A trip to central Australia is not complete without spending time in the shadow of that big rock. But you don't have to spend big dollars staying at Uluru.
There are lots of accommodation options at Uluru itself, but if you're looking for a yarn with the locals, sharing breakfast in the big homestead kitchen, sinking into a very comfortable bed and paying a fair bit less for the experience, then you may like to call into Curtin Springs Cattle Station, just down the road from Ayers Rock. By road or by air, it's too easy.
One night won't be enough at Curtin Springs. But after your day trip from there over to Uluru and that amazing scenic flight you've just given your passengers, curling all around the Rock and The Olgas, you'll be happy to land back at this station and soak up the relaxed outback hospitality that the Severin family and their staff are so good at offering.
Essentially catering for the needs of the passing traveller as it has done for decades, Curtin Springs Catttle Station and Wayside Inn is located on the Lasseter Hwy, 85km east of the entrance to the Ayers Rock/Olgas National Park.
You can obviously come at it from all angles (we flew from Halls Creek, WA), but it could well serve as the end destination for a week away from the East Coast. Maybe take in places like Coober Pedy (275 nm to the south-east), Lake Eyre, William Ck, Leigh Ck, Wilpena Pound …. on it goes. If you're headed back to Brisbane, why not stop at Birdsville or duck down to Noccundra or Hungerford? Great pubs - all three. Get the charts out and have some fun planning.
Easy access by road (or flying of course) to Uluru, the Olgas, Kings Canyon and the very cool-looking monolith of Mount Conner are the drawcards that will bring you here to Curtin Springs, but immersing in the history that the place holds will be an unexpected highlight of your stay with the Severins.
Here is a working cattle station of over a million acres, where the severity of drought and the hardships of isolation are constant and bitter companions. Yet you'll see nothing but happy and caring folk who, like countless outback families nowadays, rely on people like us for a slice of the lucrative tourism dollar to stay afloat.
Peter & Dawn Severin with their son, Ashley, took over the pastoral lease of Curtin Springs in 1956. In an extract from the delightful “Dawn's Story", Peter writes: “We lived under the Bough Shed for over two years and then it was another eight years in the tin house before the stone house was built. (The stone house is built from 150 ton of stone, all quarried from the property.) We were in drought for our first nine years ….." The initial herd of 1500 cattle was ravaged by the drought down to just 400 and it took several years and some useful rain before the herd was restocked to 4500 head. They have had their share of further drought since, but these days, Peter and Ashley still successfully run the station.
Taking charge of an exhausting domestic portfolio is Ashley's wife, Lyndee. Handling a daily routine that would draw blood from most of us reading this, Lyndee gets on with the job she would now not swap for the world. Depending on the time of day, she is Minister in Charge of bar & kitchen staff, housekeeping rosters, book-keeping and menu planning or welcoming any number of traveling guests into their much-loved slice of rural Australia.
There are a handful of buildings surrounding the family home, and guests are offered a choice of accommodation, determined by your preference to either rough it or indulge a little. There's private or shared facilities available; dormitory style and ensuite accommodation, the latter being of a high standard. (It was the first carpet we'd found in 10 days flying around the Outback - big tick.)
The climate of course is delightful in the cooler months, the night sky full of stars, and a walk around the property before breakfast will reward you with a stunning sunrise, often rising over the brooding heads of cattle grazing across the road.
If you've booked accommodation, you'll be happily picked up from the airstrip by one of the Severins or a station hand. Drum fuel is available on request (otherwise just refuel at Ayers Rock airport, too easy.)
On the way in, you'll pass a huge paddock with an unlimited number of campsites for road travellers who'll either cook up in their Grey Nomadmobiles or splash out and come across to the main house and be fed home-cooked meals in the old Bough Shed. That's the outdoor dining area surrounded by attractive gardens, a lawn that's even green, and an impressive bird aviary which has been a feature of the homestead since Dawn replaced the wretched noise of crows with her own selection of birdlife.
If you want to hang up your headset for a spell, various 4WD tours that illuminate the diversity and beauty of the area, including the famous Uncle's Tours, are on offer to visitors, from half day, full day, sunset/quick trip; bird watching, to tailor made tours for larger groups.
A check of their website will shake out any queries you have: www.curtinsprings.com
You'll share laughs and stories with fellow travellers during your stay here, and if there's not too many of you, you'll probably be asked into the huge old kitchen to have your breakfast while the staff buzz around you.
Spend some sundowner time at the knock-about bar and you'll be on the receiving end of the odd yarn or two there as well. The bar also doubles as the office, general store, tourism info centre and fuel servo. Wander outside to the public phone booth (just shoo the resident emu out if he's in there) and you'll be able to hook up to less fortunate friends at home, just as they're tightening their tie for work.