Thursday – Was it 4.45 am when I awoke and dressed warmly (was it 2 degrees outside?), loaded my backpack with food and water and clothing for sunny times, and left Betty sleeping? After paying for my three day Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park’s Pass, I caught the shuttle Hop On-Hope Off bus (at 5.30 am in pitch blackness) – with Uluru my ultimate destination.
At the official entrance to the National Park sits a drive-through small building where car travellers buy their Parks Passes. As a bus load, we were instructed to hold our Pass up to the window, and then the bus drove very slowly through while the Park’s entry-station staff member stared then nodded their approval to proceed. I loved the efficiency of this process but it did make me smile; and every time I entered the Park the process was repeated. I had entered officially onto Anangu land with its Anangu law.
The sky began to lighten gently as we travelled towards a viewing platform at Talinguru Nyakunytjaku (about 35 minutes away from the Ayers Rock Resort), to watch the sun rise over Uluru. I was not particularly interested in the drama of a sunrise, rather I was keen to start walking around the rock. However, no shuttle buses drop passengers close to the rock until around 8am so I was locked into the sunrise viewing after which the bus’s first stop at the rock would be the Mutitjulu Waterhole.
When the bus reached the carpark at Talinguru Nyakunytjaku, we were situated about 4 kms away from Uluru and passengers were alerted not to walk through the grasses in that direction – the distance was greater than it looked.
Talinguru Nyakunytjaku has a viewing platform and a number of walks. A long wide track led to the platform and people from tours and other buses sped uphill eager to see the sun rise. As usual I dallied. I talked with the driver. I walked up the track (almost a freeway!) slowly and read all the interpretation panels. Being alone – everyone had raced ahead – allowed me to feel the morning. To get a sense of where I was.
Eventually I reached the many layered extensive viewing platform. At one end people stood three deep facing east to take photos directly into the sun. I thought that was foolish and stood waiting for the light to change on Uluru.
A while later we boarded the bus and set off for the Kuniya carpark near the Mutitjulu waterhole. It was during these minutes on the road that I became conscious that Uluru is not a smooth ‘loaf of bread’ (my mind had expected it to be more or less smooth and it took a while for me to face the truth), a fact that was reinforced time and again as I walked around it later.