Category: Uluru.

Dreamtime at Uluru

By WAYNE JOHNSON

If you decide finally to visit Uluru, a.k.a Ayer’s Rock, try and sign up for a tour with the local Aborigines to get a better insight into the myths and legends of this iconic Australian attraction.

ULURU, formerly known as Ayer’s Rock, is one of world travel’s few must-see sites.

The image of this huge red rock looming out of a russet landscape with the sun’s rays bouncing off of it and turning it various shades of pink will always be one of Australia’s most iconic symbols. However, despite it being synonymous with images of the Australian outback, it still fails to figure on many tourists’ itineraries, mainly due to the colossal size of Australia.

Sitting squarely in the middle of the Outback, it is a long way removed from the glittering cities of Sydney and Melbourne and the beaches and reefs of northern Queensland. This remoteness means that most people opt to stay in the resort area which has been built around Uluru.

Famed landmark: Uluru or Ayer’s Rock is one of Australia’s most iconic symbols.

A handful of hotels in Uluru are grouped together as the Ayer’s Rock Resort, and they are serviced by an airport and pretty much nothing else. Due to the fact that there is no town to speak of, the hotels here have a captive market, and hence it is difficult to find budget accommodation. However, the resorts are well equipped and the night skies are unbeatable, especially for those of us who live in cities and rarely get to glimpse a star-studded canopy above our heads.

Another option is to stay at Alice Springs, the biggest town in the Outback, and take a bus tour to Uluru from there. This is what the majority of tour groups choose to do. However, be warned that what looks like a small distance on a map, is actually 460km on the ground.

Uluru has great spiritual meaning for the local Aboriginal (Anungu) people, and there is no better way to grasp its spiritual meaning and see how the original inhabitants of the land have lived for some 40,000 years than taking a tour organised by the local people. The Anungu conduct a renowned Uluru Tour where you get to learn about the culture, history and customs of this fascinating people.

However, if you decide to join, be prepared to wake up before sunrise. (It’s to avoid the stifling heat of later in the day.)

Geologists may tell you that the huge rock was formed millions of years ago during a cataclysmic upheaval in the world’s crust, but the Anungu have another theory. While you join them on the 2km Liru Walk to Uluru’s base, they will tell you the true story of its creation.

The Anungu say that a long time ago there were two tribes of ancestral spirits who were invited to a feast, but were distracted by the beautiful Sleepy Lizard Women and did not show up. In response, the angry hosts sang evil songs into a mud sculpture that came to life as the dingo. There followed a great battle, which ended in the deaths of the leaders of both tribes. This caused the earth itself to rise up in grief at the bloodshed, becoming Uluru.

What do you eat out in the bush? These and more, including kangaroos – if you can spear them.

This is one of many interesting legends you will learn from your guides, who will also point out other features associated with Uluru and the creation myths they call Dreamtime. You may, however, have to stretch your belief a little to imagine that some of the boulders they point out are giant emus or lizards frozen in time.

It is only when you walk in this inhospitable land that you realise how hardy and resourceful these people have had to be to live here for thousands of years. And the tour is also a good chance to see if you could survive if this was your home. A fundamental part of Aboriginal life is hunting, and one of the main sources of their meat is Kangaroo.

However, these do not resemble the cuddly images seen on television. They can be surprisingly big and aggressive and move much faster than a man. Therefore, it is no easy task to throw the 2m-long spear the Anungu use for hunting.

Remembering that I wasn’t too bad with a javelin at school, I stepped up to have a go when they asked for volunteers. However, after seeing my pathetic effort land only a few metres in front of me and with barely enough power to kill a mouse, I had a newfound respect for these people. Aside from hunting, other things you will learn on this tour include how to make “Bush Glue” from spinifex which is used in weapon-making.

And you will learn to create fire without using matches and how to make bread from seeds. All these activities take place in a small group beneath Uluru’s imposing shadow.

An aborigine playing the didgeridoo.

After the four-hour Liru walk and activities are completed, you will return to the Cultural Centre where you can learn much more about the Anungu and Uluru through videos, displays and exhibitions. The centre itself is shaped like two snakes to represent the Aborigines’ creation laws.

There is a lot to see and do at the centre and it is advisable to take your time here as there are frequent demonstrations of art and craft-making and cultural dances and performances.

There is also the Maruku Arts and Craft shop which sells gifts that are uniquely Australian. There are few better presents to bring someone back from a holiday than a boomerang or a didgeridoo.

On the tour and at the cultural centre, you will frequently hear about how sacred Uluru is to the local people. And they will frequently ask that you respect this by not climbing the rock to the summit. However, there is no law stating that you cannot do this, and at the busy time of sunset you will see a long line of people snaking up the well-worn but arduous path to the top. At the popular sunset viewing points, you will also be shocked to see the large numbers of tourists who seem to descend upon the area.

After the serenity of the earlier small group tour, we found it to be a bit of a shock to see so many people scrabbling for their photos and eager to climb Uluru. However, after being mesmerised by the tales of the creation myths and knowing why this towering block of sandstone was so much more than a rock, I was not going to be one of them.

USEFUL INFO
http://www.ananguwaai.com.au
http://www.tourismnt.com.au
http://www.ayersrockresort.com.au

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Category: Uluru