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For so many years, a visit to the Red Centre of my home country has remained unticked on that old bucket list because, quite frankly, travelling in Australia is expensive. Every time I’ve thought about making this trip, I’ve decided it’s more worth my while to head to an international destination instead.
Those sentiments changed when I first read about Bruce Munro’s Field of Light in a Qantas inflight magazine. 50 000 fibre optic lights illuminating the field before Australia’s most iconic rock? I knew that this was a once-in-a-lifetime spectacle I just had to witness for myself.
If you think this is one experience that’s beyond your budget, then think again. Ayers Rock Resort provides a range of accommodation options to suit all budgets, from camping to the ultimate in luxury glamping, Longitude 131. You can be sure the latter has now made its way onto my ever-expanding bucket list!
Similarly, there are a range of Field of Light experiences to suit all budgets, starting at just $35 including coach transfers, up to $615 if you fancy arriving in style in a helicopter. I had initially chosen the $75 Star Pass, which includes coach transfers and a sunset viewing with drinks and canapes followed by a walk through the Field of Light. However, once I arrived at Uluru and realised how much food costs there (it IS the middle of the desert after all), I decided I might as well combine 2 once-in-a-lifetime experiences into 1 and requested an upgrade to the $235 A Night at Field of Light, which is essentially the famous Sounds of Silence dinner followed by the Field of Light experience. A bargain, really, since Sounds of Silence on its own costs $195.
The night begins with a coach pick-up right by the entrance of your chosen accommodation – and yes, if you’ve decided to camp, the coaches swing by the campgrounds as well. You are then taken to a private sand dune overlooking Uluru, where you can enjoy some champagne while waiting for the sun to set.
Here’s where I need to insert a disclaimer and inform you that by no means do any of the following photos do the evening justice. It’s pitch black out there (which is the whole point of the night, really), and for safety reasons, tripods are not allowed in the Field of Light as they would pose a significant tripping hazard in the darkness, which would in turn lead to inevitable breakages and electrical risks. Like I said previously, this is something you just need to go and see for yourselves.
If you’re wondering why I photographed the sunset instead, it’s because I couldn’t actually see the dance over everyone else’s heads. Fortunately, it was at this point that the canapes made their appearance. On the menu were crocodile frittatas, onion and feta filo cups, kangaroo crostinis, and poached prawns on cucumber slices. In all honesty, they looked a lot better than they tasted, and it was at this point that I began to think it may not have been the wisest decision to upgrade my Star Pass to the dinner option. I felt the frittatas and prawns lacked flavour, the filo cups were stingy on fillings, and the kangaroo was too dry.
I didn’t have long to worry though, as the sunset quickly gave way to starlight and we were herded to a field where tables had been set up for dinner. If you’re travelling alone and concerned about sticking out like a sore thumb, have no fear. The tables are set up for 10, and everyone is so excited about the evening’s proceedings that you’ll soon make friends with whoever you’re placed with.
It was from this dinner location whilst enjoying our soup that we caught our first glimpse of the illuminated Field of Light. Indeed, it was as Mr Munro himself intended – an homage to the regional wildflowers which, fortunately for me, were in full bloom at the time I visited thanks to record rainfalls over the winter.
Before long, we were invited table by table to the generous buffet selection which included prawns, salads, beef porterhouse, chicken, kangaroo on couscous, salmon and various vegetables. Any concerns I may have had from the canapes were unfounded. Like most if not all buffets, none of the dishes were particular standouts, but all were fresh, flavoursome, and exactly what I needed after 2 days of hiking in the area. During the meal, we were also serenaded by an indigenous didgeridoo player.
After we’d eaten our fill, all of the lights were switched off so that we could fully appreciate the stillness of our surroundings and the brightness of the stars in the desert night sky. This portion of the evening was an unexpected highlight for me, and I thoroughly enjoyed the star talk that followed, during which some of the planets and constellations were pointed out to us.
The lights were then switched back on for our dessert of cheesecake, lime curd tartlets, chocolate cake, fruits, port, coffee and tea. The lighting may not make these look particularly appetising, but believe me when I say that these hit the spot alright.
Finally, we were given bottles of water and led down into the main attraction where we had 45 minutes to meander through the open air art installation. Neither pictures nor words can truly capture the magic of the 50 000 shimmering lights as they gradually change colours and sway gently in the night breeze, but I did enjoy hearing how others around me attempted to describe them. Some said it was like walking into Oz or the world of Avatar, others described it as stepping into a Monet painting or watching lanterns drifting upwards into the sky.
Whatever your take, I guarantee you will be contemplating the evening’s proceedings long after the coach has dropped you back at the front door of your hotel, and glad you made the effort to see this once-in-a-lifetime art installation in this once-in-a-lifetime destination.
NEED TO KNOW
What? Field of Light, an open air art installation involving 50 000 fibre optic lights.
Who? By Bruce Munro, and recommended for all ages and fitness levels – some walking is involved, but the field is flat with lit paths to walk through.
Where? Uluru, Northern Territory, Australia.
When? Initially slated as a year-long project from 1 April 2016-31 March 2017, I have heard rumours from the staff that there are plans to keep the Field of Light for at least another 6 months and possibly up to 12 months due to its popularity. So get online and book your trip now!
Why? It’s indescribably beautiful in an ethereal otherworldly way, and because 40% of the proceeds from Field of Light go back to the local Anangu community.
How? Bookings can be made here. To get to Ayer’s Rock Resort, you can fly direct to Uluru (Ayer’s Rock) with Qantas/Jetstar from Sydney or Melbourne; via Alice Springs from Brisbane, Darwin or Adelaide; or via Sydney or Melbourne from Perth. Once you get to the airport, the resort offers a free shuttle service to whichever accommodation option you’ve chosen.
Have you been to the Field of Light? What did you think? What did the illuminated landscape remind you of?
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