Published on December 21st, 201211
Uluru: Is It Worth It?
They call it a “rock”. But not just any rock…
I suppose. But after witnessing first-hand the awe and mystery of standing right there, touching it…
I must say, that honey is deserving of far more than some catchy “rock” moniker. Even the full-blown “Ayers Rock” would seem inadequate (not to mention a bit arrogantly Anglo-Saxonized). Nope, for me – the “rock” that I beheld – indeed, stood stupefied and awestruck under the blazing sun in the middle of Australia’s vast outback at the base of – can hereafter be dubbed none other than…
“Uluru” – its (far more dignified) original traditional name.
But let’s back up here a tad, shall we? Back to those bleary-eyed days in Vietnam, when I was Googling my way though the www trying to piece together an itinerary for my planned three weeks in Oz.
Yes, yes, of COURSE my first thoughts turned to visiting “The Rock” – I mean, it’s pretty much synonymous with Australia, and arguably among the premier icons of the entire WORLD, no?
So naturally I figured I’d wend my way there whilst skipping ’round Oz, until…
Until I found out how breathtakingly EXPENSIVE such a simple endeavor would be. True, that hummer of a rock is out in the middle of freekin’ NOWHERE, so of course it’s gonna take some to get there and back. Indeed, it swiftly became clear that there was no way one could cut corners by opting for a train or a bus. That would take nearly a full WEEK just for the to and fro – not to mention the round trip train fare hovered at nearly *3 GRAND* for a sleeper on the 28 hr. ONE WAY ride. And if you favored SITTING UP for 4 full days round trip, why you could squeeze by with a mere $700.
Nope. One clearly does NOT head overland to Uluru.
“So o.k. we fly” says I. Fly to Alice Springs ($500 rt., the nearest town and still 480 km from Uluru) and take one of the (relatively) cheapo quickie backpacker bus tours from there (a grueling 18 hrs. round trip (another $200). But hey – a mere $700 just so you can say you’ve “done” Uluru – hmmm.
“Ugh!” says I. “Do I really want to drop that kind of dough just to see some stupid ROCK?”
I mean, let’s be honest here. I’m actually not all that keen on gawking at sedimentary monoliths to begin with (sure, those Pyramids at Giza are truly amazing, but the rest of the gazillion temples scattered about the Egyptian desert? Uh… not so much).
Indeed, if truth be told, there was the distinct possibility that I would speed through the parched g-forsaken outback on some cramped bus, only to arrive at Ayers, hop off the bus, snap a pic, and… hop back on – popping my ear buds back in and tuning to my favorite “Jammu Africa” album.
Thus… amid my early itinerary planning for Australia, I discarded the notion of Ayers completely, and thought I’d instead spend my precious rubles on a little side trip to the island of Tasmania off the southern coast of Oz. Indeed, for awhile there Tasmania loomed mighty promising (certainly beautiful, with lots a keen landscapes and all). But the round trip airfare there was $200 and…
Suddenly – out of the middle of NOWHERE – it hit me like a ton-of-bricks:
“Good grief, Dy” says I, “How on EARTH can you fly to the tippy-tip bottom of “Down Under”, spend three full weeks skipping around Oz, and… NOT bother to take a peek at one of THE most iconic natural wonders of PLANET EARTH???”
I mean, it’s not as if I’m likely to be in that corner of the globe again anytime soon (or in this lifetime, for that matter). So if I’m ever gonna set eyes on this fabled rock, it’s gotta be right here, right now, yes?
And thus… long-story-short, I bit-bullet, regrouped, and returned to cobbling together an itinerary that included Uluru. A nice little round trip air (directly to Ayers, not Alice Springs, well duh!) plus 2 nts. lodging (2+days) to gaze at the “Rock” for… a mere $800.
And yes ladies and gentlemen, it proved to be WORTH.EVERY.BLESSED.PENNY
Honestly, it’s impossible to describe the awesomeness of this monolith. Come to think of it – let’s just say that the fabled heap of sandstone in the middle of the outback verily INVENTED awesomeness.
