[The twelfth episode of the prequel to my first travel memoir,
Trekking With the T-Team: Central Australian Safari 1981.]
The Approach to the Rock
When we arrived at the fence that bordered the Uluru Reserve, we took more photos of the Rock, rusty-red with black streaks, and towering above us. We drove to the Park Ranger’s office to pay an admission fee to enter the reserve and see the Rock. Once Dad had returned from fee-paying, we commenced our drive around the base of Uluru.
As there were more tourists in their Land Rovers and cars also circling the Rock, Richard and I descended from our high status on the top of the Rover and crammed into the back cabin. The roads, though not sealed, were better graded with gravel tempering the bull dust, so though the dust was still a nuisance, it didn’t make me cough.
[Photo 1: Approaching the Rock © L.M. Kling (nee Trudinger) 1981 ]
‘When are we going to climb the Rock?’ Matt asked his dad.
‘Soon, ma boy, soon.’
‘Have you climbed the Rock?’ I asked Dad.
‘Erm…’ Dad coughed.
‘Of course, you did. Back in the 1950’s. Not so many tourists then, I reckon. Were you the only ones camping near the Rock back then?’
‘You went with mum and her family back then, didn’t you Dad?’
Dad put his dusty handkerchief over his mouth and coughed.
‘I remember the beautiful photos taken by Grandpa. He was a missionary pastor at Hermannsburg, you know, Mr B. And Dad was a teacher at Hermannsburg. That’s where he met mum, did you know, Mr B.’
[Photo 2: Rock 1950’s © S.O. Gross circa 1950]
Mr B rolled his eyes. ‘I know.’
‘I bet the place has changed a lot since then.’
Richard chuckled, ‘More tourists.’
‘The roads are better,’ Dad said. ‘They were just tracks back in the fifties.’
‘I dare say, ol’ chap,’ Mr. B butted in to our conversation, ‘the Rock must still be the same.’
Dad chewed his lip. ‘Well, er, yes, I s’pose.’
‘If you ask me, all looks primitive to me,’ Mr. B said. ‘I mean to say, the land looks like we’re back in the 1950’s. I really think they should invest in some decent hotels or motels. Perhaps a tourist village. For the tourists. I mean, just look at the Rock—they’re missing money-making opportunities.’
Sign of things to come…for the Rock. Did Mr B’s words come true?
[Photo 3: Sign and reasons not to climb Rock © L.M. Kling 2013]
[Photo 4: Tourists climbing the Rock when allowed © L.M. Kling 2013]
Dad shifted his weight in the driver’s seat. ‘Er, I don’t know if having lots of tourists is a good idea for the Rock. The Indigenous consider the Rock sacred. I think they’d want less tourists, not more.’
‘Tourism, that’s where it’s at. And from what I’ve seen of the natives in this part of the land, they could do with some money to boost their living conditions.’
Richard and I glanced at each other. I pondered, Was this man for real?
[Photo 5: Sacred Rock © L.M. Kling 2013]
Dad pursed his lips and turned into road leading to a cave in the Rock. ‘Before we climb the Rock, there’s this cave. It has ancient aboriginal artwork on the walls’, Dad said.
[Photo 6 & 7: Aspects of the walk around the Rock, Waterhole & Liver Spot © L.M. Kling 2013]
We walked along a narrow path under the shade of ironwood and acacia trees. The Rock awed me by its size. If I had a camera with unlimited capacity to take thousands of photos, I would have spent the whole trek to the cave snapping away behind the lens. Nearer, the Rock surprised me with shades of tangerine, crimson, umber and red of the iron stone. As we got up close and personal with the Rock I thought it looked like a giant elephant’s flank all scaly and knobbly. It had looked so smooth from far away.
The Caves in the Rock
We entered a cave which appeared as though it was a huge umbrella from the inside. In a zone of wonder we walked along the narrow passage under the roof. I imagined that waves had crashed against it and carved out its form. In one part, I studied the carvings of the ancient owners of this land.
We trod through the cave in silence. This was sacred ground.
[Photo 8 & 9: More aspects of Uluru caves © L.M. Kling 2013 and S.O Gross circa 1950]
[To be continued…]
© Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2016; updated 2018
Photo: In Awe of an Uluru Cave © Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2013