Uluru and King’s Canyon

G’day from Yulara,

Climbing Uluru might seem like some kind of Australian rite of travel. Some non-indigenous people even claim a ban on climbing would deny Australians the enjoyment of a national icon.

Lots of people have actually died climbing the rock: something like 30 since records began. Since 1964, there has been a helpful steel chain and hand rail to hang onto for the most difficult pinches. Given all this, a visit to Uluru often invokes a difficult choice for travellers wanting to say they did more than take photos.

sunrise at Uluru

The traditional owners – the Anangu people – prefer tourists don’t climb. The rock is believed to be a resting place for ancient spirits, thereby giving the rock itself religious significance. Signs ask for prospective climbers to think about their wishes.

This is our home. Please don’t climb.

On the day we were there, the rock was closed due to high winds, up until about 11 am. When the gates were opened, there were plenty who made the ascent – or at least started. A good proportion gave up as soon as the going got a bit on the tough side.

I would have thought there was an onus on tourists to at least consider the merits of the polite request. One reason the locals would prefer you not to climb is based on Tjukurpa. This refers to the period of creation, as it is believed by the Anangu people. “If the Tjukurpa is gone so is everything,” one elder says. Some non-indigenous visitors eschew the religious nature of the request. But you don’t have to be a religious person to respect the view.

permanent water at Uluru

We walked the perimeter – about 10 kilometres. It was a surprise to find permanent water in two places on opposite sides of the monolith. One of these waterholes – Mutijulu Waterhole – is quite a substantial body of water.

four cameras primed and ready for the moment

About 300 kms from Yulara is King’s Canyon. It’s in fact a safe bet that this distance serves as a deterrent for many Yulara visitors. After our visit, I’d say, don’t miss it. We hired a car and ventured along the Lasseter Highway, remembering the story of Lasseter’s fabled reef.

After walking around the rim in the very warm sun, we descended some steel rungs and were tempted to ascend on the other side. It looked the logical next step. Thank goodness one of our party suggested following a track down into the gully. At the end was this very inviting swimming hole.

King’s Canyon waterhole

King’s Canyon opens out into a sheer drop of 70 metres. It seems, almost everyone who visits feels a strong urge to lie down at the edge to peer down. But those afflicted by the slightest degree of acrophobia steer well clear of the edge. Even watching three adult sons perform the feat was sufficient to give me a case of nerves. I stayed my distance for the duration.

These are two great Australian destinations. If you go to one, make sure you find the time and the means to go to the other. Uluru is said to be the biggest tourist destination in Australia but it’s a fair chance most don’t make it to King’s Canyon. They’re missing something.

Bye for now


Other photos from hereabouts

King’s Canyon, Northern Territory
King’s Canyon
Kata Tjuta National Park

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