Wednesday 21st December 2016
We were collected from our hotel gates at 0545 this morning (Friday 16th December) by the coach which sped us (and 12 fellow adventurers) on our 450 km journey towards Yulara, or Ayers Rock Resort, some 20 km from the rock itself, on the outskirts of which lay our campsite for tonight.
Google Earth picture showing Yulara, Uluru and Kata Tjuta The campsite was well secluded, away from the resort hotels.
A well-organised permanent campsite, with hot showers and flushing loos.
The big white building in the middle is the amenity block. The long white building just above our tent was the kitchen and dining room for our group, and here we stopped for lunch of barbecued chicken and salad, prepared by the camp host, Tarny (presumably short for Tanya?!) In our group besides us were an English couple and their two boys of about 8 and 10 years old, two middle-aged French ladies who turned out to be our neighbours on more than one occasion, two young couples, one from South Korea and the other Italian, and a young French girl. An interesting mix and a nice group of people.
After lunch we piled into the coach for the drive to Kata Tjuta. It is also known as The Olgas, after the highest outcrop, Mount Olga (546m), named such by the benefactor of Ernest Giles, the first European to see the 36 monoliths in 1872, in honour of Queen Olga of Wurttemberg, daughter of Tsar Nicholas of Russia. The geological origins of the rocky outcrops are similar to that of Uluru, both having been produced by a combination of sedimentation, folding and erosion. The first sedimentation is around 600 million years old. About 300-400 million years ago the whole area was compressed – folded, faulted and uplifted. Kata Tjuta was tilted upwards by 20 degrees, compared to Uluru which was tilted by a whopping 85 degrees. It may once have been a single monolith much larger than Uluru, its present form a result of erosion.
It is known that Kata Tjuta is rich in indigenous art, but it is a significant and sacred site to the indigenous people and only a small area is accessible to visitors. In heat above 36 degrees, the longer Valley of the Winds walk is closed, and so we (thankfully) did the shorter walk into Walpa Gorge. The redness of the soil and the rock was emphasised by the light, and the heat as we got further into the gorge was intense.
First sight of Kata Tjuta from the coach. Closer up, the red of the rock and the soil really stands out.
We left the coach to bake in the sun... and set off along the path to Walpa Gorge.
The rock is actually grey, but oxidisation turns it red. A hot, dusty walk with not an iota of shade. No water in this gorge.
Actually, there is...but not much! Looking back as we near the viewing platform.
From the viewing platform, the light changing as the afternoon wore on. Not too good at this selfie-stick lark yet, but it’s fun trying!
We lingered a while at the viewing platform, taking in the peace and tranquillity. It was easy to understand why the first people here thought it a special place.