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Northern Territory - Uluru
Remote, awesome, splendid in colours that vary as the day unfolds from soft blue hues to glorious orange-reds, Uluru is one of the most magnificent sights in Australia. Located 450 kilometres from Alice Springs, visitors must travel to one of the most isolated pockets in the country, but testimony to its power is that people continue to come and be fascinated by this sandstone mountain that rises 348 metres above the surrounding plain.
In 1985 management of Uluru and the surrounding Uluru National Park was handed back to traditional owners the Anangu people, who work in conjunction with the Australian National Parks and Wildlife Service. Part of the experience of travelling here is becoming acquainted with Aboriginal customs and beliefs, and the sense of Aboriginal spirituality that hangs over the rock. Aboriginal guides lead tours around the base of the rock and explain the significance of features to their culture. For those exploring on their own, interpretative signs assist in gaining an understanding.
Out of respect for the preference of the Aboriginal owners, many people do not climb Uluru. For those who wish to, a climb to the top is not for the faint-hearted - or the unfit. The steep ascent takes about 45 minutes and climbers should make sure they carry a drink. A walk around the approximately 9-kilometre base reveals caves, overhangs and interestingly sculpted formations in the deeply eroded yet smooth rock face.
About 30 kilometres from Uluru are the almost as strange Kata Tjuta (formerly known as the Olgas), 36 separate domes of red-brown earth perched on the desert landscape. The name ‘Kata Tjuta’ means ‘many heads’, and another interesting walk around several of these domes takes you through the so-called Valley of the Winds. Mount Olga, the tallest of the Kata Tjuta domes is 200 metres taller than Uluru.
source:The Living OutbackFor a thrilling change in perspective, which around Uluru and Kata Tjuta is mainly from bottom to top, visitors should take in Kings Canyon, in Watarrka National Park, about 300 kilometres via the Lassiter Highway turning off onto Luritja Road. Here you can perch on the rim of the canyon and stare down sheer cliffs to the floor 270 metres below. Kings Canyon is on the western edge of the George Gill Ranges, and a four-hour walk around the canyon rim takes in many other features, including the Lost City beehive-like rock formations and the Garden of Eden waterhole.
Both at Uluru and Kings Canyon, there is accommodation for a wide range of budgets. Uluru also features an Aboriginal cultural centre as well as an arts and craft centre. Facilities include restaurants, swimming pools, galleries, supermarket, medical centre, post office - just about everything.
The first European to name landmarks in the area was Ernest Giles in 1872. Describing the Olgas as ‘monstrous pink haystacks’ he named them after Queen Olga of Wurttemberg. Uluru, formerly known as Ayers Rock, was named by William Gosse after Sir Henry Ayers in 1873, then premier of South Australia (which administered the Northern Territory until 1911 when the Commonwealth took control). In 1987 the 126,000-hectare park was put on the World Heritage listing.


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