Uluru – Bob and Jan Wright’s Story

Uluru – Bob and Jan Wright’s Story
(managers of Ansett Lodge, Ayers Rock, 1967
managers of Glen Helen Lodge, West Alice Springs

WARNING: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander visitors are warned that this page may contain images of deceased persons.

Jan and Bob Wright managed the Ansett Lodge at the base of Uluru over 40 years ago. This was before the area was established as Uluru-KataTjuta National Park and given World Heritage Status.

This is Uluru taken from the lodge. You can see from the lack of 'green' the season has been dry

This is the west side of Ayers Rock – known as the Male side, showing the “kangaroo tail” on the extreme left – a partly obscured cave, known as the ‘cathedral cave where Lofty, the unofficial mayor of Ayers Rock, played stalactites with a rubber hammer making nice musical sounds. Then towards the right of the photo is Kanjie Gorge behind the ridge. View full size

The Lodge at the Rock


“At the time there were 4 or 5 other motels and a hotel near the great Rock and a camping area. Visitors could arrive by a small air service, run by Con Airways, or buses carrying about 30 people, run by Red Line Coaches, C.A.T.A. Coaches, Ansett Coaches, Pioneer Coaches and other smaller local firms. Visitors also came by car or four-wheel drive. The roads were only corrugated red sand, or sometimes only fine ‘bull dust’ which could easily turn into a dangerous quagmire if it rained. That doesn’t happen very much in the ‘outback of Australia’. “

Photo taken flying low over Ayers Rock - Uluru showing roads to camps in the background

This photo was taken flying low over Uluru (then called Ayers Rock) looking down on left, to road leading to Ansett Lodge. Road is at first white “bulldust” – a white fine powder and then red sand. Further to the right is the camping ground (from where Azaria Chamberlain disappeared) and the past rangers cabin. View full size


“Tourism to the area was growing and many peoples were coming to visit the majesty of the Rock. You could climb to the top and sign a book that was kept up there.”

Photo taken at the beginning of the climb on Uluru, circa 1967

This photo is on the beginning of “the climb”; it did not have a fence then. Bob is on the right and the Pioneer Bus driver, Graham Phillips is on left.

Graham’s claim to fame, was that he had climbed the Rock in 7 different places. He was very fit and ran 4 miles before breakfast from the Lodge to the Rock and back again.

The rocks in the foreground of this photo continue out of range from the camera to form a half circle and belonged to mythical folklore. The rocks provided a home to long tailed Perenties – a type of goanna. View full size


Bob and Jan loved their time there. They ran the Ansett Lodge at Glen Helen for one season and then again for another few seasons. The cycle of Autumn, Winter and Spring was their unforgettable memory of their stay at Ayers Rock as it was known then. Kata-Tjuta was then known as The Olgas.

Photo of Ayers Rock - Uluru taken at sunrise from Ansett Lodge

View of the Rock with a typical sunrise. Photo is taken in front of the Ansett Lodge. You can see in the foreground the sign we made announcing Ansett Lodge. View full size


“So to continue our interview Bob, When you were managing the Ansett Lodge, was that around the time the baby Azaria Chamberlain went missing?”


“We were there long before that, by that time we had moved into Alice Springs, but we knew the area and knew the rangers, Bill Harney, Grenville Kaywood, Dorrick Raff, Bob Gregory and Ian Kaywood.”

Photo of Camels at Ayers Rock- Uluru

An idigenous Australian on walk-about would bring Camels into the Lodge for ‘rides’. We were wearing thongs and the extremely long and sharp star bindies were coming right through the rubber soles. When you looked at the rubber soles of the thongs they were peppered with the piercing jack bindies – they were huge. We couldn’t understand how the Indigenous Australians and camels could walk so easily on the red sand and not be injured. View full size


“I was just trying to tie into a time. And that was before the Yalara township was developed wasn’t it?”


