A very early morning today, we were all up at 4.45am! We had booked on the 'Desert Awakenings Tour' to see the sunrise over Uluru and then take a tour of it.
The bus picked us up from our hotel and took us out to a location overlooking Uluru to view the sun rise. We drove through the darkness along a sand track and then climbed a sand dune to arrive at a purpose built area with tables and chairs, toilet and small cooking hut.
As we waited for the sun to rise, we watched the colour of the sky change to pink, orange and yellow. The colour of the sky creeping through the darkness was beautiful. Then to see the sun slowly pop up over the horizon was truly amazing.
We were also able to get our first photos of Uluru, again .... amazing.
While our small group was busy taking photos and taking in our beautiful surroundings, our guides, Eric and Ned, were busy cooking us damper and bacon & egg rolls for breakfast!
The climb was closed today, not that any of us had intended on climbing it anyway.
To be honest, even if we had wanted to climb it, after seeing how steep it was I think that would have changed our minds anyway!!
It is also now frowned upon to climb the rock, the Anangu traditional owners request that you don't climb it and respect the fact that it is such a sacred place for them. Ultimately the decision is yours, but it is made very clear that they don't want you up there.
The climb can be closed for 3 reasons - it's windy, the temperature during the day is predicted to be 36 degrees or over, one of the Aborignal elders or family members has passed away.
Although this area is a very sacred and special area to the traditional owners, apparently no-one ever lived here, Uluru was used for ceremonies, hunting, teaching and the like. Generally the Aboriginies would be camped a fair way out from the rock.
The area around Uluru was first settled about 10,000 years ago, and is sacred to the Aṉangu people of Central Australia. In Aṉangu culture, Uluru marks the site of significant events from The Dreaming, when creator beings formed the landscape.
In the 1940s settlers developed a tourism industry around what was then known as Ayers Rock. More recently, it has become a world heritage site, with ownership returned to the traditional owners, Anangu, in 1985. It is now known as Uluru.
There are plaques on the side of the rock for the first 5 people who died climbing Uluru, one of them being a 14 year old boy. These plaques were placed there during the 1960's and 70's.
This is no longer done and although the traditional Aboriginal owners would never deface the rock like this, they respected our practices and way of remembering our deceased and allowed the plaques to remain on the rock when ownership was returned to them.
There are nearly 40 recorded deaths of people who have died while climbing Uluru. A lot of these people died of heart attacks or falls. One thing we never even thought of was that many people died after being blown off the rock.
There is no solid number of people who have died, as after they leave the rock you are not a statistic, ie if you leave and head back to the hotel and have a heart attack, you are not counted. Suicides are also not counted as a statistic.
During our tour we were told dreamtime stories from our Aborignal guide. It was very personal, hearing these stories told to us, rather than just reading about it.
All parts of the rock of Uluru was believed to have been created in the Dreamtime by about 10 Dreamtime spirit people. Most of the southern face was created by the battle between the Liru (poisonous snakes) and the Kunia (carpet snakes). Minor parts of the southern face were created by 2 other totemic creatures, Linga (sand-lizard) and Metalungana (sleepy-lizard). The northwestern corner and most of the northern face were created by the activities of the Mala (hare-wallaby) people.
Parts of this section of the rock was created by a number of other Dreamtime creatures, Linga (sand-lizard), Tjinderi-tjinderiba (willy-wagtail woman) and her children, the Yulanya. Kulpunya (the spirit dingo) who destroyed most of the Mala men and their families. Lunba (kingfisher woman), who tried to protect them.
After our tour of the rock we went to Cultural Centre, which was quite interesting.
We also went for drive around Yulara. Yulara was a purpose built community to cater for the tourists coming to Uluru and the staff living and working here. There are two schools, shopping centre, numerous hotels/bars, child care centre, airport etc.
Ayers Rock resort has numerous types of accomodation from upmarket resort to hotel to self contained units to backpacker and camping.
It's hard to describe seeing Uluru for the first time, it's just truly amazing.
The natural beauty, the colours, the history, it was a priviledge to be looking at something so beautiful.
To see one of Australia's greatest landmarks up close was an amazing experience. It's nothing like you expect after seeing it in photos. The height and size of it is overwhelming and we had no idea of the numerous caves and waterholes scattered around.
We could write a million words to try and describe it, but we still wouldn't do it justice, this is one place you need to come and visit yourself!