“Oh my God, this is never gonna come out. Look at that, they’re completely orange. Decidedly, ragingly orange.” I’m whining to Mr. Twos about the demise of my Converse. My beloved once-white-Chuck’s are now the color of salmon roe; they’ve been properly christened by the desert silt. I’ll be wearing my *RM’s from here on out….. We arrive in June, and we’ve packed for the Arctic tundra. The desert gets cold at night when the sun hides and turns that ochre sand into a black sea of blank space. Cold blank space. There is a 20C/68F degree swing in the day and night temperatures. It’s perfect.
So why should you put this unconventional destination on your shortlist of places to experience? I’m so glad you asked.
You should not see the desert simply as some faraway place of little rain. There are many forms of thirst.–William Langewiesche
The Sounds Of Silence Dinner Out in the desert, in the shadow of the National Park, an alfresco feast of bush tucker inspired provisions awaits. You’ll begin your evening with a short dune walk from which to watch the sun put itself to sleep, and the haunting moan of the didgeridoo will signify that it’s time to begin your dining experience. White tablecloths contrast against the black sky and the almost carmine-colored carpet of sand on which your chair rests. Canapes and Australian wines welcome you with open arms, and waitstaff ensure that you never need ask for a top-up. You can mingle with other couples- or not. (Seriously though, scope out the people who know their way around a camera and claim them first, cause you’re going to ask them to take your photos- a lot. Just do that whole, “Oh, I’m happy to take yours if you take ours” routine.) The highlight of the evening is the seeping darkness after the lights are turned off. The stars shine like Christmas lights as the star-talker shows you the Southern Cross and the signs of the zodiac and for that moment, it’s evident how small we all are in the grand scheme of the universe. The desert is so much more romantic than for which we give it credit.
Uluru Camel Tours OK, I’m about to blow your mind. There are over one million feral camels in Australia, with the population doubling every nine-ish years. Am I the only one astonished by that? It makes sense though, deserts are the perfect home for humpies and they do well here in the outback. A very professional outfit, this is one of the top ‘attractions’ in Uluru. A wide array of offerings means that there is something for everyone. The experience of riding a camel is itself, an exciting undertaking. Unlike mounting a horse, the camel bows forward to load its rider, and you’re in charge of making sure you don’t topple ass over teakettle when she rises. (Tip: Lean waaaay backward.) Along the ride, you’ll learn about the native flora and fauna along the trail from the cameleers. Despite my hardwired night owl tendencies, we chose the sunrise tour because photo ops. These book up quickly so schedule without delay once you’ve got your trip on the docket. At the end of your hour long journey, you’ll enjoy some delicious homemade beer bread damper and billy tea.
Uluru and Kata Tjuta National Park (Obviously) Dominating the landscape, and the only things standing vertically as far as the eye can see, these are sacred places to the Anangu, the local Aboriginal people. The calm energy and solemn beauty are palpable, and there is a sensation of peace and grace. You’re welcome to run or walk around the monoliths and the trails at your own leisure and pace, however, a guided tour by one of the traditional inhabitants will give you insight into the compelling historical and geological details, as well as the enchanting Aboriginal Dreamtime stories of the area. It’s highly recommended. Simultaneously meditative and energizing, perhaps the energy being reflected back at us from these vermillion giants is exactly what we came for. As the sun swathes them in its brilliant light, the rocks change color before your eyes; reds morph into purples and oranges and blues with shimmers of green and lemon and amber. It’s quite magical. Catch a sunrise AND a sunset, it’s well worth it.
At the beginning of the Dreamtime, the earth was flat and dry and empty. There were no trees, no rivers, no animals and no grass.-The Rainbow Serpent, Aboriginal Dreamtime Story
Things to know:
- Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park requires a pass, as all other National Parks do. It’s $25AUD per adult and valid for up to five days. NT residents can get an annual vehicle pass for $65.
- You cannot climb Uluru or Kata Tjuta, as of October 2019. See here. And here. Annnnnnnd here.
- Ayers Rock Resort exists to house, entertain and feed guests going to Uluru, there is no other option for accommodation. With options ranging from tents to the ultra-luxe LONGITUDE 131°, you’ll be well catered for.
- Women are not allowed to play the didgeridoo. True story. (*There is conflicting opinion on this, but I stand by what I have been told.)
- Uluru, like much of the NT, has complicated regulations regarding alcohol purchase and consumption. It is considered a dry area, and sales are prohibited to the surrounding community. Only guests of the resort are able to procure the sauce, during specific hours and in limited quantities.
- No worries about the rainy season. Ever. If you do happen to experience the wet stuff, consider yourself lucky indeed.
- RM’s as mentioned in the first paragraph– Every Australian has RM’s. I think if you don’t own any, they make you move out of Australia.
- Keep an eye out for wildlife. Dingoes, kangaroos, wallabies, emus are iconic Australian fauna, but there are also over 170 species of birds and of course quite the array of Red Centre reptiles!
- The Dot Painting Workshop is incredible. Those paintings that look like random bits of curlicue and dabs of paint? They’re so much deeper than that. Each one tells a very specific story, and you’ll get the chance to create your own once you’ve learned more about the symbols and the narratives they represent. It’s much harder than it looks.
Have you been to Uluru? Were you one of the people to climb it? Do you think it’s worth the trip to Alice Springs (the closest town at a mere 470km/292mi away?)