By Elisa Elwin & Tori Herbert
Uluru or Ayers Rock is located 440 kilometres southwest of Alice Springs in the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, one of the few World Heritage properties listed for both its natural and cultural values.
My family travel list always included Central Australia and the iconic Uluru. Time rushed by and my daughters 13 and 16 years old weren’t so thrilled about a trip away with “Mum”. My solution was to organise a group of like-minded Mums and daughters to join us on a 4-day adventure.
This destination met all our needs and wants. Easy to access, great real Australian experience, direct relevance to their education, time away from the distractions of their high tech city lives. Hopefully some solid mother daughter bonding and an enhanced appreciation for the richness of their lives as Australians. Our Group of 5 Mums and our 7 daughters were ready to go.
Uluru and Kata Tjuta have great significance for the Anangu traditional landowners, the custodians of Uluru Kata Tjuta National Park. They have a complex system of beliefs known as ‘Tjukurpa’ (pronounced ‘chu-ka-pa’) for which there is no direct English translation. This encompasses religion, law and the relationship between people, plants, animals and the landscape. Start your experience at the Park’s Cultural Centre, located about a kilometre from Uluru. There are free educational displays, aboriginal art and craft demonstrations, bush tucker sessions, walks and cultural presentations.
Where to Begin
Watching the sunrise flame Uluru to life is a perfect start. The sandstone monolith stands 348 metres high with most of its bulk below the surface. A no cost tour by the Park rangers taught us basic lessons about the Anangu people and Uluru. Perfect to whet out curiosity to go back for more. We did this later with visiting the cultural centre at Uluru. We asked an aboriginal woman behind the information desk for stories about Kata Tjuta (The Olgas) where we planned to walk the next day. We were told simply that this was a place of secret men’s business and as an all female group we could not be told. Disappointing yet peaking our interest for the challenge the next day
A Walk in the Park, Valley of the Winds Walk – Kata Tjuta
Our next outback adventure began early to avoid the heat of the day. The Olgas are a clearly signposted 20-minute (40km) drive from Sails. Our group was reasonably fit and agile and we chose the “medium” Valley of the Winds 3 hour walk (7.4kms) The walk at times was a scramble over burning deep red rocks. There were regular shade and water stations, yet even with a degree of fitness, sun protection and an ongoing supply of water we all felt the harsh conditions of this most sacred area. The last 20-minute climb uphill in 38-degree heat was not for the unfit or faint hearted. Cooling down in Sails gorgeous pool on return, we all felt accomplished and high-fived each other on our achievement.
Kata Tjuta, known also as The Olgas, is the aboriginal name, which means “many heads’. There are more than 30 rounded red domes rising from the desert . It is about 30 kilometres west of Uluru. Walks will be closed: from 11.00 am the temperature is more than 36°C.
The award winning “Sounds of Silence” dinner deserved renaming for our group as we rarely stopped talking, laughing and indeed singing ditties with the Irish backpackers at the next table. The 4 hour event began on a sand dune watching Uluru and Kata Tjuta perform their nightly colour change at sunset. We Mums sipped champagne and all supped on local delicacies including Kangaroo, emu and crocodile canapés. Well watered we were escorted to our linen clothed tables for a magical evening of story telling, indigenous music, and 5 star dining. Even the cloud cover limiting our star viewing didn’t affect ~the pure joy of sharing something so special with our daughters.
Ships of the Desert
Our final exciting activity was a sunset camel ride with Uluru Camel Tours operated by the Aboriginal Company Anangu Waai. The most exciting moments were getting on and off these large intelligent animals. Great jolting movements had the girls suppressing shrieks as the long legged beasts hoisted themselves up from sitting. The rest of our sunset journey was peaceful, gentle and glorious escorted by the calm and experienced cameleers. Watching the desert darken from camelback was a whole new twist for our viewing pleasure.
Four days was perfect timing, allowing adventure, recovery, family bonding and exploration into a tiny segment of Uluru History. Looking at the red dust that was never to wash out of my shoes I knew I would always have a reminder of our fantastic time there. Watching the landmark Uluru recede to a speck from our plane windows our group all felt richer and more Australian for our experiences at the Red Centre.
From Tori Herbert, aged 11
Five Best Moments of Our Trip
- Looking out the plane window, Uluru. I have seen it before, I mean in photos and everything. But never like this.
- Getting up in the dark to watch the sunrise at Uluru. Then seeing the rock up close and hearing the stories of the dreamtime and how Aboriginal people survived.
- Walking for 3 hours through the Valley of the Winds, wondering how far we had to go with every step. Then jumping into the pool when we got back to the resort cheering at how amazing we were.
- Having dinner in the middle of the desert, listening to Didgeridoo and hearing stories of the Anangu and their culture.
- Taking a camel ride through the desert at sunset. Hugging my first camel.
When to Go
Summer is very hot. Winter has cold nights and warm days. Choose the climate that suits your family best.
To make the most of your proximity to the National Park, hire a car for your stay. It’s much more cost effective than each person paying a full tour cost every time you wish to absorb the Uluru experience. There are several car hire companies represented at the Tour Desk. Book before you go to ensure availability.
What To Do
The Ayers Rock Resort Tour desk & Information Centre offer a wide variety of Tours and experiences. Including Harley or Camel ride through the desert., helicopter flights and eco-tour experiences.
Uluru – Kata Tjuta National Park
The Park is open all year round closing at night and for cultural reasons. Check the website for times. Entry cost is $25.00 per person for a 3-day pass.
Sounds of Silence Dinner
Book through the Voyages Travel Centre