I’ll be honest, I wasn’t sure what to expect and was still trying to figure out why I had paid a fair bit of good money to fly to the middle of Australia to see a few “big rocks”.
Then I looked out of my airplane window.
It was unlike anything I had ever seen. All doubts evaporated from my mind, and I even started having faint regrets of not staying for more than a day to fully explore the area (those salt lakes were begging to be explored!).
Logistics are actually pretty simple to navigate through if you are staying within the Ayers Rock Resort area. The area is managed by a private company, which means seamless links between the airport, hostels, hotels, town square (centre) and tours. I had a few hours to spare upon my arrival at the hostel and before my afternoon tour of Kata Tjuta, Ayers Rock and my barbecue dinner. Lucky for me, I was right on time for a few free activities happening in the town square.
Spear & Boomerang Throwing
How can anyone read that and not want to participate! This was obviously the first activity on my agenda. Surprisingly, I was the only one there (go figure!). Ah well, more private throwing lessons for me!
My Indigenous guide, Justin, first ran me through the basics of spear throwing. My first attempt was pure shambles, but after switching to something akin to a javelin throw, I got some pretty decent ranges.
Next up was a quick lesson on how to throw a returning boomerang. In a sentence, it’s all about the flick of the wrist with release happening at the 2 o’clock position. And yes, if you’ve ever wondered whether they return, they do – just not directly into your hand (the conditions would have to be near perfect for that!). After practicing for a while, I got the hang of it and the guides were sufficiently impressed with my boomerang throwing skills to impart one of them as a gift to me. It was either that or because I was the only one there. I choose to think it’s the former reason. 😉
This was really good fun as we all sat round in a circle of rocks and were told “yarns” by an Indigenous storyteller. Most of what Leroy talked about was on the weapons and tools used by the Indigenous folks, as well as the techniques of how they were used. As someone who doesn’t have a lot of prior knowledge about this culture, it was really interesting to touch and see the various weapons and understand why things were built in a certain way or done via a particular method. I definitely learnt a lot from this 20 minute session.
If you’re wondering what the difference between a returning and non-returning boomerang is, a returning boomerang tends to be used to disturb flocks of waterfowl (i.e. to get them to fly in a particular direction, where other Aboriginals might be waiting to hunt them down). A non-returning boomerang however, is used as a weapon to cripple and break the bones of a prey. They are therefore made out of harder, heavier wood.
Didgeridoos are culturally only played by males. I was therefore not able to trying playing it for myself, but it was fun to learn about how the sound is created and watch others try.
Walpa Gorge Walk
Free activities over, it was time for my tour to begin. Our first activity was a one hour walk through the Walpa Gorge. This rocky trail led us through a lush part of the desert, between two huge rock formations that form part of Kata Tjuta. It was a very hot day, with the clouds overhead giving us all too brief respite from the strong sun. At 40°C, one has to be very careful of dehydration and sun stroke. Despite the temperature, I found the walk very enjoyable against the majestic backdrop.
Kata Tjuta Viewing Platform
Having walked through it, it was then time to fully appreciate Kata Tjuta in its entirety from afar. Not all 36 domes can be seen from one angle, but this view was still pretty spectacular. The clouds overhead casted some shadows on the rocks which added another dimension to the photo.
Uluru / Ayers Rock
As the sun started falling lower in the sky, we made our way to the star attraction to ensure we were ready for the sunset view. Arriving in good time, we were treated to sparking wine, juice and nibbles whilst we set ourselves up in front of Uluru to catch the changing rock colours as the sun set.
Already looking massive in height (348 metres at its tallest point), it further amazed me to find out that what we see at the surface is just the tip of the iceberg (or monolith as it were) – Uluru actually continues below ground for possibly 5 to 6KM. That’s hard to even imagine!
Barbecue Dinner Under The Stars
Once night time was upon us, we made our way further into the desert for a private barbecue dinner under the stars. With views overlooking Uluru and grilled steak, sausages and even a bit of kangaroo (quite lean and tastes very gamey if you ask me) on the menu, there wasn’t a lot to complain about.
Our guide Ryan was very knowledgeable about our surroundings and proceeded to give us a quick run-through of the stars and constellations in the night sky of the Southern Hemisphere after dinner. There were a few clouds in the way, but seeing stars at all is quite a novelty for me, living in central London!
Whilst there are clearly a number of other things to do and see in the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, I was happy with what I managed to pack in and experience in 24 hours, as it was a good mix of culture, walks, photography, food and enjoying one’s surroundings in this quite spiritual and other-worldly place.
If you are thinking of visiting Ayers Rock but have doubts, don’t! This was definitely a highlight of Australia for me.
Have you ever visited Uluru or Kata Tjuta? What did you think?