Go Around, Not Up, Uluru


Australia – Uluru… Continued…


When I was first planning our trip to The Rock, there were three things I knew I wanted to do:

  1. Sunset Viewing
  2. Sunrise Viewing
  3. Walking the approximately 10k perimeter of the base of Uluru

But then I found the perfect tour for us that included more than that and also more bang for our buck.


This tour included an “interpretive walk around the base of Uluru with an indigenous guide.” This wasn’t a walk around the entire perimeter, but it sounded like it would be far more meaningful.

It started with breakfast and visit to the Cultural Centre. Entry is free and definitely worth your time. The Centre itself has won numerous awards for architecture. Photography of the Centre is strictly prohibited, but you will still find some photos online because people, you know, are defiant.

The Centre is wonderfully set up to guide you through what Aboriginal life was like in this area. There are displays introducing plants and wildlife, as well as describing how Uluru was formed. {Like, did you know that the bulk of this sandstone “monolith” lies underground?!}

After our time wandering on our own, we gathered around a fire for a demonstration of Aboriginal tools.


There were two guides, one who was Aboriginal. At first, I thought this was because the Aboriginal guide didn’t speak much English. The other guide did most of the talking, translating what the soft-spoken indigeonous guide had to say.

The Aboriginal people ask that you do not take photos of them. This has to do with their culture and is very dependent on the customs of traditions of each group. I noticed in the Cultural Centre that some of the faces of the Aborigines in photos were covered. I believe this goes hand and hand with some Aboriginal groups’ practices of no longer speaking the name of a deceased person.

Our guide was young. He wore shorts, work boots and a Chicago Bulls hat! But he was very knowledgeable of how to use the resources in the area.

Right before our eyes he turned this spinifex…


into a powder!

It took several minutes and was meticulous work.


The powder could be used as a glue of sorts, when heated. He showed us how to create the end of a club, like the one you with the black nub in the picture of tools below.


While the guys had the opportunity to attempt to throw wooden spears, the ladies tried to balance this on their heads.


This vessel, made from the truck of a tree, is used to carry food and other materials.


I detest these photos, but you get the gist. Shout out to Fulton Brewery in Minneapolis!

At least I was able to balance it for a few seconds. Walking? That was another story.


Afterward, we boarded our coach to head to Uluru for our base walk. That’s when we saw the climbers. Ugh. I find it so disrespectful when you are asked not to climb!

Seeing the surface color and texture of the Rock up close was fascinating.


I just finished reading In a Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson and his description of The Rock on his visit was spot on:

Quite apart from that initial shock of indefinable recognition, there is also the fact that Uluru is, no matter how you approach it, totally arresting. You cannot stop looking at it; you don’t want to stop looking at it. As you draw closer, it becomes even more interesting. It is more pitted than you had imagined, less regular in shape. There are more curves and divots and wavelike ribs, more irregularities of every type, than are evident from even a couple of hundred yards away.

You realize that you could spend quite a lot of time – possibly a worryingly large amount of time; possibly a sell-your-house-and-move-here-to-live-in-a-tent amount of time – just looking at the rock, gazing at it from many angles, never tiring of it. You can see yourself in a silvery ponytail, barefoot, and in something jangly and loose-fitting, hanging out with much younger visitors and telling them, “And the amazing thing is that every day it’s different, you know what I’m saying? It’s never the same rock twice. That’s right, my friend – you put your finger on it there. It’s awesome. It’s an awesome thing. Say, do you by any chance have any dope or some spare change?”



Sometimes the rock is so red and smooth:


Then there are other parts of the rock….


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The indigenous guide pointed out resources from the land that have been used for thousands of years:

It didn’t feel like a planned tour, so much. It was more that he pointed out anything that he spotted along the way that had significance. He was quiet, but, at this point, he began speaking directly to us, in English. He identified the type of tree used to shape the container that I attempted to balance on my head earlier.  He pointed out bush foods. We tried some sort of berry, which I would not have had the courage to do if we’d have walked the base on our own!

We even found lizard tracks in the sand!


You can see the footprints, along with where the tail slid through the sand:


The more our guide spoke, the more confident he seemed to become. Maybe it was our obvious interest in what he had to say. But what I loved most were the stories! He told Dreamtime stories just as I imagine they were told from generation to generation.

The story that related to the vicinity where we were standing was of the Blue-Tongued Lizard Man.



There are many lessons from the story, one of which is not to steal. The other: Don’t Climb Uluru. There is nothing up there: no food, no shade, no water. You can die falling. Every week someone has to be rescued. Not joking. While it is unsafe, it is also discourteous.


No matter what, I’ve always found that it’s better to learn about a place from the locals. It’s often more enjoyable, too.

Have you ever had a local guide tell stories?

What was your experience?

Other posts on the on Uluru:

Other posts about our trip to Australia:



4 responses »

  1. Pingback: Timsan’s | Season It Already!

  2. Pingback: Budgeting Travel – Australia | Season It Already!

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