Central Australia: Uluru (Ayres Rock)

Central Australia: Uluru (Ayres Rock)

On the third day of our central Australia trip, having already visited Watarrka and Kata Tjuta, it was time for the big ticket attraction; Uluru. Listed as a UNESCO world heritage site and visited by hundreds of thousands of people each year,the site is sacred to the Anangu people of the area.

Uluru morning

At a hight of 348 meters and a circumference of almost 10 kilometres, the rock dominates the landscape of the red centre. Famed for its changing colours and glowing hues, Uluru is more than breathtaking.

We watched the sunrise over Uluru on a crisp outback morning and marvelled as the colours shifted with the passing of time.

Many people come to Uluru to participate in the arduous climb to the summit. From the 1950’s to the 1980’s schools, adventure groups and tourists would come to the area on camping trips and challenge themselves to undertake the climb. Many Australians see climbing Uluru as the ultimate challenge in their homeland. They enjoy the thrill of conquering a natural wonder that their parents or grandparents may have climbed in their youth. The climb is steep and as the temperatures soar, many people suffer from exhaustion, dehydration and heart attacks. More than 35 people have died trying to climb Uluru.

The Anangu people are the traditional owners and custodians of Uluru. For them the area holds great cultural and spiritual significance. They do not climb the rock. Every time someone is injured or dies during the climb the Anangu feel responsible for this. It causes them great sadness. They recognise that people may wish to climb Uluru but they respectfully ask that they do not:

ll of this information is freely available to tourists. There is a visitors centre showing a documentary with a strong message about choosing not to climb Uluru. A message is printed on the reverse of all national park tickets. There is even a huge sign at the gate at the start of the climb. Yet people still choose to climb. We were amazed to see a group of tourists listening intently to an Anangu elder as he explained to them how his people would prefer if they chose not to climb. As soon as he finished and thanked them for listening most of the group sidestepped him and began their ascent.

A lot of people have a lot of views about the Uluru climb. Our view is that we are guests in the home of the Anangu people. We will behave in the way our hosts think is right, if we can’t manage that we should leave. As global travellers, we adapt our behaviour to be culturally appropriate in the places we visit. We cover our shoulders and knees in temples. We wear hijabs to enter the grounds of mosques. We show respect in churches and synagogues. We don’t just do this because it is culturally appropriate or respectful. We do it to gain an understanding of other peoples lives, beliefs and perspectives. Uluru is a sacred site, it should be afforded the same level of respect as any church, mosque temple or synagogue. This is why we chose not to climb Uluru.

The Uluru base walk is a 10 kilometre walk in the shadow of the sacred rock, following paths that have been trodden by generations of Anangu on their journey through the lands. Ancient rock art sites tell the stories of creation and life in a time that can not be forgotten. Caves and waterholes open up to reveal areas where Anangu gathered to eat, hunt, live and dream.

Close up Uluru is different. No longer is it the mystical smooth rock sat idle in a featureless landscape. The caves and recesses reveal pockets of humanity that demand to be noticed. The rock is surprisingly cool to touch, with a texture of life running through it. There is an acute sense of connection to the land, the people and the voices that have been here before. Spirituality reaches out, grabs you by the soul and begs you to hear the message of the people who walked this land before you.

Our tour was Rock 2 Water with Groovy Grape, booked and arranged by Backpackers World Travel

47 Responses

  1. […] we hadn’t heard of most of the places he mentioned and were only really interested in seeing the big rock. However Sam’s enthusiasm for the places and the culture he was going to share with us really […]

  2. Ha! This brings memories of 32 hour bus ride to get to the giant rock in the middle of Australia! I thought I’d enjoy the scenic drive – little did I know that the landscape doesn’t really change much. It was a magical experience! I hope it was the same for you!

