What Not to do When Visiting Uluru
Featured destinations: Australia, Uluru
Published 30 March 2016
Uluru – formerly known as Ayers Rock – is one of the world’s most iconic sights and the single most visited attraction in Australia. It is also a place of great spiritual importance to the native Aboriginal people, who regard it as something sacred and to be respected. In this post Helen Scarr, who recently visited, gives some great advice on what NOT to do when you’re there.
Congratulations on deciding to visit one of the most epic sights you’ll ever live to see. Uluru is as majestic and impressive as you’ve imagined and you won’t forget your first glimpse of the ochre rock across the dusty desert. It’s true what they say; there is a mystique in the air and a powerful aura around Uluru. Australians usually refer to it as Ayers Rock but efforts have been made to revert to the traditional Aboriginal name of ‘Uluru’ – which in my opinion sounds as magical as it feels to be in the presence of the rock. To get the best out of the experience here’s my guide to what you should avoid doing during your time in the red centre:
Approximately 30% of tourists visiting Uluru attempt to climb the rock, despite the local Aboriginal community fervently asking that they don’t. The sight is of great significance to the Aboriginals and has been for centuries. I would argue that it’s very disrespectful to climb Uluru, not to mention a tough, demanding climb. Wasn’t the rock what you came all this way to look at? You aren’t going to see it when you’re standing on the peak, in any case.
Take anything from the land.
Again, this relates to the land being sacred to the Aboriginals. Despite it being illegal many people have taken small rocks or sand from around Uluru as a souvenir, and then later sent their keepsake back to where it came from after experiencing a string of bad luck when they returned home. If you visit the Uluru Cultural Centre (which is recommended) you can look through their ‘Sorry Rocks’ collection of letters from tourists posting back their pilfered items and apologising for their theft. Learn from their mistakes and don’t take anything while you’re here.
Forget your hat and sunscreen.
The heat of the Australian desert is punishing. Ground temperatures often reach up to 65oC. When the mercury is pushing 40oC in the shade it’s important to protect yourself. Australian-made sunscreen is as effective as the sun is hot and won’t break the bank either. A hat and a decent pair of sunglasses are also a great idea. If you are going hiking around Uluru it’s best to start around 6.30AM when the weather is cooler and the sun is yet to unleash its full force.
Let the flies drive you crazy.
You can’t prepare for the flies in the desert. Nothing seems to deter them. Small black flies will be landing on your limbs, clothes and worst of all your face as soon as you step out of your vehicle. If you’re really unlucky you might end up accidentally swallowing one or two of them. They are impervious to insect repellent and a hat with a built-in fly screen is the only way to keep them off your face. Or do what the locals do – ignore them completely and let them land where they wish without even flinching.
Run out of petrol or get a speeding fine.
This may sound obvious, but when you’ve been driving on a straight road in the middle of nowhere for several hours it’s easy to get complacent. Fuel stations are few and far between in the red centre (not to mention painfully expensive). My tip is to fill the tank of your car every chance you get and never let the dial drop below half a tank, wherever you are. You can’t avoid the cost so just grin and bear it. The speed limit may feel slow since this is the emptiest, least bendy road you’re ever likely to drive on. However, there are police about and you really don’t want to hit a kangaroo at over 110km/h, so it’s best to stick to the rules.
Forget to visit Kata Tjuta.
Also known as The Olgas, some say Kata Tjuta, meaning ‘many heads’, is even more impressive than Uluru. This collection of over 36 individual rocks is a 30km drive from the main event and well worth heading over to. There are various walks around the rocks, and again it’s best to head out at dawn or late afternoon to avoid the worst of the heat. Whether it’s better than Uluru is up to you to decide.