The “Red Center”

The “Red Center” is most definitely RED. The earth is composed of a fine reddish brown sand… which I will no doubt be finding in my bags and on my clothes for a few days until I finally break down and do laundry. The stuff gets into everything! However, it has a warm and appealing glow — especially at sunrise and sunset, surrounding Uluru, the great rock itself. Makes for fantastic photo opps!

So, I spent the last 3 full days in Uluru exploring Kata Tjuta, Uluru, and Cave Hill where fabulous and well-preserved Aboriginal rock art abounds. In fact, I have to say that the highlights of my stay in the Red Centre were my visit to Cave Hill and my base walk (or circumambulation) around Uluru itself.

En route to/from Cave Hill to see the 15,000-20,000 year old rock art there, we spotted a number of cool animals!  These included red kangaroos, a dingo eating a red kangaroo carcass,  MANY wild dromedary camels, a wedge-tailed eagle, pink-cheeked cockatoos, magpies, crested pigeons, whistling kites, yellow-bellied parrots, little corellas (aka, white cockatoos), various small parrots (which we could not quite identify on the spot), and one VERY curious emu who walked right up to my car door window to greet me at the side of the road!

On our journey out to Cave Hill, we got a nice view of Mt. Connor, the third natural landmark in the trio (Uluru, Kata Tjuta, and Mt. Connor). The huge flat-topped monolith rises up out of the desert terrain on the horizon like a table. It was pretty impressive. Once we arrived at Cave Hill, our Aboriginal guide, Elizabeth met us and talked about the use of stone tools, bush tucker (bush foods), and the story of the Seven Sisters during the Dreamtime and how their cave relates this story via its structure and incredible rock art. I had a wonderful guide who interpretted Elizabeth’s words (because Elizabeth only spoke in her own Aboriginal pidgeon dialect). Although we could not film or photograph the cave or art, I was able to tape record her telling us the story as we walked along. All Aboriginal stories impart lessons in life and survival, morals, and basic codes of conduct. They are actually quite instrumental and practical in many ways, and are passed on from one generation to the next through the oral tradition of story-telling (since, from what I understand, no written language was used). Most interestingly, as a story ends in one tribe’s  territory, often it is picked up and continued by another tribe or clan inhabiting the neighboring territory… and so on. The stories relate very much to local animals, and to physical features in the rocks and landscapes of each territory.

Much of the Aboriginal way of life is mysterious and I learned more about this as I walked around Uluru’s base, a 10 km amble on flat, well-marked pathways, yesterday. There are indeed particular areas of the rock that are not to be photographed or filmed. They are SACRED. However, the wonderful guide I had at Cave Hill accompanied me again on this walk and explained the Dreamtime stories associated with different caves, watering holes, and other features in the rock itself. As you look at various parts of the rock and get a feel for it more with time, you can actually sense which areas are sacred and where no photography is allowed… although warning signs are also clearly posted. The walk itself was easy and pleasant, although it was rather chilly in the morning air — a cool 4 degrees Celsius when we started out at about 6 AM. Along the way we stopped for breakfast near the Mutijulu waterhole, a historically rather important site which is now dried up. However, you could see where waterfalls that flowed in the wet season left their stains on the rock there, as they cascaded down to the base, forming this waterhole.

As we walked around the rock, we also saw a number of caves with pretty good rock art. I was permitted to photograph these, fortunately! Our walk took about 3-4 hours and we finished just beyond the site where many people still begin the climb up Uluru, a practice the Aboriginals have frowned upon for many years. They ask that folks NOT climb Uluru particularly because a number of climbers have been injured in the process, falling from the rock in slippery or windy conditions, but also because the rock itself is sacred and so climbing it is rather sacriligious I suppose you could say. In any case, we saw MANY people climbing Uluru despite the signs which ask that you NOT climb. However, the Voyages Resorts company that operates the Ayers Rock Resort doesn’t want to lose business, so they still allow folks to climb. It’s a racket, really… and a bad one I’d say. But don’t get me started, I have a number of issues with the whole Voyages monopoly on Uluru and the way they “strand” tourists out in the desert, charging exorbitant fees for tours, accommodation, and food just because they can and because there is really no where else we can go!

Whatever. I already submitted my feedback form to the Voyages Administrative Office.

Well, last night I finished my stay at Uluru with a pleasant “Sounds of Silence” dinner out on the dunes overlooking Uluru to the west and Kata Tjuta to the east at sunset. It was lovely and there was didgeridoo music with dinner, followed by stargazing with an astronomer. We were able to view the Southern Cross and I got a photo of the moon through the telescope.

This morning I bid farewell to amazing Uluru and flew on to Sydney where I am now. The Sydney Central YHA hostel where I am staying is far more comfortable than the Outback Pioneer Lodge I stayed at in Uluru. First, it has HEAT… which is key in our 15 degree Celsius weather. Second, the beds are quite comfy. Third, it has EVERYTHING you could possibly need (technology, internet, laundry), and it’s in a great central location. Tomorrow, I look forward to visiting the Taronga Zoo and Manly Beach! The next day I’ll go to the Blue Mountains, and then the following day will be my Opera House and Harbour Cruise day… which should be fun. So, there is lots to do and I think I’d better get some good rest tonight after a nice hot shower!

Sigh. I can’t believe my trip is nearly half over! The time is flying by. However, I’m enjoying it all and taking things in stride. Starting to get used to the Australian system and driving on the left side of the road… you know the drill. Anyway, I’ll write more in a few days or perhaps from Adelaide next. All is well.

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2 Comments on “The “Red Center””

  1. Laura Says:

    It sounds amazing. Thanks so much for sharing.

  2. Mike Colton Says:

    I’m so glad you’re going to Manly Beach – I hope you go on the ferry!!! Let me know what you think of Sydney (good/bad/etc.) – personally I think its an amazing city and CLEAN!!!


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