Uluru, Red Center
Uluru is one of the most recognized sites in the world, an enormous red sandstone formation in the middle of the Australian Outback. It’s impressive because of its size, color, and dramatic appearance unencumbered by trees, mountains, lakes or man-made structures. You can’t say that of San Francisco’s Bay Bridge, the Grand Canyon, or Yosemite.
Uluru stunning presence is a spiritual site of the Anangu aboriginal people who lived in the desert. Like many aboriginal communities who lived in the area, they created legends of creation, love, death, and revenge about Uluru and it’s many unusual features.
Until recently, the site was known as Ayers Rock, named by an explorer in 1873 for the South Australian Governor, Sir Henry Ayers. But with the growing cultural sensitivity to rights of aboriginal people in the late 20th century, the site was renamed Ayers Rock – Uluru in 1993. The order of the names were switched to Uluru – Ayers rock in 2002, which today is considered more politically correct.
During our travels in Australia, we noticed that Aussies referred to it as Uluru and not Ayers Rock. We interpreted this as recognition that the landmark is more appropriately called by the name aboriginal people knew it by for centuries, rather than for an Australian bureaucrat who may have never visited.
Uluru is an impressive geological formation, one of the most unusual in the world, named a World Heritage site in 1973 because of its natural and cultural significance. It rises 350 meters above the desert floor (more than 1100 feet), and is 9 kilometer circumference. The formation is much larger below ground.
After our late morning visit to Kata Tjuta, we drove 30 kilometers to Uluru to hike the east and west sides, sometimes close enough to reach out and touch it’s hard sandstone.
The many features of Uluru
Up close, Uluru appears much different that it does from a distance. Photos and posters of Uluru taken from a distance of several kilometer portray its vastness and size. We were somewhat surprised that as we hiked around, there were many features not noticeable from a distance — pits, crevasses, scree, and caves carved by centuries of wind and water erosion.
Large parts of Uluru appears as pillowed waves of red, hardened sandstone that seem to ripple to the desert floor.
Other areas of Uluru have cracks, crevices, and unusual formations created by erosion. Some design seem mythical, with faint resemblance to animals, people, or symbols from nature. Aboriginal people created creation legends and tales of their ancestors about these features.
A hike into a Uluru canyon
We hiked into one canyon on the east side to view unusual formations and ancient petroglyphs. The canyon was between folds in Uluru’s formation. The closer we hiked, the more features we could see that were not apparent from the trail or road.
Hiking out of the canyon, we stopped at an overhang which had aboriginal petroglyphs painted in ochre, faded by time. An unusual aspect was that the petroglyphs were painted on a shelf about four meters above ground which means the ancient artists would have stepped on rocks to reach the overhang. Or the ground could have been higher at the time they were painted.
Either way, one wonders who and when these ancient works were painted and what legends they represent.
Uluru up close
While we hiked along Uluru’s trails, we saw many unusual formations, scree, and red boulders that are like nothing we’d ever seen before; beautiful, artistic, and mystical. No wonder that the aboriginal people have such spiritual reverence for Uluru.
A highlight of our Uluru experience was touching the rock; one could almost feel a mystical contact with the ancient and revered formation. We won’t forget this moment.
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Next: Uluru sunset
As many of you know, I also write mysteries and romantic suspense novels.
I recently published my first international thriller, Thirteen Days in Milan, which is available on Kindle as well as other ereaders, tablets, and smartphones.
I’m back in Europe for the summer to hire a translator and to research my next book which will also be a thriller based in Milan. I’ll be posting along the way from Milan, Stresa, Zurich and other locations.
I have a few posts on another blog, Anatomy of a Thriller, where I write about the process of researching and writing an international thriller. I’ll add more posts there as well.
Please share these links with writers or readers who might be interested.