Uluru is the world’s largest monolith. It is an imposing sight across the surrounding flat plains and stands out boldly. This sandstone formation (more accurately, arkose) is 348 m high and has a total circumference of 9.4 km. Both Uluru and the nearby Kata Tjuta formations have great cultural significance for the Aṉangu Aboriginal people, the traditional inhabitants of the area. It became our focal point for yesterday.
We began with a ten kilometre walk around the rock. Climbing is now discouraged as the rock has strong spiritual significance tom the local people. Anyway, the climb was closed yesterday after three men became trapped on the rock a few days ago when they strayed off the proper track and had to be rescued by the police ‘High Rescue’ team. They were stuck on a steep area, unable to move, for many hours, suffering first from sunburn and then from exposure in the freezing temperatures of the desert night. The first part of the climb is very steep and some long long-existing chains have been provided for support.
The walk around the base travels through some quite different micro-climates. Where the track is close to the base of the rock, we found trees and bushy vegetation. These plants grow in the moist areas where the occasional rainfall runs off the rock. To the north, the walking track follows a course about 300 to 400 metres away from the rock face and is in open grasslands. The plants here were in flower and very different to other parts of our walk. On the eastern side is a water hole – the only reliable source of water in the area. Here, there were reeds, taller trees and some caves that contained ancient rock art. The textures of the rock were always intriguing
It was a good day for a walk – about 22C with a light breeze that was not only cooling but also kept those annoying bush flies away from our faces. We made it three quarters of the way around but by then we were a bit stuffed and thankful that Jill could pick us up in the car. Bu then were were really ready for lunch and we headed to the cultural centre where they had a cafe where we could buy some food.
We took some time to rest in the afternoon while the girls had a swim in the pool. and at sunset, we were taken by bus to see another perspective of the rock and view the ‘Field of Lights’ outdoor art experience.
The Field of Light art installation is one of sixteen to be set up in different parts of the world by an internationally acclaimed artist named Bruce Munro. More than 50,000 slender solar powered stem are topped with frosted-glass spheres that bloom as darkness falls over the desert. Our evening began with a glass of bubbly and some canopes on a sand hill that overlooked the area and watched as the lights came to life as the sun set.
Afterwards, we walked down into the light field and had a close up view of the constantly changing pattern of colours. I did my best to hand hold my camera in very dark light as tripods were not allowed. I really would have liked the opportunity to have taken a photo with the very bright milky way overhead although it is an image in my mind that I will remember for a long time.
This light installation is named Tili Wiru Tjuta Nyakutjaku by the local community and means ‘looking at lots of beautiful lights’ in local Pitjantjatjara . It will be in place for a full year, closing 31 March 2017.