After a week of exploring Australia’s beautiful and iconic coastline, and lounging at the incredible Vatu Sanctuary, it was time to do something a little more culturally significant. To do so, we scheduled a 3-day tour with EmuRun Experience that took us to Uluru, Kata Tjuta, and King’s Canyon; these are some sacred places for the aboriginal communities in Australia’s Red Center. It is important to keep in mind that the aboriginals have been here for 30,000 years; this is their land. Before making your way to Australia’s Red Center though, I would suggest buying water, snacks, and a fly net, as it’ll save you money on the road! 5FT Tip: I laughed when we were told to buy a fly net, as I knew I had a high tolerance for flies. Buy the net though. Trust me, you will want it, but this is how we felt about it at the time…
We were picked up from Vatu Sanctuary at 5:40am by our guide and driver, David (not to be confused with my brother, David, who joined me in New Zealand). Wide awake and cheery, David picked up the other guests before beginning the five hour drive to the Yulara Campsite near Uluru. The drive went by quite quickly, and for the first hour and a half, the sky put on a spectacular show, leaving my eyes glued on the ever-changing horizon. I was left speechless witnessing such a beautiful sunrise. Unfortunately, only my iPhone was accessible as my camera was packed away…
Before we knew it, we arrived at the Yulara Campsite, cooked up some burgers quickly, and were off to Uluru!
Before beginning our walk around the base of this sacred site, we visited the cultural center. You are asked not to bring in phones, cameras, or recording devices, as the aboriginal tribes, especially the Anangu tribe, consider such items entirely offensive.
We had been hearing the word Tjukurpa all day, but hadn’t had a good grasp of its meaning until we reached the cultural center; the cultural center seeks to convey it to us. In short, Tjukurpa is the basis of Anangu life: it is the reason for their existence and the guiding principles for their daily lives.
After an hour in the cultural center seeking understanding, we made our way to one of the world’s most iconic World Heritage Sights: Uluru.
Standing at 348 meters, Uluru is the biggest monolith on Earth. Think twice before climbing it though, as it’s considered extremely disrespectful to the Anangu people. While the hike is technically allowed by the government, the Anangu do not want you climbing it. Not only because it is a sacred place, but because it is dangerous; there are warning signs everywhere. 36 people have died while climbing Uluru, and over 100 more have died after the fact due to injuries or dehydration. When someone dies or gets hurt, the Anangu feel terrible and responsible; they are known to have flown overseas to attend the funerals of those those have died climbing Uluru.
We first went on the Mala Walk.
Our first stop was at Kulpi Nyiinkaku, or the Teaching Cave. Generation after generation, the Anangu elders taught the younger boys in this cave. They learned how to survive, track, and hunt. The walls of this cave were used in the same way we used blackboards in school, with the only difference being that the boys were then taken out into bush to learn how to use their lessons in real life — how to find the animals, how to make their tools, etc.
From there we walking to the Kulpi Minymaku, the kitchen cave. When looking at the cave floor, you can see smooth areas where seeds were ground. As expected, women and children would camp in this cave. The women would go out to collect bush food, and teach the girls this knowledge so that they would pass along to their own children.
At Tjilpi Pampa Kulpi, we saw where the old people sat. There’s a blackened ceiling from the fires they used to make too.
We ended our base walk around Uluru at the Kantju Gorge. This waterhole is to be approached with silence and respect, as water is sacred for the aboriginals. The people and the wildlife depended on this main source of water for survival.
From the Mala Walk, we began the Kuniya Walk. While not as long as the Mala Walk, this short walk was more informative about the Tjukurpa, creation time.
We began at Kulpi Nyiinkaku, where the boys learned to hunt. The boys would look through the small hole of the cave, looking for emu or kangaroo; all the while, they would watch the men in the trees, hiding with their spears, to see how they hunted. There are also paintings in this cave that illustrating how they older men taught the younger boys.
From there we went to Kulpi Mutitjulu, a cave where families used to camp. It was common for the men to go out and hunt while the women and children stayed back to collect bush food. In this cave, the families would share the collection of food.
The end point of the Kuniya Walk is at Kapi Mutitjulu, the most reliable source of water around the base of Uluru. As with all water sources, this waterhole is considered sacred and must be treated with respect.
After our up close and personal experience with Uluru, it was time to have a toast at sunset. EmuRun provides two bottles of champagne and some snacks to enjoy while soaking in Uluru at the Golden Hour; there was an unbelievable sunset to top it off too!
As the sun disappeared behind the horizon, we made our way back to the campsite where David made us a delicious chicken stir fry. 5FT Tip: While vegetarian options are absolutely possible, be sure to tell the office when booking.
Entirely stuffed, we climbed into our swag and slept in a million star hotel. Who needs a five-star hotel anyway? The night sky and the Milky Way above was remarkable.
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**Special thanks to EmuRun Experience for sponsoring our tour. As always, all opinions are my own.