I had long heard about Uluru’s appeal, the rugged beauty of Australia’s red outback and the 600 million year old sacred rock revered by the Aboriginal people. The indigenous Australians believe the spirits of their ancestors and the Mimi Spirits, the creators of all, reside in this revered place. They have used its ‘dreaming trails’ for traditional ceremonies and rites of passage for over 10,000 years.
But nothing I had heard or read prepared me for what happened during my walkabout.
I started my eight-mile trek around the base of Uluru, known as Ayers Rock, early in the morning. As the sun rose in the cloudless sky, its rays conjured a parade of faces, some distinctly Aboriginal, from the natural folds of the massive red sandstone monolith before me. To this day, no one can explain this phenomenon that attracts visitors from around the globe.
The surprising part came next. Continuing the journey I saw the rock came alive with hunters, spears, animals, birds and abstract symbols, each an expression of the ancient Anangu law. This is the place where Tjukurpa whispers the creation stories, my guide told me.
Inexplicably, powerfully, I felt the earth’s DNA communicating to me through this glowing, shape-shifting mass. I was pulled into the dream. Some places here are so sacred, the guide tells you they can’t be photographed. That’s fitting. After all, how do you photograph a dream?
To add to the splendor, Longitude 131, a collection of posh tented pavilions provides an ideal sanctuary for ultimate immersion in this mystical aura. The enchanting resort, a member of Luxury Lodges of Australia, situated on a secluded rust red sand dune close to the World Heritage Wilderness of Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, offers unrivaled straight on views of Ayers Rock.
This August, Longitude unveiled a multi-million dollar revamp that takes outback luxury to new heights.
Fifteen tent like canopied cottages with every amenity feature white canvas roofs, contemporary décor accented with colorful Aboriginal artifacts and art, floor to ceiling windows and lovely verandas for soaking up the desert’s serenity and solitude.
The glam redo includes a new lounge area, bar and terrace at central Dune House where guests loll, socialize and rock gaze against the backdrop of the unspoiled landscape. And the debut of the Spa Kinara with Indigenous treatments such as the Kodo massage, provide pure outback bliss.
Additionally the brand new 2 bedroom Dune Pavilion offers stupendous views of both Uluru and the equally sacred site of Kata Tjuta. Set on a private desert dune the premium suite done in Australian homestead – chic and tricked out with stunning paintings by artists from nearby Indigenous communities includes large indoor and outdoor living spaces, plush beds with gorgeous throws, 2 oversize bathrooms, a huge deck with daybeds and a private pool.
And the cuisine is outstanding. Whether relishing the freshest Australian produce paired with the country’s renowned wines at the new Dune Top – a platform perched atop the red desert hill with bar, plunge pool and dining alcoves – or at Table 131 with tables around a campfire and an astronomer interpreting the starry Southern night sky, guests enjoy a journey of sensory delights.
Speaking of journeys, the resort offers a series of signature, guided excursions to explore this most spiritual land. I chose the base walk around Uluru, Australia’s most famous natural icon – more than 1,000 feet tall. As I passed acacia woodlands, dramatic crevices, watering holes and gorges my guide related the legends of the sacred rock imparted by the Anangu, who still live here as they have for thousands of years.
I witnessed the site of coming of age rituals for young boys, the sacred area for pregnant females, original rock art from olden times, and more. Getting up close to the mystical rock and watching its ever changing figures dance right before my eyes was intoxicating.
Valley Of The Winds Walk at Kata Tjuta, a sacred Anangu men’s site with ancient domes as well as helicopter flights to visit the Indigenous Ernabella Community and camel rides in the desert are some of the many remarkable experiences Longitude 131 offers guests.
Best of all I loved sitting on my terrace at sunset, the sky a changing palette of orange, red and golden hues, staring endlessly at the spellbinding rock. Dreamlike and real.
How To Go: Virgin Australia provides outstanding service to major Australian cities, connecting in Los Angeles, and also domestically within the country. This includes direct service from Sydney to Ayers Rock. Business class offers top amenities, including spacious, lie-flat seats which makes a big difference on long flights.