TRAVELING TO ULURU, THE SYMBOL OF THE DREAMTIME
The highway that starts from Port Augusta swings slowly in the deep Australian desert to Alice Spring and then again up to Darwin is long more than 2,700 kilometers.
Some road stations and petrol pumps, interrupt the landscape made of low shrubs and of the colorful red, typical of the outback. Some kangaroos or emus run parallel to the asphalt, where long trucks whizzing from north to south and vice versa, crossing the Tropic of Capricorn and the Dingo Fance.
Coober Pedy, the world center for the opal mining, is located here. In the middle of nowhere. All the houses, churches, schools and hotels are built underground. Temperatures may reach up to 50 degrees, but the sunsets that you can see from "The Castle", the scenic spot just outside the town, are really unforgettable, where the road crosses lunar sights and just enough after-atomic landscapes to convince the producers to film the cult Mad Max movie, right in this area.
As you approach to Ayers Rock or Uluru in Aboriginal language, the view of the monolith, up more than 300 meters, is impressive. It is not just the most photographed rock formation in the world and symbol of Australia, it's also a Unesco World Heritage Site since 1987and it is located about 450 kilometers from the nearest town, Alice Springs, and almost 2 thousand kilometers from Darwin in the north coast. What thousands of visitors see each year, however, is only one-twentieth of the rock, which like an iceberg is hidden for 7 kilometers underground.
Uluru National Park is not only a monolith, but it is formed by two mountains: Kata Tjuta and Mount Conner. The first, literally "many heads", is also known as Mount Olga and consists of 28 domes, particularly photogenic, as the older brother, at dawn and dusk. The Ayers Rock surface, from a distance, appears almost completely smooth, approaching actually reveals many springs, wells, caves and ancient Aboriginal paintings, mostly hidden from piranypa (foreigners). And it is precisely the role that the Rock has in the mythology of the dreamtime ("dream age") to local people that makes Uluru a place full of mysteries related to ancestral creatures. The legends around the Rock, in fact, are many and range from that of the Red Lizard, to that of the Two Brothers Bellbird, both represented by numerous paintings dating back thousands of years ago. Place of mystery and worship for the aborigines still today, this marvelous monolith, a sleepy giant sculpted by the desert wind, will repay you of all the efforts undertaken to reach it.
Once you get to Alice Springs, the heart of the Red Center, you can get in touch with the Aboriginal people. But be careful though, despite the Australian government has granted them to live in the lands of their ancestors, many natives do not seem to like the presence of foreigners and do not fail to prove it every time you try to photograph them.
Said that, Alice Spring is a beautiful town, with excellent hotels and restaurants, one among all the Overlander SteakHouse, where you can enjoy a fabulous steak washed down with an excellent Australian red wine.
Your journey in the Australian desert at this point reaches a fork in the road: you can go on unitill Darwin or decide to leave your car here and take a flight to another destination on the continent, but before you choose what to do, we recommend you that you make a detour to Kings Canyon, where you can measure yourself in some hiking or enjoy a faboulus dinner under a sky so starry and clear, that you feel like you can touch the Southern Cross with a finger.
Written by Sarah Falchi - Photos by Paolo Castellari
WHERE TO STAY – SOME ADVICE
Cooper Pedy: Radeka Down Under
Uluru National Park: Emu Walk Appartment
Alice Springs: Ibis Style
Kings Canyon: Kings Canyon Resort
For more infos about our Australian trip: paolocastellari.com/icastell