From ancient art to walks with a local, a trip through Australia’s Red Centre with Intrepid Travel leaves Chloe Cann in awe
It’s only while gazing at the huge burnt-orange mass looming in the distance that I begin to understand why it is sacred. Dawn is just beginning to break, and in its rosy glow no other form is visible on the horizon. No matter in which direction you look, beyond the stark sandstone monolith ahead, the surrounding landscape is as flat as Naomi Campbell’s stomach.
Australia’s most iconic landform, Uluru (also known as Ayers Rock) is otherworldly in a way I had not expected. It wows not just with its beauty, which changes with each shift in light and angle of viewing, but with its unusual geology and central place within the culture of the Anangu – the original owners of this land.
Situated in the Northern Territory, the Red Centre counts desert, mountain ranges and gorges among its attractions – many of which our group of 18 explores on Intrepid Travel’s three-day Uluru Adventure.
The ancient monolith is the major drawcard, and the tour allows guests plenty of time to soak it up: from a walk around Uluru’s perimeter come sunrise to watching the last waves of light wash over its contours at sunset, a glass of sparkling wine in hand and a smorgasbord of emu pate and smoked kangaroo sausage to snack on.
Known in geological terms as an “inselberg”, meaning “island mountain”, the formation of Uluru began 550 million years ago. Rainwater gradually eroded a nearby mountain range, depositing sand on the surrounding plain in large fan shapes that became miles thick. Fifty million years later, the area became an inland sea. And, as mud and more sand fell to the sea floor, the weight compacted the existing deposits into a swathe of solid rock. It wasn’t until 100 million years later, following the sea’s disappearance, that the Uluru we recognise today came to be. A huge shift in the earth’s tectonic plates caused the fan-shaped mass of sandstone that was once horizontal to be thrust vertically by 90 degrees.