It’s a long and arduous journey to Uluru (Australia), a huge complex where visitors are confined. This area was handed back to the Aborigines in 1985 and they don’t want us wandering all over the place. We’re at Sails in the Desert, a luxury hotel that provides the perfect antidote to our first day in the desert. For the first night in Uluru or Ayers Rock Resort we have planned to have dinner in a clearing in the dunes about 4km away called Sounds of Silence and watch the sun set over Uluru. The clouds turn from coral pink to fresh-bruise purple but, alas, overcast skies mean no stars.
We zoom south down the Stuart Highway with the radio tuned to an Aboriginal station – a language which sounds as exhilaratingly different as the flora and the fauna flashing past. The landscape seems to come from an ancient time: gaunt, forked trees that trail fronds of foliage; gigantic plants with latex leaves. Birds of prey glide over the shimmering strip of tarmac, which delivers rich spoils in road kill. Alas, the roadside also sports discarded beer bottles. This clash between ancient and modern is matched by the radio, where the DJ is playing a country diva crooning ‘Ahm a tiger in taht jeans’, followed by Bob Dylan warning ‘A hard rain’s a-gonna fall’.