If someone asked you where the biggest rock in Australia was what would your answer be? Uluru? What about Burringurrah? You have probably never heard of it because this mountain in the Western Australian outback is still generally known by the name given to it by a white explorer, who named it after his brother, Augustus.
Mt Augustus, known as Burringurrah to the Wadjeri people, is twice the size of Uluru. A big sign near its base proudly proclaims it to be the "Biggest rock in the world." But it gets a bit more technical than that, because Uluru is actually the biggest monolith, or single lump of rock. Burringurrah is a monocline, attached to a bigger body of rock beneath the ground. Biggest monocline in the world just doesn't have the same ring to it though.
The rock rises 715m from the surrounding plain and is covered in soft green vegetation, with groves of white river gums lining the gullies around its base. When the first rays of daylight hit its slopes it glows molten red.
We drove four days to reach this remote desert outpost; watching the landscape change from farming to station country, goldmines and ghost towns. The dirt road which heads north from Meekatharra has a station or two dotted along its rocky length; an abandoned police station and lock-up and a remote Aboriginal community. And then, suddenly, from out of the endless plains there rises a mountain of rock.
We set up camp not far from its base and spent a day exploring the rock art dotted around the mountain's base; hiking up gullies and gorges and watching flocks of budgerigars flit around a permanent waterhole. We lit a campfire and cooked damper on the coals, listening to the drone of the didgeridoo vibrating through the still night air from a neighbouring campsite.
But the moments which took my breath away were sunrise each morning, when I would push open the flap of our tent and step out into the pre-dawn light before anyone else had crawled out from their sleeping bags. Putting the kettle on to boil I would watch the sky lighten from purple to pink, the rock still cloaked in shades of green. When the sun crept over the horizon the rock suddenly took over the show - red, orange and ochre dominating the landscape for a few brief minutes, before the greens and blues crept back into the mountain's palette.
Unlike Uluru, the traditional custodians of Burringurrah do not mind people climbing the mountain. The Wadjeri people believe the rock was formed when a boy who ran away from his initiation into manhood was speared and died. They do not go onto the mountain at night, when they believe his spirit still roams the slopes. Our boys were keen as could be to climb to the mountain's peak but it takes a good six to eight hours - likely longer with children - and we really didn't think they would make it all the way up and back again without a lot of help. I was quite happy to stay at ground level, drinking my morning cup of tea and looking at this from the comfort of my folding chair, while they played in the dirt of a dry creek bed nearby.