Another Side of Uluru

Mala Walk to Kantju Gorge, Uluru

Having watched a stunning sunset when I first laid eyes on Uluru, followed by a superb sunrise viewed from the south side; experienced my first up-close encounter on the Kuniya Walk (where I discovered there are waterholes at Uluru), we made our way back around to the north side where we joined an Uluru Park Ranger taking a (free) guided walk along the Mala track to Kantju Gorge.

Mala, Uluru Walk at sunrise

“The Mala people came from the north and could see Uluru. It looked like a good place to stay a while and make inma (ceremony). Men raised Ngaltawata (ceremonial pole) – the inma had begun.”

Uluru Ayers Rock

Cultural Sites Around the Base of Uluru

The Mala path is rich in traditional cultural sites, including a select few areas where no photography is permitted. The reason for this is that where rock details and features are equivalent to a sacred scripture describing culturally important information, they must be viewed only in their original location – It being inappropriate for their images to be viewed anywhere else other than at that site.

The walk passes overhangs and cave like rock formations that offered shelter to the Mala people, ancestors to the Anangu (prounounced arn-ung-oo) people, traditional owners of the area.

Uluru Rock Art

The Ranger had examples with her of a piti (wooden gathering bowl) and a manguri (head ring) for balancing and carrying the bowl on one’s head. She described the Mala people’s cultural way of life, how they made tools with malu pulku (kangaroo sinew) and kiti (spinifex resin), and she explained the rock art imagery represented on the cave walls.

Close to the ground of this cave wall one can see a circle with concentric rings. This represents a permanent water site (Uluru).

Uluru rock art

The circle above it with no inner circles is an area of no permanent water supply and in this case represents Kata Tjuta. Whilst when we visited Kata Tjuta (later in the day) there was water present, it is not a supply that can be relied upon during drought.

How the Mala Community Lived

Members of the Mala community performed their respective tasks in groups defined by gender and age.

We saw a cave where the ceiling was blackened by soot from endless years of camp fires tended by the elders. Areas where the young girls were taught and areas where the young men were initiated.

Aboriginal caves Uluru

We saw the Kitchen Cave where minymas (women), kungkas (girls) and small children would have camped.

“The minymas (women) would go out into the bush to collect mai (bush foods) and return to the cave to process them.”

Here you could see rocks smoothed from grinding seeds into a flour, which when mixed with water and cooked on hot coals produced a nyuma (flat bread).

Food was brought to this area to share. Men hunted for the kuka (meat) and women gathered nyuma, fruit, seeds and roots. Collectively prepared it was then distributed to family camps, the old people’s cave and to the nyiinka (bush boys) camp

Aboriginal rock art Uluru

The Mala Story Set in Stone

In the senior Mala men’s cave they camped and preparerd for inma (ceremony).

“In the middle of preparations. Two Wintalka men from the west approached and invited the Mala people to join their inma in their country. The Mala people said no, explaining their ceremony had begun and could not be stopped.

The disappointed Wintalka men went back and told their people. They summoned up an evil spirit, a huge devil-dog called Kurpany, to destroy the Mala inma. As Kurpany travelled towards Uluru he changed into many forms, from mikara (bark), to tjulpu (bird) and different grasses. He was a mamu ghost.

Luurnpa (kingfisher woman) was the first to spot him. She warned the Mala people but they didn’t listen. Kurpany arrived and attacked the men in this cave. Some were killed and they turned to stone. The remaining Mala people fled to the south with Kurpany chasing them.”

The faces of those men can still be seen with their white hair and beards on the back wall of this cave ~ The Mala story is set in stone here.

Mala mes seen on the rock face at Uluru

The Anangu people have successfully hunted and gathered in this land for generations passing down their stories and celebrating their ceremonies.

Don’t Climb Uluru

The route of the climb on Uluru is associated with important Mala ceremonies. Aboriginal belief is that during the creation period of Tjukurpa (pronounced: chook-orr-pa) Mala men took that route when they arrived at Uluru, so it is a traditional route of spiritual significance.

Through education the hope is all will understand and respect their law and culture by not climbing.

Climbing UluruI took 100’s of photographs of Uluru in a bid to capture its monolithic magnificence in the multitude of hues it turns throughout the day – hazy lilac, plum purple, rusty orange through to its classic redolent Uluru red…

But only one photo of Uluru came out black ~ The Climb.

There is so much beauty to be experienced at Uluru,

is there a need to trample on it?

