The best part of my trip to Uluru was not actually Uluru at all but rather Kata Tjuta. The thing about Uluru is that you can get Uluru fatigue. I had lived in Australia for almost one year when I set off on my trip. Every souvenir shop has a rack full of postcards with the rock and every guide book has an entire section devoted to it. It is an Australian icon. But by the same token, it has a lot of hype to live up to. After travelling for days in a sweaty dusty minibus, I couldn’t help but feel a bit disappointed when I finally arrived. Uluru was magnificent rising out of the horizon… but it was a rock.
Kata Tjuta on the other hand was a lovely surprise. I had heard of “The Olgas”, the European name for the formation. But I had never bothered to look up a picture or learn anything about the formation. It was an embarrassing omission. When I saw Kata Tjuta listed on my travel itinerary, I thought of it as a sideshow to the main event.
Kata Tjuta is a series of large rock lumps that near Uluru. In fact, they are actually the same rock. Both are made from sediment from the from the Mount Currie Conglomerate; Kata Tjuta is formed from larger rock that was dumped in the area by a river while Uluru is formed from sand build up. Even though it is not a single formation like Uluru, it is no less impressive. The area is awe inspiring.
Unfortunately, because it is sacred to the local Aborigines, photography is restricted. In the Valley of the Winds, where I hiked, photography is completely forbidden. Elsewhere, photography is permitted, but photos must contain at least three full domes. This essentially places off limits all the photos I took. Oddly, I don’t remember seeing any signs providing notice of these restrictions.
We rushed from our sunrise viewing to be the first group to enter the Valley of the Winds. Our goal was to get there before wildlife was scared off by the tramping tourists. Plus, on days when the forecast or actual temperature is 36°C or above, the Valley of the Winds hike is shut down at 11:00AM.
When we arrived a few solo hikers had already entered and the animals had been scared off. So we took a breather at the mouth to the valley and then individually and in small groups began our hike.
I went by myself. The solitude inspired reverence. I could understand why the Aboriginal people of the area held the area sacred. Like Uluru, the land surrounding the rocks is lush by desert standards. And the walk though the bush placed me in the midst of the formation.
Even if I could post the photos from the walk, they just wouldn’t do it justice. The pictures either caught a single dome or, in capturing a series of domes and reducing them to a small image diminished their majesty.
Kata Tjuta is part of the national park that houses Uluru. As such, it is included in the two-day A$25 admission. It is a must see.