23 Feb Uluru and Kata Tjuta
Uluru, also known as Ayers Rock, is a large sandstone rock formation in the southern part of the Northern Territory, central Australia. It lies 335 km (208 mi) south west of the nearest large town, Alice Springs; 450 km (280 mi) by road. Kata Tjuta and Uluru are the two major features of the Kata Tjuta-Uluru National Park. Uluru is sacred to the Anangu, the Aboriginal People of the area. The area around the formation is home to a plethora of springs, waterholes, rock caves and ancient paintings. Uluru is listed as a World Heritage Site.
Uluru is one of Australia’s most recognisable natural landmarks. The sandstone formation stands 348 m (1,142 ft) high (rising 863 m/2,831 ft above sea level), with most of its bulk lying underground, and has a total circumference of 9.4 km (5.8 mi). Both Uluru and the nearby Kata Tjuta formation have great cultural significance for the Aṉangu people, the traditional inhabitants of the area, who lead walking tours to inform visitors about the local flora and fauna, bush foods and the Aboriginal dreamtime stories of the area.
Uluru is notable for appearing to change colour at different times of the day and year, most notably glowing red at sunrise and sunset. Although rainfall is uncommon in this semi-arid area, during wet periods the rock acquires a silvery-grey colour, with streaks of black algae forming on the areas that serve as channels for water flow.
Kata Tjuta, also called Mount Olga or The Olgas, lies 50 km west of Uluru. Special viewing areas with road access and parking have been constructed to give tourists the best views of both sites at dawn and dusk.
Archaeological findings to the east and west indicate that humans settled in the area more than 10,000 years ago. Europeans arrived in the Australian Western Desert in the 1870s. Uluru and Kata Tjuta were first mapped by Europeans in 1872 during the expeditionary period made possible by the construction of the Australian Overland Telegraph Line. In separate expeditions, Ernest Giles and William Gosse were the first European explorers to this area.
While exploring the area in 1872, Giles sighted Kata Tjuta from a location near Kings Canyon and called it Mount Olga, while the following year Gosse observed Uluru and named it Ayers Rock, in honor of the Chief Secretary of South Australia, Sir Henry Ayers. Further explorations followed with the aim of establishing the possibilities of the area for pastoralism. In the late 19th century, pastoralists attempted to establish themselves in areas adjoining the South western/Petermann Reserve and interaction between Aṉangu and white people became more frequent and more violent. Due to the effects of grazing and drought, bush food stores became depleted. Competition for these resources created conflict between the two groups, resulting in more frequent police patrols. Later, during the depression in the 1930s, Aṉangu became involved in dingo scalping with ‘doggers’ who introduced Aṉangu to European foods and ways.
Between 1918 and 1921, large adjoining areas of South Australia, Western Australia and Northern Territory were declared as Aboriginal reserves, sanctuaries for nomadic people who had virtually no contact with European settlers. In 1920, part of Uluru – Kata Tjuta National Park was declared an Aboriginal Reserve (commonly known as the South-Western or Petermann Reserve) by the Australian government under the Aboriginals Ordinance.
The first tourists arrived in the Uluru area in 1936. Beginning in the 1940s, permanent European settlement of the area for reasons of the Aboriginal welfare policy and to help promote tourism of Uluru. This increased tourism prompted the formation of the first vehicular tracks in 1948 and tour bus services began early in the following decade. In 1958, the area that would become the Uluru – Kata Tjuta National Park was excised from the Petermann Reserve; it was placed under the management of the Northern Territory Reserves Board and named the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. The first ranger was Bill Harney, a well-recognised central Australian figure. By 1959, the first motel leases had been granted and Eddie Connellan had constructed an airstrip close to the northern side of Uluru.
The park is now managed by the local indigenous people and all hotels are located at nearby Yulara (18 km away) and access is carefully managed to minimise damage to this sacred and pristine site.