Uluru has always been a very special place for us. I took Kylie there on our first outback trip together and I will never forget the look on her face when she first caught sight on the rock. It was a very emotional experience for her and I was so glad to have been able to share it with her. This time, our visit coincided with my 50th birthday and it seemed only natural for us to spend more time at our favourite place in Australia.
Uluru, as a holiday destination, is the quintessential outback destination and something of a right of passage for all Australians. Unfortunately, its reputation has taken something of a hit in recent years with all the negative sentiment surrounding the traditional owners decision to stop climbing the rock in 2019. That is partly because of the misconception that the attitude towards climbers has something to do with Uluru being a sacred site. While that is part of the issue, there is far more to it than that. In the last 60 years, 35 have died climbing the rock, one as recently as July 2018. Countless more have been injured and had to be rescued off the rock, endangering the lives of rescuers. What isn't well known is the number of people who end up in hospital with cardiac problems following their efforts to climb the rock. These incidents are greatly distressing to the traditional owners. This is why they want to see the climb closed.
I have personally climbed the rock in years gone by. I can tell you its extremely arduous, especially the initial 1/3 of the climb. I reckon if I attempted it today at my age and level of fitness, I would struggle. If for no other reason, this would prevent me from doing it again.
Fortunately, there is far more to the visit to Uluru that just climbing the thing. It is visually spectacular, no matter what time of the day you see it or what distance you are away from it. If you have even a small interest in photography, Uluru has many faces and colours. There are also dozens of different ways to experience Uluru. You can walk around it, you can take a scenic flight over it, you can even ride a Segway around it. There is soon to be a balloon ride over it. And at the end of the day, you can take a camel ride near it or dine under the stars with it in the background. Seriously, they have thought of everything. It is amazing.
And don't forget to go and visit the Olgas, or Kata Tjuta as it is knows these days. Almost as spectacular to see, Kata Tjuta offers scenic walks through the canyons between the majestic rocks and sunset viewing the equal of Uluru.
Also worth a visit is the local Aboriginal cultural centre where you can learn about what Uluru and Kata Tjuta mean to the local people and how it influenced their culture and daily lives. You can see local women doing traditional arts and crafts including some of the best painting in the world.
Accommodation is limited to Yulara resort and camp-ground and it is essential that you book a spot well in advance especially during the peak season (May to August). There is limited free camping available in the area but its remote and there's no facilities whatsoever. If you don't mind a drive, you can stay at the camp ground at Curtin Springs, about 100km from Yulara. It has VERY basic showers and toilets but is pretty good for a free camp.
For the record, my 50th birthday party was very special, with family and friends making the journey there to celebrate with me. It was incredible to share this special moment with so many of my dearest friends in a place that is as spiritual to me as it should be to all Australians.
If you're thinking of coming to Uluru and Kata Tjuta but you've been put off by some of the recent negative publicity, put it aside, come here and make up your own mind. Its an outback experience with no equal.