The sandstone monolith in the heart of Australia’s Northern Territory is thought to have formed around 550 million years ago and there it stands, surrounded by flat land that stretches miles.
A small airstrip appears before us and we land smoothly at the tiny Ayers Rock airport.
In the distance, we can see another rock formation that I’ll later learn is Kata Tjuta, commonly referred to as The Olgas.
Before long, I’m in transfer en route to the Sails In the Desert Hotel, located inside Ayers Rock Resort, 20kms from the airport.
The resort offers a variety of accommodation including camping and apartments for larger families. As we arrive, large white sails soar out to meet us.
A didgeridoo, played by the in-house artist, sounds.
It’s winter and I’m more than comfortable in a light jacket and jeans, even though there’s not a cloud in the sky and the sun shines brightly above us.
In the foyer, a gift shop appears to the right with local indigenous art by the Anangu people.
Beyond the gift shop, guests relax in the Walpa Lobby Bar with wine.
We check in and then sit down to enjoy lunch at the Ikara restaurant - offering an a la carte menu by day and an impressive buffet by night.
Not game enough to try the kangaroo, I enjoy a fresh quinoa salad.
The decor is traditional, with touches of modern luxury throughout like plush couches to rest in scattered across the foyer.
The hotel offers a number of free activities to get to know the way of life of the local Anangu people and plenty of optional paid activities, some of which I’ll experience in my time in the desert.
After lunch, I head to my room where I find two oversized king beds and a welcome bottle of wine.
The room is basic but comfortable and I resist the urge to take an afternoon nap. From my balcony, I can see the pool area and poolside canteen serving those guests eager to take a dip despite the cooler weather.
Outside my window, a purple bougainvillea sways gently and I hear the laughter of families playing on the large grass area by the pool.
I see couples and families enjoying their time here, from a diverse range of cultural backgrounds.
Just before sunset, I’m collected for a Voyages Signature outdoor experience called Tali Wiru, meaning beautiful dune.
Our small bus heads inward over the orange dunes until we arrive at the bottom of a dune where staff welcome us.
As we ascend, the view before us is striking.
A didgeridoo is played, the sun is setting and staff hold out chilled glasses of Champagne.
Uluru is in full sight to our left and to the right, Kata Tjuta appears.
We all stand in awe for minutes as the sun throws shades of red, purple and orange across the imposing structures in the stillness of the desert.
The very existence of the formations in such a stark environment boggles the mind.
It’s easy to understand why these beautiful formations have such inherent spiritual value to the traditional landowners.
After staff introduce us to some local food sourced from the environment we stand in, we’re escorted upward again to a dining area.
The feet of my chair sink into the dirt below as I take my spot.
We’re taken on a mouth-watering journey of native ingredients from the land including crocodile, kangaroo and barramundi, matched with Australian wines.
After all of the light of day falls away, staff switch off our lamps and above us appears a vivid star show I’ve never seen with such clarity before.
A Star Talker teaches us how to identify the constellations that appear above us and how they lead Aboriginal stories.
Sitting under the sparkling sky as the temperatures drop, I feel incredibly lucky to be witnessing such natural beauty.
After a restful night's sleep, I wake early for breakfast at Ilkari before taking off for a tour of Kata Tjuta and the Valley of the Winds by AAT Kings, who collect a group of us in a bus at 6:30am.
We arrive just as the sun is rising for what will be a three-hour hike through these giant geological formations.
Our knowledgeable guide explains how the traditional people of the land use the earth to heal ailments.
We’re the first group here and the stillness is breathtaking.
A winding walk through curves of orange stone and a climb upward over jagged rocks bring us to the Valley of the Winds.
The valley appears almost unexpectedly after a short climb up through rugged terrain and the view is unlike anything I’ve seen.
Beyond the valley are more rock formations, each different to the last.
My voice echoes as I let out an appreciative ‘Wow.’ A word I’ll repeat on this trip to Uluru.
After an afternoon of rest, I head to the Uluru Camel Farm where I take a beautiful, relaxing hour-long ride through the dunes to the Field of Light, an installation by internationally celebrated artist, Bruce Munro.
Munro meticulously created the illuminating art piece of colour that comes to life as the sun falls over Uluru. It’s a truly magical experience, wandering through the illuminated field in the quiet of the desert at night and one I’ll never forget.
The next morning, I wake early again to depart for an Uluru sunrise and segway experience. When I arrive at Uluru just as the sun is rising, it’s a breezy four degrees and a ray of pink is illuminating the sky behind the sacred formation.
I hear others repeat what I’m thinking; there’s something in the air here.
It’s a feeling of significance beyond the beauty of the formation itself.
After a quick lesson in segwaying, I’m off buzzing around with a tour guide who tells me that Uluru started underwater and began with two fans, one made of sand and another of conglomerate rock.
Due to the movement of the world’s plates, the pressure resulted in these two fans condensing into rock and as Australia dried up, Uluru appeared.
As we venture around this great space, caves and sacred spaces appear, spots we’ll feel fortunate to see with the naked eye and respectfully not photograph due to their cultural significance to the traditional people of the land.
As we near the end of our tour, we see that tourists are still flocking to climb the structure - an activity that will be illegal from October 26.
After our tour, we leave the segways and walk inward to the rock where we see traditional paintings and markings under the roof of a cave, blackened by years of fire to warm the space in the cold of the night.
A water hole we visit looks too beautiful to be real and appears like a drawing on a wall.
Leaving Uluru, I’m grateful to have seen it in my life and vow to bring my family back to this truly remarkable destination.
TIP: The flies (and the crowds) come out with the sun so if you’re going to Uluru and Kata Tjuta, be sure to go early!