Right smack in the middle of Australia’s immense red center is a giant rock called Uluru that is sacred to the local aboriginal people (the Anangu). This spectacular formation has also been called Ayers Rock by the European’s who discovered it a couple hundred years ago, but the Anangu have been there for thousands and thousands of years, so I think they have the naming rights. Uluru and its cousin, the rock formation Kata Tjuta, are the most immense geological formations I’ve ever seen. They are not on the list of seven natural wonders of the world (the great barrier reef is and that’s next month :-). But, listed as a natural wonder or not, there is no arguing that Australia’s red center is an incredible, awesome, breathtaking place that is like nowhere else on earth.
I’ve heard Australia’s red center compared to the face of Mars; the comparison is definitely apt. It is desolate, rugged, and above all else it’s red. The sand is a coarse red sand that formed as the result of millions of years of erosion. It’s beautiful, incredible, desolate and isolated.
Uluru itself is the largest monolith in the world. It’s hard to describe how large it really is, but I’ll try. When driving into the park Uluru is so immense it nearly fills the windshield of the car… and then a road sign that announces that you are still 15km away. The walk around Uluru (which the boys did without complaint), is all of 12km. There is a small resort near the rock that has a couple hundred hotel rooms, a gas station a couple restaurants and a small grocery store, the next nearest grocery store, however, is about a five hour drive away in Alice Springs. This place is remote.
As is the custom for visitors we witnessed Uluru at sunset; it’s quite remarkable as the colors shift through a spectrum of reds in the fading light. We took in Uluru at sunrise from a camel caravan quietly plodding through the red sands. We stood in the foot-prints of ancient people and watched the stars come out – and there were millions of them. There were more stars visible in that one night sky than I’ve seen in a thousand other locations around the world combined. Uluru’s location is so far from other civilization that the only light pollution is from the stars and moon themselves.
As a family it was quite humbling to read and hear the stories of the Anangu people who have been in Australia’s vast red center for thousands and thousands of years, and in reality have had only about a generation of contact with the western world. And while the western world has not been particularly gracious to them, they are wonderful generous hosts. Uluru, the vastness of the location, and the generosity and beauty of the aboriginal owners are a truly humbling experience indeed.
So what’s the summary? It’s in the last sentence of each of the paragraphs above... Australia’s red center is an incredible, awesome, breathtaking place that is like nowhere else on earth. It’s beautiful, incredible, desolate and isolated. This place is remote. Uluru’s location is so far from other civilization that the only light pollution is from the stars and moon themselves. Uluru, the vastness of the location, and the generosity and beauty of the aboriginal owners are a truly humbling experience indeed.
We’re all very glad we visited Uluru. We were only there for two days, but we felt we’d seen something important, different and truly unique. We have definitely visited the middle, of the middle of nowhere.
If you'd like to see some pictures from our visit to Australia's Red Center, click here.