Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park is recognised by UNESCO as a World Heritage Area for its cultural significance to the Anangu Aboriginal people and its natural beauty. The park has two important sites, both sacred to the Traditional Owners of the land: Uluru (previously known as Ayers Rock) and 32kms from Uluru stands Kata Tjuta (also known as The Olgas). These two rock formations and the surrounding plains of red earth provide a rare habitat for plants and animals who have adapted to the harsh conditions.
Uluru at midday
The park is jointly managed by the Anangu and Parks Australia and a combination of traditional land management ways and western scientific methods are used to preserve the sanctity of the park as well as maintain the environment recognised as a significant world heritage treasure. At different times of the day the colours change constantly, from pink to ruby red, russet then lavender/mauve tinges as the sun falls below the horizon.
Uluru as the sun falls below the horizon
One of the first things we noticed was the plant diversity. Their colours belie the harsh environment in which they thrive, yet these stoics have adapted to the environment and adorn the surrounding red desert with textured tones. Wherever we looked the desert landscapes were blanketed in exotic plants and trees. Even the grasses, of which there are fifty varieties within the park area, are beautiful. The desert conditions of the park have not deterred birds from the national park, in fact those species that flourish in the arid conditions number 178 with several rare species such as the scarlet chested parrot and the grey honeyeater. While the ancient rock formations of Central Australia often steal the limelight, keeping an eye out for the unusual brings its own rewards with a world of rare beauty and colour.
We are reasonably interested in the bird life around our home garden but this trip has brought a fresh perspective on how important natural habitat is to these frequent flyers of the skies. What has been a new experience is being on the lookout for other forms of wildlife and critters who inhabit the desert. We were intrigued, excited and of course hopeful that we would see spiky thorny devils sunning themselves on warm rocks and the perentie, or the world’s second largest lizard at two and a half metres long, and if we were very unlucky we might even have seen one or two of the thirteen species of snakes, two of which are non-venomous. Sadly, we saw no devils, lizards or snakes as we cycled around the base.
There are more than 65 tours and experiences in and around Ayers Rock Resort and the Uluru-KataTjuta National Park, in fact, the development of a tourist village of Yulara provides accommodation from expensive to bunker-style backpacker beds. Around the courtyard are many cafes and restaurants if you choose not to eat at your place of accommodation. Not for us the high-flying life (and costs) of resort living. With a little help from WikiCamps we found a wonderful free camping site outside of the national park in which to park ourselves for three nights. I wonder how many resort-guests had the view we had from the bed in our caravan.
Lying in Bed in our Caravan
We chose to experience Uluru by cycling around the base of the world’s most famous monolith (Uluru). The interpretive signable provided fascinating details as we make our way around the 9.4kms girth of the rock. We learned about the Aboriginal sacred sites, the places where rock paintings depicted part of the history of the Anangu people and then on to discover the ‘kitchen’ cave where their women prepared food in times long past. It took a little over two hours to complete the walk/cycleway as we stopped to exchange experiences and snippets of knowledge with others enjoying the great outdoors in spectacular surroundings.
The rock formation changes dramatically from place to place around the base walk
The MOTH at one of the stops on the base walk & cycleway
Even in Winter months it is suggested to drink 1 litre of water per hour when exploring the rock. We had a few water stops as we cycled around the base track and Pipty was our companion on the journey
Hot and still thirsty after our venture we headed to one of the many outdoor bars looking for a cold beer. No luck. In the Northern Territory of Australia the alcohol laws are stringent. To be served alcohol at any bar in the resort we needed a hotel/accommodation key card. Without this ‘pass’ as we were ‘free-camping’ elsewhere it was soft drinks for us. Until then the alcohol laws in different states around the country were only items on the news. We had not been affected by them until our visit to Uluru and the resort.
As we sat with our soft drinks it was time to reflect on the amazing experience we had just enjoyed. We loved it. Neither of us have a bucket list per se but this will be one of the trip’s highlights.