In the Red Centre of Australia 2 – Uluru (Ayers Rock) and Kata Tjuta (The Olgas)

A few interesting  tidbits:

Uluru (Ayers Rock) is about 470 km, 5 hours drive from Alice Springs. Many people think the two are much closer.

The name Ayers Rock comes from the surveyor William Gosse who sighted the landmark on 19 July 1873, and named it in honour of the then Chief Secretary of South Australia, Sir Henry Ayers.

It is 348 m high, but most of its bulk, approximately 2.5 km, is underground. It’s sandstone and the red colour is caused by the oxidation of its iron content. Basically this massive rock is rusty.

It takes 3.5 hours to complete the 10 km walk around it.

Climbing the rock is permitted, although not recommended by the Anangu, the descendants of the Aboriginal people who have lived there for over 10,000 years. The reason for this is a combination of their concern for safety (so far over 40 people died while climbing); spiritual aspects  (for them Uluru is a sacred place) and then there is “something else”, that they are not willing to discuss. They also don’t see the point. In their culture all the knowledge, the “Tjukurpa“, can be found in everything that is on the ground, trees, the dirt and the rocks. There is no “Tjukurpa”(knowledge) on the top of the rock, so why go up there?

To me personally it felt like the right thing  not to climb out of respect for the local tradition and beliefs. But I am also sure, that for a lot of people conquering the 1.6 km steep angle climb provides a great sense of achievement and I can only image how breathtaking the view would be from up there.

For me walking around the base looking up at the gigantic rock and learning about the stories the Aboriginals used to teach their young were magical. I was also mesmerised by the striking colours. I don’t think I had ever seen such vivid blue skies in my life. I loved the combination of the blue sky, rusty red rock and dust, green trees and yellow grass. I felt inspired to start painting again. (I haven’t painted anything since I moved to Australia four years ago, and I really miss it, so it’s about time I got back into it).

There was something really calming about being in the presence of this ancient rock formation and the nature surrounding it. I felt far removed from everyday worries and problems.

Kata Tjuta, or colloquially The Olgas is made up of 36 domes and the highest point, Mount Olga is 1,066 m tall, higher than Uluru. It was named in 1872 by Ernest Giles, in honour of Queen Olga of Württemberg (born Grand Duchess Olga of Russia, daughter of Tsar Nicholas I).

The Olgas is “men’s business” as we found out from our guide. It means that according to Aboriginal tradition and beliefs, women are not allowed to go there or even look at it. So if Aboriginal women travel by it, they would cover their eyes.

It is just as stunning as Uluru but internationally not as well known. It is definitely worth visiting both sites, since they are only 25 km from each other.

On the way back to Alice Springs looking at the starry skies, I felt so insignificant, just like a tiny grain of sand in the desert. And it wasn’t a bad feeling at all. Occasionally it is good to put things into perspective. We think we are so important in this world, but we aren’t really. Or at least not in the way we think we are. Once you remove yourself from the madness of civilisation for a while and your mind gets reset, you reevaluate things. You are away from being constantly bombarded by advertisement and information and your mind gets a chance to relax.

It is a wonderful experience like our trip to this magical landscape was.



2 thoughts on “In the Red Centre of Australia 2 – Uluru (Ayers Rock) and Kata Tjuta (The Olgas)”

    1. Thanks Jude. The header photo is taken from the spot where most people first see Uluru. I’d say it’s the most “commercial” side of it. I was thinking of using another one that was taken from another side of the rock originally. As you said, it’s magical.


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