Hi there,

For those of you arriving late to this intrepid family journey through the heart of Australia, you may like to start reading at the beginning. Unfortunately, Blogger organises posts with those most recently created appearing first. So, if you jump in at the top, you're not going to get the full experience of this gritty blow-by-blow account of our adventure. As such, I suggest using the navigation window above and head down to March, where the first part of this journey began. Hopefully, by the end, you’ll be hooked. From there you can scroll upwards to continue the journey. I can’t wait to see how it turns out!

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Saturday, 22 April 2017

Kata Tjuta (the Olgas)


…So, picking up where we left of:

With Uluru well and truly experienced, we turned our attention to the great rock’s equally breathtaking cousin – Kata Tjuta (akas The Olgas).

[left] Kata Tjuta (The Olgas), [right, distance] Uluru

I hadn’t heard of these magnificent ancient structures before Nat took the boys and I by the hand and showed them to us. For those, like me, who don’t know a great deal about Kata Tjuta, this is  series of orbs shaped mountains, in a range or gargantuan sizes from very big to massive, cut from a similar stone as Uluru. However, whereas Uluru is largely fine grained sandstone, Kata Tjuta is a conglomerate of fine sands, rough pebbles and fist sized boulders – all of which has been smashed together to form an exceptionally coarse rock. But, as with everything, no matter how tough and strongly built a rock is – given enough time, rain and wind, all things erode beneath the unrelenting forces of nature. And that is exactly what Kata Tjuta is. Rough sandstone that has been carved up by the passage of time. But, for us, who live in exactly the right epoch, these marvels are a series of chasms and near vertical cliffs – capped with almost perfectly dome-shaped roofs.

Kata Tjuta – up close and personal…

Climbing through the gorges, which have been pared from these once cohesive mountains, we were treated to a stroll back through geological history. Layers of light and dark sandstone, interspersed with chunky seams of boulders and other debris – some pieces easily as big as a car – were able to be glimpsed.

Our first foray into Kata Tjuta took us up an easy incline through Walpa gorge; to a peaceful enclave at the end of the track. All along the trail, massive sandstone boulders – with their characteristic composition of fine, coarse and fist sized rocks were strewn about. Tracing the cliff face upwards, it was easy to see the hapless holes from which these chunks of rock were ejected. Typically, each boulder shaped hole lay in the path of a dried up waterfall, which had picked away over many years at the fine threads that had once secured these boulders into the cliff– until they had finally given up their futile fight against gravity and tumbled to their current resting place. I hesitate to say final resting place, as I’m sure these boulders will continue to be worked on intermittently by occasional rainfalls that find their way to the valley floor. Long after I’m gone, I have no doubt that they will continue to be eroded into their constituent parts – each piece ending up as part of the great red desert surrounding this place.

Natural beauty… or, potential death from above!

Having wandered to the end of the gorge, we made our way home for the night – only to return for a better look the next day. However, on our second excursion, instead of heading straight down the road to the chasm, we turned left several hundred meters before the entrance and followed the signs past a rest area to a longer hiking trail known as the valley of the winds.


Here lies our path

This moniker, The Valley of the Winds, comes from the first kilometre or so of this six kilometre trail. The winds howl through the tightly packed walls of this second gorge, before opening on to a peacefully sheltered trail, coiling its way through rocky terrain. Along the way there were many massive cliffs, as well as large open spaces – some densely packed with trees, but others dotted only with barren red and grey rocks and occasional grasses. Lizards of all types seem to find this patch of the earth an appealing place to call home. These critters ranged from small, but unusually aggressive, skinks – to long thin bodied goannas, with tails that whipped behind them as they were dislodged from their sun-drenched rocks – usually, to scuttle out of the way of trampling feet.

Back off… this is my turf!

The recent rains of January had also brought out the best of the desert flowers. Everything from small blue delicate blooms, with fluffy white inflorescent clouds – to substantial and hearty deep purple blossoms, were dotted along the path.

While the sheer walls provided a perfect backdrop for these colourful blooms, the enclosed nature of the chasm walls also allowed for some excellent echoes to resonate throughout the void of the ravine. Thus. Ben and Daniel proudly ignored the colourful and transient flora of the region, to focus their efforts of making the longest and loudest echoes possible… I’m surprised another immense boulder didn’t come tumbling down from the rocky heights above at their shrill calls!


Flora of Kata Tjuta

Towards the end of the hike, the path erupted into a grassy fen – and then out into a hidden, sheltered valley nestled amongst these elliptic mountains. From here the full splendour of Kata Tjuta could be seen. Surrounding us on all sides were the domed rocky structures, framed starkly against a brilliant blue sky.

Nearly there, boys…

All around were these weird rocky eggs of red and orange thrusting out of the earth; each nestled closely to it neighbour, like a throng of campers telling stories around a fire pit at night. The lizards didn’t seem to notice any of this though – as they kept up their vigilant watch for two young lads stomping along the trail, making piles of stones to pass the time whenever they got far enough in front if their parents and had to wait for the backpack encumbered pair.

Who needs to see the trail markers…

The trail ended with a steep climb up from the valley floor, and a sudden descent into the car park once again.

Hot and tired from the long and undulating hike, we returned to the camp site and jumped in the pool – a perfect way to finish the afternoon. That evening, as the sun was setting over Kata Tjuta, Ben and Daniel’s new found campsite friends dug out their telescope and invited us all the gaze at the stars. Unfortunately, the moon was full, and so most of the stars were washed out in the bright glow of our nearest satellite. However, Jupiter and four of its many moons put on a brilliant display for us. The boys also returned to looking at our own moon time and time again.

The remaining days around Uluru were spent revisiting the unexplored parts of both of these giant rocks in the desert. Sunsets and sunrises provided a magnificent setting for viewing these austere mounds, as they wore many different cloaks throughout the day. Until, sadly, it was time to pack up the camper trailer and head out on the open road once more. The journey that faced us wasn’t a long one, as we were travelling only a short distance to Kings Canyon some few hundred kilometres down the road. And so, that’s where we’ll pick up again next time.

A ‘sign’ of things to come!

Bye ‘d bye,

Gregg


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