To visit Uluru, known also as Ayer’s Rock, is to be part of something great, something mystical, something jam-packed with beauty and a living history.
As all the guidebooks say, there is nothing that could have prepared us for the first sight of Uluru on the horizon. It would be an astounding sight anywhere, but to us, after two days of driving along straight, flat roads into nothingness, Uluru really jumped into view, a mirage of orangey red in the distance. The Aboriginal history and story of this place made my time there feel heavy and fraught with significance…this isn’t just a rock in a desert; it holds an ancient story of a people and a place.
Uluru, though just a large rock to some, seemed alive to me and therefore demanded a certain respect. We never even considering climbing the monolith because the Aboriginal traditional owners, the Anangu, had posted numerous signs and requested that we show respect by not climbing. Kris and I felt an incredible frustration with those who still decided to climb this sacred rock - we wanted to interview the people descending, simply to ask, “What made you feel that your desire to climb atop this rock outweighed the desires of the indigenous people to retain it’s sacredness by not climbing?” We wanted to ask, but we didn’t. We just tried to respect the stated wishes of the Anangu by instead “listening to everything.”
We didn’t anticipate being so moved by simply listening, but we experienced something quite beautiful while visiting the prized Mutitjulu waterhole on the base walk. We were hot - it had been a long day already, as we had driven the 20km to watch the sun rise spectacularly over the flat horizon before hiking through Kata Tjuta on the Valley of the Winds walk, had eaten our lunch outside in the heat in order to better view the monolith before approaching, and were now walking around her in the heat of the day.
I’ll admit we were growing vaguely disinterested when we arrived at the waterhole that historically attracted a variety of animals and their Aboriginal hunters to its waters. A slow, steady trickle poured down the orange sides of Uluru into a small, clear basin, surrounded on two sides by rock face and lush vegetation on the other two. On approaching the waterhole, we found a group of young hippies of unknown origin, sitting in complete and utter silence, just watching the waterhole and listening. We joined them and slowed down more than we had for quite some time. I have no concept of how much time must have passed as we sat there, but I know that I didn’t regret a moment of it.
The sign apparently encouraged us to do so - to sit quietly, to hear the sounds of the birds, the water, the significance of this special place. The silence filled us…with new energy, new reverance, a renewed hope for mankind. Afterall, if we can sit together in silence, respecting what is beautiful and sacred and life-giving, what can’t we accomplish?
When we resumed our walk, we did so with renewed energy and perspective.
Uluru was a magical place indeed… a truly beautiful detour into the heart and history of Australia. In my journal I collaged together some souvenirs to remember our time spent there.