Northern Territory

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Australia is quite an empty country. The entire contient of some 7.7 million sq. kilometer is inhabited by merely 20 million people (est. July 2007), which makes Australia one of the most sparsely populated countries, second only to Mongolia. To make the matter worse, vast majority of the population is concentrated on the coast, especially the Southeastern corner, which left the center of the continent pretty much vacant. The Australian have a term to describe such vacancy: the outback. Flying towards the very center of Australia, over the thousands of miles of flat, plain red sand, almost featureless except a few rivers flow by from time to time. Then suddenly on the horizon there lies this lonesome, huge, flat red rock, in the middle of the desert (last 2 pix). So we knew we've arrived at one of the most famous icon in Australia, the Uluru inside the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park in southern part of Northern Territory.

The Uluru, also known as the Ayers Rock, is a large monolithic sandstone formation that rise 348m (1142ft) above ground, but the most of the bulk is buried underground. Its circumference measures about 9.4km (5.8miles). The most amazing thing is not its enormous size, but the fact that there's no a thing around it but tens of miles of plain desert. No wonder the aboriginal people worship the rock. Its striking existence, so extraodinary in the monotonous, harsh desert, must have easily inspired revelations in the religious minds. In geology, on the other hand, the rock is known as an inselberg, which literally means "island mountain." It was leftover of an ancient mountain range, which was slowly eroded away in the last 500 million years.

Uluru

Look at the sacred stone from different angles.

The aboriginals has a number of myths on the original of these cracks and dents on the stone. Typically they involve wars between serpent beings or enraged ancestral spirits that left scars on the stone.

In the 1st 3 pix is the quiet Mutitjulu Waterhole, shared by aboriginal people as well as wildlife for thousands of years. The next 4 pix are paintings by aboriginal people, which are consist of figures of animals and plants, as well as abstract symbols. The pigments used are clays, minerals, as well as charcoals.

 

Uluru Sunrise. You have to get up ridiculously early and put up a good fight to earn a spot for the tripod. But you see, the view is really worth it.

A morning walk around the huge stone. Soft rays of the rising sun permeate through the saddle on a ridge, I found it incredibly...tender and soothing.

Grottos eroded from the sandstone over hundred millions of years.

The tone of the stone shifts as the sun rise higher.

 

I favor the Sunset over sunrise because not only its more reasonable schedule, but also it's richer in color. But of course, you'll have to endure the slight inconvenience of battling with small bugs.

Half an hour after sunset, the Moon rises. A full moon, with such a warm color in this chilling night in the desert, how spectacular.

 

Kata Tjuta means "many heads" in local language. Early European explorers preferred to call it Mount Olga. It's a cluster of 36 rocks some 25km west of Uluru. They're believe to be of about the same age and have similar origin as the Uluru.

A hike into the many heads.

 

Wildlife. The desert is surprisingly rich in wild life. In the first 2 pix are a pair of Crested Pigeons (Ocyphaps lophotes); next 2 pix, a Port Lincoln Ringneck (Barnardius zonarius); in the last 2 pix, a pair of Australia Magpies (Cracticus tibicen).

Reptiles and amphibian. In the 1st pix I think is a young Dwarf Bearded Dragon (Pogona minor minor). In the 3rd pic is some sort of large dragon. Aren't you surprised to see a pool of Tadpoles in the middle of a desert (last 2 pix)?

Insects.

 

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