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Visit Uluru

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by Paula McManus (subscribe)
Photography obsessed writer and urban explorer. Lover of nature, art and long weekends. Adelaide, South Australia.
Published May 30th 2015
It's more than just a big rock
Uluru. We all know what it looks like, we all know where it is. But, seeing The Rock up close just did not prepare me for it's magnificence.

Uluru sunrise
Uluru at sunrise (©paula mcmanus)

It is the subject of great stories. Stories that are legendary and are 20,000 years in the making. Dreamtime stories of the local Aboriginal people and their sacred sites. And no wonder it's a wonder - this single piece of red rock is magical. You can feel it. It has an energy all it's own.

Uluru is spectacular. From a distance, its size in the landscape is incredible. Up close it's humbling. And then, at sunset and sunrise, it just takes your breath away.

Uluru from Kata Tjuta
Uluru from Kata Tjuta (©paula mcmanus)

I travelled with a tour group and there was not a single person on the bus who wasn't in awe of being there - at Uluru. Most of those I travelled with were from overseas - their trip highlight (as mine was) was to visit Uluru.

We visited Kata Tjuta first, then headed to Uluru for a sunset viewing. I had a feeling that there would be quite a few people at the sunset viewing areas, but I was not expecting the hundreds of people who were there. I was in the bus viewing area - quite separate to the place where cars, campervans and mini buses go. I would guess that there were possibly the same number of people in the car area too, judging by the heavy volume of traffic leaving the area after sunset. It was as busy as a main highway.

Uluru Kuniya walk
Uluru Kuniya walk (©paula mcmanus)

We were witness to a clear sky sunset and the only sounds to be heard over the oohs and aaahs were the clicking of cameras and the popping of champagne corks.

The Rock changes colour as the sun dips. It goes through stages of brown to red to orange and deep purple (and a few other shades in between). It's hard to put it into words just how beautiful it is.

Uluru Kuniya walk
Uluru at sunrise (©paula mcmanus)

In the very early hours of the next morning, we were on the bus again and headed back in to Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, this time for sunrise.

We skipped going to the sunrise viewing area due to the time of year that we visited. During the winter months, the sun does not hit the rock at sunrise at all, so it can be a bit of a disappointment for some. Our tour leader took us straight to the rock and we had the area (and the brilliant sunrise views) almost completely to ourselves.

Uluru Mutitjulu waterhole
Mutitjulu waterhole (©paula mcmanus)

While most of our group did the 10.6km base walk, my friend and I strolled around the Kuniya Walk and thoroughly enjoyed the caves, rock art and the Mutitjulu waterhole.

The Kuniya Walk is signposted as a "place of great history; an important place". I recommend that you take your time when visiting, you will not regret spending an hour or more here.

Kulpi Mititjulu cave Uluru
Aboriginal rock art, Kulpi Mititjulu cave, Uluru (©paula mcmanus)

All of the paths were flat and wheelchair friendly. It was easy going and the area was well signposted with a heap of interesting information posted about each viewing spot. Wander the area and read the story of Minyma (woma python woman) and Wati Liru (poisonous snake man).

We continued around Uluru and stopped at the starting point for the Mala Walk - a free guided tour of Anangu "school". It's absolutely fascinating and a unique experience that I highly recommend. You can read about my walk here.

Uluru (©paula mcmanus)

After our Mala Walk, we visited the Cultural Centre where there is a brilliant display of Aboriginal art and visual displays. There's a cafe, amenities and is a great place to buy some authentic Aboriginal artworks.

My visit to Uluru was finished off in style. The 3 of us took a helicopter flight from Yulara to Uluru in what would have to be one of the greatest aerial experiences that you will ever have! What a way to end my visit! You can read about my flight here.

Uluru was absolutely everything that I thought it would be, with the exception that it just wasn't long enough! I would dearly love to go back.

Lasseter Highway Uluru
Lasseter Highway to Uluru (©paula mcmanus)

Getting there:
Uluru is quite a difficult place to get to for the average visitor. The travelling there involves hours on a plane and then many more on the road, but it's totally worth it.
You can fly in to Alice Springs and then drive yourself the 460 kilometres to Yulara. Or, you can book a tour company to do the driving for you - book a Red Centre highlights tour for 3 days and see all the best parts.
Major airlines now fly direct into Ayers Rock Airport and hire cars are available.
All of the roads to Uluru and the surrounding areas are sealed.

Uluru Yulara camping
Camping at Yulara (©paula mcmanus)

Staying there:
Book with a tour company and stay in one of their private camp grounds. A very low cost of around $400 will get you 3 days of Red Centre touring (visitng Uluru, Kata Tjuta and Kings Canyon), permanent tent accommodation, all meals and park entry fees.
There's also a caravan park and lots of self-contained accommodations. Something to suit all budgets.

Uluru Yulara accommodation
Yulara accommodation (©paula mcmanus)

To climb or not to climb?:
Climbing is allowed, but the Anangu people ask that you respect their wishes and their culture and walk around the rock, instead of over it. The waterholes at Uluru are no longer used for drinking due to the filth that gets washed down from the rock when it rains - disgusting and dirty items that are 'left' behind by some climbers. There are no toilets at the top of the rock, what is left behind from some peoples behinds eventually filters down into the waterholes, contaminating them.

climbing Uluru Ayers Rock
Uluru climbing path (©paula mcmanus)

Safety first:
Always carry water with you when visiting the outback. At least 1 litre of water per hour that you are there.
Wear good walking shoes.
Apply sunblock and wear a hat - a hat with a fly net over it is an added bonus. They may look strange, but your sanity will be saved.
Stay on the marked tracks.
There is no internet or phone signal inside the National Park. Download a map to your phone prior to entering the park, or carry one with you.

Uluru Ayers Rock
Uluru (©paula mcmanus)

Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park:
Entry into the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park costs $25 per person for a 3 day pass. There is no charge for children under 16 years of age. The opening hours change each month according to the sunrise and sunset times. Camping and dogs are not permitted in the park and the park closes each night shortly after sunset. Uluru is approximately 20kms from Yulara.
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Why? See it in real life
Where: Uluru, Northern Territory
Cost: $25 per person for a 3 day pass, free for children under 16
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