28th January – Another early start to the day and the irony of it was that after a week of waking at 2am with the residue of jet lag this was the first night had slept through. However, the sunrise waits for none so on the bus at 445am to the viewing area to witness Uluru come awake with the first rays of light. When we arrived the first golden yellow colours of dawn were already brightening the sky and the residue of last night’s clouds gave extra dimension with pinks, lilacs and oranges seeping into the dark blue.
And then a gasp of awe from all around as there was the realisation that the sun was only the support act when behind us Uluru began to awaken with the curtains of shadows moving aside to reveal the hues of the sandstone beneath. As the sun rose the rock glowed quietly with light chasing the shadows into the curves, caves and crevices.
The purple clouds of night were slowly tainted with the morning glow as Uluru yawned and the light stretched into all but the very deepest fold.
Now the rock was awake the surrounding landscape began to take on the morning glow with trees and bushes highlighted as the sun once again stole the night from the moon and stars.
For those of us who were now going to learn more about Uluru and it’s significance to the native Anangu peoples breakfast was a welcome sight. Within the cultural centre where photographs are strictly forbidden ‘for cultural reasons’ in one of the snake shaped buildings we ate with a view of a the now wide awake Uluru. Her highest point is 348m and is described by geologists as a smooth inland island mountain. The first European to view this island mountain was William Goss who named it after Sir Henry Ayers. It is made of pure grey sandstone which, due to it’s high iron content, has oxidised forming a red protective layer. Today it lies within the Uluru Kata Tjuta National Park which has been recongnised by UNESCO for both it’s beauty and cultural significance. The ‘ownership’ of the whole area has now been returned to the Anangu who have in turn leased it to the parks authorities. Our Anangu guides gave our small group of six a guided tour of the hunting and gathering tools that have served their people for what may be 30,000 years. In many ways it was like stepping into a time machine and looking back on stone age life where only those materials available to you were your only option. The environment has changed during this time span with the climate much hotter and drier. Yet the availability of fruits, roots, game and water made this a harsh but sustainable life for this deeply spiritual community. Uluru has many stories related to the ancestral beings who created shape out of a flat world so long ago. From the shapes of the rock formations to the hollows and caves there are links to times gone by. Creating stories with moral endings form their oral history which they do still adhere to but allowing some of the benefits and comforts of modern life to seep in. The young guide spoke very passionately about his parents and grandparents experiences and his own hunting adventures – all this while puffing on a cigarette, sipping coke and checking his phone. As we walked around the base of the rock tasting the desert figs and plum swatting away the moisture hungry flies the calm and quiet was almost oppressive. The feeling of awe and majesty is tangible and it is easy to imagine how such a structure could influence a peoples belief and culture. Around Uluru there are areas which are sacred to either men or women. In Anangu culture men and women are equal but have distinctly different tasks to fulfil. From the very basic hunting and gathering to the preparing of medicines, making tools and performing ceremonies. In these sacred areas the plants and materials for these ceremonies are to be found such as the Mulga Acacia which provides the hard wood for hunting sticks and the world renowned epitome of the Australian Aboriginal peoples: the boomerang. However, contrary to common belief, not all boomerangs come back. As it was explained, there are different boomerangs for different jobs. For those Aboriginal people who live at the mouths of rivers and hunt ducks were a low trajectory and less of a hit is needed then a returning light wood boomerang is just the thing. However, for knocking out a kangaroo a much heavier boomerang is needed and you don’t want it coming back! It was a lovely morning full of sights and sounds. To spend time with the Anangu itself was an honour. They are friendly, keen to share their culture and some of the secrets of the surrounding environment yet are somewhat aloof and in some ways are bewildered by our travelling of vast distances.