red center revelry

a celebration

sunset at uluru, formerly ayer’s rock, reputedly the center of the continent

you can plan a trip. you can’t plan an experience.

our son, karl, (we call him moose) has flown from his home in the states to be with us in oz for his birthday, so a celebratory outing is indicated. he’s our only son, after all, and the trip down from under takes extraordinary effort.

the country’s red center has been calling us. uluru by name. it’s a bit out of the way, up in the sparsely populated northern territory, a long flight from any of australia’s coastal population centers. we decide it’s suitable for a celebratory getaway excursion.

checking the uluru website, we see there’s a restaurant that’s a bit out of our price range, but it is possible for a one-time splurge. it’s called “sounds of silence”, which seems appropriate for a quiet evening. we make a reservation for four; the three of us and karl’s college friend nathan, a u.s. navy submarine officer who’s currently posted with the australian navy in perth. that’s the plan.

now the experience. the restaurant is outdoors in the desert on a hill strategically situated for viewing the sunset over uluru. we assemble at a nearby hotel an hour before sundown for the 30-minute bus ride to the dining area under the stars.

each table seats ten. as luck would have it, the four of us have been placed at a table with six others, who happen to be members of a women’s rugby team from the sydney area. they’re, well, ruggers. four players accompanied by two young men who are coaches. maybe.

as it turns out, it’s a cloudy evening and there’s no sunset. but the weather is warm, the atmosphere exhilarating, the drinks intoxicating. after supper under the stars, we bus back to our rooms, only to discover another hotel in the tourism complex apparently has a disco. at least we get that hint from the blaring music emanating from within. we all disembark there.

the joint (most likely an old barn outfitted with picnic tables) is jumping. the d-j is amusing. the music is enticing. energy is flowing. the bare concrete dance floor is packed, but there’s always room for another ten undulating bodies. how many sardines can you fit in a can? click the image below for some of nathan’s dance-floor antics.

we must have danced for, oh, at least 30 minutes. maybe 40, who knows. it was magical. it just shows you can plan a trip. but an experience, that’s something that only happens when the ingredients are just right. THIS was an experience.

next morning it was back to breaking rocks in the hot sun, in the words of that old 1960s el paso rock legend bobby fuller.

the outcropping of rocks known as the olgas plays second fiddle to uluru.

mornings at uluru, however, are for biking. for the paltry fee of AU$20 per hour, bikes can be rented near the base of the mountain for the 15km bike ride around the perimeter.

the bikes may not look like much but they’re perfect for the red dirt terrain.

the following morning, (day3) we decide on a trip a bit further up the road to kata-tjuta, another sandstone rock formation standing out (outstanding) in the aussie desert. these rocks, also known as the olgas, (makes you wonder who olga was) are more user friendly than uluru, which was declared off limits to climbers in 2019. hiking through the canyons of the olgas is still allowed, and quite popular, judging by our limited experience.

but for the evenings, it’s still uluru , where there’s almost always a superb sunset. crowds gather each evening along the highway between the rock and the western horizon to watch the massive outcropping glow bright red as the sun sinks into the desert sands.

crowds gather each evening at the uluru sunset viewing area

it’s also a great venue for selfies, such as this one showing off pernille’s new hat. and new hairdo.

so here’s our verdict on uluru: it’s a great place for a young guy’s birthday party, if you can find a women’s rugby team to join the festivities. i wouldn’t risk it a second time.