- 11 months ago
One of Australia’s most recognizable natural icon is a large sandstone rock formation called Ayer’s Rock or Uluru, located about 450 km away from the town of Alice Springs, in Northern Territory.
Every year more than a quarter of a million tourists drive down the road from Alice Springs to visit the famous rock and its cousin Kata Tjuta. At some point during the long drive, the high profile of a large rocky mountain appears on the horizon. An excitement surges through the travellers who believe they have spotted the famous Uluru. After a flurry of photos, it eventually dawns on most of them that this rock actually looks quite different from Uluru's famous silhouette.
This rocky mountain that visitors encounter on their way to the Uluru-Kata Tjuṯa National Park is the lesser known Mount Conner. Locals sometimes call it “Fooluru” (or “Fuluru”) because it is known to fool tourists.
Mount Conner is actually situated 100 km away from the Outback’s other famous attraction. Like Uluru, it is a classic example of an inselberg, or “island mountain”, created by erosion of the surrounding strata of softer rocks, thanks to its protective layer of hard conglomerate rocks and quartzite.
The rock was named in 1873 after the South Australian politician M. L. Conner. But Aborigines called it Attila and Artilla, and believed it to be the home of the feared Ice Men, the creators of cold weather.
While Uluru has a rounded top, Mount Conner is flat-topped, and is shaped like a horseshoe. It is 300 meters tall, slightly shorter than Uluru’s 348 meters, with the top 90 meters consisting of sheer vertical cliffs and the lower two-thirds sloping down to the desert. Mount Conner’s shape is so distinctly different from that of Uluru that it’s surprising that anyone could confuse it with the other.
The reason why Mount Conner doesn’t appear in most tourist circuits is because it’s located on private land. You can admire it from the distance, but if you want to get close, you need to book a tour.
Most of the land around Uluru is either national park or run by the Central Lands Council. Mount Conner sits on the nearest private lease to the rock, which belongs to Curtin Springs Station, run by the Severin family since 1956. When Severins leased the property, Uluru was not yet a tourist destination, and there were few travellers on the unsealed road. The first few years were hard for the Severins family —the isolation and the lack of rain. After a small amount of rain in the first year, there was not a drop for the next seven years.
Fortunately, the Severins decided to stay put. They generated income by selling tea to the rare traveller who did pass through. Curtin Springs station today is a flurry of activity. There are accommodation, a fuel pump, a shop, a bar, and dining areas.
Aside from Mount Conner, the other attraction on Curtin Springs' 1 million acres property is Lake Swanson, a large salty lake. When dry, which it often is in this region’s dry climate, the lake surface is covered by a thick crust of salt, tinged pink by the presence of algae and bacteria.