There is so much to do and see it may take more than one trip.
Our journey began in New York City on Qantas (www.qantas.com), landing in Melbourne. It was one gateway to this tremendous land, and an interesting one at that.
Despite jet lag from the business class flight, we managed to explore this city and beyond. Our trip was varied and that was what made it so fascinating.
Australia has six states and two territories. We spent part of our visit in the Northern Territory.
If you have the time and want to wander a bit off the traditional paths in Australia, plan to work this itinerary into one of your trips. You’ll immerse yourself more deeply in the destination and come home saturated with the memories of time well spent.
Deep in Australia’s Red Centre in the Northern Territory lies Uluru.
Known also as Ayers Rock, this gigantic stone formation is the centerpiece of the region you are about to visit. Situated literally in the center of the continent, Uluru is a red sandstone formation that rises from the horizon in an extraordinary way.
Though there are other fascinating rock formations in Australia - Remarkable Rocks on Kangaroo Island, for one - nothing is as dramatic as Uluru for its sheer size, remoteness and as a sacred place to the Aboriginal people.
Uluru, oval in shape, stands 1,142 feet above the surrounding desert plain. It is 2.2 miles long and 1.5 miles wide. Its circumference is 5.8 miles.
Just viewing Uluru at different times of the day and night is worth the trip. If you stay at Longitude 131 (www.longitude131.com.au), you will have that opportunity. High-tech tents will be home during your stay just 16.8 miles (approximately a 30-minute drive) from Uluru.
In the midst of the expansive national park are 16 such tents that make the experience at once unusual and peaceful. Awakening in the morning you’ll see Uluru at sunrise. Relaxing at night fall, you’ll watch it as the sun sets. It’s a natural show, the best kind.
Each tent, which accommodates one or two people, is named for an explorer or pioneer in Australia’s outback. Memorabilia and artifacts help familiarize guests with one explorer or another.
A visit to Uluru is unlike any place you have ever seen. Part of the appeal is the enormity of it; the other attraction is it’s sacred meaning to the Aboriginal people.
The natural light turns Uluru to a dark rust or a lighter red brown at various times. There is nothing more you need to do than open your eyes and soak in the scenery. Walk along the path at side of the rock where you’ll come across a natural heart-shaped design.
Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park is a dual World Heritage site of more than 311,000 acres. In addition to Uluru, are the red rock domes of Kata Tjuta, also known as The Olgas.
While we were in the Northern Territory we met with some Aboriginal people, natives of the huge continent. There was a certain mystery about them, a naturalness combined with ruggedness I noticed as the dark-skinned woman scaled red rocks, her toes curling and clinging onto the hard stone. This is their land and they are at home here.
The Anangu - the original Aboriginal people - actually own Uluru and Kata Tjuta; they lease it back to Parks Australia and manage it jointly as a national park. This agreement began in 1985 and is known as “handback.”
Uluru and Kata Tjuta rise out of the surrounding Central Australian desert, dominating the landscape. The red rock (Uluru) and domed rock formations (Kata Tjuta) are millions of years old.
Uluru and Kata Tjuta are situated approximately four and 1/2 hours’ drive from the nearest major town, which is Alice Springs. Flight time from Alice Springs to Uluru is about 55 minutes. (https://parksaustralia.gov.au/uluru)
While you’re in the Northern Territory, you can ride a camel. That is, if you are inclined. Atop a camel or dromedary, a camel with one hump, you are nine feet above the ground, as I recall. Some prefer to watch others ride a camel. Indeed, this is not for everyone. It is up to individual travelers to decide what is comfortable for them.
For more information, visit https://northernterritory.com/uluru-and-surrounds/see-and-do/outdoor-activities/camel-riding or https://www.ayersrockresort.com.au/experiences/supplier/uluru-camel-tours
Another place to stay near Uluru is the Ayers Rock Resort, Sails in the Desert. The luxury property includes a swimming pool, dining, a lounge and bar as well as 24-hour in-room dining. (https://www.ayersrockresort.com.au/accommodation/sails-in-the-desert)