Outback sunsets were often highlights of the day on the Outback Way, but as we hit the one-week mark, I was up early to see the sunrise.
Camels grazed lazily outside the fence at Kings Creek Station, where we breakfasted under the watchful gaze of the resident sulphur-crested cockatoo.
On the road by 7.30am, our ultimate destination for the day was Australia’s most famous natural wonder, the incredible monolith Uluru (Ayers Rock), about 205 km away.
Our first stop was at Curtain Springs roadhouse, 120km from Kings Creek, for a chat and cuppa (and cake) with the Severin family. Peter Severin settled here with his late wife Dawn and their infant son Ashley in 1956. Ashley and his wife Lyndee now run the cattle station, roadhouse, accommodation, art gallery and tourism operations that make up Curtain Springs.
After a tour of the accommodation, we crossed the road to see the enterprise that Lyndee and her daughter Amy have developed, showing once again that the Outback Way is bursting with creative types. The Severins have turned an old abattoir building into a paper-making factory using 15 different types of desert grasses as their base product.
We took turns at producing a piece of paper, a small souvenir that each person who takes the Paper Tour can keep as a memento of a fascinating tour.
Next door is a small gallery where Amy is also using the paper to create distinctive artworks and jewellery. This is a must stop if you are passing this way!
Hitting the road again, we were soon heading towards Yulara, the resort town that serves Ayers Rock Resort, another 85km away. Our first photo stop was for Mount Conner – often mistaken for Uluru by travellers and known to locals at “fool-uru”. After you’ve seen Uluru, though, it’s hard to believe as the two shapes are quite different.
We were lucky enough to have rooms – the most luxurious of the trip – at Sails in the Desert, part of Ayers Rock Resort, which includes villas, apartments and budget accommodation, as well as a campground. Indigenous designs are used throughout the resort.
As media, we’re required to have a briefing with park rangers about the restrictions on photography and filming at Uluru Kata-Tjuta National Park, and once our colleagues arrived from Kings Canyon, this took up an hour or so before we headed out to the Rock itself. There was time for a quick walk at part of the base of Uluru before joining other tourists gathering in the sunset-view car park.
Cameras clicked furiously, wine was poured and nibbles devoured. It’s almost a ritual for visitors to this place…and we enjoyed being out of the car again. But there was more to come, as we were given access to one of the current major attractions in Red Centre. If Uluru provides nature’s wonder, then British artist Bruce Munro has provided a man-made one. His spectacular Field of Light installation, running until March 2018, consists of more than 50,000 stems topped with frosted globes “planted” over an area the size of seven football fields. After dark, we wandered through the pathways between them, marvelling at the scene below the star-studded outback skies. In the local Pitjantjatjara language, the work is known as Tili Wiru Tjuta Nyakutjaku or “looking at lots of beautiful lights”. And beautiful it was.
A Glass Half Full travelled as a guest of the Outback Way Development Board. Thanks to Ayers Rock Resort for sponsored accommodation and free entry to Field of Light.