Getting up close and personal with Australia’s red heart is a spiritual experience.
Holidays usually mean enjoying the luxury of a sleep-in. But the red heart of Australia is no ordinary vacay destination, and here, a pre-dawn start to see the glorious sunrise at Uluru, or Kata Tjuta, is the norm.
Indeed, I’m bleary-eyed, craving the comfort of my bed, and by no means caffeinated enough to be awake when we set off in the darkness to a designated viewing area inside Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park.
But as the sun rises, I’m suddenly wide awake and awe-struck as the shadow of the rock turns into a vibrant ochre in just minutes. Once I pick my jaw back up out of the red dust, I ponder the age of the sacred rock, and how many stories it has to tell.
Science tells us that to celebrate the birth of Uluru, we’d need a birthday cake that would fit around 550 million candles, as that’s how many years have passed since Uluru thrust itself out of the earth during a massive shift known as the Petermann Orogeny. But I’m more interested in the creation stories of the local Anangu people, the traditional owners of Uluru, and the surrounding land. These intricately woven stories have been passed down through thousands of years from generation to generation. And to hear them I decide to get comfortable. Very comfortable.
Where to stay: Sails In The Desert Hotel
The location: Undoubtedly the best place to get comfy in Uluru, is at the five-star Sails In The Desert Hotel, at Ayers Rock Resorts. The resort’s premium hotel is a luxurious sanctuary right in the heart of the Central Australian desert, and every facet of its modern design highlights the mystery, vibrance and wisdom of the thriving local Aboriginal culture.
The room: My accommodation here finds the perfect balance of comfort and luxury with local design elements woven into the carpet and cushions and splashed across the walls of my room. And the ridiculously comfortable beds are a blissful indulgence after a long day of exploring the outback. Another highlight of staying here is the free guest activities program, which includes cultural guided walks, indigenous story-telling and art markets.
The restaurant: On the mornings I’m not getting out of those glorious beds early to set off and catch a glimpse of the sunrise, I enjoy the breakfast buffet in Ilkari restaurant, which is sensational. In fact, all the meals at Sails In The Desert are excellent, as are the cocktails at the Walpa Lobby Bar and Pira Pool Bar, which offer the perfect antidote for those who are a little parched from desert adventures.
The spa: A little pampering at Sails in the Desert’s Red Ochre Spa reinvigorated my weary body after a day of desert adventures, with the spa’s intoxicatingly indulgent lime and ginger scented body scrub the perfect fix after a physically trying day.
Where to eat
The finest Uluru dining experience can be found at Ayers Rock Resort’s intimate Tali Wiru. Here I nibble on dainty emu prosciutto canapés and sip French champagne atop a desert dune, while Uluru performs its dazzling dance, with a rainbow-hued sunset lighting the rock in a myriad of bright hues.
The table d’hote four-course dinner with an indigenous twist, matched with premium wines, is a feat of culinary genius given that I’m literally in the middle of the desert, and course after sublime course is prepared in a basic camp kitchen with only barbecue power (there’s no electricity) by the incredible chefs. A cognac enjoyed by a roaring fire as a local storyteller joins us to share some of those captivating stories I’ve been waiting to hear proves a perfect finishing touch to an unforgettable meal.
What to do
A Maruku Arts’ Dot Painting Workshop is a fun way to learn what the different symbols used to make creation time stories mean, but personally, I think the best way to explore the Central Australian desert is riding high above it as the early pioneers did; on a camel.
But if you prefer your transport more modern, and a little less smelly, hop on the back of a Harley Davidson for a tour of Uluru and Uluru’s sister range, Kata Tjuta. Or if you’re more inclined to get fit while sightseeing, you can rent a bicycle and explore the circumference of the rock at your own pace. And if you’re looking for an extreme view of the rock, why not jump out of a plane and watch it on the way down. Me? I’ll be back at the resort with a cocktail.
Images via Voyages Indigenous Tourism and tripadvisor.com.
Comment: Have you visited Uluru? What did you enjoy most about it?