I've heard whoppers like - 'Why would I want to go all that way to see a Rock? I can travel overseas for the same price.'
It's different for tourists. Uluru (formerly known as Ayers Rock) - holds a fascination that attracts over 400,000 visitors to the site each year.
I think it's a case of just not knowing, not really grasping that this is so much more than a big red rock.
I know that's a "roll your eye-balls" kind of statement - but I never expected to be so blown away by the experience. My first sighting of Uluru from the plane almost took my breath away. First, there was nothing but a vast landscape topped with rich ochre soil. And then there was Uluru - the immense kingdom of the Red Centre. Even from thousands of metres away, it was a mammoth sculpture, with intricate folds and ridges.
See it to believe it
You simply can't imagine Uluru's size until you see it. If it was possible to heave it up and drop it down in Sydney, it would flatten the area from the Opera House to Central Station.
It's just over nine kilometres to walk around and 348 metres high. And that's not the end of it - the bulk of Uluru (six kilometres of rock) is hidden underground.
The stories of the local Aborigines
Up close, Uluru looks like a gift from another planet. It must have been quite a journey from out of space. It's pock-marked with what resembles meteorite craters and has huge hunks of rock torn out from its surface. I was sure I could see giant black footprints on one of the walls. It's no wonder that the rock has inspired the mystical dreamtime tales of the local Aboriginal Anangu.
It's these stories that make a visit to Uluru come alive. They are the real spirit of Ayres Rock. So make sure you book yourself a tour to hear all about them. There's the famous legend about the python Kuniya and how she revenges her slain nephew by killing his murderer with her digging stick. You can still see the hole that was left in the rock by her weapon.
Aborigines use these anecdotes to explain the passage of time as well as a way to pass on morals to the younger generations. The Anangu believe that the world began in the region surrounding Uluru. If you open your mind, you can feel the energy and deep-rooted culture that this ancient, but very much living, civilisation brings to the land.
Walk around not on top
Climbing Uluru is not cool. Not only is it disrespectful to the Aborginal land owners to scramble all over their sacred site but it's also a dangerous ascent. There is a chain handrail to offer minimal assistance up the steep face but this didn't help the many adrenaline junkies whose fatal falls are commemorated with plaques.
But what is a must-do activity is hauling yourself out of bed at 5am to watch the Uluru sunrise. There are designated viewing spots where people from all over the world gather with bleary eyes and coffee thermos to marvel at the dawn light dancing along the rippled surface of the rock. Keep in mind that photos taken in this area can't be published as this would then expose the sacred women sites which are taboo for men to view. Many of the walking paths now diverge from these sacred spots to uphold their secrecy.
It's uplifting to see the fierce conservation efforts here. There's no hint of the Disneyworld in the Desert that many Australians fear they'll find. It's quite unusual that a natural (and lucrative) treasure is left unadorned without Crocodile Dundee hats, hawkers or a souvenir stand in sight.
If you do want to take home a memoir of the Outback, then visit the colourful Maruku Arts Centre, at the base of Uluru. This is a heart-warming cultural hub where Aboriginal artists sit on straw mats and create masterpieces.
World-renowned artists involved in the community project include Rene Kuiltja, the designer of the Qantas plane pattern.
A blank canvas rapidly becomes a multi-coloured weaving of whirls, circles and dots, all telling a story. Bonny Connolly, 73, whose art flies out the door even before the paint dries, points out honey ants in one, witchetty grubs in another.
"Often over three generations paint on these floors," says Jennifer Sutton, the manager of the centre who's like a motivational mum to the artists. "This is their creative haven. It's where they can come and express themselves".
Feast under the stars
We ended our visit to Uluru with the popular Sounds of Silence dinner. I imagined a table for two under the stars in the outback, white linen, waiters and delectable food.
Instead, large tour buses transported groups to viewing spots to snack on average canapes while enjoying the sunset. As the first star glimmered in the sky, we moved to an area with ten-seater tables. Dinner is a barbeque buffet and the star talker is a bizarre Austrian.
It's still a special experience but it has more than a hint of mass-tourism. So if you're after romantic intimacy, then you'll have to convince Voyages (the tour operator) to lay on a dinner for two at something like $900 per person. There's also the Sounds of Firelight tour at Kings Canyon Resort, a three hour drive away, which apparently is more along the lines of what I had in mind.
I felt uplifted when I returned to the bustle of the city. For at least a week, I was in a bubble of serenity. Regular life was all so trivial in comparison to the spiritual significance of Uluru. It'll soon be time to return for another dose of its magic.
How to get there:
Qantas flies directly to Ayers Rock Airport from Sydney, Alice Springs, Perth and Cairns.
Where to Stay:
There is a full range of accommodation available at Uluru ranging from the very exclusive tented camp - Longitude 131° to the more economical Outback Pioneer Hotel.
I stayed at the luxurious Sails in the Desert resort. Rooms here are lavishly decorated with a spa and gigantic bed. There's a large pool area perfect for a dip in the warm weather and the Red Ochre Spa for some serious relaxation.
Check out the full range of accommodation at Uluru.
Plan your trip
The Outback is vast and planning a trip may seem daunting. Take the hassle out of a Northern Territory holiday with Territory Discoveries. These travel specialists are experts in the region and will help to plan the perfect trip!
Visit the Territory Discoveries website for more info.
What to do:
Tour the Rock
Discovery Eco-tours tours offer small-grouped excursions in the Uluru region. Make sure you sign up for the Spirit of Uluru, where you learn more about the significance of Uluru to the Aboriginal community.
The Uluru walk, which includes a sunrise viewing and an amble around the Rock, is also a good option.
Find out more about the full range of tours on offer.
Sounds of Silence
Dine under the outback stars and enjoy bush hospitality with the Sounds of Silence Dinner. More info...
Maruku Art CentreMaruku is a craft company, owned and controlled by the local Aboriginal community. This is the best place to buy authentic art right from the source. Head down to the Maruku website for more details.