Today is not a day to run. Today is a day to focus inwards rather; to gather the energy which will propel us south across the desert on Monday.
At first light, the team gathers on the eastern side of Uluru for that ancient but daily liturgy of sunlight and rock –
– sunrise at Uluru.
There is a signposted area – sunrise viewing area – and, though there are many people there, a sense of peace pervades. There is a stillness to this place that goes far beyond the mere lack of wind.
At this hour, the air is cool and then the Sun paints the rock in red light. The vertical layers are picked out in sharp contrast and we sit in silence.
I climbed once the tower of the cathedral in Cologne. It is not that the rock reminds one of the cathedral: rather, that the cathedral tries to approximate some prototype of which Uluru is a supreme expression.
Before the presence of the rock, speculation and mental reasoning fall away. Deep in the rock's crystalline heart move stories we may never know and a sense of time we may never understand.
'More time. More time,' was our photographer Prabhakar's response and indeed one could sit still before many sunrises here and experience something different each time.
To run here with the torch is a special experience.
Once the Sun is well up we approach the foot of the rock at Mutitjulu waterhole. From right at the base one feels the three-dimensions of the rock – red rock sweeps in giant waves skyward to a crest where it meets the flawless blue sky and the crescent of the Moon.
The waterhole lies close in against the foot of the rock – a source of life in this dry land.
As we travel around the rock we can see the scars and strange erosions that mark its faces – signs of significance to those who understand the stories of this place: this the tail of a kangaroo, that the bite of the snake.
We repair to our campground for breakfast ...
In the afternoon the team is joined by one more member – Yashodevi who arrives from Ukraine.
Then, with packed lunch on board, we set off for further exploration –
– of the more convoluted and baroque shapes of Kata Tjuta, which had beckoned to us at Uluru at dawn.
From our campground at Yulara it is nearly 50 km across yellow-white grassland dotted with Dr Seuss trees and occasional dustings of pink-purple flowers to Kata Tjuta.
This 'rock' is very different from Uluru.
It may not have the immediate power of Uluru but its great rounded, smooth, yeasty shapes show an interplay of air and water and rock that is just as mysterious as its counterpart.
We pick our way up the Walpa Gorge –
– the towering sides converging into a relatively green and woody end.
Here, apparently, live rock kangaroos and other strange Australian wildlife but they are not visible on a baking afternoon.
Even to the non-geologist the rock here is noticeably different from that of Uluru. It seems constructed from many rocks stuck together.
Some strange process has gouged out holes in the gorge walls leaving them dotted with caves, and, on the canyon floor ...
... strange boulders that seem to have fallen from above.
Pranava relives his yogic past with satisfaction.
The valleys between the domes collect the rainwater from the run-off above, offering havens for trees and the fauna that rely on them.
Next is the walk through the aptly named Valley of the Winds. The view from the first lookout is a mere hint of the grandeur to come.
Felix, who has been here before, is our guide here and urges us on through the heat.
Flocks of tiny Nyii-nyii, zebra finches, swirl through the acacia and eucalypt trees, minute bursts of life.
After winding through the smooth rocky domes of Kata Tjuta ...
... a conclave of extraordinary shapes ...
... and mysterious moods ...
... accompanied by the ubiquitous flies that we are beginning to get used to ...
... it is good to lose them in the wind funnelled between canyon walls.
The reward for our exertions is the astonishing Valley of the Winds, with 360 degree perspectives.
We are a hot and dishevelled bunch at the end of our day of rest.
But not so much that some of the team don't head back to Uluru for the sunset.
Dinner beneath the Milky Way and the light of the Southern Cross rounds off a day that has enriched us all.