AYERS ROCK – ULURU 1970’s

This very scratchy old slide is how I first saw Australia’s Ayers Rock, now known as Uluru. The massive sandstone formation, in Australia’s Northern Territory, is one of Australia’s most famous landmarks. It is also one of the country’s most remote landmarks – with the nearest town ALICE SPRINGS about 468 kilometres away.

I visited in the very early 1970’s, when there was very little development around it. There weren’t many visitors there, and very few facilities. Certainly none of the fancy hotels, tourist villages and restaurants that you find today.

You definitely knew you were in the remote Australian outback!

I stayed in a campground in the shadow of the rock at a time when the whole area was infested with a plague of field mice! I had no inkling that Ulura had been overwhelmed by a mice plaque until I arrived – a captive audience with the nearest settlement hundreds of kilometres away!

These tiny field mice got into our tents and sleeping bags and even climbed up our tent poles. When you looked outside your tent at night, all your could see was a heaving mat of mice across the ground! I felt I was trapped in a horror movie!

I actually moved from my tent to a tent occupied by two old New Zealand ladies. They were in their 50’s or 60’s, and no nonsense women. They stayed up most of the two nights we were there, ready to heave incoming mice out of the tent!

As a diligent young Journalist, I phoned the story about the plague into my newsroom, and it made National News with the ABC! Probably my first story on the National bulletins.

Back then, here was no suggestion then that climbing the rock might be offensive to local aborigines for whom the rock had great spiritual significance. So I climbed it – a very tough haul to the top, even though as a keen bushwalker I was very fit.

I returned to the Rock in 2019, by which time it had gained a name change – Uluru – and the area around it had been named a World Heritage Site for its natural and cultural values.

Checking out the Rock at dawn in 2019

Thousands of people were visiting the Rock as climbing it was about to be banned. I didn’t mind. There was no way I was going to clamber up there again! About 37 people have died climbing the rock since the 1950’s. It’s steep and slippery, and many people underestimate the toll it can take on their bodies.

But frankly, you don’t need to climb the rock. These days there’s a network of good roads around the rock, and access to great walks and viewing areas. There’s plenty to experience without climbing the rock.

Accommodation is now set about a 25 minute drive from the Rock in the Ayers Rock Resort, a huge village like complex which offers a variety of accommodation from campgrounds to high end hotels.

There’s also a load of activities on offer from cycling, camel rides, segways, base walks with guides, and scenic flights.

It’s all a far cry from my first visit when there were very few people at the Rock, and the main activities were to photograph it and climb it.

Early morning sunrise and evening sunset views of the rock are still very popular, with hundreds of visitors setting out from their accommodation well before the sun rises and sets to ensure they get a good viewing position. Think the annual Christmas parade in your town – it’s a bit like that! Very busy! Very crowded.

Climbing Uluru is now prohibited

To access Uluru in 2019, I travelled the remote Great Central Road where I encountered wild camels, cows, horses and the ferocious dingos! You can find my blog about that trip in my March 17 post – Oz’s Rugged Great Central Road.

I’ll write a blog about the 2019 visit to Uluru in the coming weeks (thought I’d already done it LOL)!

My camera focuses on part of Uluru, as the early morning sun hits it.

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