As challenged by Samantha Armytage from Sunrise, we are headed to the hot red sands of Uluru on December 23rd. Our first day, we have two shots planned straight away. Tamma greets us at our hotel the Sails in the Desert and gives me a coveted gift- her me her flat iron to tame my mane! We have a rendezvous with local dancers at 3:30 before their 4 pm performance. The guys teach me the emu dance. Unlike the graceful bird, I am awkward at best but have fun and repeat the dance three time for Jeff to get a good photo.
After a short break we are headed out early to take some photos at the Sounds of Silence which we will enjoy after a bit of work. The weather is troublesome, the wind whipping wildly and dark clouds closing in on us from every direction. We pop a quick shot of me receiving a glass of champagne as the guests do upon arrival. We planned to shoot me eating an assortment of delectable canapés. I get just one mouthful of delicious smoked crocodile on cucumber which makes my stomach growl for more, but with rain on the horizon we must move to the open air dining room. I sit and lounge at the table while Jeff captures the beautiful landscape surrounding the tables. As the rain arrives we decide it is best to hold the dinner for another night and scramble to the Jeep. It turns out that although the guests did get a little rain, they also got a spectacular sky at sunset.
In the morning, its back to learning some Aussie traditions. I attempt spear throwing and the boomerang in the dress. All I can say is despite great instruction and explanation of these tools my arm and aim is pitiful. I do launch one or two spears successfully. As for the boomerang, well maybe it will return one day…
In the afternoon on Christmas Eve we meet up with Bruce and Jeff who work for Lance at Uluru Motorcycle Tours. I am tired and it’s hot but I am excited to ride a Harley. We get fitted for helmets and jump on the trike so we can ride to Ayres Rock together. Traveling in open air is free and exhilarating. There are no words to describe it but this needs no words as you allow your other senses take over. The roar of the engine screams and the hot wind hits your cheeks but still cools as you watch the various green scrubs streak by approaching the massive monument. We pick a stretch of road not in view of any sacred areas of the monument. We have Bruce drive the trike and I switch sides with each pass. It’s awkward scrambling from side to side so that the train of my dress shows no matter which direction we are traveling. I was getting the hang of doing this quickly when I whack my elbow on the steel railing. That will bruise nicely. I am glad to move to the motorcycle where all I have to do is hang on. Jeff, my guide, asks if I have been on a bike before. I have just once but I assure him as long as I am not driving, I am quite comfortable. We whiz back and forth while Jeff snaps photos until park service arrives. We pull over to see what’s happening. Fortunately, Jeff has all the proper permits and the ranger confirms that where we are shooting is okay. We wrap up with a few more passes. This I could do all day long. Jeff has excellent control of the bike so I really am free to throw my hands up and enjoy. It was definitely a fun shot but also a great way to tour Uluru. If we had more time we would certainly go for another ride.
Jeff and I went back to the same spot closer to sunset and although the color on the rock was a deeper red, we could not beat the composition of me screaming by on a Harley! If you visit Uluru you can’t go wrong by taking a ride with Uluru Motorcycle Tours.
On Christmas Day, we hike all the way around Uluru (6-7 miles) but without taking photos to respect the sacred monument. Later that night we finally get to experience the Sounds of Silence excursion. We board one of four large buses that take us just five minutes from the hotel. We walk up the red sand aisle to a platform looking out to Ayres Rock. We enjoy champagne with canapés as we listen to Dwayne, skillfully playing the Didgeridoo. The music is primal and haunting while at the same time soothing. You can feel the connection to the land and you can see when he finishes that it takes quite a bit of exertion. Dwayne has been playing for 14 years and explains how the first wind instrument in the world is made. He also informed us that while a hundred of thousand didgeridoos are exported each year from Australia it is the least played instrument in the world! At dinner we enjoy some traditional dancing welcoming us, clearing bad spirits and paying homage to the land. After dinner they turn off all the lights and the stars pop to life. We are led with a comedic explanation of what lies above and allowed a great view of a distant galaxy and star cluster through two telescopes. Four hours later we board the bus to return to the hotel after a very enjoyable night.
When we first planned to visit Uluru, we were surprised by the heavy regulation. Some said ignore it, don’t ask for permission and just shoot and ask for forgiveness. This isn’t our style, so we went through the formal process. From half the world away, the restrictions seemed excessive and the control fierce. However, working with the Park Service was the best thing we could have done. Once the boundaries were clearly stated (mainly to respect local culture), there were plenty of opportunities to get great photographs. They even hooked us up with the PR woman from the Sails in the Desert hotel and she helped organize everything.