Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Top 50 Places I Want To Visit #49: Uluru, Australia

This is one of those wow places. Completely unparalleled. Nothing like it. A kind of "what the hell is that?" place.

Well, I'll tell ya what it is. It's a giant hunk of sandstone that rises 1,142 feet and has a circumference of almost six miles. Essentially, its what remains of an ancient mountain range that slowly eroded over time. Why it remains isn't exactly known, but geologists hypothesize that its lack of jointing and parting surfaces and its generally homogenous composition allowed it to undergo little erosion.

The formation supports a wide array of flora and fauna, especially reptiles - there have been 73 different species of reptile recorded there. There are also a number of different bats and marsupials that live on and around the rock.

Around the base are a selection of different trees, including the Centralian Bloodwood, which has a blood-like sap that is used for medicinal purposes by the indigenous Anagu, the traditional landowners of Uluru.
A Bloodwood "bleeding."

I mentioned indigenous people. The Anagu originally had ownership of the formation, and for them it holds a certain spiritual significance. According to their beliefs, the world was once a featureless place and none of the places we know existed until creator "beings," in the forms of people, plants and animals, traveled widely across the land. Then, in a process of creation and destruction, they formed the landscape as we know it today. They believe that their land is still inhabited by the spirits of dozens of these ancestral creator beings which are referred to as Tjukuritja or Waparitja. Uluru, they believe, was formed during a creation period by two brothers who played in the mud, got covered in it, fought in some epic battle, and died next to each other, turning into Uluru.

There was somewhat of a clash between the Anagu and the original settlers of Australia. The rock was named Ayers Rock by the white dudes, but now, out of respect of the Anagu tradition, the rock holds two official names- Ayers Rock and Uluru. Some cultural tension still exists, especially with tourism now in the picture. There are a number of signs that ask tourists not to climb on the rock or take any pictures in order to respect its sacredness to the Anagu. Since it is not forbidden, however, many tourists still climb to the summit, where it can actually be quite windy. In fact, there have been 35 deaths as a result of recreational climbing there since such records have been kept.

Pretty cool, huh? Definitely something I plan to see in the not too distant future...

The Gap Year Guy

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