What I will say is this: despite my urban tendencies, I’ve never regretted a single sunset or sunrise in a remote place, nor have I ever regretted any experience I’ve had in the outback – no, not even a hike (which, for those who don’t know, is “walking”).
On a recent work trip, I made my way back to Uluru for the third time, and it was no less incredible this time around than the first. There’s a specific kind of magic in the heart of this incredible continent, and should you feel any affinity for the depth of emotion, the wild spirit and the sheer beauty of the lands belonging to the Anangu people, then Uluru-Kata Tjuta and the surrounding landscape is really a place in the world you need to see, and feel, for yourself.
One of the greatest privileges I’ve had in my life, happened out here on Anangu country. I was invited to take part in a goanna survey, where National Parks and Anangu walk vast tracts of land to search for goanna nests to assess the health and well-being of this vital part of the ecosystem. When we returned, red kangaroo tails were retrieved from beneath coal and earth, ready to eat. No airs, graces or seasonings here – just the unadulterated experience of eating food in a place as it has been for tens of thousands of years. The visceral feeling of singed fingers as you peel back skin and hair to get at the meat, fat and sinew is an experience that will stay with me forever.
When you arrive at Uluru, chances are you’ll be staying somewhere in the town known as Yulara. The area houses most of the accommodation options around here, unless you are extremely lucky enough to be invited to stay on country, or you’re staying at Longitude 131, an incredibly luxurious glamping situation slightly further out in the desert, with views of Uluru.
Back in Yulara, you’ll find everything from camping grounds to plush digs at Sails in the Desert, as well as cafés, a theatre, restaurants, the all-important pub and all the usual amenities you’d expect in a country town, including the Gallery of Central Australia. There’s a huge diversity of artistic expression among the nations and identities of Aboriginal artists. At GoCA, you’ll find an incredibly dynamic display of work by artists from all over the Central Australian landscape, featuring some of Australia’s most exciting artists right now.
The entire GoCA enterprise seeks to ensure the art sold directly benefits the artist and their community, so you can be confident you’re not only taking home a special interpretation of someone’s story, but that artists and communities are supported. Look out for rare works by artists like Karen Napaljarri Barnes, whose work is among the most in-demand in Australia right now. Am I bummed someone nabbed a piece from under me, after I posted about it? Just a tad.
One of the most exciting parts of experiencing any new environment, for me at least, is learning about the culture through food. Throughout the Yulara precinct, from the cosy bistro Arnguli Grill to the very special Tali Wiru dinner, an immersive fine-dining spectacle held under the stars, this is your chance to experience some of Australia’s most precious and celebrated ingredients, from emu kofte to kangaroo osso buco, quandong, lemon aspen and Davidson plum. Not all ingredients are local to the area, but it’s a spectacular backdrop in which to learn from passionate guides, chefs, and elders. Take advantage of the daily free talks with guides, who are a wealth of knowledge when it comes to observing the landscape and sharing insight into local food and harvesting methods, plant medicine and daily life out here.
Get around it
It pays to wake early, even if you’re not a morning person – there really isn’t much in this world that compares to watching the sun rise as you walk around the base of Uluru, or through the curving, winding paths of Kata Tjuta. Be sure to put away your devices long enough to take it in with the most present version of yourself that you can muster. A walk or Segway with a guide here is a huge plus, not least because you’ll learn about the Tjukurpa (creation stories) of the Anangu, and why some parts of these ancient sites cannot and should not be photographed. Learning and respecting that sites like these are ancient, living, breathing parts of story and country only make a visit to this part of the world that much more special.
Get above it
If you can spring the budget for a helicopter ride, this is one of the places in the world where it’s truly worth doing. A helicopter tour brings a bird’s-eye view of both Uluru and Kata Tjuta as they rise out of the burnt plains, and it really highlights the magnetic nature of these rock formations in such a sparse, but completely alive landscape.
- Take your own reusable water bottle.
- Make sure you dispose of rubbish responsibly.
- Apply sunscreen and insect repellent religiously.
- Take in every sunset and sunrise if you know what’s good for you.
- Make some time to learn about Anangu stories and culture.
This article originally appeared on Escape and do not necessarily represent the views of australiaexploring.com