ULURU

The Red Cen­tre is Aus­tralia at its most iconic and to visit here is to em­brace this an­cient land’s spiritual past. Lon­gi­tude 131° hon­ours Uluru’s sig­nif­i­cance with mov­ing guest ex­pe­ri­ences, as Cathy Wagstaff dis­cov­ers.

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Star-filled skies, red earth un­der­foot and su­perla­tive views at Lon­gi­tude 131°

The desert sky is clear, the night lit by a full moon and a canopy of stars. My bed for the night is a dou­ble swag, set up on the deck of my tented pav­il­ion at Lon­gi­tude 131°. Along­side is a tray with bot­tles of cognac, port and Bai­leys, leather la­bels around their necks, and a bowl of pop­corn. Be­fore me is an un­in­ter­rupted view of Uluru, serene in the moon­light.

Ev­ery Aus­tralian should see Uluru, and there is no finer way to do so than wak­ing up to ad­mire its rosy sun­rise hue un­der the canopy of one of the 16 tented pavil­ions at Lon­gi­tude 131°.

This bou­tique re­sort – a mem­ber of the Lux­ury Lodges of Aus­tralia and one of the fam­ily-owned Bail­lie Lodges group since 2013 – is a spe­cial place where the de­tail is every­thing. James and Hay­ley Bail­lie know this, and it’s why the lodge closed for four months last year to re­ceive its most dra­matic trans­for­ma­tion yet. As part of the makeover, the Dune House that serves as the re­sort hub was ex­panded, the pool was reimag­ined as a mod­ern out­back bil­l­abong, Spa Ki­nara was added, and the Dune Top panoramic deck ap­peared.

The sin­gu­lar two-bed­room Dune Pav­il­ion also made its de­but at the re­open­ing. The con­tem­po­rary home­stead is a de­sign tri­umph from ar­chi­tect Max Pritchard, who pre­vi­ously col­lab­o­rated with Bail­lie Lodges on South­ern Ocean Lodge on Kan­ga­roo Is­land. In a first for Aus­tralia, it of­fers views of both Uluru and Kata Tjuta, which can be ad­mired from the com­fort of your bed or, per­haps more deca­dently, from the bathtub.

On the deck, a daybed is ready for the stargaz­ing swag turn­down ser­vice and a cir­cu­lar plunge pool looks invit­ing in the midday sun.

Art and coun­try

The in­cor­po­ra­tion of the Abo­rig­i­nal cul­ture into the fab­ric of the re­sort is one of the most strik­ing things about Lon­gi­tude 131°. From the mo­ment I ar­rive, I am sur­rounded by In­dige­nous art. When Bail­lie Lodges took over, Hay­ley Bail­lie sought to hon­our the tra­di­tional crafts of Uluru, Alice Springs and the nearby Anangu Pit­jan­t­jat­jara Yankun­yt­jat­jara (APY) Lands. Five years later, her pur­chases and com­mis­sions are an on­go­ing labour of love.

The works are more vi­brant than I had ex­pected (ap­par­ently this is dis­tinc­tive of the APY Lands), and I’m par­tic­u­larly en­tranced with a can­vas rep­re­sent­ing the Kungkarangkalpa or ‘Seven Sis­ters’ story by four of the Ken sis­ters from Tjala Arts Cen­tre in the Amata In­dige­nous Com­mu­nity. Even the 500 or so hand­painted tiles that adorn the Dune House bar have a story. The spinifex de­sign comes from Marceena Jack, a 19-year-old artist from Aus­tralia’s old­est arts cen­tre, Ern­abella Arts In­dige­nous Com­mu­nity. And it’s not just Lon­gi­tude 131° buy­ing the art­work; guests are in­vited to take home a sou­venir with Ern­abella ce­ram­ics and other mas­ter­pieces avail­able for pur­chase.

Art-lov­ing guests can even choose a Be­spoke Ex­pe­ri­ence to visit the closed com­mu­nity of Ern­abella, fly­ing down to meet the artists at their re­mote stu­dio to see how tech­niques are passed down through the gen­er­a­tions and un­der­stand the strength of this an­cient cul­ture.

Meet­ings with Uluru

As the af­ter­noon cools, I head out for my first en­counter with the mono­lith that brought me here. At a dis­tance, Uluru is im­pos­ing. Up close, it’s sur­pris­ingly nu­anced. The flora that flour­ishes in its shadow changes as we walk along the base and the bril­liant ochre hues I had ex­pected is more of a red­dish-grey. We fin­ish our stroll at Kan­tju Gorge with drinks and canapés. Above us, the Rock glows bril­liant red in the set­ting sun.

Most walks set off first thing in the morn­ing to take ad­van­tage of milder tem­per­a­tures, so sun­rise the next day sees me walking in awe through Walpa Gorge. When we emerge, the domes of Kata Tjuta (Pit­jan­t­jat­jara for ‘many heads’) have me reach­ing for my cam­era.

My favourite view, how­ever, is out the large, curved win­dows of Pro­fes­sional He­li­copter Ser­vices’ Euro­copter as we take off en route to Ay­ers Rock Air­port to cir­cle Uluru. From this van­tage, you can feel the vast­ness of the land­scape, swal­low­ing the lodge and its sur­rounds into red dust and spinifex.

Spiritual ex­pe­ri­ence

When the heat just gets too much, es­cape to Spa Ki­nara. The build­ing, made of rusted steel, takes its in­spi­ra­tion from tra­di­tional wiltja shel­ters, while the menu uses LI’TYA prod­ucts that call on the wis­dom of Abo­rig­i­nal heal­ing tech­niques.

My re­lax­ing Kodo Mas­sage be­gins with a smok­ing rit­ual that clears the en­ergy and trans­ports me to my spiritual place.

This con­nec­tion con­tin­ues as we re­turn to Uluru at sun­set, this time to walk through the 50,000 glow­ing stems that make up Bruce Munro’s mes­meris­ing art in­stal­la­tion, Field of Light. We then have din­ner un­der the stars at Ta­ble 131°, an open-air res­tau­rant nes­tled among the dunes. Ex­ec­u­tive chef Jonathan Bryant in­cor­po­rates na­tive in­gre­di­ents such as lemon myr­tle, pep­per­berry, desert lime and quan­dong into his dishes, cre­at­ing a din­ing ex­pe­ri­ence that ties

you to the land­scape. That is ul­ti­mately the en­dur­ing ap­peal of Lon­gi­tude 131°. No mat­ter where you are on the prop­erty, the pull of the land­scape and the land­mark is in­escapable. From the ar­chi­tec­ture to the art, the lodge marks it­self as a cel­e­bra­tion of Aus­tralia’s spirit, past, present and fu­ture.

03 01 Uluru at sun­rise is a spec­tac­u­lar view to wake up to 02 Walking around the base of Uluru is a mean­ing­ful ex­pe­ri­ence 03 The Rock glows red in the sun 04 The Dune Pav­il­ion at Lon­gi­tude 131°05 Dune Top din­ing. All im­ages © Lon­gi­tude 131°

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