Stepping out of the van, I am hit in the face by intense heat, yet I don’t notice it, not really, my attention is elsewhere. My eyes are drawn like magnets to the solitary and prodigious sight before me.
I have just spent the last three weeks traversing the east coast of Australia; snorkelling the Great Barrier Reef, sailing the Whitsunday Islands, exploring Fraser Island, Sydney and Cairns. After flying across the top end and spending a few days in Darwin, I embarked on an epic train journey. The Ghan is regarded as one of the world’s greatest rail journeys and gazing out the window at the ever-changing landscape; I could see why. Sitting back in my seat, I took in the tropical greens of Darwin and Katherine and the rusty reds of the MacDonnell Ranges.
After a restless nights sleep, I was awoken by the whistle of the train piercing the silence of the calm exterior as we made our approach into Alice Springs. Disembarking the train, it felt good to stretch my legs. I located my transfer and made my way to my night’s accommodation, a base before tomorrows adventure.
I awoke super early the next morning, way before the sun, filled with excitement. The day had arrived – I was heading out into the Big Red. I lumped my luggage into the back of the van and introduced myself to our driver and guide; Tom. Tom was a typical Aussie bloke, wearing a white t-shirt that was no longer white and a Crocodile Dundee style hat, he had abundant knowledge of the Northern Territory.
After several hours on the road, the first orange hued rays of sunshine kiss the horizon and those on the bus began to stir. It wasn’t long before we made a roadside stop; we split up and like a colony of ants working together to collect wood for that evening’s campfire. Back on board, introductions were made: a family and several friends from Taiwan and some solo travellers from the UK, Germany, Switzerland and Australia. A friendly buzz now filled the van while Tom navigated us deeper the outback.
And then I saw it, the rugged carmine blur in the distance – Uluru.
Our group gathers and we begin our base walk. Following in the footsteps of ancestral beings we pass blackened stripes from channelled rainwater, acacia woodlands, grassed claypans and caves that are roped off from the public, reserved only for traditional business by the local indigenous men and women. Tom tells us stories of The Dreamtime, the Mala people and the incredible rock art.
Before we make our way to the sunset viewing site, I take a moment to stand before Uluru, otherwise known as Ayers Rock, and just be. I block out the noise of the nearby chattering tourists and the distant cricket and allow myself to soak up the spirituality and majesty of Uluru, and as I stand in front of the spectacular natural formation, I realise just why people travel halfway across a continent to see it.