4.45 AM, our alarm goes off. We had booked the sunrise tour of Uluru (Ayers Rock) with the hotel and all is still black outside. Only the stars sparkle above. A pretty site in the darkness of the desert. A busload of tourists wait already in the reception hall, all are here to see Uluru change colors when the morning sun strikes the rock. We receive a boxed breakfast and board the coach. Each bus is fully air conditioned with the latest layout and modern facilities. Ayer's Rock Resort, the only resort here, caters to a world clientele. It is high tourist season.
The Australian English is sometimes difficult to understand, they have different intonation and words sound a bit odd to me. Also, most speak very fast, another hurdle for my ears. I wonder how folks from non-English speaking countries can understand some of the commentary.
The bus makes a short round through the resort to pick up from different hotels and campgrounds in the Ayers Rock Resort and then, after 20 minutes of driving, inside the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, we are lead to a viewing point. The National Park has constructed a platform named Talinguru Nyakunytjaku (meaning 'to look from the sand dunes') to accommodate the masses so that all can see from this higher vantage point. Some people have a cup of coffee or tea and biscuits before they walk the path to the platform because we arrived about 30 minutes before sunrise.
Yet the time flies quickly. Dawn is near, the rock named Uluru is visible but has not yet been exposed to the sunlight. Cameras click, a certain hush is in the air. We are lucky today, we have some clouds and the East seems to be burning in colors of violet, pink and red. The sun is about to rise, starting a new day. The spectacle we are about to see happens every day yet depending on the atmospheric conditions, Uluru changes colors differently each day. The iron content in the rock formations, when struck at a certain angle by light, radiate a deep hue of orange, red or ochre color. The effect does not last very long. Some people call this the golden hour, but it only lasts a minute or so. Cameras are all poised and ready. Soon a frantic clicking orgy occurred. Most people took dozens of pictures just to see later how their best moment was captured. Of course, portrait shots standing in front of Uluru for the family album were among the many snap shots everybody had to take. In addition, large set ups of professional photographers were there to capture the moment for maybe some magazine. It actually does not matter one bit to Uluru itself the rock just stands there and takes it all in stride.
Uluru is an odd sight to see, though. For hundreds of miles around Uluru there is nothing but desert. Uluru is a very barren rock with sparse desert vegetation surrounding it as far as the eye can see. 50 miles away a similar outcrop of mountains called Kata Tjuta (the Olga's) or like the natives call them 'Many Heads' are different peaks altogether. These steep-sided domes (36 in total) are different, the Olga's are compressed gravel, whereas Uluru is a solid rock. Uluru is 348 meters high, and the circumference walk is 10.6 km. Uluru is one stone. Not only that, but scientists believe it is 5 to 6 km deep, buried in the earh. Only the smallest fraction, the 348 meters stick out above ground. While from far away the surface looks smooth, there are odd caves and impressions on the surface of the rock. The natives gave most, it not all of the odd looking marks, dents and caves, stories of explanation.
During the Creation Time (creation of the earth time), according to the aboriginal oral tradition, odd beings or animals such as snakes, lizards or giants left those impressions in the stone. The aboriginal culture dictates that those Creation Stories stories can only be told when one is near or in front of the particular indentation, mark, cave or impression in the stone. This limited story telling makes it difficult to get a whole picture of the entire dream time story around Uluru. It would take weeks to get each story for each mark on Uluru. Taking pictures of their holy sites is strictly forbidden unless you hear the story of the particular spot. Taking pictures in general is frowned upon except in certain circumstances. Uluru is a holy place to them. Not a man made Stonehenge but a clear sign of the creatures within nature that created the universe. In their beliefs, these beings are still around today, albeit not visible to man unless given the ability to see them.
Uluru is odd. No doubt, the whole idea of a one piece rock, 6 km long, standing on end in the desert, surrounded by sand, with a 'companion' rock 50 km away is strange. Schematics tried to explain how this could have happend about 500 million years ago. 'Could' have happened is the word. Nobody knows, yet here is Uluru for all to see, for some, even to worship. This giant rock, planted like a tree, with just the minimum exposed to the air or the surface, sure is an enigma. The markings on the surface, the many caves, the odd holes and the total presence of this rock deep within the desert of central Australia sure are difficult even for 'scientists' to explain. No, there is not enough water to scoop out the bowl like indentations, one right after the other, all lined up in a row, to explain it logically to me. The caves have almost alien characteristics. No wonder the natives saw in Uluru the 'writing on the wall' and believe or believed what was passed down to them orally since the beginning of time. Oral transmission of the stories are close to 70,000 years old.
Yes, I came to photograph this rock and I did. It was on my bucket list, it was a place so far away that most will never see it with their own eyes. Yes, the trip was a tourist event, a controlled way to take a look. I wonder how many people look at this rock, after they came and saw it, with the same blank eyes they had when they first arrived. I believe this spot, this rock, this experience left an indelible impression on many visitors. It sure made me rethink the story of 'just a rock' in the desert. Pictures can be deceiving, there is more to Uluru than meets the eye. I am glad I came all this way to see it for myself. Touristy or not, I liked this part of our trip to Australia.