William and Kate's rare date night at red centre

It may be an official tour of duty, but the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge found time to escape to the red centre for a rare date night on Tuesday.

After leaving baby Prince George in Canberra, the couple flew to Uluru where they followed in Prince Charles and Lady Diana's 1983 steps, visiting the sandstone icon and meeting indigenous Anangu land owners.

They were given a guided private tour of the Uluru's Kuniya walk and, as the sun sunk below the Olgas, setting Uluru's famous red glow alight, the young couple stopped to take in the famous vista, albeit in front of the world's media.

William last visited as an eight-month-old baby with his parents, who had told Anangu elders including Barbara Nipper from Mutitjulu that they hoped the prince would one day return. 

Indeed he has, this time with his wife by his side. 

“He’s come back now ... They recognise it’s a really special place and [we are] glad he was able to come back like [Charles and Diana] said he would,” Vincent Nipper, Barbara’s grandson said of William, in his Pitjantjatjara language. 

Making the most of the trip, the couple will be staying at Longitude 131, a luxury campsite on the edge of the UNESCO World Heritage listed park.

After the sunset - a last-minute addition to the couple's packed schedule - they had drinks with children they had met at afternoon tea at the Uluru-Kata Tjuta Cultural Centre.

The eight girls and one boy were from schools across the territory, including high schools and senior colleges in Katherine, Darwin, Nhulunbuy, Casuarina and Palmerston.

As relaxed as the couple appeared to be, their home might have felt many miles away at times during the day, not least at an official welcome to country ceremony when red earth of the red centre came alive with the beats and song of an indigenous inma, as the Anangu people of Uluru formally acknowledged the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge's arrival to their land. 

When Chevez Kirkman, from Nyangatjatjara College, was asked after the ceremony by William whether he supported a premier league side, cultural differences became clear as the boy admitted he did not.

"If you were to have one, maybe Aston Villa would be a good one," came the Duke's reply - possibly onto deaf ears. 

Erin Keeley cheekily asked William for a selfie and was told by an official there would be no selfies with the royal couple.

She then asked William if he lived at Buckingham Palace and he said: "No, but the Queen does."

The schoolgirl had visited Buckingham Palace last year and told the Duke that his grandmother had not been in residence that day.

"That's because she knew you wanted a selfie so she ran away," he joked.

Kate told the Erin that she was 'really excited' about visiting Uluru later in the afternoon.

The girls asked Kate and William about Prince George and were told that he had changed a lot while they had been away.

"He's grown an extra roll of fat because he's been so spoilt in New Zealand and now while he's been looked after while we are travelling," they said.

Speaking about his young son, Prince William said: "He can get a bit grumpy on the long flights.''

He added that he was not looking forward to the journey back to Britain because "he'll be really grumpy."

The girls said the Duchess was very interested in their studies and was very encouraging.

Shannon Hunt also said that the Duke spoke about some of Australia's real wildlife including snakes - and the drop bear, a vicious, mythical creature said to pounce on travellers.

"William said he played jokes on people in Britain about the haggis", she said. "He pretends it's an animal with three legs".

Earlier, Catherine and William were accompanied on the Kuniya walk, close to some of Uluru's most sacred sites, by Vincent Nipper, 35, from Mutitjulu. The Anangu traditional land owner said before meeting the couple in the shadow of Uluru's soaring rockfaces that he hopes the area's spirit may accompany the royals home. 

"Our feeling is that, well, it's really important for these two special people to come to a place that's really, really strong in spirit as husband and wife that they come here and feel that for themselves, the strength of the culture and spirit here," he said in his native Pitjantjatjara language.

The media was not privy to their entire walk and interaction with the Anangu people, affording the couple a rare moment of privacy to absorb the spirit of Uluru-Kata Tjuta.

Sydney Morning Herald

Smartphone
Tablet - Narrow
Tablet - Wide
Desktop