The Australian Outback: Uluru and Ayers Rock


What is Uluru?

Uluru, also known as Ayers Rock is a very large sandstone rock formation in central Australia, specifically, the southern part of the Northern Territory. It lies 208 miles (335 km) south west of the nearest town, called Alice Springs. Most people try to visit Uluru/Ayers Rock and Alice Springs in one trip if possible. For my trip, I only had time for Uluru/Ayers Rock, so I’ll add that to my very long list of reasons to visit the amazing Australia again! Uluru is considered sacred to the Pitjantjatjara Anangu, which are the Aboriginal (native) people of the area. The area around the rock formation is home to an abundance of ancient paintings, rock caves, water holes and springs. Uluru/Ayers Rock is also listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Kata Tjuta, also known as the Olgas, another grouping of large, domed rock formations, are the two major features of Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park.

Uluru is one of Australia (and in my opinion, one of the world’s) most recognizable natural landmarks. The sandstone rock formation stands 1,142 feet (348 meters) high, rising 2,831 feet (863 meters) above sea level with most of it’s bulk lying underground. This totally reminds me of the land version of an iceberg. It’s total circumference is 5.8 miles (9.4 km) and is known for appearing to change color at different times of the day and even year. It seems to flow more red at dawn and sunset. Both the Uluru and Kata Tjuta formations have great cultural significance for the Anangu people, who are still to this day the traditional inhabitants of the area. They lead walking tours to inform visitors about the local flora and fauna and Aboriginal dreamtime stories of the area.


How did it form?

There are many differing Aborginal ancestral stories and accounts given for the origins of Uluru. Here’s a few of them:

From Robert Layton’s (1989) Uluru: An Aboriginal History of Ayers Rock:

Uluru was built up during the creation period by two boys who played in the mud after the rain. When they had finished their game, they travelled south to Wiputa…fighting together, the two boys made their way to the table topped Mount Conner, on top of which their bodies are preserved as boulders.

Two other stories are told in Norbert Brockman’s (1997) Encyclopedia of Sacred Places. The first tells of serpent beings who waged many wars around Uluru, in turn scarring the rock. The second tells of two tribes of ancestral spirits who were invited to a feast, but were distracted by the beautiful Sleepy Lizard Women and did not show up. In response, the angry hosts sang evil into a mud sculpture that came to life as a dingo. A great battle followed, which ended in the deaths of the leaders of both tribes. The earth rose up in grief at the bloodshed, becoming Uluru.







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