On day two of Oprah's Ultimate Australian Adventure
, Oprah and 12 adventurous Ultimate Viewers fly into Australia's Northern Territory to experience Uluru—also known as Ayers Rock. This natural sandstone formation is more than 1,000 feet high and nearly six miles around. It is a spiritually important site for the traditional Aboriginal owners, the Anangu people.
Geologists believe Uluru is 500 million years old, and at one time in history, it sat at the bottom of the sea floor. When the Earth shifted and the waters receded, scientists say Uluru was revealed.
Oprah learns about Uluru and Aboriginal culture from Malarndirri McCarthy, a government minister and leader of the Yanyuwa people. "To come here is just awesome," Malarndirri says. "It takes many people's breath away in terms of this incredible icon in the middle of nowhere."
"It doesn't make any sense that it's just out here in the middle of nowhere by itself," Oprah says. "Only God could have put it there."
Malarndirri says white Australian authorities mistreated Aboriginal people for decades. When Captain Cook arrived in Australia in 1770, he declared the land "terra nullius"—a land with no people—and claimed it for the British Empire. Aborigines weren't counted in Australia's census until 1968.
After arriving at Uluru, Anangu elder Judy Trigger presents Oprah with a handmade necklace.
Led by Aboriginal guides, Oprah and a small group of Ultimate Viewers venture out into the intense heat to get a closer look at Uluru's Mutitjulu Waterhole, a sacred place that's said to have healing powers. "It feels like earth made this cathedral," Oprah says. "This is one of the most awesome places I've ever seen. ... This is a little piece of heaven."
As the sun sets on Uluru, everyone—including the cameramen—stops for a moment of silence. "This is a very special sacred and holy thing that's happening," Oprah says. "Have a moment of gratitude and let your heart say 'thank you.'"
As darkness falls, a group of Anangu women gift Oprah and the Ultimate Viewers with the rare opportunity to watch the Inma, an indigenous dance that tells the story of their ancestral heritage.
"Seeing that women's ceremony was just a treasure, just such a gift," says Sandra, an Ultimate Viewer. "It's going to be with me forever."
Watch the sun set on Uluru and the Inma ceremony.
Published on January 18, 2011