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Uluṟu-Kata Tjuṯa National Park, Northern Territory, Australia

GPS: -25.342869300072, 131.02190211168

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Better known as Ayers Rock, the gigantic Uluru inselberg was officially discovered in 1873 by English explorers William Gosse and Ernest Giles. This remote massif in Central Australia is named after Henry Ayers, eighth Premier of South Australia in the 19th century. It is part of the great outback desolate area, marked by its low population density in relation to its great size.

The flat rock of Uluru emerges from the desert of the hot and arid region of the “Red Centre”, known for its remarkably large rocks and sandstone domes formed a few hundred million years ago. The colour shades of its characteristic red stone make is a perfect place, at dusk, to watch the sun rise and set. When the site experiences rare but heavy rains between November and March (rainfall in this arid region is around 300 mm per year), Uluru can generate multiple waterfalls on its walls. On contact with water, the reddish tint of the large rock turns to purple.

With a circumference of almost 10 kilometres at its base, Uluru rises to a height of 348 metres and 860 metres above sea level. This 2.5 kilometres long reddish geological wonder is part of the Uluṟu-Kata Tjuṯa National Park and is one of the largest monoliths in the world. Uluru is surrounded by great desert plains and remains a sacred ancestral site revered by the indigenous people. Their beliefs are based on the traditional principle of Tjukurrpa, “The Dreaming” in the culture of the Aṉangu people. These Aboriginal Australians see themselves as the eternal guardian and protector of this land inhabited by spirits and charged with the forces of the ancestors of the Aborigines. Cave paintings bear witness to their presence here since ancient times. In 1985, the Uluru inselberg and the Uluṟu-Kata Tjuṯa National Park were restored to the Aṉangu groups (speaking the Pitjantjatjara and Yankunytjatjara dialects). Original inhabitants of the area for 30,000 years, they are the official owners of the site and jointly manage its natural resources with the National Park Service. Another major geological formation much less frequented than Uluru is also part of this Australian outback protected area. It is a set of arkose domes called Kata Tjuṯa with Mount Olga as the highest point (1,070 metres).

