Uluru: A non-climb day

After driving 1000km across the desert and a further 500km from Alice Springs, today we hit an iconic Australian landmark- Uluru.

Driving the road in towards the town of Yulara on the border of the national park, you begin to get a sense of the scale of this massive rock formation, and you can see why this is a culturally important location to the indigenous community.

We enter the national park and head straight for the walking track around the base of the rock, as climbing the rock has been off limits since last year and culturally insensitive for the last 25. While I’ll admit part of me wishes I could climb it, seeing the erosion and damage of the previous walking track makes me glad that it is off limits. Cultural issues aside, this is a natural formation and a thing of beauty which we want to preserve for generations to come, so it is best not climbed from an environmental perspective as well.

The first segment of walking takes us into the Jantju gorge and past some interesting rock formations, which to my surprise we were actually allowed up close and personal with.

Unfortunately it appears that the remainder of the base walk is closed due to heat, which I find quite ridiculous.

  • Yes its 38°C, but it is that temperature basically every day here in central Australia.
  • Yes you have to cater to stupid tourists, but Doug and I are experienced hikers and are already carrying sunscreen, 4L of water and a first aid kit.
  • Yes the heat of the day is between 11am and 3pm, but if you started at 11am and took their expected 3hrs return, then that’s the worst time, we are intentionally starting at 3.30pm after the heat of the day.

By all means give warnings and insist on minimum gear to be carried, but to close the track and threaten the same severe penalties as climbing the forbidden rock is absurd. Quite frankly I am disappointed by the mismanagement of this park and landmark. Parks Australia, pick up your game, this isn’t good enough.

Thankfully we are a day ahead of schedule due to the closure of the Bungle Bungles, so we decide to use that day to check into the overpriced campground at Yulara and spend the night. On the plus side, the campground has a pool and it is a nice place to relax for a few hours until the sun goes down.

As sunset approaches, we head to the designated sunset viewing area and eat dinner as the sun sets at the rock.

The following morning we get up at 4:45am and quickly pack up camp to watch the sunrise, then get on with our early morning base walk.

Thankfully it is open this time, and we enjoy the walk around the base.

Given the state of affairs regarding sensitive aboriginal sites and recent changes to not be able to climb it, I was expecting to kept well back from the rock during the entirety of the walk, however I was pleasantly surprised to find that in a few places you are actually allowed up close and personal with it.

The side walk into Mutitjulu Waterhole is well worth it as you can see a cave with aboriginal paintings, and relax on a hand carved wooden bench looking over the waterhole, which surprisingly actually contains water! 

From here we head to another nearby rock formation, Kata Tjuta, which is almost as impressive at a distance as the much more famous Uluru.

There is often something to be said for taking the path less travelled, and this definitely rings true as the walking tracks at Kata Tjuta actually allow us to walk up between the rock segments and see the inside of these unique formations at “the valley of the winds”.

Despite the initial disappointment of arriving at Uluru to closed walking tracks, it ended up being a great 24 hours here and well worth absorbing our spare day.