Yulara is the spiritual sector of the Red Centre. You can feel it from the moment you first spy Uluru across the sand dunes as you drive along Lasseter Highway. The feeling is the same if you’re on the Great Central Road, except it’s the sight of Kata Tjuta that gives you goosebumps. While these two striking landforms are what draw hundreds of thousands of visitors every year, there are plenty of other activities to keep you busy.
1. Segway Around the Rock
This is the most exciting thing you can do with your pants on. The team at Uluru Segway Tours will look after you and offer a number of tours to suit. I’ve been lucky enough to enjoy this experience twice now, once on the Uluru by Segway – Self-drive Your Car to Uluru package with a bunch of my lunatic mates, and recently on the spectacular Uluru Sunrise & Segway tour (my recommendation).
It may be a struggle to get up so that you can meet the bus 60 minutes prior to sunrise, but you won’t regret it once you’re munching on a muffin, sipping a piping hot coffee and watching the colours of Uluru change as the sun breaches the horizon and night becomes day.
Having attached all the protective gear and passed the introductory safety course and practice runs, it is time to head off with your guide to circumnavigate the base of Uluru.
During the tour, you’ll learn about the flora and fauna, the geology of the rock and hear some of the local Indigenous stories of how Uluru was formed.
2. Ride Off into the Sunset
Sitting atop a camel, ambling through the burnt orange dunes with great views of Uluru on one side and the gorgeous form of Kata Tjuta in front of you has got to be one of the most relaxing ways to experience the Red Centre. You can join the crew from Uluru Camel Tours to enjoy this unique desert experience. There are several tour packages on offer, but my favourite is the Sunset Camel Experience.
After being collected from my accommodation by Sophie, the bus had a couple more pickup stops before we reached Australia’s largest working camel farm and home to the annual Uluru Camel Cup (held on the last weekend in May). The one-hour tour began after Jess showed us all the correct way to mount a camel – kicking the face of the camel behind yours, for example, is not a good idea.
My ride was Stumpy, named as his tail had been chomped by another bull camel. As the cameleers led the camels through the dunes, Judy pointed out the different desert flora and explained that all the camels on the farm are males. She also busted the myth that camels spit like alpacas. They actually “throw” their cud.
As the sun dropped closer to the horizon, the colours of the desert changed dramatically and after it set behind Kata Tjuta, we made our way back to the farm to enjoy some bush tucker and beverages. The freshly home baked beer damper with dukkha is divine. The tour was concluded when the bus returned us all to our accommodation.
3. Light Up Your Life
Designed by noted artist Bruce Munro, the Field of Light Uluru exhibition will blow your mind. There are many ways to enjoy this experience, arriving by camel, helicopter or bus and then sitting atop a dune viewing area munching canapes and sipping a glass of bubbles, but I reckon the best way is on a self-guided tour.
This way you get to really enjoy the exhibition and see it for what it really is, over 50,000 slender stems topped with frosted glass spheres that cover an area bigger than seven football fields. As darkness falls, lit paths guide you around the desert floor as the lights change colour right before your eyes.
In local Pitjantjatjara, the display is named Tili Wiru Tjuta Nyakutjaku or “looking at lots of beautiful lights”. The exhibition concludes on 31st December 2020, so don’t miss out on this amazing experience.
4. Delve into the Culture
One of the benefits of Yulara being one big resort is the number of free events and activities that take place. Learn a little about the local Aboriginal culture and weapons for hunting listening to Bush Yarns, or discover local bush foods and sample seasonal fruits, nuts and spices with the Bush Food Experience and the kids will love trying to play the didgeridoo.
The Wintjiri Arts & Museum always has a variety of local art on display as well as being able to learn a little bit about what the art means. If astronomy is something you enjoy, there are several activities available including taking a close look at our closest star, the sun, in a manner that won’t make you temporarily blind.
5. Check Out the Big Ones
Of course, the reason that everyone is at Yulara is to get up close and personal with Uluru and Kata Tjuta. Opening hours of the National Park vary according to the season but as the park closes every night, all visitors must leave by closing time. Times are displayed at the checkpoint each day.
From 26th October 2019, the climb to the top of Uluru will be closed permanently. But you can still view it, walk around it (12km track), photograph parts of it (there are sacred sites around the base), ride a bike around it and of course, enjoy it. Kata Tjuta is an extremely important sacred site but has two walks, Walpa Gorge and Valley of the Winds.
Where to Stay
Ayers Rock Resort: There are several accommodation offerings to suit everyone including The Lost Camel, Desert Gardens Hotel, Emu Walk Apartments, Sails in the Desert, Outback Pioneer Hotel & Lodge and the Ayers Rock Campground. The free camps near Yulara shown on some apps are on private land and should not be accessed for camping.
The resort also has a comprehensive range of services and shops including a supermarket, newsagency, post office and fuel.
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