Uluru, formerly known as Ayers Rock, is a place of immense beauty with a definite spiritual aspect. It’s the worlds largest monolith (single big rock), being located in the middle of outback Australia, it towers over the flat surrounding desert.
At present you can still climb Uluru, although the owners ask that you don’t. The climb is located on the western face, it’s extremely steep, with chains to help climb portions of it. The climb closes at 8am on any day the temperature is forecast to top 36°C (97°F) I shot the climb from the ground but am not allowed to show it.
I chose to respect the wishes of the owners and not climb. Instead I did the 10km (6.2 miles) walk around the base of Uluru. The base walk is amazing. Even if you choose to climb Uluru, make time to walk the base as well.
IMO the best way to walk the base is to start at the south car park before dawn, then walk east, counter clockwise around the rock. This way you walk towards the sun as it breaks the horizon… a sunning sight. As the sun gets a little higher & hotter you turn the eastern edge of Uluru and put your back to the sun walking west along the northern rock face. On this section I was going against the flow of hordes of tourists trying to shield their faces & eyes from the intense sun beating down.
I shot virtual tours all around Uluru, unfortunately I’m prevented from showing any virtual tours of the northern & north western sides of Uluru. The north face is VERY different from the southern views. It’s heavily pock marked with gashes and rock falls. Looks a little like a person someone has taken a knife too, cutting gashes, and removing skin to reveal organs and brain. Not pretty, but fascinating nonetheless.
Kings Canyon (Watarrka) National Park is a stunning place, 4hrs drive from Alice Springs in the middle of Outback Australia. It also happens to be 4hrs drive from Uluru (Ayers Rock) You can include it as part of a loop, driving west along the Macdonnell ranges from Alice Springs on Larapinta Drive, then heading to Uluru from Kings Canyon, which is what I did. (4wd recommended)
There are 2 main walks at Kings Canyon, a short walk along the valley floor at the foot of the canyon walls. It’s about 500m (1600ft) and takes 30mins at a leisurely pace. Near the end is a beautiful rock pool, depending on the season/rain.
The 2nd walk is a much more serious affair of 5.5km (3.5miles) which takes around 3.5hrs to complete. Seeing as this is in outback Australia, which is a HOT place, it’s best to start this walk very early in the morning… or perhaps later in the day.
The walk beings with a killer uphill slog, known as heartbreak hill. By the time you reach the top your legs are jelly & your heart pounding. Interestingly this used to be the end of the walk, but lots of people injured themselves coming down the steep hill after walking for 3+hrs. So the park rangers reversed the track to make the hill the start & now have virtually zero injuries.
After spending 4hrs shooting virtual tours on the track, my legs really were jelly coming down the gentle slope on the other side of the canyon, I was VERY glad to not be coming down heartbreak hill.
Earlier this year I was in Darwin shooting for the Northern Territory Library. I organised for one extra day in my schedule to allow me to zoom out to Kakadu & shoot some virtual tours. It’s a 3hr+ drive each way from Darwin to Jabiru in the Kakadu NP, so I didn’t expect to have much time for shooting. Plus the wet season wasn’t over yet, so most places were inaccessible. Even so the couple of places I could get to were amazing.
Back in October 2008 I had the opportunity to shoot virtual tours from the top of Australia’s Tallest mountain, Mt Kosciusko. I put together a separate map of the 46 Mt Kosciusko Walking Track Virtual Tours. This area is also known as the Snowy Mountains and the Australia Alps. It’s located in Kosciusko National Park.
Of course Australia being the flattest continent on Earth, our mountains are more rolling hills than ‘mountains’. This is borne out by the fact there’s a nice wide walking track all the way to the top, while back in the day you could drive to the top. They closed the road in the 1970’s though, as parking at the top of our tallest mountain was becoming an issue.
A Virtual Tour of Mt Kosciusko – From the top.
The official record lists the height of Mt Kosciusko at 2228m (7310 ft). My camera mounted GPS claimed a height of 2232m (7322 ft), you can decide which one you want to believe. (Hint: GPS is generally not very accurate at measuring height, although very close in this instance)
There are 2 walking tracks to the top. I chose the shorter one, a 13km (8 mile) return, which runs from the top of the Thredbo Chairlift. The lift costs $28 for a return trip in summer and takes about 10mins. It’s a beautiful ride up.
The walk wasn’t too hard consisting mostly of undulating hills. In October I had to cross about 6 snow drifts, some of which were quite long, and near to the top of Kosciusko a little steep and slippery as well, but passable with normal foot gear.
I did a day trip from Canberra out to the Snowy Mountains. It’s a long day, with a 2hr drive at each end, but well worthwhile.
A couple of kilometres in there is a lookout to Mt Kosciusko.
Footbridge over a mountain stream, Mt Kosciusko National Park.