The one debate I had with my travel agent when booking my trip to Australia was whether to go to Melbourne or Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, which is in the Red Center of Australia. Due to time constraints, it was not possible for me to do both. After a lot of back and forth, I decided to go to Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park and skip Melbourne. Melbourne is a lot like other cities I have been to. Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park is very unique so it seemed like the better choice.
When they say Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park is in the red center, they are not kidding. It really is in the middle of the country and in the middle of no where. Alice Springs, the nearest town, is 280 miles away. I really admire the people who live and work there. I wouldn’t be able to do it. After three days in the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park area, I was more than ready to get back to the more urban areas of the country.
Because Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park is so far away from the cities, I flew into the area from Sydney. At the airport, we loaded coach buses that took us to the resorts in the area. I stayed at the Voyages Desert Gardens Hotel (https://www.ayersrockresort.com.au/accommodation/desert-gardens-hotel). It was a big resort with a pool and clean rooms. The one negative thing about the resort from my perspective is that it was very dark around the grounds at night, which I assume is an intentional way to cut down on light pollution in the area. However, at times, it made me nervous when walking to my room at the back of the resort by myself after sunset (I did not encounter any issues).
The Voyages Desert Gardens Hotel was where I finally encountered some of the big bugs I read about when researching Australia. I could not bring myself to kill or squish something so big though (I was imaging the crunching sound and the resulting mess…) so I chose to let them co-exist with me while I was there. They didn’t bother me so I didn’t bother them.
The main attraction in this area of Australia is Uluru, also known as Ayers Rock. Uluru is a massive sandstone hill? mountain? rock? in the heart of the Red Center. Uluru is sacred to indigenous Australians and is thought to have started forming around 550 million years ago. It’s within Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, which also includes the 36 red-rock domes of the Kata Tjuta formation.
After checking into the hotel and enjoying a quick lunch, I joined a group of people for a walking tour and sunset viewing of Uluru. Uluru is known for appearing to change color at different times of the day and year, most notably during sunrise and sunset, when it appears to glow. I was excited to experience the changing colors during a sunset for myself.
We spent a couple of hours walking around the rock, hearing stories about the indigenous Australians and seeing the caves in which they lived, learned or prayed. There were lots of carvings and drawing in the caves and crevasses that had various meanings. Many times, these areas were considered sacred and taking photos of them was discouraged.
Another activity that is discouraged at Uluru is climbing the rock. As we were walking around the base of the rock, we could see a visible path along with a rope that people use to climb it. The unfortunate part is that many people do not respect the rock along the way or at the top, leaving food and trash and damage to the rock in their wake. Climbing the rock is also dangerous because it gets very, very, hot in this area of Australia, making it common for people to get overheated during the climb. Rescue efforts are hard due to Uluru’s location. I wasn’t interested in climbing the rock out of respect for the indigenous Australians but even if I was, the path to the top was closed due to the high temperatures that day. In late 2017, the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park Board announced that tourists will be banned from climbing Uluru altogether starting in 2019.
As we were walking around Uluru, we could see that clouds were beginning to form in the area and it became obvious that storms were brewing in the distance. To keep everyone dry, our tour headed to a shelter area a few miles from the rock. We hung out under the shelter and enjoyed some snacks and champagne until the rain passed. Unfortunately, the clouds and rain prevented us from experiencing an amazing sunset. I was very disappointed to miss it but I knew I would have another chance to catch it the next night when I was schedule to go to the Field of Lights exhibit inside the park.
After returning to the resort, I ended the day by having dinner at one of the restaurants within the resort. I did not have high expectations so I was pleasantly surprised when the food was actually very good. My favorite of the things I ate that evening was kangaroo carpaccio. If you don’t know what carpaccio is, it is a dish of meat or fish (often raw) that is thinly sliced or pounded thin and served usually as an appetizer. The kangaroo carpaccio was served with radishes and a sauce and it was delicious!