side of the monolith. Within 100m Xavier made a sensible decision, given his fear of heights, and decided not to proceed. Shortly after, Hannah muttered something and turned around too. Down to three of us left, Amanda, Oscar (with his visiting school toy, Wilma wombat) and myself we trudged up the calf-punishing rock. We even passed one clown walking in thongs, who lost one over the edge when he finally turned around.
Oscar was in fine form and paced onward and upward. Amanda fell back. At the top of the chain an interrupted white line guides you across the undulating top of the rock and after a few short climbs Oscar and I celebrated at the peak with a high five, then photo opportunities with Wilma. We waited for Amanda, waited some more, then with an increasing wind threatening to make the descent interesting we decided to return.
Whilst it might be somewhat controversial to climb the rock, the ceremonial sacred sites are actually around the base of the rock, and the local Anangu people’s main concern is that people don’t harm themselves on the rock (over 35 people have died trying to climb it). Having enjoyed walking the 10km walk around the base previously I justified the climb based on the fact I was not disrespecting ceremonial sacred sites.
Watching the sunset on the rock with the kids proved a little disappointing as cloud cover restricted sunlight hitting the rock.
Next day I was struck with illness so the others headed off to Kaja Tjuta (The Olgas), and the highlight of their trip proved to be the camel farm that they dropped into for a photograph session with Wilma the Wombat. After generously facilitating the photos the girl at the farm let them prepare saddles for the sunset ride, and even gave them all a quick free ride around the yard on the camels. Two hours were spent at the camel farm and only 30 minutes at the Olgas!
That evening our plans changed dramatically and instead of heading south towards Coober Pedy again we chose to back-track north, to take the Plenty Highway to enter Queensland rather than the more arduous plan across a number of desert tracks to Dalhousie, Birdsville, all of which will have to wait for next time.