At 6 AM Matt stopped his bus in front of the hotel to pick us up. We booked a tour with Mulgas Adventures after we checked several days a number of accommodation sites that came up each and every time with absolutely no place to sleep around Uluru. It would not have been an issue just to drive there but still being the outback we had The accommodations in the area are few and quite expensive ranging between $300-$450/night but in spite of this no site turned any availability. However a number of outfitters offers very low cost 3-4 days tours from Alice Springs to Uluru and the one we picked was Mulgas Adventures that offered something quite interesting but also puzzling: sleeping under the stars.
Their logo: “WTF’s Mulgas?” But WTF they mean by: “sleeping under the stars”?
There are about 500 km from Alice Springs to Uluru, first on Stuart Highway that connects Darwin to Adelaide. Also Stuart was the original name of the town till Alice got involved with her waterhole to confuse the hell out of everybody. In the outback you keep driving fast and look for jumping kangaroos, but none came in our site. It’s nothing in between the two stops that are few and far between, mainly gas stations and a tiny restaurant. The rest is the bush on both sides with mulga trees and eucalyptus and occasionally dead trees burnt from lighting strikes. We stopped at a camel farm where all tours offer a camel safari, actually a glorious name for just riding a camel around a loop. I guess in the lack of any other transportation the camels, introduced in Australia by Afghans in 1860, were a solution but I doubt that Todd & Co enjoyed riding them. It bounces the hell out of you and I think the only worse thing is to ride an elephant.
After another stop in Erlanda we took a left turn on Lasseter highway, named in the honor of the guy who crossed the outback first time and discovered Uluru and we kept driving to Curtin Springs, the last stop before getting to our destination. The tours syncs well with the planes landing in Ayers Rock’s Airport and we picked up the rest of the group and went straight to the camp to leave the luggage and from there to the rock.
Uluru is spectacular in its unicity. Just a large 364 ft tall rock in the middle of the desert with a circumference of about 10 km. It’s a sacred site for the local aboriginal people an the legends associated with it are numerous, some inscribed in their cultural center. But their secrecy goes to the point that you neither can take photos of them nor buy a brochure or booklet in the store.
The Pitjantjatjara Anangu society, the aboriginals of the area, is very well tiered and the business of men and women are totally separated, each keeping their secrets and legends from each other, and both of them protecting them in great secret from the outsiders.The rock and the entire park was returned in 1985 by the Australian government to the aboriginals who manage the place and try to impose the rules,one being not to climb the rock. Besides they request that some places considered sacred on the rock not to be photographed.
If coming in the steaming hot summer months you may have time to do a full circumambulation of the rock of the 9.9 km, but in this month when the sun sets around 6:30 PM we settled only for a drive around the rock and a walk of the front of the rock and the caves in the middle, full of old paintings.
From there Matt rushed us to get to see the sunset over the Uluru, set a table and filled it up with a generous load of sparkling wine till the entire rock became sort of bubbly like in one of the local dreams.