When you tell people you have been to the Uluru, only few will know what you are talking about. When you tell them that it is also called Ayers Rock, most people will then say “Aaahhh, why didn’t you say so”. The name Uluru is the Aboriginal name and since they have been here well before us, the Australians respected that and re-renamed it.
Now, when you talk about Kata Tjuta or The Olgas, people wouldn’t know that these are breathtaking stone formations nearby. Considering they are just as fascinating as Ayer’s Rock, it is hard to understand why nobody ever talks about them. Well, we do. And if you want to know about the wonder that is Ayer’s Rock and The Olgas, you really should read on.
Climbing Ayer’s Rock
It is possible to climb the almost 400m up to the top of Ayer’s Rock although this is highly controversial (and strenuous). Uluru has high spiritual value to the Aborigines and in their belief it is bad to climb on top of one of the most sacred places in their belief system and they feel deep grief if someone dies (so far 35 people died climbing on the Uluru).
So I struggled with the decision if we should respect the Aboriginal wishes or satisfy our own wishes to once stand on top of one of the most famous rocks in the world. Our own desires won this argument. There are reasons for and against it but ultimately it is everyone’s own decision and you should be aware that this is controversial when you plan on going up there.
Since the Aboriginals don’t want people to do the strenuous climb, there is no real infrastructure to make the climb easier. Ayer’s Rock is only accessible from one side (the other one’s are too steep) and even on that side it is a strenuous and quite dangerous climb.
The first third is the steepest part and there is only a chain connected to some poles which allows you to hold on to something. And you really need that chain because there are parts where the path is only half a meter wide and to your right and left there is a 100 meter drop. So yes, if you aren’t the free climber type, then this is very scary.
And did I mention that it is strenuous? If you are in bad shape or already up there in age, you might want to think twice if you want to do the climb, especially in the summer. We were lucky to do this in the winter because
a) if the weather forecast says it will be above 36° C, the climb is closed. And remember, the Uluru sits in the middle of the Australian Outback and in the summer there is a high chance that every day is over 36°C.
b) we got to climb up in moderate 23°C and it still was tough and we drank both 1.5l bottles that we brought with us.
Just to give you a good feeling how hard this climb actually is, I’ll share a small embarrassing story with you: After we climbed up for a while, Soni wanted to take a longer break. I suggested to go just a bit further, since we already have done half of the climb. As it turned out, we had only reached 10%… Now everytime we are going somewhere and I just want to get there, Soni tells me (with a smile) “Don’t worry, we already got half of it”.
So if you are planning on climbing Uluru, you should really bring at least 1.5l of water with you as it takes more than 1.5h to get up there and back. And you don’t really want to have a heat stroke on top of Ayer’s Rock, since you will have to wait a long time for someone to get you some help.
And put the water in a daypack, because you’ll need both your hands to climb the Uluru.
On Top of Ayers Rock
When we finally made it up there (and coincidently met with my pseudo twin Mickey whom we met in Koh Tao, Thailand) we got to see this awesome view of the Australian outback and of course the beautiful view of The Olgas. I don’t know what is more spectacular, the view of the outback or the view of all parts of Uluru. Both views combined are really something spectacular. I understand why the Aborigines see this as a sacred place and I admire those who must have gone there back in the days when nobody else was around, just you, Uluru and the outback.
Who are The Olgas (or Kata Tjuta)?
For some reason The Olgas are almost never shown in any travel brochure or documentary of Australia. Usually Ayer’s Rock gets all the attention. Of course they are not one big solid rock in the world, but they are 36 smaller (still uniquely impressive) rocks, some even 200 meters higher than Uluru.
It is amazing to drive along the roads in the outback towards The Olgas. There is just flat bush land around you and The Olgas rise above it all like with a magnificent authority over the entire surroundings.
As with many sacred Aboriginal places, the traditional stories of the Kata Tjuta are not to be told to anyone but the worthiest of the Aborigines.
The stories themselves and some parts of the Kata Tjuta are so sacred to them that only few people are allowed to know them.
So Are Ayer’s Rock (Uluru) and The Olgas (Kata Tjuta) Really One Of The Places?
Oh yes, certainly! They are a long way away from civilization and it takes a long time to get there and every minute that you are driving towards them is worth it. You could fly out here – yes there is even an airport here – but the long drive towards the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park is part of the experience.
As you are driving through the outback, the solitude already prepares you for this amazing experience that you are about to have. And when you are coming here, don’t forget to stop by in Coober Pedy, a place that we named as one of Our Own 1000 Places to See Before You Die.
And I haven’t even mentioned the sunset at Ayer’s Rock, yet. Even though Uluru is very impressive during the day, nothing compares to its glow just before sunset. When you are standing far enough to be able to see the entire rock and you see the sun go down and hit Ayer’s Rock with its last rays of light, it turns from a brownish-red into a glowing landmark in the outback.
You might get a small glimpse of that when you are looking at the pictures, but seeing that glow in real life is something just short of a miracle.
P.S.: The Devil’s Marbles are not in the Uluru/Kata Tjuta National Park (we added some pictures in the gallery). They are along the Stuart Highway and this post fit best for these strangely formed rocks.