As we boarded the bus for sunrise at Ayers Rock I thought to myself, thank goodness this is our last early wake-up call for a while. We saved a seat for Martin and Pauline, but Pauline arrived solo, reporting that Martin is so sick this morning he can't get out of bed. You know someone is really feeling ill to forfeit this trip. We arrived at the Rock in darkness, swallowed more instant coffee, ate a biscuit and lumbered over to the staging area to find a clear view of Uluru for sunrise photos. People crowded around jockeying for position with their tripods and their small groups. It was more of a free-for-all than we had anticipated, not at all as organized as the sunset viewing. Frank was soon fed up with the crowd and set off in pursuit of a spot away from the masses. I stuck by Pauline, but eventually lost her in the crowd. Frank came back for me and led me down a short path to a perfect site that no one else seemed to have discovered - must be his acute sense of navigational prowess that led him there. It was almost haunting to be standing there in the desert in near darkness looking out toward this hulking mass as it came alive under the faintest hint of sunrise at our backs. Shadows faded to reveal shapes that appeared along the face, one in particular looked like a pair of lips that became a smile. It was such an amazing experience that I couldn't decide whether to take pictures or to just enjoy it. Not long after the sun broke the horizon we were loaded back into the bus and carted over to the base of Uluru. Up close it is more than impressive. It is very colorful as well, which surprised us even further. The textures and shadows that we had seen from afar were actual deep crevices, caves and at parts freestanding boulders. The face is not smooth but pitted and textured. There is a lake at the base of one side that's obscured within the surrounding formation.There are trees and greenery within. We were given a personal tour by a local ranger who rendered a historic account of the Aborigines of the area and their life as it evolved around here. Ayers Rock is sacred and parts of it are forbidden to us, in fact we are told not to gaze upon certain areas of it. He explained meanings of drawings that were still visible in certain protected areas. When he finished the short walking tour, we were given an opportunity to climb the rock. Now here it gets a little weird. The Aborigines do not want climbers on the rock. We were advised against it. However, there is a gate that leads to the climbing area and there were climbers up on the rock. The gate was closed, and entrance blocked with a sign that clearly stated: Climb closed due to high winds at summit. Another sign on the closed gate stated: No Entry Penalties Apply. I guess enforcement is not a big concern in these parts, Mate. We strolled through the Cultural Center and museum and then were taken on a driving tour around the base. We opted out of the hike around the base because time was becoming an issue for us now. We had a flight to catch in a couple of hours.
All in all we are very happy to have made this journey to the Red Center of Australia. It was an adventure, a spiritual journey and it was the experience of a lifetime. We met two new amazing friends whom we promised to contact when we returned to Sydney on Destiny.