Uluru – sponsored by Vodafone

 Today was our earliest rise of the trek – 4am. We wanted to catch sunrise at Uluru, so obviously this entailed getting up before sunrise so we could be elsewhere when it happened.

We got there and, as with sunset, the view was amazing. The only problem was that, for me, we were too close and I couldn’t get the whole rock into my pictures!

We next had two choices – to walk around the rock or to climb it. The Aboriginals request that you don’t climb Uluru, in fact you can get “I didn’t climb Uluru” stickers and t-shirts from the gift shop. However, they won’t stop you unless it’s unsafe and guide rails have been put in on the steeper sections. Uluru is of huge religious significance to them, being used as part of male coming-of-age rituals, and is the home of some of the beasts in which they believe. Our guide said it was akin to climbing a church or a mosque.

 Well, you know my views on religion. I don’t lack respect for any one in particular so it would be unfair to pick out the Aboriginals’ for special treatment. I climbed it.

Five of us from the group made our way up the steep opening section, our way constantly halted by collapsing Japanese tourists who probably hadn’t realised exactly how steep it was at the beginning. After this first stage, there is a natural “rest” area where we gathered and waited for the Korean chap in our group who seemed to be struggling, but who didn’t give up!

The next section wasn’t as steep, but ended in another flat area where the wind roared past. The rock is shut to climbers in certain circumstances (rain, high winds, high temperatures and so on) and I think the winds had peaked the allowable limit. However, we were already on the rock so we kept going.

 The final section is “up and downy” as you clamber over rounded crevices in the rock to finally reach the monument marking the top of Uluru. Up here I still had 4-bar reception on my phone so sent a few texts to annoy people.

I would say the best views from Uluru are during the climb, not actually right up at the top. Uluru is a huge, flat thing so when you’re at the “peak”, there’s a lot of rock before the horizon which obscures the views. However, it was definitely worth the effort though there was of course the realisation that we had to get back down again. The Aboriginals have yet to conceed to having a lift installed.

My shoes died on the climb down. Both soles were ripped through and I was in no position to buy another pair for almost a week. At least it’s not quite wet season so there was no issues with leakage.

When we arrived at the bottom, we saw that the climb had indeed been closed due to high winds. It was lucky we’d made an early start. Our guide took us on a short walk around the base, pointing out some of the cultural areas and giving us some information on the customs and flora. Looking up at the sides of Uluru it brings images of how impressive it would also look in torrential rain with water cascading down it.

Everyone by now was rather hungry having been up for five hours, and therefore convinced it was lunchtime. It was barely after 9am! Instead, we went to the cultural centre for a quick walk around, and a visit to the cafe… which didn’t last long once we’d seen the prices. Ouch.

 Finally, we had lunch and then set off on another long drive. On the way, we gathered wood at the roadside to use to cook dinner. As we were preparing the food, I spotted a fairly HUGE spider scrambling around near the sink and casually pointed it out to one person. Who screamed. Which scared the spider. Which ran like hell towards everyone and under the long kitchen table.

Women screamed and jumped on benches (I kid you not – it couldn’t have been more stereotypical an image if it was scripted) and men ducked under to have a look at this monstrous arachnid. Finally, the guide located a glass and a sheet of paper and threw the hairy critted outside.

After dinner, a didgeredoo (don’t tell me I’ve mis-spelled this as I’ve seen about 5 different versions) was passed around so we could all embarass ourselves with how bad we were at playing it. I think my effort was somewhere between “gasp” and “fart”. Not as easy as it looks! Posted by Picasa

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