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Audley Traveller
Christopher
Written by Christopher Australia, New Zealand & South Pacific Specialist

Travel Icon: Uluru

Probably the most famous rock in the world, the giant sandstone Uluru/Ayers Rock stands 348 metres high and dominates the surrounding Outback.

Uluru, Central Australia

Uluru, Central Australia

That a bare rock should attain worldwide fame is remarkable until you see it. The arkosic minerals trapped within the sandstone rock reflect the intense desert light in a myriad of directions, changing its appearance every hour and every day. For first time visitors the sheer scale of the rock is also a surprise, its base measuring nine kilometres in circumference. Despite this, it is neither the largest nor the tallest rock formation in Australia (the largest and the tallest award belongs to Mount Augustus in Western Australia).

Migrating aboriginal tribes were drawn to Uluru around 10,000 years ago by the rich desert flora and wildlife found in the pools at its base. Rainwater cascades along the gullies and cracks of the rock surface and nourishes an unexpected variety of life in the area. In this special setting the aboriginal people honoured their ancestral spirits in ceremonial caves. A guided tour of the rock art, hidden crevices and sacred sites of Uluru is one of the best ways to appreciate the spirituality, as well as the physical beauty, of this revered rock.

Icon Facts: Uluru/Ayers Rock

  1. Uluru/Ayers Rock was formed between 300 and 400 million years ago when the sea receded from the continental basin and a sandstone layer was twisted through 90 degrees into the vertical. The rock extends for six kilometres beneath the surface.
  2. If you positioned Uluru/Ayers Rock in the middle of Sydney it would reachUluru, Central Australia from Central Station to the Opera House and soar to more than twice the  height of the harbour bridge!
  3. The nearby Mutitjulu people request that visitors do not climb the rock because if an accident occurs then the sadness of this event will be felt by the guardians whenever they meet there. There are many different ways in which visitors can experience the Red Centre, from above in a helicopter or light aircraft, from the back of a Harley Davidson motorcycle or from atop a camel at dawn!

The first non-aboriginal person to reach the rock was William Gosse, an explorer and a surveyor, who named it after the then Chief Secretary and former premier of South Australia, Sir Henry Ayers. The aboriginal names for the rock were known as early as 1903 but there has been much confusion concerning the correct names and their true meaning. The local Pitjantjatjara aboriginal people regard themselves as guardians of the ancestral spirits of the creator beings which dwell beneath the rock and the Dreamtime stories which guide their lives and they are forbidden from discussing this with non-aborigines. The rock was formally handed back to them in 1985 and officially named Uluru/Ayers Rock in 2002.

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