Posts Tagged ‘Uluru’

Kata Tjuta Sunset (c) JP Mundy

Perhaps the most spectacular walking in the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park is at Kata Tjuta – just 90 km from Uluru through spectacular red dune country. Sitting on the landscape like a group of huddled sisters, it’s no wonder Kata Tjuta translates as ‘Many Heads’.  The rock here is very different to the coarse sandstone of Uluru – it’s a munched up conglomerate which once formed part of the sea bed – yes, the land in the centre of Australia was once covered in ocean. The mind boggles!  Large boulders are spewed out from the rock at irregular intervals, looking much like glacial moraine spattered over the land. Here there is the opportunity to wander between the towering walls of the impressive Walpa Gorge, to again find permanent waterholes carved into the base of the rock. But perhaps my favourite walk of this whole weekend was the Full Circuit walk which climbs for 8km up and through the aptly named Valley of the Winds, then descends treacherously down through a gap in the rocks to walk out around the dry back country, with huge domes of red on either side of you.  In the late afternoon it was nothing short of magical. The walk is closed off at the first lookout point (Karu Lookout) when temperatures are forecast to reach 36C, so winter is the perfect time to pull on your books and head for the Red Centre.

Kata Tjuta backcountry on the Full Circuit Walk

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I had the fantastic good fortune to have a long weekend for my birthday up at Uluru-Kata Tjuta (Ayers Rock and The Olgas) National Park in the Northern Territory last weekend.  I have wanted to visit there for many years and all the stars were finally in alignment.  The weather is just perfect for walking there at the moment – blue skies and 20-21C in the day, down to freezing at night – which means getting up for the obligatory sunrises involves many layers, gloves, beanies, scarves – not what you think of normally in the middle of the desert! The flight into Uluru via Sydney is absolutely spectacular, taking you across the red ‘channel’ country and expansive white salt lakes – you can really see where the imagery in the Central Desert ‘dot’ paintings comes from when you see the land from above.

View from the plane en route to Uluru

I kicked off with a 12km sunrise walk around the base of Uluru itself, and chose a guided option so I could learn about the Anangu creation stories of this incredible rock, which is thought to extend for 6km beneath the earth.

ImageImage It really is worth taking this stroll with a guide, so that you can understand a little about Country and about how important it is NOT to climb Uluru, which is a sacred place for the Anangu and which causes hurt and sorrow every time someone climbs it. At least then, you can make an informed choice about whether or not you choose to climb the rock.  The base walk, though, is more than fascinating – I didn’t realise there were lush groves of river red gums and permanent waterholes at its base; ‘teaching caves’ full of rock art and stunning gorges.  There was also a family group of button quail wandering around under foot and we saw both eastern red kangaroos and wild (feral) camels as well.

ImageImageThe Red Centre has had 3 years in a row of exceptional rainfall, so the land is looking just incredible at the moment – perfect timing for a visit if you can manage it. The colours of Uluru are everything you have imagined and much more – I was overwhelmed.

Sunrise colours on the Uluru base walk

While it can be expensive at the Yulara resort, just outside the National Park, and the only accommodation option, I stayed at the youth hostel in a lovely warm dorm with lots and lots of Americans, and there is also a campground, which means you can have an affordable visit.  One of the ‘Only in Australia’ moments for me had to be when a bloke wandered into the pub with his camel for a drink in the evening.  As you do!


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