When I was around nine or ten years old, I read a story about Uluru, the spiritual center of Australia. The story, as I recall it, was about a little girl that lived near the rock who became friends with a girl who lived in the rock. They weren’t supposed to be friends because they came from different cultures but they would meet at night and look up at the stars. Things got brighter as they learned about each other’s lives and culture, and I think there was a magical bird involved in some way. Actually, I’m not sure any of that is exactly right at all, but it was something like that, and in the end, I learned of this sacred space, its mysteries, its darkness, and its stars.
I think this was probably around the time that Meryl Streep played Lindy Chamberlain in the movie A Cry in the Dark, which I didn’t see until much later, thankfully. I’m quite sure that my nine-year-old mind couldn’t have handled it. But since then, there’s always been something about this place that captured my imagination, it seemed so mysterious, and I dreamed of going there one day. Being in the magical place. Outside in the dark, in the middle of nowhere. And sure, as I read about this place from the Lockhart Elementary School library in Lockhart, Texas, I imagined it, but I never imagined I would actually go there.
However as things happen, and life becomes delightfully weird, I found myself right in this exact place. Just as I’d imagined. At the famed Sounds of Silence dinner.
This dinner takes place between beautiful Uluru…
And towering Kata Tjuta, which one of our guides pointed out looks like Homer Simpson laying on his back. I was never able to look at this powerful spot quite in the same way again.
This dinner is a big deal, and you can read all about it here. It is hosted by the Voyages Ayers Rock Resort, where you’ll want to stay. More on that soon. But, the gist is, you start at a lovely overlook with canapés and chilled sparkling wine. The canapés happen to involve kangaroo and crocodile. So get ready for that.
There’s a sunset. It’s all very pretty.
Then you head down to this beautiful dining area.
As the sun sets and darkness falls, this one dude played the didgeridoo, which is cool and weird. The music definitely fits the space though…and the mood. However, after a few minutes, he left somewhat abruptly. Jenny said it was because he saw a snake. Jenny might have been messing with me.
As we gathered and as the sun disappeared, we had three courses of delight, some dessert, an introduction to Aboriginal culture and a lot of good conversation. And from where I was sitting the middle of it all, at each table, multiple languages were spoken.
They put all the Americans at our table to speak American together, and so we did that. These were some of the first and only Americans we met on the trip. Even though Australia is one of the easiest places for Americans to visit (the language and the culture are so much like our own), we saw surprisingly few Americans while we were there. Americans are missing out.
But then came my favorite part…a guided tour of the night sky, where you see things like this…
That is a photo taken with my iPhone through a telescope. So cool. And stars everywhere. It would be impossible for me to describe the millions of billions of stars that we saw puncturing through the darkness that night.
But standing in the middle of Australia, in the middle of nowhere, with 15 languages being spoken around 10 dinner tables, I realized how eye opening darkness can be. Just like those little girls in that 1970s book, the darkness brought us together and it brought out the light.
And it was beautiful.