It’s winter in Australia, and as a result we’ve been busier than usual. May and June have flown by with lots of local activities such as repeats from last year (Finke and Beanie Festival), new arrivals, departures, a formal ball, and more. This week we have friends from the US visiting, and we’re exploring the Northern Territory with them. First up, Uluru!
Uluru, or Ayers Rock, is one of the most recognizable Australian landmarks. It’s a giant piece of exposed sandstone in the center of the Outback. We went on one of the short hikes and viewed it at sunrise and sunset. It is considered a sacred spot for the local Aboriginals, and there were several places that visitors were requested not to take photographs. To be honest, we found it to be an odd mix of commercialism and native culture. It felt a bit disjointed, and we didn’t really enjoy the way that the signs were set up. We ended the afternoon feeling rather disappointed, but fortunately the evening and the next day turned the trip around.
We signed up for the Sounds of Silence dinner. Although expensive, it was worth every penny. The night began with a glass of champagne while we watched the sun set over Uluru. It really is fascinating to watch the rock change colors throughout the day. After the sun was down, we made our way to the dinner area where we were seated with a couple from Melbourne and two sisters from Canada – the company was lovely. Before we ate, we were treated to a demonstration of several local dances. Dinner was a buffet with a range of Aussie food, including crocodile, kangaroo, barramundi, and lamb. After dinner, we heard the local legends about where the stars came from, identified several constellations, and had a chance to view the Moon and Saturn through a telescope.
Before we made the long (and straight and boring) drive back to Alice, we stopped at Kata Tjuta and the Valley of the Winds. The valley is aptly named as we were buffeted once we hit the first viewpoint. While Uluru is very mound shaped, the Kata Tjuta is something out of the American South west. The rocks have a variety shapes and curves that aren’t present at Uluru. This makes them more interesting and more enjoyable to walk through. Time limited our ability to walk amongst the valleys but it’s something we’re definitely considering coming back for.
We’ve headed off to Darwin for a few more days of national parks. Our Uluru pictures of sunrise (and more!) are here and we’ll have more posts soon.