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D

espite its remoteness, central

Australia is the perfect

location for a baby road

trip for those who have their outback training

wheels still on. It’s just a three-hour drive on

sealed roads from Uluru and Kata Tjuta to

Kings Canyon in Watarrka National Park, and

around four hours up to Alice Springs. In all, it

makes for a cruisy week-long outback adventure

along what’s known as the Red Centre Way.

The game, while staying near Uluru, is to see

it at sunrise and sunset from as many locations

as possible, which means rising before dawn

and a 20-minute drive out to ‘the Rock’. Yet, I

discover one of the easiest views is on a small

hill in the centre of Ayers Rock Resort, at the

Imalung Lookout. We look one way to see the

sun roasting Uluru blood red, then turn 180

degrees to see its often overlooked sister, Kata

Tjuta, hiding in the shadows.

Kata Tjuta has always played the lesser-

known sister to her more famous sibling but

while Uluru is a single piece of stone, sprawling

Kata Tjuta’s 36 domes are a more arresting

sight, even if she’s harder to fit in the frame.

While you can jog the 10.6km Base Walk

around the circumference of Uluru, it’s the

quiet, secretive Valley of the Winds walk amidst

Kata Tjuta’s inspiring domes that has me lacing

my walking shoes. It’s possible to do the walk

in stages, taking an hour, two hours or the full

four-hour circuit. I take the middle option and

the path to Karu, the first lookout, is a slow,

low, easy climb and I’m cruising along in good

time, with plenty of walking companions. But

on the second leg to Karingana Lookout, all the

walkers disappear and suddenly I’m alone with

no sound but the wailing wind and wittering

wrens. Suddenly all those Dreamtime stories I

heard from the local Anangu people, back in the

security of the resort, come flooding back. The

wind really is the breath of a vengeful snake,

Wanambi, and it’s getting stronger, so I pick up

the pace until I’m trotting the rough path back

to my car like some crazy desert runner.

There’s no rest for overworked thighs on this

trip – the next afternoon I’m up and astride a

camel in a short chain. Hot-breathed Murphy,

the last camel bringing up the rear, occasionally

leans his great head in my lap, breathing heavily.

Once, he was one of the estimated half-million

wild camels running amok in the centre of the

country. Now, he’s a thorough gentleman and

takes even the most fearful

tourists out into the dunes.

Tonight, we’re aiming

for the most unlikely of

settings, the Field of Light,

an art installation by

British artist Bruce Munro

which will remain in place

until March 2018. About

50,000 light bulbs are

planted into the red earth

and glow unearthly shades as the sun drops

below the horizon. Murphy and his friends

deposit me atop a dune where a charming girl

waits with a tray filled with glasses of sparkling

wine, a prelude to the Night at the Field of

Light dinner and a walk between the bulbs,

beneath the stars and the black night.

On the road toward Kings Canyon the next

day, there are no towns and few people, but

there’s plenty to see: I find myself shopping for

kitchy packets of bull dust and (more usefully)

petrol at Curtain Springs Station, while

getting a history lesson about the grit and

determination required to start a cattle station

from scratch.

Curtain Springs’ lands are home to another

The wind really is a vengeful

snake and it’s getting stronger

so I pick up the pace until I’m

trotting back to my car

BNE May/June 2017 |

19

Bruce Munro’s Field of Light installation near Uluru