I am about to embark on the Kuniya Walk at Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, in Australia’s Northern Territory. The morning sun makes the spinifex mounds sparkle and the red earth glisten. In the right light, the landscape is truly golden. The giant rock formations look like arms, wrapped protectively around ancient secrets.
There is no one else around. I am breathing in concert with mother nature, watching her awaken for the day, as I awake for mine.
In reality, as I rise out of bed in my home on the Northern Beaches of Sydney, I am a world away from the red centre, but still, I am able to connect with its heart. I am soaking up these sights and sounds on Story Spheres, an immersive audio and visual platform that lets you explore Uluru from anywhere on earth.
With so much uncertainty in the world around us, this makes me feel connected and centred.
In a year during which many of us have been physically isolated, we are not just disconnected from our communities, but also from Country.
This can hurt our spirit. It is hard to be away from Country and watch her from afar. We need to care for her, listen to her and most importantly, connect with our sense of who we are, by acknowledging that we are also part of her.
This year has opened up opportunities for all Australians to connect with our wild and wonderful landscape. It goes beyond just wanting to plan for our next holiday and speaks to a deeper connection of feeling anchored in place.
I am not alone in seeking this connection.
In the first half of 2020, Uluru-Kata Tjuta had over 19,000 virtual visitors, compared with less than a thousand in 2019. Tourism Australia also launched its ‘Live from Aus’ initiative, which reconnected Australians to the country’s unique wildlife, landscapes, food and wine, Indigenous, arts and cultural experiences via interactive digital experiences.
Interestingly, it’s not all about being taken to far away places, but also about rediscovering the Aboriginal lands on which we all live.
For me, this has meant doing virtual rock art and engraving tours through the Aboriginal Heritage Office in Sydney. I spoke to a staff member about why digital tourism was so important and she made the point that it supports us, as Indigenous Australians, to tell our stories in our own voice. It is such a powerful thing to be heard and to invite you to know us.
So as I wind down from another busy day, I watch the setting of the sun back in the heartbeat of the nation. It brings with it a kaleidoscope of new colours, with washes of pinks and purples now replacing the oranges and reds.
I find this a beautiful way to sink into the natural rhythm of the world, one that our modern lives so often ask us to resist.
Although in 2020 we weren’t able to be in places physically, the amazing thing is that without the constant hum of people and traffic and busyness, our world is regenerating and our Country is singing for us once more.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Yatu Widders Hunt
My life in travel
Favourite Aussie holiday memory
“As I kid I loved going to Crescent Head in NSW; we used to holiday there almost every year. I remember the excitement of heading up north, packing loads of books and spending endless hours on the beach.”
Next local holiday
“I love Western Australia so would probably have to say the Kimberley. I’ve only travelled there for work, so would love the chance to do some proper exploring. My brother is also based in Perth now, so a great excuse to head over west!”
My Australian bucket list destination
“I’ve always wanted to road trip around Tasmania. It’s such a beautiful landscape with so many gorgeous hikes, and of course the amazing food.”
My international bucket list destination
“I really want to explore Korea – I went there very briefly as a child but I desperately want to go back. It has such a vibrant energy, but also natural stunning landscapes which I’d like to see more of!”