Saturday, April 29, 2006

Ayer's Rock

The first thing you notice, sort of, at the foot of Uluru is the sheer size. You get the idea that it's big, but even standing at the base, you don't know how big it really is. The walk around the base is about 9km long and takes about two hours.
The walls of the rock are very steep. You can see how steep they are in the photo. It is pretty much that steep all the way around. There is one section that you can climb all the way to the top, but the aboriginal community discourages it.
It costs $25 per person aged 16 or older to get into the park and the passes are good for three days. As a cheap skate, it cut me to the heart to have to pay $50 to get into a park that in Canada would cost $12 for the whole car load of people. It's like they are making fun of the people who come to visit. There is no alternative than to pay however.
Up close your impressions of the rock are changed. The photos make it look a lot smoother than it really is. The rock face is very rough, it is pitted and there are lots of groves worn out by the rains that come every couple of years.
We went to the sunset viewing area at around 6:00 and there were alreay heaps of cars waiting for the sunset. One American asked me if I knew what time the sunset was. I told him 6:30, but I wished I had told him that it's right now. It will be too dark for photos by 6:30 because the sun will be down. It will be pitch black by 7:00pm.
When the Earth's shadow reached the bottom of the rock, I told Tracie that I was ready to go. She said, "The sun hasn't set yet." I told her that the shadow had reached the bottom of the rock and that any photo taken in the next few minutes would have a shadow across the bottom. She realized that I was right and we left. I'm pretty sure we were the first people to leave. There must be millions of photos taken of that rock every year.
The thought occured to me as we were leaving that this may very well be the only place in the entire world where millions of people gather to take photos at sunset and then face away from the sunset.
We left the park and found a place to pull off the road and camp. I had a nightmare at about 2am and just wanted to pack up the tent and find a new place to camp, but I decided against it being a premonition of being hacked to death and just went back to sleep.
Tracie's uncle said that going to Australia and not seeing Ayer's Rock would be like going to New York and not seeing the Statue of Liberty. It seems to me that he's only half right. Ayer's Rock is definately the symbol of Australia. You'd be hard pressed to find a travel brochure with out a picture of it on the cover. The thing is that it is in the dead center of nowhere. A more likely comparison would be going to Los Angeles and not going to see the Statue of Liberty.
That being said, we both really enjoyed the trip to the red center of Australia and really recomend traveling to Alice Springs and Ayer's Rock.

-Gary Milner

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