Romancing the stone at Tali Wiru Uluru

Extraordinary sunset at Tali Wiru Uluru

I’ll never forget my first time. I was just 17. It was in the back of a car, my body glistening with perspiration from the heat, my heart beating with excitement. It was everything it had been cracked up to be and more.

My first sight of Uluru.


One moment ochre-brown, the next blazing red, I knew as soon as I’d picked my jaw back up from off the car floor that this sacred sandstone rock had many stories to tell. And I, probably for the first time in all of my teenage years, was ready to stop and listen.

Science tells us that Uluru thrust itself out of the earth 600 million years ago (give or take a millennia or two) during a saucy geographic episode known as the Petermann Orogeny. But I much prefer the elaborate creation stories of the local Anangu people. They believe Uluru was created by a group of ten ancestral spirits (including Kuniya the woma python woman and Liru the venomous snake man) who emerged from the void during the period of Tjukurpa: The Dreamtime. Those stories belong to the Anangu people and are not mine to share, but it was while listening to them that I decided that one day I wanted to tell my own.

Problem was, at 17, I could barely summon the words to describe its indefinable magnificence. Though I was almost certain that “It’s a really, really big rock” was hardly going to have the ghost of Hemingway quivering in his gin-soaked boots.

So what exactly was a 17-year old doing hanging out in the middle of the desert with this particular rock star? Well, fresh out of school and eager to see the world I’d scrimped and saved and worked crazy jobs and hours to buy my first car – an extremely unattractive Kingswood that rocked a similar vintage to myself. Despite not yet having a driver’s license, I gathered a few pals who did and waved good-bye to my spectacularly unimpressed parents to set off around Australia.

The old Kingswood on the road to the Northern Territory

There was a whole world outside my beige suburban existence that was waiting to for me to explore it and having no license, no money and no idea wasn’t going to stop me doing just that. My equally unprepared companions and I travelled across the country, surviving on Cruskits and Spam, sleeping in the car and – when we felt like being decadent – trading up to dodgy caravan parks that were like something from the set of Mad Max.

Everything on our journey was new and exciting, but nothing prepared me for the punch-in-the-gut impact of that “really big rock”.

Uluru sunrise

Given my extreme teen fan-girling, I was a little worried that revisiting Uluru almost three decades later might be a bit like catching up with a once rocking-ex who’s turned a conservative shade of middle-aged beige, and that our old magic would be gone.

But, oops, that gorgeous rock did it again!


A didgeridoo provides the soundtrack at Tali Wiru Uluru

Though this time, in place of the cruskits and spam, I’m being romanced by the stone to a didgeridoo soundtrack while sipping (read: guzzling) Louis Roederer Champagne and nibbling emu prosciutto canapés atop a desert dune at Ayers Rock Resort’s intimate Tali Wiru Uluru Desert Dining Experience.

emu prosciutto canapes at Tali Wiru Uluru

Clearly out to make up for lost time, Uluru is doing its dazzling dance of many colours and for extra impact has ordered in an intense rainbow-hued sunset. You know, just in case.

Sunset over the desert at Tali Wiru Uluru

Not to let a little thing like darkness get in the way of making an impression, the rock’s presence is still felt post sunset as the wooing continues with an intimate table d’hote four-course dinner with an indigenous twist.

There’s a delightful amuse bouche of cauliflower soup with Sevruga caviar.

amuse bouche of cauliflower soup with Sevruga caviar At Tali Wiru

A starter of Paroo kangaroo rillettes with Davidson plum puree and Persian feta.

Paroo kangaroo rillettes with Davidson plum puree and Persian feta at Tali Wiru Uluru

A perfect medium rare Darling Downs Wagyu Fillet with wild mushroom ragout follows these feats of culinary magic. Incredibly – given that we’re literally in the middle of the desert – each course is prepared in a basic camp kitchen with only barbecue power (there’s no electricity) by the talented chefs.

To further sweeten me up is a sublime dessert of coconut panna cotta and desert lime curd topped with a couple of passionfruit macarons for good measure. All of this matched with premium wines and served by candle light under a sky crowded with stars.

oconut panna cotta and desert lime curd topped with passionfruit macarons at Tali Wiru Uluru

I’m weak at the knees by the time a local storyteller joins us to share more captivating tales of spirituality, land and culture.

At this point, Uluru slips in a romantic roaring fire and a glass of congac. I almost feel the need to point out to it that I’m a happily married woman… though one with a not so secret extra-marital crush… on a rock.

As an extraordinary night at beautiful Tali Wiru draws to an end, Uluru has once again stolen my heart and leaves me with nothing but beautiful memories, a full belly, and a fine dusting of fire engine red soil coating my boots.

