After the stars gazing night at Kings Canyon, we were looking forward to our first foray to the iconic feature of Alice Spring, Ayers Rock. Definitely, we had viewed a thousand times of the rock images from magazines, travel brochures, television programs and other shrewd media advertising skills. But confronting the rock personally was far more than these.
Driving south along Luritja Road and then Lasseter Highway, we past Curtis Spring and finally Ayers Rock Resort. The size and structure of the resort was pretty overwhelming. Because Ayers Rock is a top tourist attraction in Alice Spring, the resort is simply opulence considered the location to be Outback.
We did not spend too much time within the resort. Instead after checking-in to our room, we drove straight to Ayers Rock. My hand watch was reading 5pm and was very close to sun setting. Each day, there are two golden hours to view Uluru at its best; setting and rising of the sun. During this time, Uluru seems to be wearing layers of clothing in color scheme of red and orange. As each minute passes, the rock gradually stripped the layers changing the façade into flaring yellowish-orange, tremendous orange and outrageous red.
Before an hour the sun skirted off the horizon, the viewing area to Uluru were packed with crowds. It was an unanimous gesture with everyone setting up their cameras mounted on the tripods directing at the mighty rock, a binocular strapped over the neck riveting at the mighty rock through the lens or standing patiently waiting for the precious moment to arrive to witnessing the might rock changes its hues.
Half hour later, the area was overwhelmingly teemed with cameras clicking and flash lights exploding. For a couple of minutes, Uluru was bathed in iridescent crimson red as if someone had splashed tons of red paint onto it. Later, the intensity was reduced to unappealing orange as the expanse sky in the backdrop was slashed in bands of pink and purple, the antitwilight arch slowly emerged and extended roughly 10° - 20° above the horizon. With twilight progressed, the colossal rock somehow lost within our sight as the arch faded and concluded the day. To us, it a spectacular event but to nature, it has been a mediocre cycle occurring days before, months before and years before!
In the following day, we drove back to Uluru from Ayers Rock Resort. It was a short drive of 20km. This time round, instead of appreciating the changing hues of the rock, we embraced our strength and energy to make the strenuous scaling to top of Uluru, which we considered to be one of our most arduous treks. Although the climb to summit of this monolith is only 348m, the steep elevation, rocky surface, sporadically whipping wind and blistering sun exacerbated the ascend.
Before the climb, we explored the base of the monolith. The circumference of the base was equivalent to 2 hours on average pace. It was an early morning, there was hardly anyone and the parking space was abundant. Lingering around us was the silence and suspense air. We sauntered to Mutitjulu waterhole. With closer scrutiny on the rock wall, we found some petroglyphs left behind by the aboriginals, an evidence to their abode in this region back in the early days as well as their territory presently.
The short walk to Mutitjulu waterhole embarked our next arduous ascend to Uluru summit. Standing at the starting point, it was already intimidating and daunting; the endless steep elevation, the uneven surface, the sky was inching closer to the mid sky and of course the summit of Uluru was not within our sight. It seemed like an insurmountable task, it was like appointing a person to find a needle in the haystacks but you never hint the person which haystack to look into.
From the base of Uluru to the hand railing located about 100 metres farther or so, we saw some people who surrendered amicably to the steep scaling! They took a few snaps of photos and relinquished to the climb before even commencing. It was very likely the part where hand railing was constructed to sustain the climb is the steepest. There was only hand railing running at the length of 80-100 metres to buttress the climb, with ascending explorers on the left and descending achievers or half-hearted walkers on the right from starting point perspective. Stomping footprints for the past decades had etched a neat scar by fading the reddish hue from the façade of the rock, especially where the railing was located simply most trekkers gave up around this corner, it could easily be spotted from far, a light orange line stretching across the rock face.
As we ascended higher, the view of the parked vehicles down below became smaller than to a gnat and ultimately well-hidden behind the rock itself as the contour changes. When we got to a point, the hand railing disappeared altogether and was replaced by dotted white line the only guidance to the summit of Uluru.
We heard stories about the high wind area when trekking up the summit and it once blew man-sized away! During any blustery day, it was suggested not to attempt the climb or stoop low if high speed wind was encountered.
Intermittently, we respite to admire the view that offered. Mt Olgas, another colossal rock that punctuated the desert plain, in distance could be easily appreciated blessed with its size and distinct shape. In other directions, Mt Connor perching 89km could be observed as well as Mt Everard as far as 144km! It was radically a clear day, hardly any heavy particles that blurred our vision, everything seems to be just right before our eyes.
After several thoughts on giving up on the climb and wincing on aching legs, we finally made to the Summit Cairns of Uluru.
Although the view at the summit unveiled almost the same sight as what we had encountered during the climb, the achievement and satisfaction was never the same. I burst into laughter with a long relief, muscles no longer flexed and tension already gone. Deep inhaling of the fragrance air somehow added by my own complacent until the next question hit me like a baseball bat, "Dude, you do know we still have to get down?"