In the heart of Australia’s Northern Territory lies Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, an expansive arid zone colloquially called the country’s “red centre.” Its focal point is Uluru, a mammoth red rock also known as Ayers Rock, a name given to it by European settlers a century ago. Now returned to the Anangu people, Uluru is a deeplysacred monument to its traditional indigenous owners, who have lived there for over thirty thousand years.
Uluru, which means ‘great pebble’, started to form about 550 million years ago. Rainwater ran down high mountains, eroding sand and rock and forming big fan shapes on the plains. The whole area became submerged, and sand and mud covered the seabed. The weight turned the sand into sandstone and the softer rocks eroded, leaving this spectacular form.
CONTOUR AND COLOUR
Standing 348m high, and with a total circumference of 9.4km, most of Uluru’s mass is below the surface, reaching depths of up to 6km. It is formed out of arkose rock: the red and grey surface is the rusting of iron found naturally in arkose, while the rock’s original grey colour can be seen inside its caves. From a distance, Uluru changes colour from ochre to rust to plum and charcoal.
The features of Uluru have a deeper meaning for the Anangu. According to indigenous cultural beliefs, it was created in the very beginning of time when ancestral spirits crossed the land creating landscapes and life. The gigantic fissures in the sandstone are linked to these beings, and the caves around Uluru’s base are still used to perform sacred rituals.
While visitors can no longer climb Uluru, you can still walk numerous hiking tracks around it. The Anangu welcome visitors who wish to learn about their ancient history, culture and their spiritual connection to the land, which, according to their beliefs, carries creation stories known as ‘songlines’ recounting the adventures of their ancestral beings.