Sunset at Tali Wiru Uluru


22 Comments on Romancing the stone at Tali Wiru Uluru

  1. Amy @ HandbagMafia
    September 29, 2015 at 8:13 am (9 years ago)

    This is one place in Australia I have not visited and I’d love to- just a wee bit pricey for now! Your photos make me rethink that though- perhaps I should start an Uluru fund!

      September 29, 2015 at 8:22 am (9 years ago)

      It is totally worth it Amy. The landscape is breathtaking, the people are beautiful and their stories are both incredible and humbling.

  2. Min (@riteofthemiddle)
    September 29, 2015 at 9:19 am (9 years ago)

    Oh wow – this is one place I really, really want to go! Beautiful photographs! 🙂

      September 30, 2015 at 3:41 pm (9 years ago)

      THanks Min, These pics barely do Uluru justice. 🙂

      September 30, 2015 at 3:45 pm (9 years ago)

      It was incredible but when you consider the food was cooked in a camp kitchen, it was extraordinary 🙂

  3. deb dane
    September 29, 2015 at 10:04 am (9 years ago)

    16 years in australia and we still have not made it there. My husband would die over that meal. Hoping in the next couple of years!!!

      September 30, 2015 at 3:46 pm (9 years ago)

      It will be worth the wait, I promise

  4. Deborah
    September 29, 2015 at 12:31 pm (9 years ago)

    Wow – what lovely memories and gorgeous pics. I recently reminisced about my own trip to Uluru (as I was there on Sept 11, 2001). It’s a gorgeous place.

      September 30, 2015 at 8:17 pm (9 years ago)

      It’s a place that’s impossible to forget, Deborah

  5. Emily @ Have A Laugh On Me
    September 29, 2015 at 2:44 pm (9 years ago)

    Gosh Aleney you do have a way with words – just magical my lovely. Sounds like it was just as magical the second time around. I can’t wait to take the kids there x

      September 30, 2015 at 8:17 pm (9 years ago)

      Thanks lovely, that’s so sweet. I highly recommend a family trip. There are so many great programs for kids to learn about indigenous culture.

      September 30, 2015 at 8:18 pm (9 years ago)

      It really is magical, Eva 🙂

  6. Malinda (@MBPaperPackages)
    September 29, 2015 at 7:03 pm (9 years ago)

    The travelling spirit was strong in you, good on you for hitting the road at 17! I haven’t made it to Uluru yet, I even spent some highly theoretical money on making a trip there today! This story and your photos just make me want to go even more now.

      September 30, 2015 at 8:18 pm (9 years ago)

      MY feet were very very itchy from a very early age Malinda x

  7. Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella
    September 29, 2015 at 8:22 pm (9 years ago)

    It is truly such a magical experience there! I was lucky enough to do this and I was totally wowed 😀 P.S. I bet you have a lot of good stories from when you were 17!

      September 30, 2015 at 8:19 pm (9 years ago)

      It’s a once in a lifetime Lorraine. And as for other stories of me at 17, I think they’re best left alone! 😉

  8. EssentiallyJess
    September 29, 2015 at 8:34 pm (9 years ago)

    I went when I was about three but haven’t been since. We plan to take the kids one year (we constantly drive up and down the centre of Australia so it should be easy), but we are waiting till they are older so it’s more memorable. This post makes me want to take them next year.

      September 30, 2015 at 8:21 pm (9 years ago)

      I think that’s a great idea. It’s somewhere you’ll want them to remember and there are some incredible indigenous programs available for children that are definitely worth getting them involved in.

  9. Rene Young - Together we roam
    October 7, 2015 at 11:17 am (9 years ago)

    Simply gorgeous. I loved this trip and your perspective is so beautiful! That rock is very photogenic xo

  10. Leanne Anderson @YourGetawayGuru
    October 7, 2015 at 1:47 pm (9 years ago)

    I loved Uluru and all the surrounding highlights too. We were travelling in our decked out panel van (oh so long ago!) and camped for a week at ‘the rock’ and took every opportunity to explore it in all its magnificence!

    Never got to eat quite as well or as glamourously as you did – that Uluru desert dining experience looks AMAZING!


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Hey, I’m Aleney! A mum, award-winning travel writer, magazine editor and gallivanting glutton. He’s Raff, the “boy” in boyeatsworld, and a fearless foodie, adventurer and eco-warrior. Along with his all-singing, all-dancing, all-adventurous sister, Sugarpuff, we’re exploring the world’s colour, culture and cuisine on a food safari for the junior set.

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