To climb or not to climb...
On entering the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park you really begin to appreciate the size and beauty of the rock. Your NP pass covers you for three days entry into the park, which is good because there is much to see.
We popped into the cultural centre, had a quick look around the much needed to be updated displays and collected our visitor guide. Information in the cultural centre indicated that the traditional owners request visitors not to climb the rock due to cultural, safety and environmental reasons. Uluru is said to be of great spiritual significance to the Anangu people.
The decision not to climb was made for us on the first day as it was closed due to "wind". We decided to head out on the base walk. The full circuit is 10.6km and as the name suggests follows around the base of the rock. With a spring in our step we headed off in a clockwise direction, stopping to take photos of the various rock features with the red rock contrasted by the clear blue sky.
There are a few sections where the track leaves the immediate vicinity of the rock due to areas that are culturally sensitive. It is requested that you don't photograph these areas which we tried to obey but on occasion it was difficult to know what you could and couldn't take photos of. A few blisters were acquired along the way, but all in all a nice walk.
With some James Boags Premium ($34.00 for 6) in hand we settled in to watch the sunset, madly snapping away with the cameras.
It is quite hard to photograph the rock due to its size and distance.
After a night in the tent at the town of Ayres Rock Resort we made our way back into the NP for day 2 of activities. The town has a supermarket, pubs and a few shops.
Hoping to learn some more about the rock, we decided to participate in the guided Mala walk. Mel the ranger was great, sharing information about the management of the park, rock art, Anangu culture and the big issue of climbing the rock. Apparently visitor survey information indicated that a large number of people would not visit the park if they were not able to climb the rock. This equals loss of $$ for the local communities so that is why the climb is still open. The local people also recognise the importance of tradition, and as generations of families had climbed they felt that this was an important factor.
After weighing up all these points of view we decided that climbing was not as frowned upon by the locals as we had first thought. They understood why we wanted to and although they rather we didn't they also understood why we did. As always it comes down to the buck.
The decision was made, we were climbing the rock. So in the midday sun we set out (Ringo in his rock climbing pluggers) about making our way up the rock. The first section is steep and there is a chain to assist.
With lactic acid pooling in our calf muscles we continued onwards and upwards. Upon reaching the top of the chain, you realise you are less than half way to the top. It was about this point we noticed that Ringo had removed the rock climbing pluggers and was continuing in bare feet. The remainder of the walk flattens out slightly, with the walk across the top involving lots of down and up ridges. The top is marked by a cairn and the view is absolutely breathtaking.
We enjoyed the summit for half an hour and then set about returning to ground level. The walk down the chained section was worse than the climb. Sore quads all round!
Upon arriving at the bottom our next adventure had us on a plant tour with Peter. Peter has lived in this area for 30 years and was very enthusiastic about the plant life in the area. He and Ronny had many discussions which were way above our level.
The next day saw us driving the 44 km out to the Olgas, or Kata Tjuta.
We were suffering a bit from yesterday's exertions so initially we planned to only walk to the first lookout. Once there the great views inspired us and and we continued through the whole of the valley of the winds walk.
We left the red centre late in the afternoon and returned to Curtain Spings for the night. Fortunately the winds had died down by now and we were treated to Aunt Dot's stuffed pumpkin, prepared by Ronny and Jaks.
This morning we lazed around and planned the next few days. Jaks and I are flying home, sadly for a funeral and R&R will wait out at Redbank Waterhole for us.
When we return on Sunday its off down the Binns Track towards Finke.