Writing from The Rock – a series of surprises at Uluru

 Desert flowerBraceletsRedbacks

This is my first time in the Uluru Kata-Tjuta National Park, and I have to say that it has been an incredible experience. My Australian made Redback boots have set foot in the outback a number of times, and I am quite sentimental about the layer of seemingly immovable red dust that they have accumulated over time, so I jumped at the opportunity to head out to the Red Centre with two of my wonderful friends. Not only do I consider standing at the foot of Uluru something of a pilgrimige, but this is a sight I have been whistfully watching on postcards my entire life. So you can imagine my suprise when Uluru turned out to look nothing like the picture I had in my mind!!

As one of my travel buddies so succinctly put it, I had always believed that Uluru rose out of the ground like a giant bunt-cake, all smooth with a scalloped edge, and although it does look like that from a distance, as I got closer I was amazed to see that its surface is dotted with caves carved into the rock face, that its base is surrounded by jagged pieces of rock that have fallen away maybe thousands of years ago, and there are deep pools that cascade down it’s side, creating multi-layered waterfalls on those rare occassions when it rains. I was also amazed that despite the infrequency of rain, that the park is so green. There is even a beautiful waterhole tucked into the base of Uluru that acts as a perfect mirror to the cliff face above it.

I  didn’t expect Uluru to tower quite so far above me as I stood gazing in wonder from its base. It astounds me that anyone would want to climb it, as not only is it disrespectful to the Anangu, but given it’s immense height, and the fact that the climb is virtually at a 45 degree angle it seems like a very unsound safety decision to me. And what was even more suprising yet, was that Kata Tjuta, otherwise known as the Olgas, stands some 198 metres higher than Uluru just 50 metres away*, but I had barely heard it mentioned until I started to review tour options.

Naturally I hoped to take home souvenirs of this incredible experience, and I was pleased to discover a sizeable range of lluf-approved purchases available from the souvenir shops around Ayers Rock Resort, the parks Cultural Centre, and the airport. This included soaps, bush pot purri, and various spice mixes, sauces and jams incorporating native Australian ingredients. Yum. But what was really amazing was the availibility of non-perishable items made in Australia or in fair trade arrangements, as opposed to being mass produced in more ‘affordable’ manufacturing regions. I could only make small purchases, given that my 7kg of carry-on already included a pair of boots that weigh nearly a kilo on their own and four days worth of clothing, however I have been very happy to purchase:

A t-shirt: Australian made clothing is always hard to find, so imagine my suprise to stumble across a relatively tasteful souvenir t-shirt. Samsousan, as it turns out, has a wide range of Australian made promotional and souvenir apparel, and also incidentally do a mens tuxedo t-shirt which I am very excited about – that one never gets old. You can see the complete range at: http://www.samsousan.com.au/

Bracelets: I am madly in love with the above pictured bracelets from Better World Arts. Accompanied by the story of the design, they are beautiful and functional pieces of genuine aboriginal art. Better World Arts sells some amazing handicrafts with a business model that empowers the aboriginal artists and the artisans in Peru, Kashmir, West Bengal and Nepal who bring the designs to life on cushions, rugs, bags and jewellry. These can be viewed and purchased from: http://www.betterworldarts.com.au/products

Magnets: I actually bought heaps of Australian made magnets. Some that had aboriginal symbols for beautiful sentiments such as togetherness, happiness, and friendship from a brand called Wijikura, and some that featured classic postcard shots of the National Park from a brand called Visit. A quick internet search revealed that Visit sells lots of Australiana items- some Australian made, including some lovely scenic calendars, and some not. But all its Australian made products are well signed, so you don’t have to look too hard to find them. Many of these can be seen on their website: http://www.visit.com.au/

So next time you are shopping for souvenirs, I encourage you to put in the extra effort to find out where they came from. There are genuine Australian souvenirs out there and I have found them worth the effort to find.

 

 

* See the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park Visitors Guide: http://www.environment.gov.au/resource/visitor-guide-uluru-kata-tjuta-national-park

N.B. photos above were not taken inside the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. You may be suprised to learn that for the purposes of safeguarging the traditions and sacred places of Anangu publishing images taken within the Uluru-Kata Tjuta national park requires a permit and is subject to strict guidelines.

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