Uluru (Ayers Rock)

We had set our alarm clock, and started early in the morning from King’s Canyon, figuring that we might make it just before sunset to Ayers Rock. And after another day of driving through the featureless outback, we pull into the “sunset view” parking lot with an hour of daylight to go. We had talked to a lot of travelers, who were rather disappointed by Uluru, but our first impression was quite positive. If it would be part of a mountain range, it wouldn’t really be worth a stop. But what DOES make it very special, is how it seems to smoothly rise out of its completely flat surroundings. Uluru almost doesn’t look “right” when you first see it … like it’s something artificial and doesn’t belong where it is.

Coming from the Mac Donnell ranges, where we saw only a few cars every day, it’s strange to be back among tour busses and large tourist groups from all corners of the world. We set up our camp chairs, have a few snacks and (like everyone else) crack open a bottle of wine … ready for the sunset. It feels a bit like a drive-in movie theatre, with camera tripods and video cameras thrown in. Unfortunately, the next hour turns out to be a disappointment. A layer of clouds hides the setting sun and the face of “The Rock”only turns from light grey to dark grey. Hopefully we’ll have better luck tomorrow at sunrise.

We didn’t. After getting up in the dark, disassembling the beds and strapping the kids into their seats (still in their pajamas), we’re at the “sunrise parking lot” half an hour before the sun comes up. Together with hundreds of other tourists we shiver (should have brought a thermos with coffee) until we see the first rays come over the horizon. The clouds (again in front of the sun) light up in a beautiful red, but block the first sunlight … again, not the effect we were hoping for.

Unlike yesterday, today turns out to be a hot day, but we decide to walk around the rock anyway. It ends up taking us almost four hours and, looking back, we should have done it at sunrise instead of noon. The heat is one thing, much worse are the dessert flies that are EVERYWHERE. They don’t sting, but are constantly crawling everywhere on your skin, buzzing around your head and trying to crawl into your nose or ears. No repellent works and we end up buying mosquito nets that we wear around our heads … looks a bit strange but it works.

In the afternoon we go for a pleasant walk at the Olgas (a spectacular rock formation about 50 km away from Uluru), but return before the sunset.

This time we finally get what we were looking for. The rock changes colors, from light orange to deeper and deeper tones, while the sky around it turns from blue into a salmon color. Quite spectacular, but hard to truly enjoy with hundreds of flies crawling all over you.

More pictures here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/uwefassnacht/sets/72157634040371178

Tomorrow is our last day here and we have a bit of a surprise for the kids.

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