The space and freedom of the outback unveil themselves on the slow road from Adelaide to Uluru.

Story By Mark Muller

The air is crisp and sharp. Pre-dawn’s haze lifts with the growing light, and green and yellow tussocks of spinifex start to take shape in the red sand. A couple of kilometres away a shape starts to harden on a mauve and purple horizon. Conversation stills and all eyes turn towards Uluru as the first washes of sunlight paint its vast flanks. Guide Eric Hossack smiles at the spectacle. He’s been living and working beside Uluru for eight years, having come up from Melbourne for “a look”. “I’ve lost count of the times I’ve watched this,” he says. “Each time it’s different – I’ll never get sick of it.”
About 300,000 people from all over the world visit the Red Centre each year, and Uluru is a magnet for the curious. Many choose to fly into Yulara (the small resort town operated by the Indigenous Land Corporation just outside Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park), spend a few days, and fly out again. For others, the rock is a waypoint on longer journeys. For those not pressed for time, the 1800-kilometre drive up from Adelaide provides a lesson in contrasts.
Over a period of four or five days, travellers can wend their way from the South Australian capital up through the Clare Valley, Flinders Ranges, past Lake Eyre via the outback outposts of Marree and William Creek, then across to Coober Pedy before making a good day of it along the bitumen to Uluru. In so doing, you witness the gradual unveiling of the outback. With the changing geography there comes a rising sense of space and freedom. This is one of the main benefits of driving across country and devoting time to the road – particularly devoting time to moving further and further from the coast, from the densely populated areas.
The first leg of this run, from Adelaide to the Clare Valley, is less than 150km and can be done in under two hours. The wide, fertile valley is famed for its riesling, in particular, and its wine and food culture in general. Enjoying a little of both are Vicki and Jeff Fowler. The cellar of Sevenhill winery is a long way from their home in Biloela, Qld, but with wine in hand and Vicki’s Adelaide-based uncle Graeme Allen acting as guide, they appear to be coping with the change of scenery. “I haven’t been down in South Australia for 20 years,” Vicki says. “So we’re making the most of it.” Sevenhill is the oldest winery in the valley, having been established by Jesuits in 1851. The order still owns and operates it, which, as well as producing commercial offerings, supplies sacramental wine to churches throughout Australia.

This Story is from Issue #87

Outback Magazine: Feb/Mar 2013