  3. Hi! I absolutely love reading your blog posts and think that your journey is so interesting and inspirational. I think that too many people get stuck living mundane lives within their comfort zones because they are too scared to break the norms and do something different. So maaaassive respect to you guys for what you’ve done and I look forward to reading more about your adventures! I have also recently started a blog about hiking in Australia and some parts of the world and thought that you guys might be interested in checking out some of my fave spots. Its available here: https://4loveofhiking.wordpress.com/

    PS: Your post about Uluru made me mega jealous cos I’ve wanted to go there for ages and I think I might just have to now 🙂 Awesome job guys!!!

    • Thank you for your kind words. We checked out your blog this morning when we noticed we were getting some hits from your site. Thank you for the re-post.
      Uluru was a real highlight for us when travelling in Australia, we highly recommend the trip. It’s definitely worth the effort of getting all the way out there.
      We have posted about Tasmania this morning, where we investigated some of the national parks. We did quite a bit of hiking during our travels, some other highlights were the Cardamom mountains in Cambodia and the Grampians.
      Will give your blog a proper read this afternoon 🙂

  4. Now I am totally jealous. This is one of the places I most want to visit in the world. When we visited Australia in 2004, we just went to the Gold Coast for a month. It was a little too far to travel to Uluru (my husband is partially disabled) so we flew out to the Barrier Reef instead. That was great, but I came home knowing I’d always regret not having seen Uluru. Your wonderful post has taken me on a virtual tour which I thoroughly enjoyed. I definitely agree with you about adapting and behaving appropriately towards local customs and traditions. It is so disrespectful to do otherwise. Fantastic photos girls. 🙂

  5. […] hiked through the Valley of the Winds at Kata Tjuta; We experienced a sunrise and sunset at Uluru and felt a deep connection to the Ananagu people; We Slept underground in the post apocalyptic […]

  6. So upset I didn’t get to go here before leaving oz, it looks incredible! 🙂


  7. Reblogged this on For the Love of Hiking and commented:
    Would love to do this hike!! Looks amazing 🙂

  8. Hi Emily and Sian,

    I cannot believe we were at Uluru the same time you were and missed you at Coober Pedy by ‘that much’. What a wonderful small world we live in, and I love your photos. Looking forward to keeping abreast of your journey.


    • Did you enjoy Coober Pedy? We stayed in a bunkhouse with our tour group but a couple in our group upgraded to one of the hotels and stayed in the most amazing cave room!

      • Yes we did. We stayed at the Big4 Stuart Range Caravan Park on our way to Yulara, and again on our way back to South Australia. Coober Pedy is a very interesting place.

  9. Such amazing photos – stunning! I have read about the Uluru before , but was not aware of the Anangu beliefs. If an Anangu elder ask you to respect their beliefs and wishes – as a visitor in my opinion you should respect it.

  10. It looks amazing! What beautiful colours!

  11. Great shots ladies! 🙂

  12. […] with the rest of our trip and start heading south. Coober Pedy is a massive 750 kilometres from Uluru, which meant an entire day on the bus with our tour group. Expecting to spend the day sleeping we […]

  13. It’s really heart warming to read about your respect for the traditional custodians of the Land. I went to Uluru a couple of years back as part of school excursion for Aboriginal Studies, listening to the Elders discuss how people walk over such a place of spiritual significance was heart wrenching. One particular point is that a lot of tourists actually do their business on top of the rock (there isn’t an actual toilet up there) which is absolutely disgusting and such a discretion. There was actually a series of public outcry after one visitor did a strip tease on top of the rock a couple of years back.

    Just out of interest did you get a chance to visit Maggie Springs (I think that’s the name?). It’s small area in the rock, and there’s a water area, on the rock there’s a natural indent that looks like a heart. The guide told our group that the Englishman who ‘named’ the area (William Christie-Gosse ) named it after a girl he loved back in England, but by the time he got back home she had married someone else.

    • We walked the full perimeter of the rock so I assume we passed Maggie Springs, but I haven’t heard the story before.
      I am often astounded by the things tourists do when away from home, like the British couple who had sex on a beach in Dubai then were surprised to get arrested for it. It’s so important to educated yourself about the laws and customs when travelling, for your own safety as much as showing respect for the local cultures.
      We hope you continue to enjoy reading our blog.
      Sian & Emily

  14. Every post has more awesome photos than the post before. Just fantastic. Your decision to not walk on the rock is admirable, as is the way you explained why. Loving your posts, keep em coming….