Then again… even as we first flew over it, coming into the airstrip, it looked, well… just kinda “meh” (and I suddenly had visions of dollars flushing swiftly down the jaws of a porcelain throne).
Ah but upon arrival, I checked into my dorm ($35 with shared bath – the cheapest digs within 250 miles) at Outback Pioneer Lodge (actually quite a nice place for the money, with swimming pool and restaurant serving such exotics as grilled kangaroo, crocodile, emu and camel) and swiftly booked a sunset trip to see for myself just what all this Uluru fuss was about.
Uluru itself was of course a bit of a distance (about a 15 min. drive through sun-parched, barren outback) away from the “village” (i.e. the handful of low-profile hotels plus a petrol station and a small shopping center). Unless you drive in overland (not recommended due to the sheer – did I not mention? – freekin’ NOWHERE of it), you must necessarily book a tour (lots of different options for sunrise vs. sunset complete with champagne, etc.) to actually get to Uluru and/or its lesser cousin “Kata Tjuta”. Or… you could go the cheaper route (note that I did NOT say “cheap” as there is clearly no such thing ANYWHERE in Oz – all being relative, some things less expensive than others, but none priced even at U.S./European standards). Ah but I digress.
Or… you could go the LESS EXPENSIVE route of buying a shuttle pass for around $150 that gives you unlimited bus rides to and fro the rock, plus an extra $40 should you care to bus there for sunrise or sunset (and I mean, who wouldn’t?) This, in ADDITION to the $25 park entry pass (good for 3 days, the best buy in Oz, and better still – a goodly portion of the proceeds go directly to the indigenous communities around Uluru). In short, money, money, money. But I was at Uluru after all, so of course I coughed up the $215 for the Full Meal Deal.
ANYWAY, (still wondering if the pebble would be worth it), with pass in hand and transport sorted out, I was off to see the fabled “rock” (bearing in mind, that we’re now up to nearly a GRAND for the 2 night excursion, but…) This was Uluru after all, so it HAD to be amazing, right?
Oh my! Was it ever.
When you got up close…
Purely MAGICAL! I dare say verily a SPIRITUAL experience.
Right up there with the Great Wall and the Pyramids at Giza.
Better even. ‘Cuz THIS wonder of the world is NATURAL – not hacked together by mere humans like that fence in China and those pointy things in Egypt.
Truly a WONDER. Not to be missed if you ever happen to be in the neighborhood.
Needless to say, I spent the next 40-odd hours (but for when the monolith was shrouded in darkness and thus I was able to snatch a bit of sleep) snapping pics of both Uluru and Kata Tjuta, stumbling around in the heat of the outback, with my jaw hanging down to my KNEES, openly gawking at the sheer MAJESTY of… yes, a (very special) ROCK.
Well o.k., I also managed to get in my (now seemingly requisite) tet-a-tet with a CAMEL, plus grabbed a couple of geocaches (natch), but trust that Uluru was in the corner of my eye pretty much every moment.
And now, I present to you, just a few of the many faces of the one, the ONLY… ULURU:
Btw, the photo above is of the “backside” of Uluru – taken as the shuttle bus circled around the entire monolith. You can also walk around the base (about 11 km, and not to be attempted during the heat of the day). I (wisely) didn’t try to walk it, mainly because the word on the street was that walking the full circumferance was A. pretty tough due to the heat, even if you started out at dawn, and B. (more importantly) apparently there are few places on the backside where you’re allowed to take photos as much of that side is revered by the Anangu (the traditional people of the area) as sacred.
Likewise, if you’re wondering… nope, I did NOT attempt to climb Uluru. The reason is simple: The Indigenous People frown upon tourists traipsing up and down the natural icon they’ve called sacred for a few hundred million years, and… that’s good enough for me.
And while we’re on the subject, I learned that the traditional people of Australia aren’t all that keen on being dubbed “Aboriginal” or “Aborigines”. It is the term the white people coined for them when they first arrived in Australia in 1788, and it is not what they call themselves. Rather, the traditional people of Australia prefer to be called “The Indigenous People”, and I mean… that’s exactly what they are, so who can argue with that?