Coleman / Night falls and surprises rise in the Red Centre

“When the MC asks everyone to stop talking and experience the silence of the outback night it has a massive impact,” writes columnist CHRIS COLEMAN

The International Space Station tracks across the starlit Uluru night sky. Photo by Chris Coleman

SO you fly halfway across the country, to a place surrounded by desert with some large rocks to look at during the day, but what to do at night?

Chris Coleman

Chris Coleman.

Let’s not pretend Uluru is a nightlife hotspot with clubs and pubs by the dozen but there’s plenty on after dark, starting with the restaurants attached to the accommodation options, which feature different levels of sophistication. All have dishes that incorporate or at the very least tip their hat to bush tucker.
To get the best of your Uluru evenings, try to book for nights when the moon will rise after 11. Moonglow – even from a fraction of a moon – dramatically reduces the number of stars visible and the spectacle of a true outback night sky. Or the spectacle of an illuminated desert floor.

Originally planned as a year-long installation, the Field of Light has been extended until the end of March.

A massive project by artist Bruce Munro, it was 25 years from genesis to creation and it’s hard to describe, partly because of its size. Try to imagine 50,000 or so softly glowing lights on stems about a metre tall, spread across an area more than twice the size of Manuka Oval, slowly changing colours, underneath a star-filled sky. It’s a solar-powered marvel and when looking from the field towards Uluru, you feel the lights go all the way to the rock itself. It’s a magnificent illusion.

There are a variety of ways to experience the field beginning with a walk through the illuminated field to watching the field come to life after savouring an outback sunset enjoying drinks and canapés of kangaroo, crocodile and other native foods. The dedicated early-riser can choose to check out the Field of Light before dawn.

The signature Uluru resort experience is the Sounds of Silence Dinner. Now, you are free to chat with your table companions during dinner, but when the MC asks everyone to stop talking and experience the silence of the outback night it has a massive impact.
The dinner starts in a similar vein to the Field of Light, with a short bus trip to a dunetop canapé service, with didgeridoo music as the sun goes down. The night then takes a turn for the spectacular as you walk from the dune to the fine-dining area where 10 tables await. The food service is swift, with entrees delivered to the table.

The main courses are self-served from a buffet and while there’s a small light on each table, it provides enough illumination to see where the food is on your plate, but not necessarily what you’re eating. Indeed, the surprise of picking up what you thought was chicken with lemon myrtle and pepperberry on the fork, only to discover it’s actually the barramundi added to the experience.

The outstanding main – and our table was unanimous on this – was the kangaroo fillet with a native mango and mint marinade. I wanted to bribe the chef for this recipe.

Once dinner is finished, the silence is emphasised by the MC and then an astronomer commences a presentation explaining the stories of the constellations, European and indigenous, and diners get to view the skies through a telescope.

It’s an event that takes four hours but time seems to fly by. Whatever else you do at Uluru and Kata Tjuta, the Sounds of Silence is as close to a compulsory inclusion that you’ll get.

Chris Coleman, who presents “Canberra Live” weekday afternoons on 2CC, attended Field of Light and Sounds of Silence as a guest of Voyages Ayers Rock Resort. A longer audio review of his Uluru and Kata-Tjuta experience is available in the podcast Travel First.

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