Uluru, a pictoral tour of a Sentient Being

The Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park is leased from traditional Aboriginal owners. I presume that vast amounts of the exorbitant prices’ money ends up in the pockets of these traditional owners. But I’m still not going to pay 95$ for a shuttle to Kata-Tjuta, nor 135$ to watch a sunset over a rock.

Instead I ride to Uluru well before the cut off time to begin the Base Walk should the temperature exceed whatever the authorities have decided is the limit, to try to keep them airconditioned-conditioned tourists from getting into lots of trouble.

Finally a sign that recognizes there are 'small' road users too who need protection, albeit lower in the pecking order than wildlife
Finally a sign that recognizes there are ‘small’ road users too who need protection, albeit lower in the pecking order than wildlife
Uluru across 'controlled' burn grass and scrub-land
Uluru across ‘controlled’ burn grass and scrub-land
A view the other direction than towards Uluru
A view in another direction than towards Uluru
Spinifex and Uluru
Spinifex and Uluru
Uluru with The Climb clearly visible
Uluru with The Climb clearly visible

It's quite a hike up. One that's killed many by heat exhaustion and heart failure. Though their memorials have all been removed

It’s quite a hike up. One that’s killed many by heat exhaustion and heart failure. Though their memorials have all been removed

Close up of The Climb
Close up of The Climb

Dire warnings exist about the Base Walk and the Kuniya Walk, which is either an extension of the Base Walk or a name for part of it. Death by heat and dehydration form the basis of such dire warnings. Park Australia’s, who seems to manage such hikes and walks, info-brochure tells me there is a “Heat exhaustion and dehydration risk” and “In hot weather finish this walk by 11.00 am”.

http://www.parksaustralia.gov.au/uluru/pub/visitoressentials.pdf

Got it. But, err, what is ‘hot weather’?

Parks Australia has this to say about the Uluru Base Walk and “extreme temperatures” on another map/info-brochure:

When the temperature is forecast to reach 40 degrees and above, the following tracks will close:

From 11.00 am: The Northeast section of Uluru base walk closes for the remainder of the day

From 2.00 pm: The Lungkata Walk closes for the remainder of the day

http://www.parksaustralia.gov.au/uluru/plan/staying-safe.html#sthash.YuxY7Avd.dpuf

Am getting the picture. The Base Walk is described by Parks Australia as follows:

Uluru base walk

We recommend you start the base walk from the Mala carpark in the morning. Escape the crowds and take a meandering journey through acacia woodlands and grassed claypans. Discover the diverse plants, animals and geological features of the park. From Kuniya Piti follow the snake-like grooves at the base of the rock which were left when the ancestral being Kuniya journey to Mutitjulu waterhole. Encounter bloodwoods, native grasses and many waterways and soaks. The Base Walk is the best way to fully appreciate the natural and cultural beauty of Uluru.

Grade 3 | 10.6 km loop | 3.5 hrs

http://www.parksaustralia.gov.au/uluru/do/bush-walking.html#sthash.T0um3d3n.dpuf

I get all this info in the Culture Centre prior to taking on The Walk. There is a definite pervading sense of imminent doom in all the information. Being well acclimatised to extreme heat and actually doing exactly what Parks Australia and all other Australian organisations recommend I don’t do, namely anything if it’s going to be over 36 C, except lounge in the pool water bottle in hand wearing a long sleeved shirt and hat, by riding a fully loaded bicycle in obscene heat.

It is dead sensible stuff, in truth. The crowds at Yulara who descend upon Uluru truly do not inspire great desert trekking skills confidence. They are pure tourists here to see a marvellous icon but do not possess the knowledge or skills to deal with the extreme environment. Despite my nudging sense of incredulity at the warnings of doom I am respectful of their intentions and rationale.

It’s gonna be a scorcher, so I am here within time and I’m gonna go for the Base Walk.

I pick up a map, or two, and a brochure, or two, have quick chat to the resident Parks Australia staff member in the Cultural Centre, take a looong drink from the water tank and make sure my 2 litre Platypus water reservoir is full. I’m going out …

A map showing the various walks. Base Walk is well away from the actual rock itselt
A map showing the various walks. Base Walk is well away from the actual rock itselt

Am not quite sure how, by following The Path, a wanderer is going to discover much at “the base of the rock” given the path diverges from the actual base and keeps the walker several hundred metres from the rock itself.

A walker, having parked their vehicle at Mala Carpark, generally walk the ‘standard’ wander involves an easy 2 km return via Mala Puta to Kantju Gorge, a permanent water hole. The Base Walk continues off from the Mala walk around the Uluru for a further 8 km.

