There’s a great iceberg in the desert, near the heart of a vast land, riddled with scrubland and spinifex.
Uluru, or Ayers Rock as it’s otherwise known, is one of those places you are born knowing about. It’s just always been there, and you’re saturated with its presence in popular culture. Like many others, I figured I would get there one day. When I finally went, however, nothing could prepare me for what I experienced.
Named by the local Pitjantjatjara people, Uluru (which has no particular meaning) is like an iceberg in that most of it lies under the surface, as it’s believed to descend several kilometres into the earth. Rising 348 metres above ground, at 3.6 kilometres long and 1.9 kilometres wide, it’s a behemoth of a structure, an eminent monolith that harbours caves, ancient paintings, springs, waterholes and dreamtime legends.
Curiously, Uluru, or “the rock” as it’s colloquially known, sits near the centre of Australia – like the scarlet heart of a vast, arid animal that throbs vibrantly during different times of day. What surprised me about the place was that, when seen up close, it contained many worlds and layers. Sections appeared as if immense walls of flesh were peeling off some thunderously handsome god, while beyond, crevices and canyons twisted and turned, only to vanish within.
Uluru for me was a magnificent freak of a place, and walking around its circumference was like a dream. Here wind, water, heat and time have worked fiercely, incessantly, over millions of years to create this masterful handiwork, which sits approximately 335 kilometres south-west of Alice Springs.
Uluru is also a violently sacred place to the Anangu Aboriginal people, who would rather visitors didn’t climb it out of respect. I made the decision not to, however many still do. Since the 1950s, there’s been over 37 deaths from people making the climb. If the urge becomes overwhelming, there’s a number of tour companies that will take you to the summit. For my part, I had the urge to go for a surf.
There’s an iceberg in the desert, in the heart of a vast, dry land
It throbs a brilliant deep red
Unlike anything I’ve seen
A sandstone universe of dreamtime, of legend
It awakened me
Threw fire into my heart