Uluru wildflowers


Uluru is World Heritage

Uluru was initially inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1987 for its outstanding universal natural values, but its outstanding cultural values were added in 1994.

Rising to 348 metres above the plain, it is thought Uluru could reach down to 5 or 6 km below the surface ~ What we see is like the tip of an iceberg 😉

Uluru Ayers Rock Australia

Uluru’s red colour comes from the iron minerals in the rock, which when weathered by water and oxygen, rusts like iron.

Uluru, Red Centre Australia

Uluru is made from a sedimentary rock called arkose sandstone, its apparent soft folds having been smoothed by wind and rain over aeons.


But, here at the end of the Mala Walk…

Kantju Gorge, Uluruare the sheer sides of Kantju Gorge

Kantju Gorge, UluruAnd at the base of the dark algae stain, where rain gathers and tumbles

Kantju Gorge Uluru

is another precious waterhole.


Uluru is beguiling… 

Uluru Rock Australia

 It has an ever changing façade whether viewed from near or afar

…from soft folds and crevices, to sheer brazen walls.

…from rusty red to a purple haze

Its an experience not to be missed 🙂

Have you been? Or is that trip still on the ‘bucket list’?

Do tell in the comments below!

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28 thoughts on “Another Side of Uluru

    • July – August will be a lovely time of year, cold at night but perfect for walking and exploring during the day.

      Do drop back here after you’ve been –
      I’d love to hear how you felt after experiencing it in the flesh 🙂

  1. We loved getting up close to Uluru by walking around it too. I can’t understand people who climb it when the aboriginal people are so against it. I actually don’t know why it’s even allowed.

    • You’re right Erin, there’s so much to do there other than conquer its height –
      There is a ‘phasing out’ process in progress while people are alerted to what else there is to do at the rock other than Climb it –
      So it will become history in time.

    • There are cultural reasons as you say (“the Indigenous people’s wishes”), safety reasons (eg having the “screaming jitters”, PLUS its worth noting over 35 people have died attempting the climb), but there are also environmental reasons ~

      There are (naturally) no toilet facilities and no soil to dig a hole so you can imagine what happens numerous times each day when the climb is open –

      ‘When it rains, everything gets washed off the rock and into the waterholes where precious reptiles, birds, animals and frogs live and depend on that water.’
      ‘Water quality tests have found significantly higher bacterial level in the waterholes fed by runoff from the climb site compared to waterholes further away.’

      One of the traditional owners said:
      “That’s a really important sacred thing you are climbing… You shouldn’t climb. It’s not the real thing about this place. The real thing is listening to everything

  2. That “free” guided walk looks like a bargain. I have to include it when I go there. I have no plans yet, but it is going to happen. What a stunning spot and I have enjoyed seeing it from another angle. I look forward to seeing it for myself.

    • The free ranger guided Mala walk is conducted everyday at 8am October – April and 10am May – September ~
      There was also much to be taken in at the Cultural Centre –
      Allow some time for there too! 🙂

    • Have you been to Uluru before?
      The Cultural Centre in the Park is a wealth of knowledge –
      And the free tour can’t be overlooked for value… especially when as informative as it was 😉
      Uluru is a photographers dream – colour, form light…
      You can’t help but love it 🙂

  3. loved your blog – taking my son there for his 18th birthday in Feb.
    we have 4 full days and never even considered climbing. i think your black photo says it all!
    i’m horrified to hear that anyone would ‘toilet’ in such a sacred place – hope they get a nasty sunburn.
    i guess it will be really hot, but how cold does it get overnight? a cardi or a jacket?
    Also can u recommend a place to feed a ‘growing boy’ for a fair price? i’ve heard food is outrageously pricey.

    • In February it’ll stay fairly warm even at night too – only down to about 20C average, although funnily that can feel ‘cool’ if its been 37C during the day!
      Because of the heat its worth being up and out there at first light each day (despite the discomfort at the time!) to do any walks (and take an afternoon nap to catch up on lost sleep when its too hot to do anything else 😉 )
      Early morning light/atmosphere is always so magical too!

      Heat wise, the Cultural Centre, which is out in the Park, is open 7am to 6pm and is full of fascinating information as well as being a cool retreat when the sun gets high!

      There is an IGA supermarket at Yulara, which depending on where you’re staying you could self cater breakfasts, lunches and fill up snacks in between! General food prices there were fairly equitable.

      Fabulous place to go on an 18th –
      Would love to hear more about your trip when you get back 🙂

    • Thanks for the compliment on the website, and for dropping by!

