I’m writing this on our 400 km drive towards Ayers Rock Uluru. A bus drive full of Asian people, two Canadians, a few Europeans and Jason, our Australian bus driver/guide/chef/comic relief. A bit expected as not a lot of European backpackers get around visiting Uluru. Located pretty much in the centre of Australia, there’s not a real way of getting there except by plane followed by a bus.
Next up is a camel ride in the outback of Australia. The first one ever for Anniina, she’s genuinely happy about it, I consider it as an unnecessary activity. Out of many former camel experiences I only remember that camels bite, they smell and they have a funny way of getting up on their legs.
Australia has the biggest wild camel population in the world. They were brought out here to build a telegraph line and railways, since they could endure the hot temperatures and dry conditions better than horses. Of domesticated animals you can see a lot of cows, since the cattle stations here can be as big as the whole of Belgium.
Otherwise there is a whole lot of nothing. There were two gas stations on our way and we stopped at both, first to pick up some lunch and from the next one a few ciders. A third stop was also made, as we stopped to collect firewood from the side of the road/bushlands.
Still on the road, 6 hours later, we see a first glimpse of Ayers Rock Uluru. We look at each other with a big smile on our face, high-fiving as we made it. It’s massive and still feels out of this world, surrounded by red dessert and green bush.
After picking up a few other participants from the airport we arrive at camp put our bags aside and have a sandwich lunch before heading to the rock. Once arrived, people have the choice between a 5 or 8km base walk, peer pressure results in the whole group doing the somewhat longer walk. 23 degrees in this area feels so much more hot compared to the civilised world. No shelter from the sun either, a tree here and there, that’s about it.
And then there are the flies. Jeez, I’ve never cursed this much before. Flies everywhere, zooming around your ears for over an hour and a half, I felt like cattle. Add the glaring sun on your head and you would go crazy for less. Lots of elderly people were better prepared with mosquito nets draped over their hats.
I would like to emphase the ‘walking around’ part, as there is a chain rope attached to a less steeper slope on Uluru and people have climbed it uncountable times over the years. However this is against the wishes of the indigenous people, also our tour guide spoke strongly against climbing. Uluru is a sacred place and every time deaths or injuries happen – and they happen too often – it is a great grief to the Aboriginals. Imagine you having guests over and one of them dropped dead in your living room. This gives you a good idea of their perception.
Today the climb has been closed due to windy weather, but we still see three people climbing the rock. They have not only ignored all the signs, but also jumped over ropes and done the controversial climb.
There has been talk about banning the climb, a promise has been made that when only 20 % of the visitors climb, it will be closed. Even though those numbers have been met, the climb is still a possibility. A few years ago a guy climbed the rock only to cut the chain. The climb stayed closed for a while, but after deliberation it was still repaired and opened again. Ideas have been going around to develop the climb itself as a major tourism attraction like the climb at Sydney Harbour Bridge. We feel it is very ignorant.
But the scenery, the natural beauty and mystical atmosphere is top notch. We both enjoyed our time walking around the grand and gorgeous Uluru, an experience we will never forget.
A glass of sparkling and the rock behind us with it’s ever-changing colours during sunset is the perfect way of ending our day, even in the company of a bit too many tourists.
Back at base camp, time for a shower and fresh burritos prepared by our own master chef, Jason. With a little help from the campers. Not long after we crawled in our swags (a sturdy sleeping bag which includes mattress) and fell asleep under stars never seen before.