Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Day One - Arriving at Uluru

Lets go right back to the beginning when I first arrived at Sydney Airport for my flight to Ayers Rock, directly into the heart of the Red Centre - the Northern Territory. I had never traveled to the Northern Territory, not even to Darwin, which is a regular "stepping stone" to Asia. So you can imagine that I was feeling a little nervous about heading out into the Outback, a place of many stories, of many miles of distance between towns....and overall, nervous about starting the two months of backpack travel on which I was about to embark - no hotels, no fancy restaurants, just the clothes and belongings in my backpack and a very tight budget.

The journey went without a hitch and soon enough we were flying over the Simpson Desert and into the Ayers Rock area. The awesome view from the place showed just how desolate and arid our country really is.

To give you some perspective when reading my blog entries over the next few weeks, here are a few statistics about Australia:
  • Australia's area is 769 million hectares, with about one quarter mostly desert and not used commercially.

  • The most extensive land use in Australia is livestock grazing in arid and semi-arid regions and covers 430 million hectares or 56 percent of Australia.

  • Covering 120.8 million hectares, 76 percent of this area is reserved, vacant or institutional crown land. For 13% of this crown land, the land is "protected area" for Aboriginal uses, that covers 102.6 million hectares. Most of this area (89 percent) is for traditional Aboriginal uses. Traditional Aboriginal uses are located predominantly in the Northern Territory (48.3 million hectares).
So here I was, landing in an area which has 48.3 million hectares of traditional Aboriginal land.

On 26 October 1985, the Federal Government returned ownership of Uluru to the local Pitjantjatjara Aborigines, with one of the conditions being that the AŠĻČangu would lease it back to the National Parks and Wildlife agency for 99 years and that it would be jointly managed.

Ayers Rock Resort, or "Yulara", where the majority of all of the hotels and lodges for tourists, lies outside the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. You then travel 17 km (11 mi) by road to the entrance of the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, where you pay $25 entrance fee (for three days access) and around 25% of the proceeds for entrance into the National Park goes to the Aboriginal community of Mutitjulu, population of approximately 300, which is located near the eastern end of Uluru (more on Mutitjulu later).

I stayed at the Outback Pioneer Lodge, which was also recognises YHA membership (backpacker discount membership) and I found the accommodation great for those who are looking to stay in the VERY expensive Yulara (the only real option for access to see Uluru and Kata-Tjuta).

Given that I arrived mid-afternoon, it was too late to join any tours out to see Uluru or Kata-Tjuta (the Olgas) so I took a walk around Yulara to learn a little more about the flora and fauna of the "Outback".

Little survives in the Outback and if it does, its pretty hardy stuff. Shrubs like this are called "puti".

The tracks from the Lodge to the shopping centre are just sandy trails, aligned with trees called "Desert Oak" and puti, with a few flowers in between.

These are called "Kalinypa Honey Grevillea "Sweetshops" because they are full of nectar, attracting a host of insects and honeyeater birds.

And here are a whole other set of wildflowers and flora seen along the way.

1 comment:

  1. Very sad story (earlier post) of your Aboriginal peoples in and near Alice Springs. Very similar to the plight of our Native American peoples, I'm afraid. Poverty, alcohol, hopelessness. Such sadness should never have to befall any peoples, I should think. Thank you for sharing with us, Kate.