Daily Life

Royal tour 2014: Prince William and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge visit Uluru

 

The sun has officially, and literally, set on day seven of William and Kate's visit to Australia.

Tonight they'll camp out under the stars, albeit in a luxury tent which will set you or I back about $1100 per night.

Tomorrow they will head to Adelaide, and we'll be joining them live from the City of Elizabeth.

 

There are few more special views than a sunset at the soaring sandstone icon of Uluru. 

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge indulged in a rare moment of one-one-time on their Australia tour, albeit before the world's media, on Tuesday as they took in the red centre's most famous view. 

They appeared relaxed, chatting and smiling as the sun began to slip behind the Olgas. 

The moment was not quite as romantic as it might have been, thanks to the focused lenses and crowds at the end of the viewing spot. 

As the royal couple approached the same school children they had met at the Uluru-Kata Tjuta Cultural Centre earlier in the afternoon, William called out a loud "Hello," before declaring of the sunset photo opp: "That was interesting."

"We were just saying 'How are you doing that?'" came one of the Northern Territory seniors reply, with a laugh. 

The couple stayed to have a private chat and drink with the teens at the picturesque spot.

The sunset moment was not expected on the official tour schedule. 

The couple are expected to "glamp" under the stars for their rare date night away from Prince George. 

Day seven of the Australian leg of the royal tour will end as soon as the sun goes down.
Day seven of the Australian leg of the royal tour will end as soon as the sun goes down. Photo: Daisy Dumas
The royal couple preparing to watch the sun set over Uluru.
The royal couple preparing to watch the sun set over Uluru. Photo: Daisy Dumas

 

After a busy afternoon and a lot of walking (in wedge heels for Kate), the couple are now settling in to witness an Uluru sunset.

 

Meanwhile, during a forum where he called for Labor party reforms in Melbourne today, committed republican and Labor leader Bill Shorten was challenged to commit the next Labor government to a legislative timetable for a republic.

While he declared many Australians are yet be convinced of the need for a local head of state, Mr Shorten conceded the ‘‘lovely visit’’ of royal couple Kate and William, and their baby George, is winning Australian hearts and minds.

Opposition leader Bill Shorten says the Australian head of state should be Australian.
Opposition leader Bill Shorten says the Australian head of state should be Australian. Photo: Pat Scala

 

Prince William and Kate chatted soccer, rugby union and mathematics in a relaxed and animated encounter with nine Northern Territory high school children from some of the most remote schools in Australia.

At an afternoon tea hosted by Mr Giles, Australia's first indigenous head of government, William at one point joked about his lack of mathematical skills.

After Mr Giles invited the eight girls and one boy to do a question and answer session with the duke and duchess, the prince said, laughing, “just don't ask me about Pythagoras”.

Erin Keeley, from Nhulunbuy High School on the north eastern tip of the Territory, talked about her studies with the duchess.

Following the sudden death of her mother earlier this year, she wants to be a social worker.

After speaking for several minutes with Kate about her future, the duchess said, “Really good luck with your studies.”

When the girls asked to be in a photograph with the royal couple, William responded in a self deprecating manner, “Well if you don't mind having a photograph with us.”

Back to top
The duchess arrived in the Northern Territory wearing a simple Roksanda Ilincic shift dress.
The duchess arrived in the Northern Territory wearing a simple Roksanda Ilincic shift dress. 

 

Judging by Kate's demure fashion choices over the past few days, one gets the feeling the Palace is trying to hose down the focus on her style and the "Kate effect" which essentially breaks the internet and steals the headlines.

Interestingly, on Sunday, the one time Prince George came out to play, she was wearing "a designer who didn't wish to be named". It was a savvy sartorial decision which ensured it was the family, not her frock that was in the spotlight.

We are seeing a similar maneuver today for their visit to some of Australia's most remote and revered regions. So far she has worn two dresses, one of which she has been spotted in before and cost no more than $300. 

Kate's style today has been described by the Daily Mirror's royal reporter Victoria Murphy as "quite plain", however she still tottering around in heels. The duchess stepped off the plane in her trademark nude pumps but is now walking around the national park in a pair of wedges.

 

A group of elderly Anangu women and men from Mutitjulu sat less than a metre from the royals' feet at the Uluru-Kata Tjuta Cultural Centre as they formally acknowledged the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge's arrival to their land.

They sang songs and beat clapping sticks, or punu sticks, while bare breasted women slowly danced and thumped their feet on the dry ground.

Catherine had made a wardrobe change from her arrival dress into a Hobbs grey and white summer dress, sensibly ditching the heels for a pair of wedges, which in moments became caked in red dust.

