Uluru is the Aboriginal name of Ayers Rock, the rock of red sand. The mountain is sacred to the Anangu people
Uluru is the Aboriginal name of Ayers Rock, the rock of red sand. The mountain is sacred to the Anangu people. It rises 300 meters above the desert floor. Every day of the year, throngs of visitors get up at dawn and flock to its feet. It is worth every minute of the journey to get there – two full days since I left home and 24 hours in the air. When I arrive, at 5.30 in the morning, it is still dark. I am offered a cup of coffee, fruit juice and a croissant. My room isn’t ready yet. It will be when I get back from the walk to the foot of Uluru. Three of us set off – our guide, a Belgian lady, and me – at 6:30, chased by the dawn. We are back at the hotel by 10. I find a table and order ham and eggs and pan-fried cheese on toast. The dining room at the Longitude has floor to ceiling windows; Uluru looks like a picture hanging on the walls. It appears in the tented-suites facing the sacred side of the mountain. The tents are one next to the other, independent, fiery red like the ground in the bush. William and Kate slept in one of them. I am in room number one, the furthest from the lodge, the WiFi doesn’t reach this far – there is no sharing the view with anyone. There is a desk, an armchair, a sofa, a trunk, photos on the walls of the British horsemen and pioneers who arrived in the 19th century. The ceiling is swaddled in a white canopy. The bathroom and wardrobe are hidden behind a screen. You can even see the mountain as you are washing your face, through an opening next to the mirror.
At half past three in the afternoon the guests are invited to gather at the lodge. First we go to the Aboriginal Cultural Center, then it’s canapés at sunset in the bush with white wine from the Barossa Valley, dinner under the stars, starting with a didgeridoo concert and one long dinner table set out on the red sand, in the desert. I don’t know anybody but the conversation soon flows. Lobster, barramundi – the fish served in Australia – and dessert made from wild fruit gathered in the bush that taste like peach. In the evening, the temperature drops 10-15 degrees – but chef Mark Godbeer still manages to serve dinner outside. Before dessert, we watch a performance of Aboriginal dance, and at the end the astronomer points out the stars and planets. At ten, we walk back, finding our way in the dark with a torch.
The day gets off to an early start in the Outback, to escape the midday heat. My bed is ready: complete with a boomerang of white chocolate, and a hot water bottle in a furry cover has been placed between the sheets. The bed is warm. I turn off the light and watch Uluru in the moonlight for a little while. Then I press the remote control to lower the blinds, and it’s dark.
Text Sara Magro
Yulara Drive, Yulara, Australia