Lonely Planet Writer

Just back from: Uluru, Australia

Tasmin on her self-guided stroll around the base of Uluru Tasmin on her self-guided stroll around the base of Uluru © Tasmin Waby

Tasmin Waby, Destination Editor for Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific, recently returned from a trip to Australia’s Northern Territory.

Tell us more… I went to see Uluru (or as it was once called, Ayers Rock) in the Uluṟu-Kata Tjuṯa National Park for the second time recently. The first time I drove there with a friend from Melbourne, camping all the way. This time I flew over from Sydney. It was much quicker (and probably cheaper) but it did feel less like a pilgrimage to the heart of Australia.

In a nutshell… I don’t want to overstate it but the beauty of Uluru is really quite astonishing. I fell in love with the contrasts: the flat desert landscape with this enormous icon, the smell of spinifex in the desert air, the colours, the tiny details you notice when you get up close to the rock and the wilderness in the park. It’s an indefinably powerful place to visit.

Traditional bush tucker displayed on a wooden board Trying some traditional bush tucker © Tasmin Waby

Good grub? I ate at a few places at Ayers Rock Resort, where there’s accommodation and restaurants for every budget – including a small supermarket with outback prices. The thing I loved about the food is how Aboriginal bush tucker is fused with international flavours – at Tali Wiru (an open-air dining experience), for example, I had beetroot with Illawarra plum mousse topped with crisped kale and wattle seed shards, plus Persian feta and finger lime caviar (spot the Australian indigenous ingredients).

You’d be a muppet to miss… the sunrise. Seriously get to bed early and go. More than once.

A camel saddled up and waiting for it's rider in the Australian desert Buddy the camel waiting to take Tasmin on a once-in-a-lifetime adventure © Tasmin Waby

Fave activity? I wasn’t expecting to like the camel ride experience with Uluru Camel Tours, but I went along for the Instagram photo opportunity (tragic I know) and because I had read Tracks by Robyn Davidson (a book about the writer’s 1700-mile trek with her camels through Australia’s western deserts).

I thought it would be terrifying as I have some serious vertigo, or that the camels would be poorly treated in some way and I’d feel terrible having visited them. But nothing could be further from the truth – I was really impressed. The actual ride was very relaxed and a once-in-a-lifetime experience, especially when we rounded a red sandhill to see the sunrise colours still slowly washing over Uluru.

Quintessential experience? Hearing some of the Aboriginal astronomy stories and learning about the tales told with the didgeridoo while sitting by a campfire under a sky ablaze with the stars of the Milky Way. Australia’s indigenous culture is the oldest continuous culture in the world and there’s so much to learn from it.

A section of red rock along the Uluru self-guided Base Walk Views from the self-guided Base Walk © Tasmin Waby

If you do one thing… walk the self-guided Base Walk around Uluru. It’s 10km but it’s so much better than climbing the rock. The custodians of Uluru, the Anangu, ask people not to climb and from October 2019 it won’t be possible.

There are dozens of other activities to connect with this place and have a truly memorable experience without having to ‘conquer’ the rock. I haven’t even mentioned the helicopter trips (once in a lifetime and amazing), cycling in the national park, the ‘bush tucker’ classes with indigenous superfoods, five-star dining under the stars and the truly mesmerising Field of Light art installation by Bruce Munroe.

So um, don’t climb the rock. Learn something new instead.

Tasmin Waby travelled to Australia with support from Tourism Australia. Lonely Planet contributors do not accept freebies in exchange for positive coverage.

Want more behind-the-scenes adventures? Find out what PR Manager Phil Harper got up to on his recent road trip to Rome and Naples.