As I wander towards Kantju Gorge I find myself within earshot of a diverse group of tourists. The stuff that comes out of their mouths is both fascinating and frankly bizarre. A terrifying insight to how Random Tourists actually approach Uluru and its remote, foreboding location.

Where you'd begin to climb it if wasn't closed due to 'safety' reasons
Where you’d begin to climb if it wasn’t closed due to ‘safety’ reasons
Endless character and variation pockets the rock
Endless character and variation pockets the rock

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Evidence of Aboriginal occupancy of Uluru abounds, including many caves and overhangs with paintings no-one is really sure what they actually mean
Evidence of Aboriginal occupancy of Uluru abounds, including many caves and overhangs with paintings no-one is really sure what they actually mean
Overhang with paintings
Overhang with paintings

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The kitchen cave, domain of women
The kitchen cave, domain of women

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A small cave
A small cave
Also bedecked with paintings
Also bedecked with paintings
I can well imagine the Old Men sitting here reminiscing
I can well imagine the Old Men sitting here reminiscing
Cool clear water.
Cool clear water.
An unimaginable luxury in a desert
An unimaginable luxury in a desert

U

Strong primary colours predominate.
Strong primary colours predominate.

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Everything from awe and being blown away by its beauty, to one pretty much putting a dampener on any attempt to capture it in photos – “You’ll never do it justice” – to utter indifference to it being a site of massive cultural significance to the local Aboriginal People. It’s just an icon, one that needs to be ‘done’, photographed, perhaps climbed (the climb is closed today coz of “Safety” reasons, whatever that means), and ticked off. The Mala Walk, at one kilometre one-way simply isn’t long enough to appreciate the diversity and scale of Uluru and ultimately how it would be a site of great cultural significance. Look at it in one way it is just a massive rock, very photogenic and beautiful. The group relentlessly compared it to other natural wonders, sometimes favourably, sometimes not.

Look at it another way and in the details, the little caves, the water holds and the shear fine artistry wind-water-dust has carved into it and it’s really easy see how it leads itself to Dreamtime legend and story.

I really want to ask them whether they are going to continue for the entire Base Walk. Am troubled by growing homicidal tendencies and burgeoning justification for suicide to end the horror … Which would be worse, is what troubles me.

They head back to the carpark from Kantju Gorge and I find myself well alone along the Base Walk. None of the other tourists continue past the Gorge.

I try, honestly, to stay, as recommended, on The Path. It proves impossible. It is simply too far from the details of Uluru itself. I want a far closer experience and find myself walking on the skirt of Uluru where its steep sides merge in a graceful curve into the dry red soil which surrounds it.

There's something almost organic about Uluru. It seems as much grown into a certain shape as it is weathered and eroded
There’s something almost organic about Uluru. It seems as much grown into a certain shape as it is weathered and eroded
Temporary pools where water has scoured out a number of depressions. Or where an ancestral snake curled and slithered its way down Uluru's face
Temporary pools where water has scoured out a number of depressions. Or where an ancestral snake curled and slithered its way down Uluru’s face

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Occasionally my way is blocked by boulders huge boulders small but many and other insurmountable objects around which I’d walk through the light spinifex grasses.

Uluru is full of details and character which leads itself effortlessly to Story and Dreamtime. Without the ‘benefit’ of a contemporary scientific education Uluru would provide endless basis for stories of Creations, Parables of Life and Learning, and other Storylines.

Red rock meets red soil
Red rock meets red soil

 

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It is impressive
It is impressive
A good example of Uluru's skirt which I walked on for much of the day
A good example of Uluru’s skirt which I walked on for much of the day

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Fine workmanship in a small overhang
Fine workmanship in a small overhang
Stunning lines and textures tell 1000s of Stories
Stunning lines and textures tell 1000s of Stories

It’s a great walk and I’m enjoying it.

It’s stinking hot and I do worry about my water supply. It will not take me 3.5 hours, which Parks Australia suggests it will. I’ll be crawling around Uluru for hours, most of the day.

Uluru remains the same but changes constantly as I walk around
Uluru remains the same but changes constantly as I walk around
Circle of Life and Death. Tadpoles alive in a pool. The remains of tadpoles in a pool now dry
Circle of Life and Death. Tadpoles alive in a pool. The remains of tadpoles in a pool now dry
It has rained recently so water is relatively abundant
It has rained recently so water is relatively abundant
A massive monolith
A massive monolith

It is almost inevitable then that half way around Uluru I come across my first “Track Closed” sign at the eastern end of the Base Walk, because of “Extreme Heat”. I look around. There’s not a lot I can do. There’s no airconditioned shuttle bus to return me to sensibility and safety, no light rail, no way at all to avoid continuing along the closed track.

