By Rama Gaind.
This is the first feature in a series on Uluru, in the Northern Territory … not a far-away destination … but one that should be on everyone’s bucket list.
Finally, the stars had aligned and a return to the Northern Territory eventually transpired into what was a spectacular sojourn! It was a chance to reconnect somewhere different, a catch-up like no other.
Seeking adventure, a road trip, art and culture, festival and events? It can all be found — and more — in Uluru. Sacred to Indigenous Australians, Uluru has to be experienced, up-close-and-personal, to truly appreciate the magnitude of its beauty.
Australia’s red centre may be remote, but it’s not difficult to get to.
My first sighting (from this Qantas flight) was when the captain’s voice came over the intercom: “Ladies and gentlemen if you happen to be lucky enough to be sitting on the left-hand side of the plane (and I was!), you will see we are flying over Uluṟu directly below us.”
Actually, we were flying at a cruising altitude of 34,000 feet … so Australia’s massive iconic monolith was way, way, way down below us, but you couldn’t mistake its resplendent presence! Everything around it was stark with arid patches, pockets of green and bush and forest growth.
Uluṟu, or Ayers Rock, lies within the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, which also includes the 36 red-rock domes of the Kata Tjuta (colloquially ‘The Olgas’) formation. They were a faint distance away. We then flew over the Uluṟu township.
Uluru is a remarkable destination — one of the great natural wonders — where memories are made through valuable opportunities to connect with the people living there, including the Traditional Owners, people keen to share their Dreamtime stories, their culture and to experience the authentic Aussie outback.
It was fascinating to learn more about one of Australia’s most recognisable natural landmarks.
The traditional landowners of Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park are the Yankunytjatjara and Pitjantjatjara people. It’s a language they speak and teach their children. “… we call ourselves Anangu.”
The area around the isolated, scenic, remarkable surface rock outcrop is home to rare plants and animals, important spiritual sites, caves painted with remarkable rock art, an abundance of springs, waterholes, rock caves and ancient paintings. Uluru is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Rangers provide valuable insights as you unearth priceless ethos that exists on and around the burnt orange landscape while exploring the Mala Walk along the base of Uluru through to Kantju Gorge. One of the popular walks in the region, it is a two-kilometre return journey. See the Aboriginal rock art at the Mutitjulu Waterhole. Alternatively, discover Australia’s spiritual heart on a 10.5-kilometre walk around the entire base of Uluru.
As of 26 October 2019, no one is allowed to climb Uluru.
Uluru is the world’s largest megalith, or, more accurately, an ‘inselberg’ — an isolated mountain or hill rising from a plain in a hot and dry region. Made of arkose sandstone, Uluru rises 348 metres above the ground, reaches an incredible six kilometres below the ground, and has a circumference of 9.4 kilometres. At 348 meters tall, Uluru is higher than The Statue of Liberty (93m) and taller than Paris’ Eiffel Tower (324m) and only 33m lower than the Empire State Building (381m).
Sails in the Desert
The red centre experience began after checking into Voyages Sails in the Desert at Yulara. Indulgent escapes await in this luxurious desert oasis. Participate, learn and immerse yourself in the Australian outback with curated experiences and distinctive tours, and all unexpectedly become enlightening encounters!
On the first day, take the time to join some of the free guest activities on offer that are a really interesting way of getting to know the area. Go on a guided garden walk at the Circle of Sand Town Square, sample bush food and join in bush yarns, become engrossed in one-of-a-kind Indigenous art at the striking Mulgara Gallery, visit Walkatjara Arts at the Cultural Centre to see a working art centre in action and once inside the Gallery of Central Australia (GoCA) engage with a unique opportunity to view authentic Indigenous artwork, learn about its significance and observe artists at work.
‘Desert Awakenings’ is a beautiful tour that starts early in the morning as it allows you to be out and about as the sun comes up and you get stunning views of Uluru and Kata Tjuta. You also do some touring at the base of Uluru with a guide who can share the stories of the area. The six-hour journey goes really quickly, getting back late morning when you have the chance to spend the afternoon with some downtime at the resort.
Before the day comes to a close, partake of the ‘Sounds of Silence’ experience which begins with canapés and chilled sparkling wine upon a dune top overlooking the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. In the distance, Uluru captivates. As the sun sets and darkness falls, walk your way down to join the table of fellow travellers for an unforgettable dining event. Listen to the sound of a didgeridoo … then as the evening comes to a close … stroll through the ‘Field of Light’, a solar art installation of 50,000 lights!
An essential connection that’s amazing to capture: the changing lights reflected over Uluru’s many faces as the sun slips down below the horizon. Dining under the twinkling stars, the sparkling outback was impressive, partly because meeting with people makes for lasting reflections.
With such enriching, genuine, ingenious recollections, these words from author and motivational speaker Catherine DeVrye ring so true: “Dream it, dare it and do it!”