A boy from the community presented the couple with a basket of Mala poo paper paintings - surely one of the tour's less likely gifts. The couple appeared to enjoy the display, asking questions of their hosts and admiring their gifts, which also included a carved wooden (punu) shield.

The slow moving, even sun-drowsy dance was performed by just two elderly women and one man, their chests painted in bold patterns. The dances are considered an honour for the elderly to perform. 

Sharon Davies of the Uluru-Kata Tjuta national park said inma can be much larger affairs. 

"A lot of people have been passing away so it's getting smaller and smaller," said Ms Davies. 

Catherine spoke with a group of elderly Anangu women before moving to the fireside, the fragrant bloodwood smoke filing the small spectator area.

Loud laughter went up from Catherine when William made a joke about a wooden snake that sat near the fire.

The duke and duchess then headed into the cultural centre for tea with the Chief Minister for the Northern Territory Adam Giles.  

The Anangu Welcome to Country ceremony at Uluru.
The Anangu Welcome to Country ceremony at Uluru. Photo: Daisy Dumas

 

Kate is wearing a more sensible pair of wedges having ditched the stiletto nude patent numbers.

They have quickly become caked in dust.

Back to top

 

A privilege for this reporter to watch an Anangu Welcome to Country ceremony at Uluru.

The duke and duchess have accepted gifts from the indigenous community, including those famous mala poo paper paintings, and are sitting in the shade of a wiltja, as women elders perform a slow dance to the sound of singing and the beat of punu sticks.

The Anangu Welcome to Country ceremony at Uluru.
The Anangu Welcome to Country ceremony at Uluru. Photo: Daisy Dumas

 

Kate and Will arrive at the Uluru-Kata Tjuta cultural centre for a Welcome to Country ceremony and tea with the NT Chief Minister.

Dress number two for the duchess as their NT tour continues.
Dress number two for the duchess as their NT tour continues. Photo: Daisy Dumas

 

William and Kate have just arrived at the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park.

Kate has had an outfit change, she's wearing what looks like a white and grey check print sun dress by British high-street label Hobbs. 

US comedienne Mindy Kaling was dressing like Kate before Kate was.
US comedienne Mindy Kaling was dressing like Kate before Kate was. Photo: Instagram

 

It turns out the former commoner-turned-princess Kate Middleton is taking her style cues for the Australian leg of the tour from popular comediennes not her grandmother-in-law.

Over the weekend, the duchess stepped out in Brisbane wearing a white LK Bennett cotton pencil dress covered in blue poppies.

The $440 frock promptly sold out, however one woman who was ahead of the "replikate" curve was The Mindy Project star Mindy Kaling, who wore the dress while filming early last week before boasting about it on social media.

"Of course Mindy Kaling and Kate Middleton are fashion twins," our friends over at Daily Life tell us, check out the story behind Mindy's post here.

Back to top

 

While William and Kate make their way (hopefully in air conditioned comfort) to an afternoon tea hosted by Northern Territory Chief Minister Adam Giles in the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, here are some of the latest photos just in from our Fairfax photographers travelling with them in the top end.

 

The royal visit has generated huge interest among the local Anangu people, the traditional owners of the rock, evoking memories of the sentimental journey made there by Prince William's parents, Charles and the then Princess Diana, in 1983 on their first trip to Australia together.

Then a baby, Prince William accompanied them on the tour - but not to Uluru - and some of the traditional owners who will meet the Cambridges today are hoping that one day his son, George, will become the next king-in-waiting to see the rock.

William and Kate will walk to the base of the sacred monolith this afternoon, guided by Anangu man Sammy Wilson.

Bessie Nipper, 42, will have her artwork presented to the couple, hopefully to be hung in George's nursery back home in the UK.

"I would love to see them accept it as a present," she said.

 

After receiving her certificate from Catherine, Jasmine Jingles, 19, of Mornington Island, Queensland, said she was thrilled. "It's amazing, deadly as," she enthused.

Francis Oba, 23, of the Torres Strait, was wished good luck for his future by Prince William.

Clutching his certificate, he said: "This is really great ... we're touched they came so far to be here."

The duke, dressed casually in an open-necked shirt, his sleeves rolled up, was presented with a 2m hunting spear to make his visit to the academy.

Kate said she was thrilled to receive a hand-painted bracelet made of seed, which she immediately donned.

 

William seemed more bothered by the flies than Kate did, batting them away as he spoke with locals and asked where they were from and how big Yulara was. Catherine appeared calm and unflustered despite the heat - and no hat.

 

William tells the crowd he is "melting" in the heat. It's tipped to reach 33C here.

The 33 degree heat is creating a royal flush.
The 33 degree heat is creating a royal flush. Photo: Daisy Dumas
Back to top