It was late June and my hubby and I were still undecided as to where to spend our winter holiday, but we had our hearts set on an adventure -– we just didn’t know how tremendous of an adventure it would turn out to be! Uluru, or Ayers Rock, is a magnificent masterpiece of Mother Nature, and a cherished landmark of the native Aboriginal tribes, but in the eyes of those who’ve only seen it in pictures (myself included), it’s still just a rock. Plus, we didn’t intend to visit it at all.
The land instead of the sea
Visiting Uluru was a last-minute call -– it was definitely not our first choice. We were originally planning to join my mother on one of her cruises going up to Cairns to see the Great Barrier Reef, but a last-minute cyclone in the area forced us to come up with plan B. And what a plan B it was! Flying out to Alice Springs alone, the nearest city, yet 450 kilometers away from Uluru, was a sight for sore eyes, not to mention our flight to the Ayers Rock airport.
While the landscape altered from the emeralds and pearly whites of the shore into the rust-like oranges and flaming reds of the desert, we soaked in vistas no image could ever capture. As a huge sea-junkie, I never expected myself to be so dazzled by the almost complete absence of water. The palette of ochre and bronze was apparently just a tantalizing prelude to what would become a dramatic fiery coda.
Sunrise strolls and desert dreams
We decided to stay in one of the Ayers Rock Resort’s apartments just 20 kilometers from the majestic Uluru, leaving us within the grasp of what were some of the most memorable sunsets and sunrises I’ve ever seen! I mean, the hues of both dawn and dusk were so wonderful, that no early 5am rise felt like trouble. The pictures you can find online don’t do this place justice.
In the late evenings and as the night cloaks over the desert plains, you can clearly see all those stars you wouldn’t even know existed, simply because you can now enjoy them without urban light pollution. It was almost impossible to fall asleep, so we spent most of our nights reveling in the silence, and dreaming fully awake.
The rocky highlights
Despite its remote location and the sizzling weather, the transitioning period of spring in August and September abounds in rain, which gives a true makeover to the area. You’ll see strange-looking trees and wild flowers in full bloom, and if you’re lucky, you’ll get to snap a photo of a lightning striking the Uluru. When the rain finally stops, you can see the spontaneous waterfalls cascading down Uluru’s uneven sides.
With its 348m of height, a few extra kilometers running into the ground, and a base that gives you a 10km-long walk of over three hours of enthralling beauty, you quickly realize that Uluru hides so much more than its breathtaking flaming hues. Stop by the Talinguru Nyakunytjaku platform to view the sunrise, take a tour with a local guide to tell you the unforgettable stories of the residing tribes, and visit the Uluru-Kata Tjuta Cultural Centre for a valuable history lesson.
Out of pure respect for the massive monolith, none of us climbed Uluru, but the strolls around it and the hidden stops were more than enough to keep us occupied. I’ve never uttered so many “oooohs” and “aaaaahs” in my entire life! The Mala walk took us alongside some of the Aboriginal rock art all the way to Kantju Gorge that encapsulates the beauty of the setting sun and the flutter of the birds as they are slowly replaced by the late-night insects. By the way, don’t forget your face net and bug repellants!
The Valley of the Winds which is cradled by the Kata Tjuta rock formations just to the west of Uluru is as enchanting as the lonesome Uluru itself, although it doesn’t get as much hype. The highest of this group is Mount Olga which towers 546m above the surrounding plains, but since I am as I were then at a loss for words to describe this giant, it takes an encounter to absorb the immensity of this copper colossus.
If you’re having second thoughts
After our exciting trip, all I have to say is yes, by all means, travel into the very core of what is known as one of the most arid spots of the planet, spend a few days rocking in a jeep or flying over the desert, all for the sake of this solitary monument. It’s a life-changing experience and a bucket-list-worthy one, too.
Looking back, we are grateful for the set of circumstances that brought us to the great outback, and gave us a glimpse of what it means to be awestruck in the presence of a 600-million-year-old natural wonder.