Head on along the East Coast of Australia and you’ll meet a lot of 18-year-old Brits and Germans. They love the carefree style of the surfer towns and glorious beaches and don’t get me wrong, I loved my time there too! Just have a read of any of my previous posts and you’ll see that I absolutely enjoyed myself, despite being a little older than the average. The thing is, when it comes to Travelling with a capital T, you expect a bit of culture and a bit of a language barrier and to learn some stuff. Maybe that’s not for everyone, because I’ve lost count of how many people who’ve asked about my travel plans and questioned why I’d want to go to Ayers Rock because “it’s just a big red rock, isn’t it… but each to their own, I guess…”
Ayers Rock is the new/old name for Uluṟu. The land was forcibly taken from the Aboriginal people and renamed after some Chief Governor dude called “Ayer” and then, as recently as the last 40 years, the land was finally given back to its rightful owners and the name restored. Though the land has officially been reclaimed, the governance of it is questionable. Since this is a very contentious political subject, I’m not going to weigh in too heavily, all I am going to say is that something about it doesn’t quite sit right with me, and I will be using the proper name from here on out.
Uluṟu is as amazing as you would imagine. It is vast. It has every shade from deepest purple through red and orange to salmon pink. It has the profile that we all know from every single picture ever taken from the front, but walking around it there are bits that protrude and there are sections that are indented. There are marks across it that might be geologically explained, but each one has a story attached to it. There are sheltered areas and some parts that you’re not allowed to take pictures of because according to the Aboriginal people to take a photograph is to capture a part of the soul of a place, and if too many pictures are taken, too much of the soul is taken away. As a whole, Uluṟu is wonderful but as much as I can describe it, words and pictures don’t do it justice. I, as a human being will never do it justice because I am not Aboriginal and I can’t share those incredible stories that make the site as remarkable as it is.
So, back-tracking ever so slightly, from Cairns, we flew to Alice Springs and from there it was a considerable drive through to Uluṟu. We visited the Cultural Centre there, or rather, we were given a meagre 45 minutes to explore the most fascinating place I’d been to in quite a long time. I was the annoying person who had to be retrieved as everyone else waited on the sweltering hot bus. Sorry guys! Then we headed to a sunset spot to see what the fuss was all about. Now, if you were to go see a sunset, wouldn’t you imagine you could see the sun setting? No, not here. Here, the sun set behind us, lighting up the rock at every angle as it dipped away. In hindsight, and with enough data storage on my trusty iPhone, a timelapse video here would have been beautiful. David Attenborough, eat your heart out!
Before I left home, I hadn’t even camped before and now, I could definitely go camping and not complain about it. Whilst I’ve “camped” before on Fraser Island, that night in the Outback was my first experience with a swag. A swag is like a giant water-proof canvas sleeping bag with a built-in mattress. That first night, as I lay there looking up at the stars, I was struck with a light drizzle of rain in my face. Luckily it only lasted a minute or two, otherwise I might have sworn off camping for life. And then I was back to staring up at the Milky Way, where it struck me that the night sky is a beautiful thing when there are no clouds and nothing to obscure a view of the stars, until I drifted off to sleep. It was going to be an early morning to see the sun rise over Uluṟu.
Instead of going to the designated spot from the night before where it was crazy busy, we collectively decided to pull up on the side of the road and watch from our own little lookout point. It was a magical moment for a myriad of reasons. The road was beautifully sparse. A true representation of the outback. The clouds were thick and fluffy but definitely threatening rain if not a full-on storm, but they gave us the most glorious oranges and deep crimsons against a bright blue backdrop.
And the best bit? There was no rain, but a rainbow. It turned into a double rainbow and then we willed it into a full arc. Have you ever seen a complete rainbow? It is super difficult to get it into one wide angle shot, and you can’t use the panorama function on your iPhone, because the perspective gets all out of sync. It ends up having a lump in the middle of it. Did manage to get this one though!
I know that this blog has predominantly been Thierry and how he can pose in different angles and in different places, but just this once, I’m going to share a fair amount of my photos that don’t have him in them. My main reason for not taking or sharing my own landscape pictures is that even though I joke about my prowess with a camera, I don’t profess to be a fantastic photographer and I definitely don’t have a good camera with me on my travels, so if I want an awesome shot of Angkor Wat in Siem Reap, or Halong Bay in northern Vietnam, or the Sydney Opera House, I can get one off Google Images by a professional. But just this once, I’m going to share some of what I have. Mostly to prove that I can take picture without the minion, and also because I feel like can’t share the few Aboriginal stories that I was told, as they’re not mine to tell, so I have to share something. Photos are all well and good, but I recommend you come to this incredible place and see it for yourself. See what this place means to people and feel the spirit in the air.
Then tell me it’s just a big red rock and it’s not your thing.