Ayers Rock: Australia’s Red Centre
by Jason Dutton-Smith.
It's no wonder indigenous Australians once thought the earth was flat. As our aircraft approached Ayers Rock Airport, the desert landscape stretched flat, for as far as the eye could see. The dirt is a bright scorched red, broken only by the occasional century's old desert oak trees and striking white salt lakes. This is harsh country; hot, sandy, baron, yet incredibly beautiful. This is Australia's red centre.
Located in the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park in the heart of Australia, sits the monolith rock called Uluru – otherwise known by its European name, Ayers Rock - straddling the Simpson Desert to the east and the Gibson Desert to the west. Its unforgiving climate is hot and dry during the summer (up to 45 degrees Celsius) while falling to the chilly single digits in the winter. Regardless of the season, visitors flock here in droves for an authentic Australian outback experience.
As remote as Uluru is, there is a surprisingly endless array of tours and activities available. Start your morning early as the first rays of light provide a striking view of the eastern side of Uluru. As the sun starts its slow climb in the distant horizon, the changing hues of Uluru and the distant Kata Tjuta seem to change as if by magic.
The sunrise experience is one of unforgettable beauty, but you'll want to arrive at least 30 minutes before the sun breaks to beat the tourist crowds to view the multi-coloured transformations of Uluru and surrounding desert. Equally spectacular, the setting sun provides yet another striking view of another side of Uluru where a convenient roadside viewing area provides the perfect vantage point.
During the day you'll find a wide array of free activities and cultural demonstrations in and around town. Local Aboriginal residents eagerly share stories of their history and culture while hosting art demonstrations, bush yarns and didgeridoo playing workshops in and around the town square. For those who enjoy native Australian flora, there are desert garden walks, which highlight the unique desert plant life.
Just a short 54km drive away is Kata Tjuta. Often referred to by its European name, the Olgas, this massive landmark consists of might cliffs and wide gorges. Along with Uluru, this area is sacred to the local Aboriginal people and is still used today for traditional ceremonies, initiations and a place for storey telling and education.
On our visit to Kata Tjuta we observed kangaroos and several bird species. If it's been raining, you may even spot the elusive echidna as it takes advantage of the abundance of ants that rains bring to the surface.
Other must do activities include the dining under the stars at the Sounds of Silence Dinner, a helicopter ride over the top of Uluru, star gazing and educational tour with an experienced astronomer and a sunrise camel trek through the sand dunes.