“Well where we were was a township, it was developed and controlled by the Central Government in Canberra because at that time the Northern Territory was not classified as a Territory because it didn’t have Statehood – which it does now. It was in the early 1970’s that the Federal Government gave back the area surrounding Uluru to the first peoples, the Australian Aborigines – and it was later the township was moved out of the National Park to Yulara – along with the airfield .”

Ayers Rock - Uluru after rain. Ayers Rock letterbox visible

Ayers Rock in the rain – photo taken just outside our Lodge. You can just see the letter box on the right side of the photo, in the middle foreground. If you posted a letter in that box, it arrived at its destination franked with the words, “I have been to Ayers Rock” and a franked image of the Rock on the envelope. View full size


“Yes, I remember that – it was quite uplifting to see the joy of the local indigenous peoples when they responded. It was then the National Park was established and the name of Ayers Rock changed back to Uluru and The Olgas changed back to Kata Tjuta. It was also made known to tourists that Uluru was considered, by the first peoples, to be sacred and that they did not really want people to climb it.”

Original road from Ayers Rock to the Olgas (Kata-Tjuta)

This is a photo of The Olgas (now called Kata Tjuta) from the old original road coming from Ayers Rock. Desert Poplar trees had grown quite tall after about only two months. But then again, in drought they could die off and disappear very quickly. View full size


“Bob, I noticed when I was there recently, that the brochures given out to the tourists, don’t give any suggestion that Uluru has come from the stars as a meteorite or an asteroid. But I am told that the Elders from that area do believe that Uluru came from the stars…..did you have any communication with the first peoples …  ?” “


“Yes, there was Mick Whaggo, who was an elder, whom we knew quite well at Glen Helen, another tourist area, and Mick Whaggo used to refer to the fact that the Rock was” … … he stopped speaking for a moment and added, “And there was also Uncle Jack who was the tribal ‘Shaman’ – they both used to talk about the rock plunging from the sky and sinking into the desert. I have heard that only 1/3rd of the rock is showing above ground level – that would be 1,473 ft above the ground and the rest below the ground.”

Indigenous Stockman on horse

This is Mick Whaggo on his stock horse called ‘Creamy’. He lived in the Finke River bed in his “Whirley” which is an indigenous house made from sticks, branches and leaves – but he had all the mod cons and Bob sometimes resorted to visiting him to find out the prediction of the weather from his radio when we had problems with the radio phone. View full size


“So it is a bit like an iceberg floating in the water with only part of it above the water, most of it is under the water?” “


“Yes, and the Aborigines speak of a sacred water snake laying underneath it. I have also seen a programme on Austar TV where scientists have referred to the Rock as totally unrelated to the area.”

View of Ayers Rock from the air showing striations across the top of the rock

Aerial shot taken mid afternoon of Ayers Rock. You can see regular shaped ridges running across the top and leaning to one side and not the other. When people climbed to the top to the signing book, they had to traverse these ridges which was a challenge to say the least. We wonder if these ‘striations’ were caused by the asteroid coming through the heat barrier to enter into our atmosphere. The heat is severe and could have burnt the ridges into the great rock. We know that scientists have other explanations about the formation of the Great Rock but, as has been narrated in this interview, we believe it to be of extra-terrestial origin, and our Indigenous Australian friends also believe it has come in from somewhere in outer space.

There are a number of different tribes living in the huge area around Ayers Rock, each one with their own language and have borders which they consider their Country. We saw differences in their appearance from where they came. Some were very large muscular men and others were from another tribe who were tall and thin; others again came from another tribe again, who were quite small and thin.

We want to mention that the Mythical Kangaroo Tail was said to be taken from the Kanjie Gorge to divide the Rock into Light and Dark – Male one side of the Rock and Female on the other. View full size


“Yes, the Rock – Uluru is unrelated to the area, I have heard that myself … … (not mentioning Alcheringa) … … Uluru has Feldspar spread through it. In fact I have read that over 100 million years ago all of that area was a shallow sea. Scientists have found dinosaur bones that lived in water around that area – one they called the Australian “Nessy”, likening it to the so called “Nessy” in Scotland?”


