Uluru – The story continues…
Uluru - The Heart of Australia
In a previous blog, I recalled my first visit to the unique wonder that is Uluru. That introduction had a lasting effect on both my wife and I, and we have returned several times since. Each of these visits has been a different experience. Every visit has been unique and compounds the awe that we feel for this place. In fact, when we are speculating on our next Australian get-away, Uluru always receives significant consideration and often wins the competition of ‘where to this time?’.
My wife, Charmaine Saunders, is the Managing Director of Mainie and a Gunggari Aboriginal woman whose traditional homelands are around Mitchell and Roma in the Maranoa region of south-west Queensland. Charmaine often participates in Aboriginal events and ceremonies that celebrate the distinctive culture of our First Australian Peoples. Further, as an Indigenous-owned company, Mainie supports Aboriginal cultural and sporting events that have community benefit and, where possible, sponsors these events.
Charmaine and I have attended a couple of these special festivals that celebrate Aboriginal culture and art, especially the unique unbroken Dreamtime culture of the Central Desert. One such event has been the annual Tjungu Cultural Festival at Uluru. As well as participating in Tjungu, Charmaine also mentors some of the young Aboriginal men and women who perform as models at this event. We love the celebrations and specialty events at Tjungu and we love the location – our special place Uluru.
Uluru and the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park offer genuinely unique experiences for the visitor; for example, one such experience is a five-star dinner on the blood-red desert sand adjacent to Uluru itself, ‘the sounds of silence dinner in the desert’.
Sunset to the west of Uluru
This special dining experience commences with a short bus ride from the hotel to a rocky ridge about two kilometres from the western face of Uluru. At the crest of the ridge, guests are served canapes and sparkling wine at sunset. The timing is critical and offers the viewer an amazing bonus: to the east, you can see the dancing shades and colour changes of Uluru at sunset and, 180 degrees from this magnificent colour and light show, you have an eastern view of the massive rocky monument of Kata Tjuta, which the setting sun transforms into a spectacular show on the horizon.
After the sun has moved below the skyline, guests are led to a clearing on the desert floor about five minutes’ walk from the viewing ridge, where the haunting sounds of a didgeridoo and accompanying music sticks are heard.
It is more than listening to music. The sounds are ancient, as ancient as this place, and your senses are as alive as you will ever experience.
A ‘welcome to country’ is delivered in the traditional language of the local Anungu people. ‘Palya’ – ‘hello, welcome, thank you, goodbye, okay’, all in one simple and efficient word.
The food is a combination modern and traditional, with ‘bush tucker’ available. Excellent Australian wines and beers are served to accompany the food.
One special feature of the desert night is the brightness and clarity of the sky. The Milky Way is the brightest you are likely to see it, and the stars are brilliant on a background devoid of ingress light.
During the evening, usually after dinner, an astronomer with a large and powerful search light describes the night sky. He explores the stars and planets, and explains the constellations, as they put on a memorable show.
When the evening is over and you are back at the hotel, it seems like an eternity since you left this modern, western environment earlier in the afternoon. So much has occurred, and so many of the experiences of the evening will live with you for a long, long time.
It’s the Uluru factor, I suppose. It draws you back for another time and under other conditions, such as when it pours down rain and the water cascades in waterfalls from the many faces of Uluru – but I’ll keep that story for my next Uluru blog.
Posted by Denis Keeffe