In the Red Center: Uluru and Kata Tjuta

We arrived in one of the most famous places on the planet. Here, in the Red Center, the red heart of Australia, stands the solitary Uluru (Ayers Rock in English) and the fascinating Kata Tjuta mountains (Olgas, in English).

Uluru at sunset

If you have followed us for a while, you will have realized that we are rather lonely, we love to enjoy the places in their most authentic atmosphere. That’s why we choose to start exploring this dusty corner of Australia from the Kata Tjuta Mountains. We stopped in the Red Center three nights and two days: we dedicated the first day to the Olgas and in the evening we enjoyed an aperitif with a view of Uluru and a dinner in the outback. The next morning we woke up early to see Uluru invested by the rays of dawn and then walked the path that runs through the entire perimeter.

Kata Tjuta (Olgas)

They are one of the most extraordinary places in this area. They are rounded rock formations polished by the elements and lying on the desert, where tourists are less than Uluru and where you can enjoy a more authentic and, ultimately, more pleasant atmosphere.

The path of the Valley of the Winds is a circular path of just over 7 km that runs around these rock formations, sometimes circumventing them and sometimes climbing over, and allows you to admire incredible landscapes. As the name suggests, along the way the wind is quite inclement, so let’s start bundled up with hood and jacket, then let us warm from the midday sun to the return. If you go there in the summer, it is essential to leave early in the morning bringing with you a good supply of water, because during the hottest hours of the day the route is closed.

Kata Tjuta contains a wild world, isolated, sour and sweet at the same time, where the rocks are pitted by the rain and where the scrub is clinging so as not to be carried away by the desert wind. There is an atmosphere of beautiful solitude, contact with nature is not immersion. One feels pervaded by the wide and delicate horizon of the desert and together one has the impression of being the cutout of a photograph pasted on the poster of a landscape that leaves too breathless to really be true.

When returning from the Valley of the Winds, we quickly lunch in a camper van and head to Walpa Gorge, not far away. We follow the path that goes into the gorge, we see in the rock ravines that we imagine to be teeming with animals (at least during the night) and we search the vegetation in the hope of spotting some animals (in vain). Here the tourists are more than those encountered in the morning, and are also a bit ‘noisy – this a bit’ annoys us.

We return to the campsite in the afternoon and make friends with a curious visitor who wanders around our van. It is a punk pigeon, an animal that we will find around us very often in the area, I intend to look for crumbs fallen or to warm up in the sun at sunset.

Bush tucker dinner and the Field of Light

In the evening we participate in an event called Tali Wiru: it is an evening entirely in the presence of Uluru. It starts with an aperitif at sunset on a dune (tali wiru means beautiful dune) sipping champagne and popping exotic canapés. Then we move to the area where we will dine: an artist who plays the didgeridoo welcomes us (at first pleasant and curious, only at first…).

bush tucker dinner in the outback

We dine by candlelight in the outback (it’s a pity that the temperature is so low) savoring a bush tucker menu: meals are made from typical bush products, from kangaroo meat to wild tomatoes, from aromatic herbs to the desert quandong (a fruit I dreamed of tasting since I first read it). We make friends with other diners at our table: a middle-aged Japanese gentleman, a Japanese-Australian family and a nice Australian lady who  is on a journey with her granddaughter to rediscover their aboriginal roots. At the end of the dinner, an astronomer tells us about the sky and the constellations, which appear incredibly bright in the darkness of the desert. We find the Southern cross, which we love since the days of Namibia.

Finally, after a hot chocolate that is neither too hot nor too tasty, it’s time for the great finale: the Field of Light. It is a modern art installation created by the artist Bruce Munro, placing thousands of light bulbs and hundreds and hundreds of kilometers of light wires in the outback. We have to admit that when we read about it in the brochure we thought it was a nasty tourist thing, but we soon changed our mind. The atmosphere is magical: the light bulbs change color and the lights dance in the dark creating a luminous neural network from which thousands of stems emerge. Like flowers lit in the immensity of the outback. The show is difficult to tell, but the experience is really worth its cost (you can see the Field of Light even without participating in the bush dinner).

Field of Light

We return home at Bert’s, still dreamy for the atmosphere of the evening, full of expectation for the next day: Uluru by day.

Uluru (Ayers Rock)

We wake up just before dawn and quickly head towards a lookout point from where to admire the sunrise. Since we are solitary, we choose the point where coaches go for watching the sunset. We find it actually sparsely populated, even if a small group of people are having breakfast with the ball music and this spoils us a bit the dreamy atmosphere of the spinifex caressed by the rays of the first sun. The dark and soft mass of Uluru stands out on the horizon and gradually turns red and brown.

Uluru at sunrise

When the sun rose, we pause a few minutes to have breakfast. Immediately after we leave because we want to spend the morning to visit Uluru. We start with the Cultural Center which illustrates the heritage and religious beliefs of the aborigines. Outside, we take the Uluru Base Walk, a circular path that runs Uluru the entire perimeter (10.6 km) and from which depart some detours that approach the rock to allow you to admire caves or rock paintings. As expected, the tourists are many and, while trying to get away from the noisiest groups, the atmosphere of the walk resembles more that one could be found in the subway of a large city rather than in the Australian desert.

Uluru is, in any case, worthy of his fame. Turning it around, it is easy to imagine how the Aborigines hundreds of years ago thought, seeing it from a great distance, that it could be a special place, a place to camp and where to find shelter. The red sandstone, smoothed by thousands of hands and wind and rain (it seems that rains create spectacular waterfalls that flow along the walls of Uluru), hides ravines, gorges and vaults. Next to this huge rock you feel small – the same feeling that probably the first Aborigines felt that approached Uluru. In short: yes, it is super-touristy, but it is actually unmissable.

Some parts of Uluru are sacred and therefore it is required not to take photographs or shoot; in the same way, the management of the park tries to discourage the attempts to climb Ayers Rock, partly due to safety issues, but also and above all out of respect for the aboriginal culture that considers Uluru a sacred place. This is why we were very astonished to see that along one of the sweetest ridges, a handrail was installed to make climbing easier! What a contradiction! Hopefully, from 2019 it will no longer be possible to climb Uluru and we rejoice in this.

The road to the next stop

At lunchtime we leave Yulara and Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. We retrace our steps, driving east along the Lasseter Road, then turning north along the Luritja Road, until after about 4 hours reach our next destination: the Kings Canyon.

 

Here is the video of the 4th episode along the Explorers Way – Enjoy!

 

::::Useful information::::

The Field of Light installation will be open until December 2020.

To sleep
Yulara (Uluru): the Ayers Rock Campground is the only campsite in the area: we advise you to book the pitch online because the campsite is very popular. Also in Yulara you will find several other hotels of different categories.

To eat
Yulara: in the central square of Yulara there are several restaurants and shops (some sell fine crafts). We had lunch at Gecko’s Cafe, which offers not only typical Australian dishes but also some more Mediterranean dishes and pizzas.
Tali Wiru: outdoor restaurant in the outback offering a bush tucker buffet dinner. Expensive but memorable experience. You can book online.

To drive
Km traveled: about 400

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