The airport shuttle bus dropped us at our accommodation, the Outback Pioneer Hotel and Lodge after driving around the Ayers Rock Resort circuit with the driver noting key spots for our information – other hotels, cafes and restaurants, the Town Square, staff quarters, walking tracks, the caravan and camping park (where 300 or so Stuck on the Middle With You’s women lodged themselves) vantage points to watch sunrises and sunsets on Uluru, and much more. At reception we bought our bus passes to transport us to and from Uluru and Kata Tjuta (me a 3 day pass and Betty a 2 day pass). We wandered around our Hotel complex and found shops, bars, restaurants, laundries, kitchens, a swimming pool, and more. We stayed in the Hotel while the Lodge buildings seemed to be designed for low priced accommodation suitable for backpacker type guests who chose not to camp.
At 5.30 pm packed with all our warm gear, Betty and I joined our pre-booked coach for sunset over Uluru, dinner in the desert, a talk about the stars, and the experience of the Field of Lights sculptural installation.As the sun was setting the landscape coloured richly.I noticed thousands of tall trees with a narrow shaft of vegetation.In subsequent days I learnt that these trees grow in this way until their tap root reaches water very deep down, and then they give themselves permission to grow out as well as up. In this way they grow to look like what we might think of as a typical rounded bush tree top shape.
I do not seem to have photos of the sunset over Uluru (perhaps the endless sparkling wine in my glass and the delightful canapes kept both hands full) but I do have shots of the sun setting near Kata Tjuta.
When a dusky light covered the land and my camera was not facing the too bright light of the sunset, Uluru stood out prominently.We walked along a red dirt track until we reached a cluster of round tables with crisp white fabric cloths. At random, we were grouped into eight people and directed towards a table. The wine and bush tucker inspired food flowed for hours. As did the laughter. We were so fortunate to sit at a table with entertaining people who were loving the experience. Portable heaters kept the air warm around us. And millions of stars sparkled above us. An astronomy expert, a Star Talker, with an excellent conversational style introduced us to configurations in the heavens, and we all looked up in wonder (that is if my experience is a general one, often wondering whether we were looking at the right thing – the many glasses of sparkling wine made distinguishing the stars in the sparkling night sky challenging). But that part of the night was another vital ingredient in a mix that was endlessly entertaining.
Finally it was time to leave the dinner table and my congenial companions for the Field of Lights, in an area larger than two MCG grounds. Over the hours we had seen, in the distance, part of the landscape colouring with light. Now it was time to experience this extraordinary installation up close. Bruce Munro is the artist and he shows some of his work here.
The Ayers Rock Resort website says ‘The exhibition, aptly named Tili Wiru Tjuta Nyakutjaku or ‘looking at lots of beautiful lights’ in the local Pitjantjara language is Munro’s largest work to date, with more than 50,000 slender stems crowned with radiant frosted-glass spheres over an area the size of seven football fields.’ Please go to this website and look at the photos – as you can see below my camera was most inadequate for night shots of the Field of Light.
The artist Bruce Munro has said ‘I saw in my mind a landscape of illuminated stems that, like the dormant seed in a dry desert, quietly wait until darkness falls, under a blazing blanket of southern stars, to bloom with gentle rhythms of light.’ The look of this site-specific light installation was spectacular. The scale of the installation was larger than I imagined. The colours varied and blinked. And there were multiple pathways through these slender lit stems so that, as I walked (we were free to self-guide our way), I became immersed in that strange landscape. I felt like ‘picking these flowers’ – that is how it seemed to me. Another Northern Territory website presents a colourful view of the lights. Hypnotic. Dazzling. A big idea for a big space. A world of visual magic. This installation was due to be dismantled earlier this year but by popular demand it’s life in the central Australian desert has been extended to March 2018.
From our morning in Ross River dust and rustication, to experiencing an aerial view of the big land, to the sophistication of a technological marvel at the end of the day in pristine night air, I was moved through extremes of thought and emotion. It was a big day of rich encounters. I hardly recall getting on the bus, travelling back to the Hotel and falling into bed after 5 hours of endless delights. But I know I did, because the next day involved me in new monumental episodes.