      The emphasise these days (24 years after 1988 😉 ) is for visitors to Uluru to gain familiarization with the indigenous culture of the region whilst enjoying the diversity of flora, fauna and landscape all at ground level!
      Happily there are no Coke machines anywhere in sight still –
      Although cold drinks are available at the cafe at the Cultural Centre 🙂

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  6. I’ve been guiding here for many many years, taking backpackers and tourists from many parts of the world here and teaching them all there is to know about this absolute wonder of the Earth. In over 1000 guided tours to this area, i’ve always illustrated the cons about climbing the Rock, having seen a good few deaths from people falling. As well as the cultural significance to climbing i also believe the ecological significance is far greater, everything that goes up the rock must come down, and i’ve seen nappies, ciggerette butts and all kinds of rubbish come from the top to land in Kantju or Mutitjulu waterholes. If the water was to be contaminated, game(kangaroo’s and emu) and other things wouldn’t come to the water to feed, therefore reducing the supply of food for Mala/Anangu people. I’ve also noticed you tell a revised version of the Mala story, which really, should be told at the base of the rock where you can hear it where it happened, this is a big long story and a fraction of it takes place at the rock, the ret of it, young men have to go ‘walkabout’ to gather the information and relay it back to elders, and really shouldn’t be told on a website or forum. Your website would be a lot more complete if you made reference to the geological happenings of both Uluru and Kata Tjuta, from the splitting of continents, the Petermann Orogeny, it’s erosion and alluvial fan pattern to fill the western side of the Artesian basin, and subsequent erosion since it’s estimated arrival on the surface of earth some 350mya, to what we see today. The stories of European settlers withing the area is also a fascinating story to be told and hear. Born in Alice Springs who has worked a photographer and guide here for over 15 years, fluent in Pitjantjatjara, Aranda and Luritja i’d be more than happy to help with other aspects of your webpage if need be, contribute images, wet, dry, waterfalls, wildflowers, dust storms, flooding, sunsets, moonscapes etc, but all round a very nice webpage, lovely images and a good summary of a very very special place. Palya!

    • Thanks for your detailed comment – wonderful to get the full story from someone who has worked and lived in the area Bob.
      And a true compliment re this blog post from someone like yourself 😀

  7. My husband & I visited Uluru in June 2015 & it was the dream of a lifetime for me. I would love to go back to spend more time there. I enjoyed your blog post.

    • Uluru is a remarkable place – I have yet to hear from anyone who has not been awe inspired – which can’t be said for many places!
      It is a place that needs more time than one would at first glance allocate 😉
      Did you also walk the Valley of the Winds at Kata Tjuta?

  8. I am from Scotland but on a three month visit to Aus last year I just HAD to visit the famous Ularu!
    I joined a 3 night tour of ‘the rock’ and am so glad I did. We learned all about the culture, Tjurkurpa, traditions, stories, and symbols connected t the rock and the Mala and Anangu people. Sleeping under the stars each night out in the bush was amazing! We spent many an evening howling with the dingos!
    I think my favourite site that we visited was Kata Tjuta….I felt an overwhelming sense of spirituality there, more than at Ularu itself. Please don’t leave it out!!

    • What a magical experience to sleep under the stars in the Red Centre 😀
      And I agree – Kata Tjuta – has an amazing atmosphere about it –
      Did you have time to do the Valley of the Winds Walk – Being in among those domes and to then feel the desert wind on the far side – Quite superb!

  9. Hi Linda, I commented on this post after our 2015 trip to Australia & Uluru. We just returned (June 7, 2017) from our 2nd visit. We spent the better part of a week at Uluru & got the chance to visit Kata Tjuta as well as take advantage of the many free indigenous activities available at the resort. Leaving Yulara, I was shopping at the tiny gift shop in the airport. I was very happy to find one of your Journey Jottings map, which I bought, of course. I have yet to begin journaling this second trip, but will let you know when it is up. My primitive blog about our first trip is available at
    Thank you so much for your guidance & tips!
    Sincerely, Jennifer Rooney, New Orleans, LA, USA

    • Hi Jennifer, How wonderful that you got back to Australia and even more fantastic that you got to spend the better part of a week at Uluru!
      There is so much more to the Red Centre than just a big red rock 😉
      I loved Kata Tjuta too – I wrote this post about the Valley of the Winds Walk that I simply loved!
      I am also thrilled that you came across my maps as you were leaving -I hope you’ve jotted a few of those precious memories down in the jotting boxes before the thrill of the trip starts to fade! 😀

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