“We found shells that can only be found in a seabed in that area and also the area was prone to meteorites – because nearby there is Henbury Crater, which has world acclaim, it is just off the highway going south to Adelaide. Then there is also the Haasts bluff – something like 20 miles across. It’s so huge it can be seen from outer space … … Astronauts on the moon mission could actually see the crater at Haasts Bluff.

So I think it is not surprising that Uluru has landed there from outer space, and that when that was an inland sea, it cushioned the fall and enabled it to sink into the soft sand, pushing the seabed ahead which formed Kata Tjuta.”

Photo of Mt Connor

Photo of Mt Connor surrounded by water. View full size

Photo of The Olgas (Kata Tjuta) taken from the air

Photo of The Olgas (now called Kata Tjuta) taken from 12,000 feet. View full size


“I have read where there are 25 confirmed impact craters in the Centre of Australia and more being investigated. Did Mick Whaggo have a theory about Mt. Connor? Jan told me that when you fly over the area in an aeroplane – Mt. Connor, Uluru and Kata Tjuta are all in a perfect row from East to West.”


“Yes, they are all in a direct line and they are all totally different types of rock from each other, although surrounded by sand. They say that … Mt. Connor is the plateau of the original ground level … if you look down the side it could have been the original seabed. On the Southern side of Mt. Connor you can actually walk up, it is a sloping hill and the northern side you see from Lasseter Highway it is perpendicular; from a distance it is sometimes mistaken for Uluru.”

Photo of The Olgas (Kata Tjuta), Uluru and Mt Connor taken from the air

Photo of The Olgas (now called Kata Tjuta), Ayers Rock (now called Uluru) and Mt Connor in the far distance, all in a line. View larger version


“When the wind blows the sand on the sand dunes – it exposes shells.”

Bob became more enthusiastic about his story:


“There is a place underneath the Brain image on the face of Uluru – where there are some big rocks at ground level. Over the years the sand has silted up the entrance. Years ago you would have been able to walk in there. When we lived there I crawled under the cave and looked up and saw some amazing rock paintings – but to see them now – the sand has risen to only allow about 18 inches to 2 feet above your eyesight to see them. They show a humanoid type figure with stars radiating out from the head – they are actually paintings on the inside of the huge rock. Jan and I always thought they were extra-terrestrial Beings”. Bob ambled on, thoughtfully: “These were images in a primitive or a naive form.”

Photo of the Brain and womens caves at Ayers Rock (Uluru)

Photo taken from what is known as ‘little’ Ayers Rock – There is a road, and the site of the old airport in between where our 3 yr old daughter Jane is sitting high on the ‘little’ rock just pointing… some people used to sit and meditate there and some where reduced to tears – others likened it to a visit to the Grand Canyon or other spiritual places. View larger version


“I don’t know if anyone else knew they were there because I was chasing a Perentie (a long tailed lizard) that ran into this hidden cave. The large lizard is quite harmless and if you standstill they will run up your leg and sit on your head thinking you are a tree -I crawled in – I was only in my late thirties. Nobody ever spoke about those paintings on the tours .”

Photo of the Perentie at Ayers Rock (Uluru)

This is a Perentie—a relative to the Goannna—although they are large, they are not dangerous. We found him under a rock just near ‘little’ Ayers Rock. View larger version


“In fact many of the stories told by the then tour guides were relating to Christian stories and had nothing to do with the real stories told by the first peoples.”

Photo Indigenous man dressed for spiritual ceremony pointing to white paint, representing spirit and the Rainbow Serpent

Indigenous man dressed for spiritual ceremony pointing to white paint, representing spirit and the Rainbow Serpent.

