The Big Red Rock

You might have seen pictures of it growing up- known as “Ayers Rock” to the Western world and “Uluru” (OOH-loo-roo) to the Aborigines and Australians. I had the privilege of travelling there with my family last weekend, and it’s far and away one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen. It’s located in the absolute middle of Australia, very much in the outback, and in without any serious civilization remotely close to it. There are pros and cons to this. Pros include that it was serene, I got the best view of the stars I’ve ever had in my life,  and there wasn’t enough traffic to deter me from driving our rental car around (it was the first time I’d driven on the left side of the road, and the right-side steering wheel was trippy). The only real ‘con’ is that because it’s in the middle of nowhere and one company owns everything in the small tourist area, everything was really expensive, and just for very average quality goods. This went for everything- restaurant meals, hotel rooms, and tourist memorabilia. But hey, it’s not too often you get to see the biggest rock in the world.

The weekend began with a flight into the smallest airport I’ve ever been to. It had 2 gates: two doors right next to each other. One for Qantas and one for Virgin Australia. We snagged our rental car and drove 5 minutes down the road to the “Ayers Rock Resort”- an area with 4 fairly small hotels, a small shopping center, and a few recreational fields. So we got our hotel room and drove about 15 minutes up to Uluru (because there’s really not anything else to do there). We took some pictures, walked around it for a bit, watched some people climbing up, and planned out our next day there: the summit attempt.

Before talking about that, you may or may not have known this, but climbing up Uluru is considered to be offensive by many because of its religious meaning to the Aborigines. It’s considered sacred ground, and while it remains culturally acceptable to walk around the rock, climbing it is sort of frowned upon by some people, and discouraged by the government (see picture below). Many Australians that I know here would simply not climb it because they would feel like they were disrespecting Aborigines, who have endured a lot of hardship as a result of British expansion onto their land. That being said, plenty of people climb it. We saw dozens of people during our two or three hour trek. Not to sound ignorant or disrespectful, but I, like my dad, simply see it as a big rock that I want to climb. It’s like seeing a tree with low branches as a kid- who wouldn’t want to jump into the tree and climb it?

We weren’t even close to the top yet

So the next day, we went to the rock and climbed it. My brother unfortunately had a broken wrist which would have been a bad idea to climb with, so he and my mom stayed back. The “climb” doesn’t actually involve much climbing- it begins with a long, steep hill (the least-vertical part of the rock) that you need some assistance with. Therefore, the park has put a running chain all the way up to a less risky area. That was easily the most physically demanding part. We had to take multiple breaks on that section alone. Once we got up past that, we had to go over a large series of boulder-like formations to get to the very top point. But that section was guided by a painted, dashed white line that gave the most reasonable route to reach the summit. I don’t really know how long it took in total- maybe something like an hour and fifteen minutes, but once we got there, the views were awesome. It was just pure outback in every direction. It was also incredibly quiet when the wind died down. We could hear cars that we could only barely see about a mile away from us. I love the feeling of accomplishing anything physically demanding, so it was just an amazing feeling to reach the top. Looking back on it, my Dad and I agreed that we could have spent hours up there. It was really fun to just meander around the top of the rock, just seeing all the different landscaping and everything. It wasn’t flat at all up there- very hilly, if that makes sense. There was plenty of roaming around that could have been done. After being up there for about an hour, we headed back very satisfied. And the trip back down, as you might expect, was a whole lot easier.

When I got back to uni, people asked me how it went. My response was generally the same each time. It was amazing. The rock was enormous – way bigger than you’d think it is – and I’m glad I got to climb the rock. Nobody was offended that I climbed it. It was just an adventurous thing that I really wanted to do. And now, each time I see a picture of the biggest rock in the world, I can remember the time my Dad and I climbed it and were on top of the Northern Territory.

Marker at the peak

Recommendation: go to, and climb, Uluru.


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