When one says “Australia”, one of the first images that come to mind for many is that of Uluru — a huge, humbling rock, almost like a mountain or a wall. It is a place of great wonder — a sight so wonderfully humbling.
Uluru, also known as Ayers Rock is the world’s largest sandstone formation, 348 m high. It is a monadrock — an isolated rock hill rising abruptly from a level surrounding plain. Made up of reflective minerals such as quartz, feldspar and arkosic sandstone, it appears to change colour as the day, and the year progresses: a calendar in different shades of brown, orange and red.
But aside from a distinguishable natural beauty, what else is in store for those seeking to visit Uluru?
What’s in a name?
According to archaeological findings, evidence of human settlements in Uluru and the neighboring Kuta Tjuta has been around since 10,000 years ago. The area was first mapped in 1872 by Europeans Ernest Giles and William Goose. The nomadic inhabitants of the area speak different languages, but generally call themselves “Anangu” — meaning ‘human being’. Uluru-area Anangu include two different language groups: the Yankunytjatjara and Pitjantjatjara.
“Uluru” is the local Pitjantjatjara name for the landmark; it was Giles who christened the landmark “Ayers Rock” in honor of the then-Chief Secretary of South Australia, Sir Henry Ayers. The initial expeditions sparked a chain of events: the late 1800s marked an influx of European pastoralists attempting to establish themselves in the area, which resulted in an altercation with the original inhabitants that became more frequent and violent as time passed.
Due to the effects of overgrazing and drought, the area’s bush food stores became depleted, which sparked a greater conflict in terms of competition for resources. Between 1918 and 1921, large adjoining areas of South Australia, Western Australia, and Northern Territory were declared as Aboriginal reserves, including the area where Uluru – Kata Tjuta National park now lies.
With this move came a change: in 1993, a dual naming policy that allowed for the usage of both the traditional Aboriginal name and the English name was adopted, and the Ayers Rock became known as the Ayers Rock/Uluru — the first official dual-name feature in the northern territory. The order of the names was officially reversed in November 2002, following a request from the Regional Tourism Association in Alice Springs.
Uluru in Aboriginal Australian Myths
Creation, according to Aboriginal Australian myths, is a by-product of ancestral beings traveling across a formless land, creating all living species and the features of the land. The Anangu believes that the rock itself tells the story of creation: the main path up to the summit of the rock is the traditional route taken by the ancestral beings upon their arrival at Uluru.
Sacred destination talks about an Aboriginal myth about Uluru:
“According to one Aboriginal myth, two tribes of ancestral spirits were invited to a feast in the area, but became distracted by beautiful Sleepy Lizard Women and dallied at a waterhole. Angry at being stood up, the waiting hosts sang evil into a mud sculpture that came to life as the dingo, a wild dog that has been known to carry off babies. There was a terrible slaughter followed by a great battle, which ended in the deaths of the leaders of both tribes. The earth itself rose up in grief at the bloodshed—and this is Uluru.”
Uluru remains a sacred place to the Aboriginals residing in the area. It bears markings and paintings from a long time ago up to the present, since the rock is still used by some tribes for rituals. The art found on the rock includes figures like boomerangs, human beings, waterholes as well as other abstract symbols.
Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park also has a Cultural Center that you should visit to learn more about Aboriginal culture and rich history of the area. You might even get the chance to have some of the rock paintings and drawings explained to you!
Whether or not a visitor should climb Uluru is a dispute however.
Since Uluru is in a national park, it is not really illegal to climb it — there is even a marked path with a chain and handhold to make the climb safer. However, The Anangu do not climb Uluru as they consider it sacred, and are imploring visitors to refrain from doing so.
Uluru also considers picking up rocks in the area as bad luck — do so at your own risk!
Uluru, aside from being memorably scenic, is a place rich in culture. Visit Uluru and the neighboring Kuta Tjuta, and get more than pictures: learn about new and interesting cultures!
If you are planning to visit Uluru and are looking for the perfect place to stay, contact the Erldunda Roadhouse! We’ll help you arrange for the perfect Uluru visit. Visit us; we’ll be happy to show you around!