Rough terrain and corrugation for the next 22km and with all the vibration we could barely hear each other speak. Reaching Rainbow Valley, after an hour, was definitely worth the rough ride as there was only a couple of other campers in the camping area and we decide to stay the night. The Rainbow Mountain sits adjacent to the large claypan. The short walk, called the ‘The Mushroom’, takes us past the magnificent Rainbow Mountain and the claypan. Along this trail were numerous animal tracks and identifying the tracks, was a great activity for the kids. These young animal trackers found all sorts of tracks including lizards, wallabies and goannas.Watching the sunset over the Rainbow Valley was inspiring and the kids duly decided to draw the mountain with crushed rocks of various colours. Once the kids went to bed Mike and I sat outside with the uninterrupted view of the sky to watch the cutta cutta (many stars)… pretty impressive with the Aboriginal lingo now (LOL). Within 1/2 hour we saw 7 shooting stars with the sky so incredibly clear out here it is hard to fathom. Throughout the night the wind became quite intense as we lay awake for hours. I could also hear the crunching of rocks as though someone was walking around the van… all a bit spooky. I had a very strong feeling that the ancestors of the local Indigenous of Rainbow Rock were curious of white fella and his van. Strangely enough that morning I was looking at the pictures of our campsite… look closely into Rainbow rock ….can you see it?????? The other strange phenomenon was the ferocious humming sound that could be heard around 7am the following morning. We were a long way from a highway as at first we thought it may be a truck approaching. The humming got slightly louder as the sun’s rays appeared on the horizon and then remained at the same tone for at least 10 minutes before disappearing altogether however not before the sound pressure intensified for a short while and I thought for a split second that it could be a meteorite, but we are still here writing. Eventually the sun hit the horizon and the sounds disappeared. We left this place reflecting on the various events for some time…
Henbury Crater was very interesting as it was hit by an already broken up meteorite with up to 12 mini craters scattered throughout the area. Most meteorites explode on impact however, as mentioned, this one exploded prior to impact. The landowner has since handed this land back to the Territory and now has world class recognition due to its preserved state. Interestingly, US astronauts have visited this site in preparation for moon landings.
Driving the Lasseter Hwy, we head out to Uluru amongst a throng of tourists. Aussies and foreigners, particularly French and Germans, travelling in tour buses, rental vehicles, scooters and postie bikes (different ones to those on the Plenty Highway; I doubt they would have reached this point so soon), this has to be one of the busiest outback roads in the country. Way in the distance, we see it, the rock, ‘there it is’ we yell in excitement. We pull over at the first rest stop available and along with many tourists get out of the car and pull out the camera only to question whether or not this is ‘the rock’. The rock certainly looks quite different to those of the photos we have previously seen. It was now obvious sections are definitely not quite right including the sides being very eroded on the top section and the bottom section somewhat sloped and looking distinctly different to what we imagined. With over 100km to go to reach Uluru, we now know this rock is actually Mt Connor (something we all still have a chuckle about).
So, many kilometres later we reach Yulara, approx. 20km from Uluru, the resort/town that was built when Uluru/Kata Tjuta national park was handed back to the Anunga people. The resort/ town is divided into various areas (resort accommodation, shopping centre etc) as we head towards the camping area with the other paupers. The camping areas are no longer close to the rock, unlike the Lindy Chamberlain days when you could camp at the base of Uluru.
Making the 20km drive from the campground to the base of Uluru, we join the Ranger for an early Mala Walk. This free guided tour was extremely informative as we were shown some of the most significant and scared areas of the rock, in addition to the rock art and waterfalls. The Rangers themselves actually live within the National Park amongst the local Anangu people (approx.350). Our guide was fluent in the Arrernte language…or so it certainly seemed.
Over consecutive nights we witness the sunset from either side of Uluru and like scores of other tourists there are plenty of photos. The ever changing colour of Uluru and its mammoth presence is awe inspiring and you get a bit of a chill each time you stare at the rock…sounds corny, but true.
Back at Yulara there are several more activites to undertake. I know how keen Mike is at dancing so we met with some of the Wakagetti performers for a dance workshop. Girls up first and our instructor showed us the dance for women – ‘The Emu’. We then put the dance to music and perform for the people now starting to congregate around us dancers. Now it’s the boys turn – Mike and Liam jump up and are instructed that men must only dance “The Kangaroo”. Like many traditional cultures it is mostly men that take part in these performances. Following the workshop the Wakagetti dancers performed a show in the parklands where a number of other participants joined the stage for the now large audience. The dancing is performed to the rhythmical tapping sticks (no didgeridoos in this part of the country) along with the red dust and deep vocal groans; it is very mystical. The dancers also recreated a story about a little boy lost as Liam joined them on stage as that little boy. Yasmin and a few other girls also joined the performance and thankfully Liam was found safe and well.
The lure of tourists to Uluru for the ultimate conquering climb is not one felt by both Mike and I, as once you come to this place and recognise its significance, together with the Anunga’s strong desire for the tourists not to climb Uluru, the will to climb is not there. To date there have been 34 deaths from climbing the rock and it’s only a matter of time before climbing the rock is banned completely. Uluru changes at every turn; steep areas, caves, interesting shapes and crevices, sacred areas where photographs are prohibited. We opt for the 10.6km base walk and the kids ride their bikes. Maddox was fine until 2/3 of the way around he came off his bike trying to do a skid and took skin off his knee instead. The walk is a must and really the only way to get some perspective of the size and significance of Uluru.
Kata Tjuta (approx. 40km from Uluru) on the other hand takes us on a journey through the Valley of the winds. This area is specifically for men and was predominately used for the teachings of boys in preparation of manhood. It is a fascinating walk and once perched on the hillside it appears that at every glance you sight something special or different. We sit here for some time and take in the sounds, the sounds of silence, the wind, the rich colour palette and angle formations. Kata Tjuta, in some sections, actually stands higher than Uluru.
Another morning delight is meeting up with the Bush tucker tour guide who takes us through a culinary feast within the garden walk. We discover edible berries from the Mistletoe along with the delicious honey from the Grevillea. We learn about the wood used to make ropes and plants that produce the most luscious moisturiser (similar to that of the Aloe Vera). We now know what to look for on our next bush walk if we feel a little peckish.