Day 9: Chalk and cheese

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Oceania » Australia » Northern Territory
May 14th 2016
Published: June 25th 2017
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Geo: -25.2451, 130.986

So, yesterday was about minimalist David but today was about loquacious John. Every twist and turn, rock and rubble, waterfall, tree or animal had a story. The 380 km journey just disappeared under the rhythm of his voice.

We did hear the same departure joke about "the Todd River being so crystal clear you could see the sandy bottom" but that was the end of the similarities in commentary.

And have to say we do lap up the stories and facts. Although, continue to think that we need to be mindful that there are versions of the "facts" and some elements, like the 28 kg feral cat, could be whoppers gone into overdrive.

John arrived dead on time which was handy because it was 6 degrees outside and we could not believe our luck. We were first on and got to claim the front seat for the fist time this trip. It was an A to B trip getting us from the Alice to Yulara interspersed with some rest stops and of course our taste of history, geology, culture and an insight into the hidden diversity of the flora and fauna.

We stopped at a camel farm (liked this one but still were not tempted to ride) and a waterhole with a camping ground with real tents and the Albert Namatjira Restaurant (I really want to paint trees now) and saw clay pans and salt pans.

There was a steady stream of traffic flowing both east and west on the smooth ribbon of sealed highway. We did this for 6 hours in total and made only two right hand turns to reach our destination.

John did play with the bus crowd just a little and had everyone on the edge of their seats looking to be the first one to spot Uluru. Of course, perched up in the front seats Mac backed himself just a little to win the $5 bet and sure enough was the first to proclaim a sighting. "Gotcha" said John as the tabletop of Mount Connor revealed itself. He explained that this was a tourist "Fooluru" and there are supposed cases of tourist getting this far and then turning back, thinking they are at the Rock.

Was fun - and we owe John a beer.

The last 5 km into town were slowed just a little as a car towing a trailer had jack-knifed into the soft red edges of the road a
few minutes ahead of us. Not sure how that will be solved, but no-one was injured and they were indicating they were okay and we were waved on.

Yulara is "town centre" and is made up of about 6 different types of motel accommodation, a town centre with shops and facilities and all manner of "tourist" tour options. One strip of road, not much to see.

The coach arrived right on the dot of 1 pm. We gathered our gear from the coach, made our farewells and were looking around wondering what to do when, out of nowhere Gabby somehow materialised holding a 131 sign. She loaded our waiting vehicle, offered us cold water and was chatting away and giving us a bit of a run down on Longitude 131 and our afternoon itinerary.

As of 1.03 pm this afternoon our life has changed forever. This place is really something else. I am sure there are other places like it, but we have never ever experienced anything like this before. It's friendly, it's familiar. Every window and door has a view of Uluru. Everything you want and need is on hand. There are no name badges. There are introductions, handshakes, conversations and connections.
There are 30 guests and 49 staff.

Longitude 131 is features15 tents perched on the side of a sand dune surrounded by red desert, spinifex, Mallee scrub, grevillea and desert oak, blanketed in stillness and surrounded by the bluest of blue cloudless sky .... all somehow serving as the sidekicks to the star of the show, Uluru.

Warm towels to remove the dust from our skins, cool champagne to remove the dust from our throats are the welcome to the centrepiece of the resort The Dune House. Silver service, an endless selection of wines and food selections that embrace the local flora and fauna are offered in a leisurely 2 hour lunch.

And every table circles the floor to ceiling glass windows, and every diner enjoys uninterrupted views of Uluru.

We met at least 10 of the staff in that time all making personal connections and offering little pieces of information about our stay. Gabby and Patrick, Cherie, Siobhan, Kathryn, Gabby 2, Mickey and Adrian - we try to remember them all. If you are thinking about it, they are there, somehow inside your head, clearing the path, providing the opportunities and making it happen. Felicity is the star of the show for
us so far!

I don't really know how I am going to be able to stand myself trying to describe this place. I think I just need to let it go and say that somehow, in this lifetime, we hope that you get to enjoy something like this - a getaway hosted by Baillie Lodges.

The notion of "tent" is a little understated. The tents are each a self contained bungalow and when the door to ours was opened we couldn't help but gasp. An expansive king sized bed was the central feature of the sprawling main room. Swivel cow hide sitters, a side table and a desk were set in perfection to soak in sweeping views of the horizon. Mac had been on Google Earth and "picked" his dream tent...and true to form....that was the one we were allocated. Number 15, isolated right at the head of the dune.

