A ride around the rock
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.