Err ... now what am I expected to do? I just kept on walking
Err … now what am I expected to do?
I just kept on walking

Fortunately Park Australia has thoughtfully provided a large water tank here. I refill my reservoir and enjoy a looong drink and continue.

Another organic bulge towering above me. It's almost sentient
Another organic bulge towering above me. It’s almost sentient
The wave of Uluru about to crash upon the mallee of the grasslands
The wave of Uluru about to crash upon the mallee of the grasslands
Proof Uluru is alive. Here's at least one of it's faces.
Proof Uluru is alive. Here’s at least one of it’s faces.
Beautiful curves and lines enhancing the perception of organic
Beautiful curves and lines enhancing the perception of organic

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Uluru is visually spectacular
Uluru is visually spectacular

 

 

It's fascinating to see how Uluru's face has been carved and worked
It’s fascinating to see how Uluru’s face has been carved and worked
That is a Very Large Foot belonging to a Very Large Animal carrying the weight of Uluru
That is a Very Large Foot belonging to a Very Large Animal carrying the weight of Uluru
Great lines! I wish I could write to fluently
Great lines! I wish I could write to fluently
Uluru's overall shape changes constantly
Uluru’s overall shape changes constantly
Mutitjulu Waterhole
Mutitjulu Waterhole
More paintings. It is a place of great significance to Aboriginal People
More paintings. It is a place of great significance to Aboriginal People

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The path to/from a thoughtfully placed water tank and info-board
The path to/from a thoughtfully placed water tank and info-board

Not long after I come across my second Track Closed sign where the Mutitulu Waterhole path crosses the Kuniya Path. Not much I can do here either, except keep on walking.

Oh Boy ... again? No choice, I just walked past the sign
Oh Boy … again?
No choice, I walk past the sign

It is hot. It’s not too hot. But then again I am acclimatised to this. It would be hot for someone not used to being out in such heat.

Clearly a bird in Uluru, more evidence it is alive
Clearly a bird in Uluru, more evidence it is alive

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Fantastic artistry and craftwork. Ancestral Beings worked this rock
Fantastic artistry and craftwork. Ancestral Beings worked this rock
Clouds coming in enhancing the contrast of the primary colours
Clouds coming in enhancing the contrast of the primary colours

Eventually I find myself back at Mala Carpark and Dreamer. But there’s something odd. Dreamer is not in the same place I left it. One of my waterbottles is not in its bottle cage but standing on the ground. Someone has been tampering with it.

Upon closer inspection if find intriguing marks in strange places. The upside of the Brooks’ saddle as scuff marks on it. There’s dust on the handlebars, the mirror is significantly out of position.

Dreamer is locked by one of those ubiquitous Dutch bike-U-locks which attach to the outer arm of the rear-triangle, just behind the rear-break.

It appears to me that someone turned Dreamer upside down to try to work out why it didn’t move and subsequently how to break the lock. Failing to find such a solution, they returned Dreamer to an upright position. Nothing is missing from the handlebar bag, the Garmin Edge 520 cycle computer remains in its place.

Mystifying. And creepy.

I return to Yulara well stocked with photos and plan for my departure to Watarrka the following day.

Returning to Yulara Uluru remains impressive
Returning to Yulara Uluru remains impressive

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Yup, it is I and Uluru. I enjoyed my walk very much
Yup, it is I and Uluru.
I enjoyed my walk very much

Max

Yulara 13 December 2015

 

3 thoughts on “Uluru, a pictoral tour of a Sentient Being

  1. That was kind of foreboding Max! On an immense scale I had the feeling of “picnic at Hanging Rock” – I know that wasn’t a true story but I’m speaking about the movie. Very atmospheric as Marcus would say 🙂 ! I kept expecting something horrible to happen to you, though of course you were writing the blog so still alive (but never let the facts get in the way of an overactive imagination!). I got all caught up in the dreamtime stuff and I can really see in your photo’s – which truly show the organic looking aspects of the “Rock” – just how alive and breathing it actually looks! This is a very moody post :-). Photographs superb! Ros 🙂

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  2. I was priveliged to be shown a small very low cave by an indiginous elder a few years ago, which was a barricaded area but apparently not for an elder from mutu tjulu. Inside (and we had to lay down flat on the ground to see this) there was an owl- fully stone now but every bit an owl. That changed my view on the aboriginal dreamtime a whole lot!
    Thanks for sharing your very long and hot day with us, some great photos there.
    Robyn

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    1. There must be hundreds of places around Uluru where over time there are the marks of the ancients. It was fascinating and quite spiritual to walk around it the way I did.

      Like

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