Ayers Rock, now known as Uluru, is a huge protrusion of rock in the middle of the Australian desert. At 1,141 feet high, 2.2 miles long, 1.2 miles wide, it is 5.8 miles round its base. Although high temperatures are expected throughout the year, surprisingly, in the winter period they have been know to fall to -8°C whilst in the summer it has been recorded as 48°C.
The first European to reach Uluru, in 1873, was a surveyor, William Gosse, who named it Ayers Rock after the then Chief Secretary to South Australia, Sir Henry Ayers. Ayers Rock became a national park in 1950 but in 1985, being a sacred place to the Anangu tribes of Aborigines, became known as Uluru.
As the average high temperature in November is 35°C, we were told to take at least two litres of water each; plenty of sunscreen and a hat were essential.
During the three hour drive from Kings Canyon to Ayers Rock, the sky became increasingly cloudy until it was almost overcast. We stopped at our hotel, the Desert Sands, for a couple of hours then re-boarded the coach for the half hour drive to the Rock itself for a sunset viewing.
In the company of our driver/tour guide, we walked round the base of the rock marvelling at the Aborigine rock art, some being at least 10,000 years old, and heard the dream time stories of how the rock was formed. The markings on the face were said to be the marks of a battle involving a serpent, the scars being seen on the rock face. With imaginations in overdrive we then drove to the lookout point where we should see the rock changing colour as the sun set. There was no sun but the tour company had provided a picnic on trestle tables complete with copious quantities of good wine whilst the rock stubbornly refused to change its colour. And it started to rain!
Bright and early at 4.30am the next day, we once again boarded the coach in order to see the sun rising over the Rock, but, with heavily overcast skies and drizzling rain, we managed to see the Rock as few people saw it: with water cascading down its flanks! We were lucky, the local people said, to see the waterfalls!
Then onwards some twenty miles or so to see the sisters of Ayers Rock, the Olgas, which are huge domed rocks, 36 in total, the highest being Mount Olga at 1,791 feet above the surrounding plain. It was a fantastic sight even though, by this time, the rain had started in earnest. Rather than sun screen we needed wellington boots, umbrellas and warm coats.
Of all the places in the world where we did not expect to be walking in the rain, this was it and on arriving back at the hotel we found the pathways to our room ankle deep in water. The monitor lizards at the Kings Canyon resort obviously knew what they were doing when they had kept to their burrows.
by Terry Took © 2013
Terry Took was born in Yorkshire but has lived in Tynemouth for over 50 years. He spent 45 years in the Merchant Navy which included 27 years as North Sea Pilot. He then spent five years as a lecturer at the Marine Department of South Tyneside College.
He is now an Elder Brother in Trinity House and Marine Director.
If you have any comments or would like to contact Terry then please e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.