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  • A colossal and fabulous natural site, isolated in the Australian’s Outback region; the caves, cavities and holes in the eroded rock
  • A visit to the Uluru-Kata Tjuta Cultural Centre with information on local Aboriginal people and art exhibitions (bicycle hire available); the Maggie Springs or Mutitjulu Waterhole (sacred place)
  • The discovery of Aṉangu culture (Arrernte people) and Aboriginal rock art dating back thousands of years
  • The nature’s wilderness (more than 150 species of birds, 20 kinds of mammals, 70 varieties of reptiles and snakes, oaks, rare grasses and 400 types of plants)
  • The sunset or sunrise illuminating the ochre, red and orange hues of the Uluru rock; the ephemeral waterfalls rising from rock faces
  • The contemplation of the stars in a sky conducive to their observation; the Aboriginal legends surrounding this mystical place
  • Uluṟu-Kata Tjuṯa National Park and its collection of monoliths about 30 kilometres west of Uluru (a series of 36 massive sandstone domes more than 500 metres high, also known as the Olgas)
  • The various hikes at the foot of the red mountain: Kuniya Walk (1 kilometre), Mala Walk (2 kilometres), Liru Walk (4 kilometres), Lungkata Walk (4 kilometres) and Base Walk (10 kilometres); the different itineraries to explore the national park over 1 to 3 days (including motorbike or camel tours); flying over the area in a hot air balloon or helicopter; parachuting over the Ayers Rock; a fun introduction to the boomerang; the melodic sounds of the didgeridoo (a wind musical instrument played by Aboriginal peoples of Northern Australia)
  • The many highlights of the Australian Red Centre scattered around Uluru including Walpa and Kantju gorges, the sacred site of Kings Canyon and its Garden of Eden, not to mention the huge Lake Amadeus (salt lake)
  • The inselberg (isolated relief) of Uluru consists of a sedimentary rock known locally as Mutitjulu Arkose. It is a stone rich in feldspar (minerals composed of potassium, sodium and calcium). It was formed about 530 million years ago, during the geological era of the Paleozoic (the site was covered by an ocean before the earth’s crust was lifted). It is the presence of a large amount of iron oxide that gives the rock formations and desert expanses of the Uluṟu-Kata Tjuṯa National Park their bright red colour by rusting under the effect of oxygen.
  • Most of the rocky part of the Uluru site is hidden deep underground (its exact volume remains an enigma for scientists). However, this huge underground rock mass is believed to be common to the domes of Kata Tjuṯa (about 30 kilometres away).
  • The Ayers Rock site is not the largest inselberg in the world. The title goes to Mount Augustus in Western Australia (825 metres high).
  • Uluru has been a sacred site for thousands of years in the Aṉangu culture (Arrernte people) and is considered a resting place for ancient spirits. Its ascent has long been permitted, though strongly discouraged. Dozens of fatal accidents have occurred due to the difficulty of climbing the rock and the harshness of the climate.
  • To protect Uluru from evil spirits, environmental damage and increasing tourist numbers (300,000 visitors per year), Uluṟu-Kata Tjuṯa National Park has decided to ban its ascent from 26 October 2019. This date was not chosen by chance. It corresponds to the 34th anniversary of the recognition by the Australian state of the customary rights of the Aborigines on their ancestral land. The Aṉangu people consider the practice of rock-climbing to be a desecration of the place. The large number of falls and accidents linked to the climbing of Ayers Rock would be a sanction manifested by the spirits of “The Dreaming” (or “Dreamtime”) against people who dare to flout local beliefs. Similarly, there are reports that climbers who have brought back stones from the sacred rock as souvenirs are said to be victims of spells and chronic misfortune in their everyday lives. A fine of $10,000 now awaits those who exceed the ban on climbing the rock.
  • Rituals are traditionally organized by the Aṉangu people at Uluru, such as the initiation of young men or the practice of rock art. The didgeridoo is another essential element in Aboriginal culture. This musical instrument is said to be the embodiment of the sounds of nature. It is made from a eucalyptus trunk hollowed out by termites.
  • The region of Australia in which Uluru is located (Northern Territory) is the one where Aboriginal culture is the most widespread. Originally from Africa, the Aborigines have the oldest living culture in human history (65,000 years without interruption). They are organised into numerous clans that differ from one another in terms of the language spoken or the rituals practised. What this population of hunter-gatherers has in common is their unique relationship with nature. This is based on “The Dreaming”, a series of ancestral beliefs associated with the creation of the world and the formation of landscapes. The Rainbow Serpent (or Rainbow Snake) is said to be the repository of these beliefs, while spirits play an important role in the traditional stories that are passed down from generation to generation.
  • According to a legend, the Maggie Springs (named Mutitjulu Waterhole by the Uluritidja aborigines) would contain the blood of a Kuniya warrior called Pulari. She was a member of the woma python, who fought the chief of the Liru (the poisonous snake). The battle between these two rival peoples would coincide with the end of “The Dreaming” and the beginning of the Age of Man. The snake is also a predominant animal in the mythology and art of the Australian Aborigines.
  • The best time to travel to this arid region is between May and September, the time of year when temperatures are at their most moderate (be careful not to get dehydrated during the hottest periods, as the nights remain particularly cool).
  • Uluru is served by an airport 20 minutes away by car (Ayers Rock Airport also known as Connellan Airport). Alternatively, you can land in Alice Springs (Alice Springs-Santa Teresa Airport) and drive the 500 kilometres to Uluṟu-Kata Tjuṯa National Park, stopping halfway at Kings Canyon (Watarrka National Park). A pass is required to enter Uluṟu-Kata Tjuṯa National Park and drive through Aboriginal territory.
  • There is a free guided tour every day at 8 am from the Mala Walk car park next to the Uluru-Kata Tjuta Cultural Centre (the Cultural Centre was established in 1995 to mark the 10th anniversary of the return of Uluru to the Aṉangu people).
  • Allow 3 hours of walking if you plan to do the full tour of Ayers Rock via the 10 kilometres Uluru base walk (to be done early in the morning when the temperatures are still bearable). Please bear in mind that climbing the rock is formally prohibited since the end of 2019 and bring enough water with you before leaving for your excursion or walk.
  • Some camping and hiking possibilities in the bush exist within the Uluṟu-Kata Tjuṯa National Park (including the Valley of the Winds walk which takes 3 to 4 hours of time). Please stay on authorised paths and roads (most of the land is private and protected or reserved for livestock).

Where to eat

  • Ayers Wok Noodle Bar
    (Chinese noodles)
  • Walpa Lobby Bar
    (good value for money)
  • Tali Wiru
    (intimate and romantic)

Where to go out

  • Ayers Rock Scenic Flights
    (to be engraved in memories)
  • Mount Conner
    (in the shape of a horseshoe)
  • Watarrka National Park
    (home of Kings Canyon)

Where to sleep

  • Ayers Rock Campground
    (not far from Uluru)
  • Sails in the Desert
    (spacious and air-conditioned)
  • Hotel Longitude 131°
    (splendid and refined)

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