Uluru or Australia’s red centre is a magical place. It’s one of the most iconic and recognisable symbols of Australia. The outback, unlike the welcoming sandy gorgeous beaches of Australia can be a pretty harsh place to manoeuvre and manage. The desert land is largely unpopulated with vast stretches of nothingness. But with that bareness comes a sort of lonesome beauty. The kind that is as melancholic as it is soul searching. It mesmerises you and makes you wonder about how it all must have been, before the transportation, roads, before when the aborigines lived in these harsh conditions and owned them. On my way to Uluru, I saw the movie ‘Tracks’ which is a true story about this girl who embarks on a solo journey by foot across the desert for 6months with only some camels for company! When I was standing looking over at Uluru, I couldn’t help but think about her and the movie, about how it must have been, walking through the crazy heat, the barren jungle, in a time of no cellphones. You can chose to call it madness or determination, but it was certainly epic. Seeing the hot sun, even though it was winters, I knew I couldn’t survive the trek for 2 days, let alone 6months.
Our trip was a modern day version of visiting the outback, over the weekend, through the package deals of Virgin Holidays. Lack of time didn’t allow us to do a whole road trip from Alice Springs to Uluru, but there’s always next time. We stayed at the Sails in Dessert Hotel, which is the 5Star property of the Ayers Rock Resort. It was a beautiful hotel, relaxing atmosphere, and very good service. The Resort itself is huge with a range of accommodation options to suit every kind of budget, and has a couple of viewing areas that provide excellent views. And, even though AS had wanted the sleeping under the stars experience, he was also grateful for the comfortable bed and hot food that awaited us, when we came back from the Uluru base walk! The base walk is a once in a lifetime experience and I highly recommend it. It’s an easy walk but a long one at 11km. We ended up walking an extra 4kms to the Cultural Centre as well, which is a good place to stop, if you are looking to buy some Indigenous artwork, and you can see the artists at work there. Photography is prohibited at the cultural centre and in some parts of the base walk, in areas that are of spiritual significance to the Aborigines. Walking around the base you get to see the rock from all the different angles, and as the sun rises up the view of the changes in the shade of the rock, set against the bright blue sky are simply stunning. The natural monolith is a wonder to behold and you can feel spiritual significance of it in the air. Whichever angle you look at Uluru from, it looks different yet the same.
The native aborigines, request you to not climb the rock, as it is of significance to them. As, responsible tourists, we greatly respect the cultural and spiritual aspect of a place and it’s people. Hence, we decided to not climb the rock, it just felt wrong, and would urge you to reconsider climbing it as well.
We saw the sunset and the sunrise at Uluru which is famous for the changing colours of the rock. Even though the sunset was a cloudy one for us, it was still magnificent, with the sky blending into a melange of pink, purple, blue and orange. The viewing spots are extremely crowded during sunset and sunrise, so its better to get there a little early to get a good spot. Most of the commercial tour buses, however have better and exclusive access to viewing areas, which works well for all those photo-op moments! The sunrise was a beautiful experience too and we did it the same day as the base walk, which was the second day of our trip.
The sun rises from the opposite side of Uluru, and the rays falling on the Rock transform it into shades of red. It was quiet busy though, even at the extremely early morning hour, the place was packed with tourist buses, jostling for the perfect shot. We enjoyed our courtesy breakfast box which had been packed by our hotel (as we were going to miss the breakfast buffet) with the stunning view of Uluru as the backdrop. Did I mention that I absolutely loved the service at the resort!
We also visited the magnificent Kata Tjuta, and did the short trek to Walpa Gorge. It’s an easy hike and a short one, with some excellent views. The Gorge itself however, is a bit of a disappointment when you reach the end of the walk. It did not ‘wow’ me as I had expected, and left me wanting more. We learned later that the Valley of Winds walk, which is 7-8km track, and a moderate grade walk is the better one in Kata Tjuta, with excellent views over the valley. Well, there is always next time.
The food is average in most cafes across the resort, however, I was extremely happy with the quality of food at the Breakfast and Dinner Buffets at the Sails in Desert, restaurant. The choice offered and the quality of food were both excellent. There are plenty of options to choose from, which range in price from affordable to fine dining, including the popular ‘Sounds of Silence’ and ‘Tali Wiru’. There is a DIY barbecue and pizza bar, open air style cafe, which has live music, in the Outback Pioneer hotel, which is the backpacker style affordable accommodation. There is a supermarket AGL store as well, which is well stocked,if you would like to use the campground barbecue facilities.
I would highly recommend at least a week long trip in the red centre with a drive through to Alice Springs to Uluru, experiencing the desert the way it is. However, if like us, you are short on time, or like a more relaxed ad comfortable holiday, which lets you experience nature, but in a much more easy setting, take the weekend trip to the outback. The beautiful sky, and the magnificence of Uluru are sure to cast a spell on you!