Amazing places

Published May 25, 2013 07:00am

The magestic Ayers Rock

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In roughly the centre of Australia stands a large rock, and one of the oldest on earth, jutting out of an otherwise flat, desert-like territory. And the incredible shades of the sandstone monolith (a large single upright block of stone) all through the day, a rich pink in the soft morning light and radiant orange at sunset, makes it an awe-inspiring sight to visitors and a sacred site to the local aborigines. It’s the Ayers Rock, in the Uluru National Park, Northern Territory, Australia. The most recognised natural landmark of Australia, as well-known as the famous Sydney Opera House, though Ayers Rock has comparatively fewer visitors than the Opera House, due to its remote location. However, the visitors are enough in number to upset the aboriginal tribes, the original inhabitants of Australia, because they feel visitors disturb the spirits of their ancestors, which they believe are in Uluru, the local name of Ayers Rock.

Location and appearance

Ayers Rock is in the Uluru National Park

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, in Northern Territory, about 335km south-west Alice Springs, the nearest large town to it, and 450km by road.
The stone formation is 863 metres above sea level, rising 348 metres above the ground and going as deep as six kilometres below ground level! Walking around the base of the rock would require you to cover almost 9.4km!
Ayers Rock is estimated by scientists to have been formed about 500 million years ago when the area was part of the bottom of an ocean. The Aborigines too believe that Uluru was once an ocean and after a great battle at its shore, the rock rose up in revolt, and the rock’s colour signifies the bloodbath that took place.
The caves have many prehistoric era drawings that are fascinating and they have not yet been fully decoded to explain what messages the ancient inhabitants of the area had left for later generations. The various tribes of aborigines have many sacred rituals that they observe in and around these caves and they don’t like outsiders visiting some of these caves. In fact, they refuse to climb Ayers Rock as they believe it to be the ‘seat of the ancestors’.

Discovery

Ayres Rock was first sighted by an outsider when European explorer William Goose was surveying and mapping the deep desert in the middle of Australia and sighted this remarkable natural wonder on July 19, 1873.
The name ‘Ayers’ was bestowed in honour of the then Chief Secretary of South Australia, Sir Henry Ayers, as was the custom in those days  to name places in honour of some senior officials.

Myth and superstition

When the title of the area was transferred to local aborigines in 1985 and they, in turn, leased it back to the Australian Government for 99 years, they insisted that there visitors would not climb to the top or go into some of the caves that hold spiritual value for the locals. But some people do climb up to the top, much to the displeasure of the aborigine elders.
Visitors to Uluru often feel a mysterious and magical force there, and many have experienced falls and injuries that the locals believe is because the white people do not show respect to the spirits living there and climb the rock.

Kata Tjuta or the Olgas

Considered as the sister formation of Ayers Rock, this site is 35kms west of Ayers Rock and is made up of 36 formations. Like Ayers Rock, these are considered to have been one huge piece of sandstone formation but millions of years of weathering due to rain and wind cut it up into pieces.
The Olgas highest point is 200 metre higher than Ayers Rock, at 546m about the ground, and the circumference of the whole of the formations together is an incredible 22km! Some of the groves have long winding passages that offer great walks and trails to explore these magnificent natural marvels. The local aboriginals call it Kata Tjuta and it is, just like Ayers Rock, of great significance to them. Both Uluru and Kata Tjuta, with the surrounding area became a national park in 1958 that sees many visitors each year. Due to the hot summer temperatures, the Australian winter, May to September — yes Australia is ‘down under’ in the world map and they experience opposite seasons — is the best time to visit these two places.


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