So if you are not already a bit over my reminiscences, I will tell you that I used to live at Yulara. Yulara is the small town (apparently it may be small with only around 1000 people, but it is now classed as the 4th largest town in the Northern Territory after Darwin, Alice Springs and Katherine) that hosts visitors to Uluru (Ayers Rock) and Kata Tjuta (The Olgas).
I loved the thought of living at Ayers Rock. I had gone there as a child with my family and some friends, but this would be different. It was beautiful and peaceful (until the Sheraton Social Club had a rowdy event) and had red dust, there was vivid blue sky and puffy white clouds. I would meet new friends and open up new horizons.
I was the Pay Master & General Cashier at the Sheraton Hotel. It was great fun. We worked hard, reasonably long hours (we were contracted to work 48 hours per week over 6 days – but where else were you supposed to go?), and had a great social life. The staff came from all over the world, although the majority were from Australia. I am no domestic goddess in anybody’s stretch of the imagination, but suddenly I was the perfect dinner guest. They cooked and I offered to do the dishes, I was invited out most nights of the week, and even had my own signature ‘dish’ to take to barbeques. Karen’s Mustard Bread. Similar to garlic bread but made with butter, seed mustard and a squeeze of lemon juice, wrapped in tinfoil and I felt like a chef. We spent a lot of time looking at the rock, and at Kata Tjuta, and drinking port (remember that my parents were in Coober, it was much cheaper to bring Race Club port up from there than to bankrupt oneself buying beer at the pub in town at Yulara) in the car park waiting to see if the rock changed colour.
I loved the vivid colours, everything was brighter and clearer. I loved walking around the rock and Kata Tjuta, with Kata Tjuta really being my favourite place. Now I was back and nothing had changed. Uluru is magnificent the way it just juts out of the desert floor and fills your view as you move closer. In different light it glows different slightly different shades of red and orange and has an iconic silhouette that can’t be mistaken. It has a peaceful spiritual feel to it, even when surrounded by hundreds of tourists (something that cannot always be avoided), there is still a silence about the landscape, and a timelessness.
The camp ground had a special on, pay for two nights and get three, which made the daily price reasonable, so we took up the offer. We again had the opportunity of catching up with our friends from Woomera (actually they were really from Melbourne, just that we had first seen them in Woomera) and that we had then played leapfrog with up the Stuart Highway. We thought that a few picks to eat and maybe a sausage sizzle while contemplating sunset at the Rock sounded like a great plan, and it worked well. Meg managed to take a snap of the moment for us, so thank you.
Graham and I didn’t want to miss any sunsets or sunrises and had a lovely time exploring the park during the twilight hours. We explored the Cultural Centre at the Rock and learned some of the dreamtime stories of the local Anangu people. Graham also managed to do the Valley of the Winds walk at Kata Juta before it was closed due to heat. They close it at 11am each day if the temperature is likely to go above 36 degrees. We wanted to mark this occasion by doing something special. We had been on the road now for three months, a milestone for us, and we were in the red centre of Australia and it was awesome, and so ruggedly beautiful.
There are many tourist orientated experiences you can participate in for varying costs. There are helicopter, plane and camel rides as well as Harley Davidson rides to the Rock, or you can have a breakfast tour, or a fine dining dinner served amongst the sand dunes.
We had a look and decided that we wanted to enjoy the ‘Sounds of Silence’ Dinner, which is an experience out in a private area, where you enjoy bubbles and canapés while the sun set and then had a buffet dinner, aboriginal dancing and then a star talker would walk you through some indigenous night sky stories. So we booked in and were lucky enough to meet some more really lovely people that we clicked with. It was lovely to meet Mark, Sue and their son Mitch. We chatted during the sunset perched on our lone sand dune and then once the final rays of sun were disappearing we watched some participants arrive by camel (hmmm, will have to do this next time!). We then wandered a few at a time along a path to another sand dune area for dinner.
It was a really lovely night, it felt quite exclusive to be away from the other tourists, on the sand dunes, and enjoying the setting sun over an Australian Icon. All the people on the tour were happy to be there and enjoying the moment, which gave the whole evening a wonderful ambience. We had a fantastic group of people, we spent the whole night laughing. The aboriginal story and dancing began our next stage, then a beautiful Australian buffet including camel, kangaroo, lamb, barramundi and native herbs and fruit. The food was quite delightful and was accompanied by what appeared to be a never ending supply of Australian wines. Closer to the end of the evening the clouds had been teasing us and had rolled in and only partially cleared again, so the star talker wasn’t able to show us all the constellations that he was speaking about, but didn’t let that ruin a good story. A nice port (and coffee if you wanted) completed the night on the dunes and was then followed by a rowdy trip back on the bus with slightly pickled participants singing “Home Among the Gum Trees” and “YMCA”. It was a really lovely night and friends were made.
We just loved the time at Yulara and concentrated mainly on exploring the landscapes, but did manage a few memory moments. We found where I used to live, which is off one of the roads on the ring road that leads to the main staff area. It was busy and there were lots of people, but I was chuffed I found it. We also had a drink at the pool bar at Sails in the Desert Hotel which is the old Sheraton, and had lunch there also on another day. It felt like yesterday, rather than over 20 years ago that I was there.
We will have to return to Yulara at another time and spend some more time there, just to experience different shades of colour and to absorb more of the beauty of the place. But we are now on a timetable to reach Darwin before Anzac Day so off to Alice for a quick visit and then further north.