A friend once shared with us that when she looked back at Uluru from a distance there was a coloured rainbow coming from the earth and rising up and over and down back into the earth. It was the summer solstice – the 21st December. She felt that it was the mythical Rainbow Serpent. View larger version

Bob continued … with him laughing, you cannot help but laugh when Bob laughs


“I am just thinking about when the busload of people arrived and along with driver came a list of guests. As manager I would sort them out to different rooms or into dormitory type rooms that contained beds, which were really only stretches covered by a thin mattress, everything out there was very, very basic, but we found people enjoyed the challenge. One morning at breakfast, a lady came up to me and said, “Do you realize you had a me share a room with a strange man last night?” I profusely apologized and was quite concerned, but she interrupted me saying, “Oh, that its alright … I had a wonderful time.!” … (more of that infectious laughter.)


Bob went on to say they often ran out of living essentials like toilet paper and we would trade products with other lodges. They all did it because we were hundreds of miles from anywhere. A plane would come with stores requested and would only have say a plane load of toilet paper and nothing else. Or all meat with no vegetables supplied. It was quite a challenge to cater for everyone. Nobody cared, it was always a wonderful experience to arrive to the welcome of Jan’s home baked scones and a freshly made hot cup of tea. Anything was welcome after that long hot, dusty and extremely bumpy ride to get there. There were no roads in those days just heavily corrugated and rock hard red sand, unless it rained of course and then they were more likely to get bogged out in the middle of nowhere.


People were always exhilarated after climbing the Rock or even if they just walked around the area. They left feeling happy and uplifted. Some of them became quite emotional and I noticed a change in the people from when the first arrived until when it was time to leave. There is a very UPLIFTING quality to a grand visit to the Centre of Australia and in particular ULURU. We really enjoyed our time there. It is the heart of Australia and in the centre of Australia. It is a magical and mysterious place.


Jan has very kindly allowed me to upload many of her photo slides and has willingly added more of their amazing story in the comments underneath the photos.

Photo of the Eastern Side of Ayers Rock - Uluru

This is the Eastern side of Ayers Rock, Maggie Springs is on this side. View larger version

Photo of Ayers Rock - Uluru taken above Maggie Springs

This is the top of Maggie Springs – showing stains on the wall from rain water running down into the sacred waterhole. At the top of the Rock and out of sight is a small valley with trees growing in it, where water gathers after rain before cascading into the waterhole below. View larger version

Photo of Ayers Rock - Uluru taken at the base of Kanjie Gorge

This is base of Kanjie Gorge after rain. View larger version

Photo of Ayers Rock - Uluru taken from the old road - storm approaching

Stormclouds approaching Ayers Rock – Uluru. Photo taken from the old road. View larger version

Photo of Ayers Rock - Uluru taken from the Ansett Lodge - storm clouds hide the top of the Rock

Clouds crest and hide the top of Ayers Rock – Uluru. Photo taken from the old Ansett Lodge. Just before this photo was taken cloud completely hid the Rock – you couldn’t see it at all. We were joking at breakfast saying it (the Rock) had been taken by a Tourist. View larger version

Photo of the Sound Shell at Ayers Rock

This was known as the ‘sound shell’. It is only about 40 feet deep – and noise sounded from a person would echo. View larger version

Photo of the original road approach to Ayers Rock

This is the original old road between Ayers Rock and The Olgas – approximately 25 miles long. This photo also shows the desert poplars growing after good rainfall. In the desert flora grew very quickly. View larger version

Photo of Ayers Rock taken around midday with no shadow on the Rock

Photo taken about mid-day (no shadow). The official climb is on the right and the kangaroo tail is on far left.

You can see the road has been cleared showing red sand, which is everywhere in the outback of Central Australia. From the air one can see rows and rows of red sandhills going for miles and miles. View larger version

Photo of overhang above the women's cave, Uluru

This photo is taken looking out from the Overhang above the old women’s cave. The plain looks green, so it is taken not long after rain. View larger version

Photo of indigenous artwork on a rock below the women's cave, Uluru

This photo is a genuine painting found under a huge rock below the old women’s cave. View larger version

You can see more photos on the Next Page