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Trip Report Uluru the Outback Tour Day 1 - Travel Report

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Wayoutback 3-day tour in Australia Day 1: Camel farm, Interpretive base walk of Uluru
Cultural centre, Campfire and star gazing

About the tour – there are some companies operating Uluru camping tours departing from Alice Springs. The routes are pretty much similar – 2 days in the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, and a hike in the Kings Canyon. The price difference depends on the quality of food and accommodation: I heard from a friend that some of the tours may not have enough food (or food was bad) for the whole tour and so everything was eaten during the first round, and some of the campsites may not have a hot shower facility during the second night. Since Uluru is a rural area, and pretty much in the middle of “nowhere”, you may not get to refill any of the supplies for three days so pack wisely (like a travel set of toiletries, sun block, and energy bars) and I would recommend selecting a tour in the middle price range for some comfort with good value ~
To see some photos of the beautiful Uluru and details are at the blog @ http://wp.me/p5Lw9a-1is

By the way, the tour is a “participation tour”, which means all the “way outbackers” or “emu runners” (depends on the name of the tour:P) should step in and help out during the tour like cleaning up the campsite, make food, and so on; nothing major and it’s a good way to make friends. So – we were picked up at our hotel really early before 6am in the morning and the guide/driver/cook/first-aider kicked off his long drive – we had to reach Uluru campsite by lunch. We had two short breaks at a camel farm and Curtain Springs.

Curtain Springs is much closer to Uluru and it’s a gas station for campers to restock and refill. We bought some drinks for our night as well! The interior of the shop was nicely and humorously decorated. Outside, a flat-topped and horseshoe-shaped mountain was in sight. The Attila (Mount Conner) was a 300-meter high mountain that sometimes misconstrued as the Uluru. Same for me as I was dozing off in the car and when my friend woke me up I gasped when I opened my eyes – and then I soon realize it was not the Uluru. The mountain was actually much larger than Uluru and could be seen from afar on our way to and back from Uluru.

We settled down at our campsite and had a quick lunch before we set off to our base walk of Uluru! Some call it Uluru, or Ayers Back, or the belly button of the earth. It is mysterious, it is wondrous, it is multi-colored, it is symbolic, it is sacred… it is many things, it is a geology amazement and I was getting excited that I was finally here! First, the guide gave us an interpretive base walk and we had an idea about the relationship between aboriginal people and the rock, the native’s way of life, culture and beliefs evolving around Uluru.

“Surviving” around this largest sandstone rock formation on earth is difficult with the lack of resources and protection. The rock provided these people shelter, shade from the unforgiving sun, food and water source, and a gathering place. For many years (til now) it is a sacred place to the Pitjantjatjara Anangu, the aboriginal people of the area. In fact, the guide has to be trusted by these native people for them to learn about the native people’s culture, and then pass them to us. One interesting thing that I learned was the drawings. There are lots of ancient paintings and drawings in the caves and shelter around the rock and it’s fascinating to know about their top-down angle of seeing things. So a U-shaped symbol means a person – imagine, looking top down when a person was sitting on the floor legs opened… smaller “U”s are children and lots of “U”s is a gathering. Concentric circles mean water – imitate the ripples of water when a stone dropped into the water. More common and obvious symbols such as a vertical “V” means boomerang (of course), and one-sided line of arrows mean emu footsteps.

There are caves around the rocks that provide shelter. A “kitchen cave” is not exactly a cave for the aborigines to boil and cook, but it was an area of the female and young to gather and prepare food while the men were out hunting for food. The more I see, the more I admire their wisdom and stamina to live in such a difficult and dangerous environment. I had a lot of respect.

++++++++++
There were mixed things that I heard about climbing Uluru. Before I went, I learned that climbing Uluru was not allowed because it’s considered sacred; but then my friend told me it’s actually allowed. The truth is: You can climb, but you are requested NOT to.

I supposed it is a way to satisfy the needs for the tourists to climb the rock out of pride, achievement, and ownership. The climb was promoted in the 1940s, and I am sure a lot of people would want to do that. Therefore, I was confused about this contradictory situation of native’s traditional law and modern tourist’s law. Today, the debate continues…

Respect: To the native people, Uluru is sacred. It is a place of great knowledge. Under their traditional law, climbing is not permitted. Therefore, tourists are welcome to walk around the base to discover the rock and it is also important to respect their request about not climbing it.

Safety: The climb also depends on the weather condition as it could be extremely hot in summer time, and it is actually quite dangerous to climb the rock because it is much steeper and higher than you imagine. The rock is a smooth, vertical surface with no shades and no surface to grab hold. It would be very challenging to climb up the rock. Even if you got up there, there’s nothing to hold on to and one wrong step might cause some serious damages. Tourists might also suffer from heat stroke, dehydration and dizziness before they come back down.

For safety, cultural and environmental reasons, the park is working towards closing the climb permanently. So, what do you think about climbing the rock?

Up next is out walk in the Valley of the Winds Kata Tjuta! @ http://wp.me/p5Lw9a-1k3

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