The idea of a tent comes from the central supporting pole in the middle of the room that is draped with calico to form the inside view of the tent. The outside is a tough white sail, similar to the old Pinocchio sail of JPC. This is complemented by an equally expansive day bed set on the balcony veranda, complete with fire and tables and chairs. The side of the veranda sweeps up to give privacy from the neighbours.

A dressing area, double shower, toilet, wash basin and benches and then a kitchen annex complete the bungalow. The fridge is stocked with whatever you can imagine - fruit, cheeses, pates and spreads, champagne, wine and beer varieties, soft drinks, water - there's even coconut water! There is a coffee machine, teas of every flavour, juices a water filter. And absolutely best of all by far.....absolutely NO TV!

Felicity gave us the royal tour and ensured we were settled and as soon as she was down the stairs we were racing in circles around the tent, bouncing on the beds, opening and closing doors and drawers, switching and turning lights on and off, running the shower, flushing the toilet and raising and lowering screens and blinds and sliding doors. And yep, raiding the fridge. Certainly not adult behaviour, but oh, we savoured it!

Are you sick of it yet? Again, I don't think I can stand myself. I declared right there and then that I never wanted to leave the tent!

Meanwhile, back in Yulara, Richard and Loraine had arrived at the airport and made their way to the SAILS Resort. They were quick to pick up their hire car and make their way out through the National Park to chase the sun. We are all acting solo today so the stream of texts began between "the boys" comparing venues, locations and sunsets. Admittedly we were in the same space, but because of the perspective of each chosen platform, the light show was unique in each one. Richard and Loraine took in the sweeping view of the light show from a vantage point that gave a sweeping view of both Uluru and Kata Tjuta.

Over at our venue, leave the room we did .... for our first foray to Uluru. We left at 3.30 pm in our silver coach with 17 other guests to take on the Mala Walk and the sunset. What a way to start.

Caroline and Sarah led us on a gentle walk along the base of Uluru and introduced us to the stories of the Mala people. These stories were cleverly told; pictographs were scratched in the dirt; nooks, crevices, caves and crannies were explored. It was all wrapped in a reverent respect for the indigenous
people and Caroline shared insights into the creation stories of the Anangu that have been entrusted to her.

We were welcomed to the Kantju Gorge by more staff members who provided cocktails and canapés as we waited for the glory of sunset. There was plenty of water in the gorge and Mac and I wandered to the end of the walkway to enjoy some solitude and savour the moment. It was truly so quiet, our ears were literally ringing with the sounds of silence (no Dami reference intended.)

And at sunset, the gorge popped gold. Literally. Right before our eyes. It was glowing so rich in yellow and gold, it resembled lava from a volcano. It lasted perhaps 12 minutes and then it was gone. We had travelled from Brisbane to Darwin, from Darwin to Alice, from Alice to Yulara and Longitude 131. And for just those 12 minutes we would do it again in a heartbeat.

Back to the tent for showers and a change of clothes before a return to The Dune House for dinner. Rinse and repeat. Exquisite, delicate menu choices accompanied by an array of Australian wines. We are letting our hosts pair our wine selections with each course.
Kathryn and Gabby2 are looking after us for dinner and we had no idea what anyone else was doing, it felt like we were cocooned in our own private dining world. Every course was a magic blend of distinct tastes served in perfectly sized portions that allowed you to get through the meal. The breads, the meats, the vegetables, the seafood, the seeds and spices, the oils the sauces die for.

We had started the day with the alarm ringing at 5 am and somehow the evening did not finish until just after 11. There was a birthday girl in the house (Sandra was celebrating 70) and somehow we found ourselves being invited by her brother Greg to join them. A commitment to chocolate cake, champagne, rum and Baileys extended the evening and now we were somehow part of Sandra, Anne, Gregory and Annette's party!

We had drained every ounce of emotion and adventure out of the day. It was effortless to fall asleep in the king sized bed, warmed by the kangaroo water bottles with our heads cradled by the goose down pillows. No way I'm pinching myself just in case I am dreaming.

PS and we are doing all this while checking in on @Mindy&Ian who finished their back to Aus visit and flew out to Hong Kong tonight on their return to Whistler. Love them heaps. Safe travels and continuing adventures. I was doing all the sad face, miss you already messages and Mac was urging them to GO SHOPPING! xoxo

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17th May 2016

Darling Jan......thankyou so much for taking us on this wonderful, incredible journey with you.....I soooooo need to do this trip!!!.....just not sure if we 'oldies' have the stamina of you 'youngsters'......but it certainly should be in ev
eryone's 'bucket list'! Just can't wait for the next exciting episode....bring it on Uluru!!!!!!!!!!.............xoxoxoxoxoxoxo

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