Back in August 2015 we visited Central Australia, just one of those rare once in a lifetime things, when the star align, quite literally. The fact that I was invited to this conference was a bit weird, but so lucky we got to go, and see somesights around Uluru.
So many people visit Yulara, also know as Ayers Rock Resort to see Uluru, and yes it is the largest single rock formation in the world, that in itself is impressive, but so are the crowds. For my money I really enjoyed the less frequented Kata Tjuta, also known as the Olgas, a colloquial term referring to Mount Olga, the highest of the domes.
What is it
Based approx 30kms from Uluru, 365km South West from Alice Springs, it is a large rock formation consisting of 36 enormous domes soaring hundreds of meters into the desert air.
Approx 600 million years in the making, of similar granite like iron ore as Uluru, it has more rocky areas surrounding it, Uluru is mostly sand. Some scientist believe they may actually be connected hundreds of metres under ground. Mount Olga was named in 1872 by Ernest Giles, in honour of Queen Olga of Württemberg (born Grand Duchess Olga of Russia, daughter of Tsar Nicholas I).
There are many Pitjantjatjara Dreamtime legends associated with this place and indeed everything in the vicinity including, of course, Uluru / Ayers Rock. A number of legends surround the great snake King Wanambi who is said to live on the summit of Kata Tjuta / Mount Olga and only comes down during the dry season. The majority of mythology surrounding the site is not disclosed to outsiders in particular to women. As is the custom, should women become known to the “men’s business” they are susceptible to violent attacks, even death. – Wikipedia
There are a few things which are extra special about this place, apart from being less crowded, there is actually more interesting things to look at, rather than just one super sized rock. The base area is huge and you cannot venture into most of it due to Aboriginal sacred sites, but the areas you can go to are fabulous, if not difficult. Going to the sunrise viewing deck at sunrise, you can witness the sun coming up from behind Uluru in the distance at the same time as seeing the sun light up the shadowy places, gorges and rock formations of The Olgas. Another truly fabulous must do, is to watch the sunset on the Olgas is from Giles Site (named after Ernest Giles who discovered the area) during the famed Sounds of Silence dinner; glass of champagne, canapés and watch the sun set over this wonder is a sight not to be missed.
Of the two walks you can do around Kata Tjuta, the Walpa Gorge walk is the shortest, talking approx 1 1/2 hours to complete at a leisurely walk (2.6km return), while stopping to take photographs and admire the view. The sides of the Gorge rise up hundreds of metres and create vast canyons and valleys where the wind whips through. Walpa means wind in Pitjantjatjara. There are many loose stones and it can treacherous under foot, a good hiking stick and hiking boots are a must.
Don’t discount the area near the car park at the entry to the gorge, there are many plants, bushes and flowering shrubs, with animal & bird life a plenty. Keep an eye out for eagles and lizards.
Valley of the Winds
The Valley of the Winds Walk in Kata Tjuta is a seven kilometre beauty that makes a loop to two spectacular lookout points. The entire Valley of the Winds Walk takes about three hours and is not so easy-going, as they claim and can be treacherous underfoot with loose stones and gravel and many uneven surfaces.
Things of note
Do it in the early morning to avoid the heat, even in winter, as there is little to no shade and the wind truly does howl through the area.
There is nothing else in the area, apart from a drop toilet spot a few kms away. The nearest food or water is back at the Cultural Centre, so make sure you carry enough food and water with you, especially on warm – to hot days.
Good sturdy foot ware is a must, they claim neither walk is that difficult, but believe me, your knees and ankles will notice the uneven surfaces and loose stones and pebbles.
It is a long drive back, after a long grueling walk so take care if driving yourself, consider a short nap before driving back through the park. And don’t forget to stop along the way for photographic delights from various different angles.