Ayers Rock is a fairytale rock formation in Australia’s Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, in the middle of the Outback of Australia. Since time immemorial, this spectacular geological ‘wonder’ has been the spiritual center of the Anangu aborigines. Like The Olgas, also landscape icons, this important religious site is part of the mythology (Dreamtime) of the original population. The rock formations of the vast Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park have been officially included on the UNESCO World Heritage List since 1987. These well-known tourist attractions are easily accessible from Connellan Airport near the town of Yulara (resort).
- Ayers Rock in the ‘red heart’ of Australia
- UNESCO and the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park
- Ayers Rock (Uluru) – a scenic icon
- The Olgas (Kata Tjuta)
- Aboriginals – dream paths
Ayers Rock (Uluru) / Source: Stefanoka, Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA-3.0)
Ayers Rock in the ‘red heart’ of Australia
Ayers Rock is part of the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. The protected desert area has an area of 1326 km² and is located in the Northern Territory , or the ‘red heart’ of Australia. It is an extensive, horizon-to-horizon, bone-dry savannah landscape. The two most famous tourist attractions are Ayers Rock and The Olgas. In the Aboriginal language they are called Uluru and Kata Tjuta.
These two red sandstone formations loom majestically above the plain and are remnants of a geological development linked to the history of the Australian mainland. A history that began 570 million years ago and is still characterized by geological erosion. In fact, Ayers Rock and The Olga’s are spectacular fossilized testimonies from the Paleozoic Era, the geological era between 540 and 250 million years ago. It was a period marked by drastic geological, evolutionary and climatic changes.
UNESCO and the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park
The heritage monuments and fascinating landscapes of Australia as a whole are, in addition to the unique flora and fauna, beautiful cultural monuments of the Aboriginals, the original inhabitants of Australia. UNESCO ( United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization ) makes a major contribution to the conservation of the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, which became a national park in 1958 and was named Ayers Rock Mount Olga National Park. The protected area is located in the ‘red heart’ of the Australian Outback, so called because of the red ferrous (oxidation) soil.
Ayers Rock (Uluru) / Source: Australien-Links.ch, Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA-3.0) Anangu aborigines
In 1987 the nature reserve was included in the UNESCO World Heritage List . In 1993 the name was changed to Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, which reflects the original name of the rock formations and was recognized in 1994 as being of great cultural importance. In 1985, the Australian government returned the area to the original inhabitants, the Anangu aborigines. Although the bone-dry desert where Ayers Rock is located only suggests scenic scarcity, more than 500 plant species have been identified, several of which are rare and endangered. There are many native mammal species and dozens of reptile species.
Ayers Rock (Uluru) – a scenic icon
Ayers Rock (Uluru) consists of marine sandstone, rich in mineral feldspar. The Olgas, a few dozen kilometers west of Ayers Rock, are mainly composed of conglomerate, or sedimentary rock. The very tough rock formations that make up Ayers Rock eroded very slowly compared to the surrounding rock layers, causing Uluru to tower above the desert like a fossilized monument from the Paleozoic era. Regardless of which perspective one looks at, the oval Uluru firmly dominates the landscape and is approximately 3.5 km long, 2 km wide, 9 km in circumference and approximately 350 m high.
Up close, the sight of this landscape icon from a bygone era is even more impressive. Its red color, like the rest of the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, is due to the normally gray sandstone that has taken on a rusty hue due to iron oxidation. It is the typical color of very old geological formations that are also often seen in Africa, especially with certain light and weather influences, but also during sunrise and sunset, for example.
The Olgas (Kata Tjuta) / Source: Barbara Stuparek-Püller, Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA-2.0)
The Olgas (Kata Tjuta)
In the Aboriginal language, The Olgas are called Kata Tjuta, or the ‘place of many heads’. These conglomerate rock domes are located approximately 45 kilometers west of Uluru. Some are even higher than Ayers Rock, such as Mount Olga. These rock formations, like Ayers Rock and the rest of the park, are owned by the Anangu. At sunrise and sunset, the Kata Tjuta look as spectacular as Uluru: a circular group of 36 red conglomerate formations covering an area of approximately 28 square kilometers. The highest ( Mount Olga ) towers 460 meters (approx. 1100 m above sea level) above the desert.
Aboriginals – dream paths
Both the island mountain Ayers Rock and The Olga’s are names given to these scenic phenomena by settlers long ago. For the Anangu aborigines, who have lived here for thousands of years, these places are very special places that symbolize creative power and fertility. The landscape contains numerous clues, signs and omina that the (creative) ancestors have left behind. Ancestors who, after long wanderings searching for water and food, finally settled down and turned themselves into the first humans.
The Aboriginal people of the Outback have traditionally preserved the original wandering and know the mythical dream paths that their ancestors walked in the Dreamtime. With the help of many initiation rituals, they become intimately connected with the time of creation, their ancestors and the sacred landscape. Their way of life has remained virtually unchanged over the centuries.
Numerous ancestral hills, rocky outcrops and waterholes are sacred to the Aboriginal people. Using rock and cave paintings , wooden sculptures and totems, certain religious sites have been marked. Ayers Rock and The Olgas are also sacred, mythical places. In that respect, Uluru is very special as a spiritual center, as it is the meeting place of all ancestors who created the world during the Dreamtime.
Source: Toursim NT, Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-1.0)
Connellan Airport is located near Yulara (Ayers Rock Resort) with direct flights to all major cities in Australia. There is plenty of accommodation in Yulara, including hotels and campsites. There are also many restaurants and shops. The entrance ticket to the park is valid for a few days. If you don’t want to spend too much, it is better to book well in advance.
Instead of taking the plane, you can also rent a car in Darwin, for example, then drive to Ayers Rock and watch the rock formations slowly approach you (drive via the Stuart and Lasseter Highway). There are also good bus connections.
Two walks are very special, such as the Mutitjulu Walk to the waterhole of the same name, where the Anangu have lived for thousands of years. One passes a rock crack where a mythological battle took place between Kuniya and Liru (ancestral snakes). The Mala Walk is also interesting, where you pass religious-ritual places. The walk to the top is discouraged, it would be an insult to the Anangu. It is one of the many hot issues inherent in balancing the traditions of the Anangu against the ever-intrusive demands of the tourism business.
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