The adventurer inside of me was SCREAMING out to climb Uluru (aka Ayers Rock) in Australia. What does it look like from the top? I heard there were water holes up there, can they be seen? Could I psychically get up there…sounds like a challenge, look there’s even a rope to help! BUT I didn’t. The responsible side of me took over. Not only is it steep and dangerous (I saw people sliding back down on their bums!), the Aboriginals ask you not to out of respect.
The Rock is sacred to the Aboriginals. If someone gets injured or dies during the climb, it distresses them and they blame themselves. There’s a sign at the bottom of the climb that advises against climbing Uluru and why. Rather than dictate and say DON’T climb, it is in their culture to believe that people will choose between what is wrong and what is right. It’s one thing to climb it, but it’s another for people to get to the top, drop their rubbish and go to the toilet. It’s a natural icon, why would they have toilets and bins up there? People should at least have the decency to take their rubbish away with them. There have been arguments that if they don’t like it, why don’t they close it? But on the other hand they are then worried that tourists would stop visiting and they rely on the money that they bring in. Catch 22.
A couple of young school kids that were on my bus from Alice Springs decided that they wanted to climb it and were dropped off at the base of the climb. You could see that the tour guides weren’t too happy with their decision and even some of the Australian’s on the tour voiced their opinions about how they shouldn’t be doing it.
Things to do at Uluru
I visited with my friend because it was on her bucket list. When she suggested it I was slightly worried that I’d find it underwhelming, like I had with the Grand Canyon in America. All there really was to do there was hike down into the Canyon, I half expected Ayers Rock to be the same, that climbing it would be the only thing to pass the time. How wrong was I. Uluru really impressed me, there was so much to see and do, that I never even felt the need to climb it.
Unlike the Grand Canyon, where nearly every view point looks the same, walking around the base of Uluru is full of so many surprises! There are even lakes that are fed by waterfalls (although the waterfalls only ‘appear’ after rainfall). Also, because it’s on sacred land, there are lots of stories about various marks and formations on the rock. This part was fascinating and I enjoyed being able to see cave paintings on the walls (I’m slightly obsessed with ‘dot painting’!). At some points around the rock, you are asked not to take photos out of respect but there are more than enough places that it is allowed.
Sunset and sunrise viewings are well worth it. The Rock gradually goes through so many different shades of colour, you can’t help but just stare at it. Uluru Tour companies even arrange barbecue buffets with champange around the sunset viewing area. I really enjoyed this experience!
Aside from the main park area, Kata Tjuta is well worth a visit! There is a hike through the gorges that makes you feel MINIATURE!
After New York City, Uluru is the most expensive place in the world for a backpacker. The dorm rooms at the Uluru Resort aren’t cheap. I stayed at the Outback Pioneer in a 4 person dorm. I’m not a dorm person but there’s not exactly much partying around so everyone we shared with were pleasant enough. Yes it’s expensive but staying on the Resort, you have access to swimming pools and free activities, such as; cultural dancing and boomerang lessons! There are plenty of other paid activities available including scenic flights and camel rides.
The Uluru climb is closing!
I recently read online that they will be closing the climbing route from October 2019! It was put to a vote and decided that as the number of people that climb it now has begun to drop so officially closing it wouldn’t have an affect on tourism. Over 70% of visitors used to climb Uluru and now it’s more like 30%. The rock ISN’T a ‘theme park’ after all! I completely agree with the decision. If it’s been distressing the locals for this long it’s absolutely the right thing to do. No one should be made to feel like that in their ‘home’!
If you check out the main Ayers Rock Resort website, it lists a whole range of experiences that can be had at the Rock. Even since my visit a few years back, the list has got even longer! Thing like yoga retreats (that would be magical!) and segway tours, I don’t think they have anything to worry about in terms of tourism numbers!
Here’s a handy tip…if you fly out of Uluru Airport on a flight to Sydney, get a window seat and you get to see a birds eye view of the Rock. It almost looks like it’s heart shaped from above!
Alice Springs to Uluru
Coming from Western Australia, the best way to get to Ayers Rock was to fly into Alice Springs and then jump on a 1 day Alice Springs to Uluru tour. They do offer return trips back to Alice Springs that go through the night, but we wanted to stay at Uluru Resort for a couple of nights before flying on to Sydney out of Uluru Airport.
Our tour itinerary went a little like this: we were picked up from our Alice Springs accommodation and given a breakfast bag. Stopped at Erldunda Roadhouse for a toilet break. Had a leg stretching break at Mount Conner…which looks a lot like a tiny version of Ayers Rock! Next up was a 45 minute tour of Kaja Tjuta (the Olgas) and the Walpa Gorge followed by a lunch box to eat on the bus. Then onto Uluru for a look at the Cultural Centre and then a tour of the base. It is possible to walk round the base independently but the information we were given was really interesting. Our tour wrapped up with the sunset champagne barbecue!
Our entrance fee to Uluru was included as part of our Alice Springs to Uluru tour. Even though you can see Ayers Rock from the Uluru Resort, it actually lays outside of the ‘park’, so without being on a tour, you’d need to pay the entrance fee to get closer and walk around its base.
I travelled from Alice Springs to Uluru with Emu Run Tours who offer different length trips to Ayers Rock (plus the amount of food they gave us was AMAZING)!