There were two main reasons why we decided to drive to Darwin rather than fly. The first reason was so we could get an “authentic outback experience” and the second was so we could see a big famous rock in the middle of the country that everyone says is life-changing. The rock’s name is Uluru and that’s how we ended day four on the road.
Uluru stands 348 meters (about 1,142 feet) tall and is almost a kilometer (about 3,281 feet) wide. The difference between Uluru and a mountain is that Uluru is solid rock. It has no other forms of vegetation on it. There aren’t even any loose pebbles really, it’s a solid chunk of stone. The aboriginal people believe it was an evil spirit that came to the ceremony of an aboriginal tribe. When told he wasn’t welcome he killed lots of men whose remains are still there today. The evil spirit turned into a rock and lives on today in that form. There’s nothing like realizing the big rock you planned your trip around is an evil spirit.
When we arrived at the base of the rock, I was hit with a moral dilemma that was apparently much bigger than the rock itself. To climb or not to climb? I had read about this choice in my travel books, but I didn’t think the decision was that big of a deal until I stood in front of the rock myself. I had just spent 20 minutes in the cultural museum reading about the deep spiritual connection the aboriginals had with the rock and how they deeply discouraged humans from climbing it. I felt like the right thing was to the respect their culture and tradition and refuse to climb.
No sooner had I finished thinking these thoughts did I look up and see dozens of people climbing all over the rock. I thought for a minute about the opportunity in front of me and my mind went back to a woman named Julie Garza. Right before I left the country I remember talking to her on the phone. She heard I was going to Australia and she wanted to give me one tip of advice that she had heard from a younger relative who had been to Oz: Climb Uluru. I had written this piece of advice in my planner and stared at it several times. It wasn’t until this moment that I understood what exactly that bucket list item meant.
Eventually, Matthew and I decided to make a quick climb to the chain-link fence (which is the starting point of the actual hike itself) and then climb back down and make a quick walk around the base. This would be our compromise. We didn’t climb the whole thing, but we did enough to say that we have done it.
The quick little climb was actually really excruciating and I saw why people warned of the danger in climbing. The rock is as steep as any mountain I have seen and it has little to nothing in terms of knobs and grooves to put your feet in. I was in tennis shoes but I felt my feet could barely grip on to the rock because its surface was so smooth and slick. I definitely wouldn’t have wanted to go any further up the rock for fear of slipping and falling like many people have done in the past.
Uluru was a neat experience and I am glad to have seen it first hand, but the following two days in the Red Center is where I found the real excitement.
Reach Haley Hoover at [email protected] or view photos with her blog at www.thesparklinghippie.com.