Making the trek through the Australian outback is one of the most sought-after activities when visiting Australia. Uluru is right at the top of the list of sights to see within the outback. This is why a group of international students including myself decided to plan a trip through the outback to see what the big fuss about this rock was all about.
Uluru is the world’s largest monolith and can be found 350 km south-west of a small town called Alice Springs. Uluru is 343 m high, 3.6 kms long, 2.4 kms wide and 8 km in circumference. Many people believe it to be one single stone, but it is actually one of three surviving peaks of an ancient mountain range. Uluru in Aboriginal mythology means Meeting Place, sacred home to many Dreamtime legends that are depicted in paintings and carvings around the rock.
Since Uluru embodies historical significance to the aboriginal people of area, Anangu, it is important to consider their requests. There has been a lot of controversy about climbing Uluru as the Aboriginal people feel personally responsible if someone is hurt while making the climb. As of now it has been said that 35 people have died while making the climb. When we arrived, we did our research on if it was respectful to make the climb, and if it was smart to attempt it. Lucky for us, every one of our questions were answered and we were able to make the climb.
Unluckily for everyone else who hasn’t been able to make the trip, as of January 2019, there will be an official ban on climbing it. Another request of the Aboriginal people is to refrain from taking photos of certain areas and not capturing the native Anangu in images. There are many tales of misfortune at the Visitor’s Center cautioning visitors to respect these requests. It is worth the read!
Making the climb
If you decide to make the climb before Jan 2019, make sure to wear plenty of sunscreen and a hat as the beating sun can easily cause heat stroke and the fall down Uluru would not be pretty. It is also important to hold onto the chain link rope on the way up, wear hiking shoes, bring water and stop when tired. It is better to take your time up the rock then be the next number 36 statistic.
The climb all the way to the top takes approximately 1.5 hours and is well worth it. I would say the climb down is much more frightening than the trek up because it can be hard to find traction in some places, so again take it slow. Like my friends and myself, you may have to do the crab walk on the way down when there is no longer a chain link rope. So, good luck!
Planning ahead is essential
Before we headed out on our big outback adventure, we met multiple times to discuss the trip including where to stay, where to get gas and what activities we wanted to take part in. It is essential to bring 10 L of water per person because most water in this area is bore water and cannot be drank. Additionally, if you were to have car troubles, like we did but it was at our campsite, thank God, it is recommended that you need 10 L per person to survive.
A lot of snacks and a small tank of extra gas are also critical as there are not a lot of gas stations or restaurants to stop at along the way and it is better to have more than not enough. Therefore, when you see a gas station, stop and enjoy it. There was an emu farm attached to one of the gas stations we stopped at!
You will want to map out where you will be stopping for gas beforehand and also book where you will be staying since accommodations can book up fast due to a limited number of them. If you want to enjoy some different experiences I would suggest camping at the Uluru campsite for at least one night as the stars are super bright here. You can even see the milky way, Mars and the space station! On the way home, stop in Kings Canyon to experience some more amazing views during a hiking experience and spend the night in a cave in Cooper Peddy. Trust me the caves there are not as creepy and dark as you would think. We found a very nice cave to stay in through air bnb that was absolutely magnificent on the inside.
Lastly, DO NOT forget sunscreen or bug spray because the sun is very hot in this area and the bugs can be pretty annoying in some seasons!
Top ways to experience Uluru and Kata Tjuta
Sunrise during the day, and sunset at night
We were lucky enough to experience the changing colors of Uluru during all times of the day. I highly recommend seeing Uluru at sunrise, during the day and sunset at the very least. It is absolutely breath taking and amazing to see how the natural light influences the color of the rock formation. Make sure to stay in the viewing areas and don’t jump the fences for that perfect Instagram picture, as we found out personally, fines can be up to $250 per person. Although we were very lucky that after we apologized and said we were just a group of international students that didn’t realize that it wasn’t allowed, we got off with just a warning.
Helicopter rides are also very popular at Uluru to see the giant rock and Kata Tjuta from above. Two of my friends went on it and highly recommend it!
Camel rides are another popular way to see the sights of Uluru. We did not do this because one of our friends had previously done it in Morocco and said it is cool at first until your ass starts to hurt and then you want to know when you can get off. We also just didn’t have a lot of spare time.
Visit the Viewing deck at Kata Tjuta
This is another great view of Uluru and is a great place to watch the sunrise and sunset also.
We also drove over Kata Tjuta, which is a group of large ancient rock formations about 30 km away from Uluru in Australia’s Red Center. Kata Tjuta is a Pitjantjatjara Aboriginal word meaning many heads and is made up of 36 domes spread over an area of more than 20 km. Here you can view it from the viewing area or get up close and personal and hike up it on a trail.
Again, our group went off the path to get what we thought were better pictures, but I would recommend staying on the path because it much easier and faster. If you choose to go off the path make sure to always look at your feet while walking and make loud stomps on the ground to scare off snakes and other critters.
Hike around the base of Kata Tjuta and Uluru
Hiking around the base of these formations is a whole other breath-taking view that I would recommend if you have enough time as it would take hours to hike the whole thing. Even if you hike just a portion of it, it would be worthwhile.
If you plan to trek through the outback I highly recommend making a road trip out of it and go with a group of friends. You will see much more of the country this way and it is much cheaper than flying straight into Alice Springs. Be sure to remember to plan ahead, stick to the path and watch for roaming animals on both the road and off of the trails if you choose to go off the beaten path. Always remember that just because you are in the outback, it doesn’t mean you can go however fast you want because there are animals like kangaroos that will do much more damage to your car and you than you will to them. You might even spot camels crossing the road like we did! There are also police that will not hesitate to pull you over (again speaking from experience) and give you a $900 fine. If you are international students like us, remember to have your international license with you because that could cause yet another problem
You could say we learned a lot of lessons on this trip, it was one of my favorite experiences in Australia so far, and it was spent with a great group of friends. Shout out to Clara, Selke, Ivy, Kevin, Lauren and Tristan for making it one unforgettable experience.
Take in the natural beauty of the area and enjoy every second of it!