So is it possible to be moved by a giant rock ? Well lets say the starting point is finding the right rock. Travelling to Uluru there is a turn in the road where a megalith comes into view and suddenly the excitement in the car is palpable. "There it is, there it is - oh my god it is huge and pink and changing colours" - I shout with a heightened excitement. The boys were not so convinced and we immediately placed a bet on it, in the best of family traditions - a mere 1 million Euros this time. You will be most distressed to know I am a million poorer because in this game of "Spot the Rock" I got the rock wrong. This is Mount Connor which looks deceptively, well at least for the uninitiated, like the real thing.
But I cannot keep you in suspense any longer and though you may have seen it thousands of times, this is my own tribute to the Red Centre, this megalith in the middle of Australia which takes over and dominates the scene but in the gentlest and the most sacred of ways. It is visible from our room in the superb and much acclaimed Longitude 131 and sitting on the deck just watching it change hues in the hours of day, is a pastime that I suspect many have partaken in.
It began to form some 500 million years ago, when sand from a nearby range of mountains formed thick deposits. At that time it was believed there was a sea there and the sea compressed these deposits. When the sea disappeared and there was movement of two tectonic plates the sandstone tilted 90 degrees resulting in Uluru. The thing you might be amused to remember is that this is merely the tip- there is probably about 2.5 kms more of it underground. Its about 320 metres high and 10 kms in circumference and it is an important sacred sight for the local aboriginal tribe the Arranghe. They were granted their land back in 1958 and then immediately leased it back to Parks Australia for 99 years who run it with the local tribe.
There are many creation stories that accompany any walk around the base of the rock and even though the rock is still open to climbers there are notices in a prominent position asking people to refrain from doing so as it is a sacred place but also a dangerous ascent. While we were here, three young men climbed and went off the path, got stuck on the rock and had to be rescued, a costly and dangerous operation for all. The truth is with the rock still open to climbers is an ambiguous message when read in conjunction with the warnings against climbing. It should simply be shut for climbing and left to be, rather than to be conquered, by crazy tourists, unsuspecting youths who go up in thongs and T shirts and daredevils wanting to prove their worth. I say all this as we had an interesting discussion at dinner about the mixed messages on the climb. I was not in the least tempted for all the right reasons and the others, well lets just say, that while the temptation lingered, the weather, morality and impromptu rescue operations got in the way. The right way.
Just in case any of you are concerned about my financial state on the earlier bet, I would like to quickly say we are Even Stevens. The suggestion was made that scorpions did not exist in Australia. I said they did - and of course they do together with a host of other friendly but deadly creatures. Sighted on the road to the rock an Eastern Brown. The weather is warming up, the snakes and flies are gradually emerging but not even they can dissuade all those flocking to see the majesty of ULURU - which means " that big rock over there." More on the rocks soon.