A ride around the rock

The Northern Star - Northern New South Wales Rural Weekly - - TRAVEL - AN­DREA DAVY An­drea.davy@ru­ral­weekly.com.au

IT WAS close to 40 de­grees and the flies were com­ing in thick, but I don’t re­gret rid­ing a “townie” push­bike around Uluru in the mid­dle of the day.

The ex­pe­ri­ence was un­for­get­table and, I think, one of the best ways to see the iconic and spec­tac­u­lar rock up close.

My trip to the North­ern Ter­ri­tory started with a Face­book mes­sage from an over­seas fam­ily mem­ber who found cheap flights di­rect to the red cen­tre.

“Two hun­dred bucks re­turn! Where do I sign up?”

From Bris­bane Air­port the flight was just over three hours and I was lucky to catch a glimpse of Uluru just be­fore we landed.

That was pretty cool.

I would liken the ex­pe­ri­ence of driv­ing up to the rock like see­ing the Eif­fel Tower in Paris.

(I can re­mem­ber sit­ting with my tour group as a travel-weary 19-year-old thor­oughly think­ing I would be un­der­whelmed with the French tower, but when I saw it in per­son my heart skipped a beat and I was first off the bus to snap pic­tures and take a stack of self­ies among the troves of peo­ple.

The rock was sim­i­lar. Im­ages don’t do it jus­tice, and it’s def­i­nitely worth see­ing up close.

If you have ever wanted to go there, I say book your trip as you won’t be dis­ap­pointed.)

Climb­ing on the rock will be banned next year.

The fact that it would soon be closed prob­a­bly made me more in­clined to try and walk up it – as it would be our last chance.

How­ever, tourists are bom­barded with in­for­ma­tion list­ing why not to climb it, pre­dom­i­nantly as a mark of re­spect to tra­di­tional own­ers.

There is even a book at the Cul­tural Cen­tre for peo­ple who did not climb to sign their name. Although it crossed my mind, as I have fam­ily mem­bers who walked up the rock well be­fore there was con­tro­versy in do­ing so, we all opted not to.

Be­sides, due to the high heat, the sign at the base of the rock told us not to walk it any­way.

And I never, ever, want to be that per­son who dis­re­gards a safety warn­ing then re­quires as­sis­tance.

We stayed at the Emu Walks Apart­ments, which was part of the Ay­ers Rock Re­sort con­glom­er­ate.

I re­ally liked the set-up of the re­sort. There were mul­ti­ple ac­com­mo­da­tion op­tions and guests were al­lowed to roam be­tween them, eat­ing at dif­fer­ent restau­rants and, in my words, “get­ting to swim in the rich peo­ple’s pool”.

We rode around the rock with a group called Out­back Cy­cling at 1pm. In hind­sight this ac­tiv­ity would have been best done in the cool of the morn­ing.

But, we had booked late for the trip and spa­ces were tight so we were just stoked to have se­cured a spot.

My cy­cling team in­cluded three ex-pats, all orig­i­nally from the high­lands of Scot­land. Af­ter the nov­elty of the heat had worn off, I started to re­ally worry heat stroke could be a re­al­ity.

Be­ing the “re­spon­si­ble Aussie” of the group, I threw my weight around and de­manded ev­ery­one add an­other layer of sun cream and drink more wa­ter.

It was a slow ride, and ended up be­ing more of a steady frog hop be­tween patches of shade to have a quick rest.

It was tough go­ing but the cold ice creams (I had two!) at the Cul­tural Cen­tre cooled us down within min­utes and our mid­day cy­cle started to seem like a much bet­ter idea.

The in­for­ma­tion about the in­dige­nous cul­ture around the rock was spot on. I re­ally thought the gal­leries and mu­seum were well pre­sented.

I am prob­a­bly show­ing my bias as a ru­ral jour­nal­ist here, but what I felt was lack­ing was the his­tory of early set­tlers and evo­lu­tion of Cen­tral Aus­tralia’s pas­toral in­dus­try.

Es­pe­cially dur­ing my steady slog in sand on a push­bike around the rock, I won­dered how cat­tle in­dus­try pi­o­neers man­aged to lay the foun­da­tions for sus­tain­able busi­nesses in this iso­lated part of the world.

With my role I have spo­ken to a few fam­i­lies that are third or fourth gen­er­a­tion in that area – it’s not un­til I was among the spinifex flats I grew a wealth more re­spect for the stock­men and women of the early days.

I am told, all of this in­for­ma­tion on the cat­tle in­dus­try is at Alice Spings… so, maybe that can be my ex­cuse to head back to the North­ern Ter­ri­tory again.


TOP SPOT: Uluru in the North­ern Ter­ri­tory is a sight worth see­ing in per­son.RIGHT: An early start to see the sun­rise means you can watch the rock change colours with the light.

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