  15. I think tourists have the best time when they respect the inhabitants: people and animals. My favorite picture shows the shadow of you two together. Happy trails.

  16. What a spectacular trip! I’ve not yet been but was considering going. Thanks so much for sharing!

    • It is so worth it, there is a lot more to Australia than beautiful beaches. The trip across to the west coast from Darwin is pretty interesting too. Happy travels!

  17. These photos are beautiful. And so happy to see you included some rock art!
    Excellent post! Thank you for sharing this adventure.

  18. Great work here guy’s. …keep it up

  19. What a fabulous post…absolutely loved your photos especially the one of you both as shadows with Uluru and the larger photo of Uluru up close…spectacular!! I agree with your views completely in relation to not climbing. Looking forward to your next post Ladies.

  20. Beautiful post, both the writing and the photographs. Loved your respectful approach here, couldn’t agree more.

  21. When we went to Australia a few years back, we broke down at Curtin Springs (on the Lasseter highway) and spent a full day looking at Mount Conner – we didn’t get a chance to check it out up close, but if you do, I’d take it! Also they sold “F*ckng good port” at the roadhouse and I can confirm it definitely was, so get a bottle of that’s up your street! There are worse places to break down for sure.

    • We did pretty well in SA at a vineyard – they had an open bottle of port they gave us for free as it was the end of the day, good times! Sadly we won’t have the chance to check out Mount Conner as we are in France now, catching up on our blogging. Send us a link if you have photos online.
      Sian & Emily

  22. Beautifully written, beautifully photographed, and your respect for the custodians that care for this sacred place is admirable.

    • Thank you for your kind words. Uluru was one of our favourite experiences in Australia and I think it shows through our blog post! We hope you continue to enjoy our posts.
      Sian & Emily

  23. Beautiful photos. Also was in awe of Uluru and The Olgas. Agree with you–do not climb. We are visitors and have been asked not to climb. Your blog is awesome!

  24. Beautiful (as always), and insightful (again, as always). Thank you!

  25. Amazing article and great photos. Also, thank you for talking about being respectful and understanding of other cultures and beliefs. If only everyone had that same conviction, the world would be a better place.


  26. This is fantastic 🙂 I’ve just booked a trip to camp near Uluru, and in reading online reviews of the experience, I was saddened to see so many people with little or no respect for the traditional custodians of the land. Ignorant tourists just want to come and conquer the rock, and complain if they cannot.
    I love how much you respect the Anangu people and their sacred site!

  27. It’s wonderful to read your strong statement about respect. I share your belief that wherever you are you should respect your hosts. I share your view that this is a two sided coin – the one side to not alarm, not distress the natives of a place, the other that it helps enhance one’s own experience. I find myself sad and angry that even with all that pleading, all that explanation, people are still so crass and selfish as to climb this sacred mountain. I’m not sure I would have been able to contain myself!!

  28. Er, we had to put the leci blanket on last night. I know, it’s not as exciting and explains why I haven’t started a blog about it 🙂 In the meantime me and my wife are going to huddle around the laptop and warm ourselves by looking at the latest picture additions to your adventure. Go on the wives!

    • Oh the latest post is our favourite – uluru was such a highlight of our trip. We hope you enjoy!

      • Enjoy? I’m loving your blog and recommended it to a friend of mine who is thinking of moving out there. You both seem like really great people. I’m so glad you found each other and made this very gutsy choice to ditch the humdrum and get on with living instead 🙂

        • Thank you so much for the recommendation! We love Australia and really considered trying to move there but it feels so far away sometimes. Plus there is lots of the world still to explore 🙂

          • Australia must seem a lot closer now that you’re there though 🙂 you’ll only get one chance to do this and if you find that one person that makes your world keep turning then why not go and explore it together 🙂

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