Kata Tjuta National Park, Northern Territory

Our journey through the Red Center Way continued post-sunrise at Uluru with the drive to Kata Tjuta National Park, 50 km north west of Uluru. It is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site so we anticipated another amazing experience. Our plan was to explore Kata Tjuta via the full circuit of the 7.4km Valley of the Winds walk. I anticipated a walk that would engulf me in another stunning patch of the Australian Desert. It had been suggested that the Valley of the Winds walk was an alternative to climbing Uluru and offered awesome views of the landscape from two lookout points along the circuit. The walk was sometimes steep, rocky and difficult and had been rated a rugged class 4 hike (high level of difficulty) but overall was I was able to negotiate it with reasonable caution on the steepest rockiest sections. The temperatures were warm but not near the point where they close the walk due to danger of heat and dehydration. Kata Tjuta is 36 red rock domes that make up “The Olgas.” Kata Tjuta is a aboriginal Pitjantjatjara word meaning ‘many heads’. The Olgas has historical significance and offers amazing hiking. The views awere breathtaking and were worth the effort of driving over and taking the walk.Another great benefit was it was much less crowded than Uluru.

Reaching the peak of the valley was the most challenging part for me. We again followed our “sandwich formation” with Nick and Luke the top crust, myself the filling, and Miriam the crust at the bottom. The first section was a gradual 2K cobbled, mildly rocky and graveled moderately difficult walkway to the Karu Lookout.

At that point the track split and we headed counter-clockwise to the Karangana Lookout. We were headed for a space between the domes at which point we could see below to the Valley of the Winds. During this climb to the lookout we were surrounded on all sides by steep rock faces. There were many steps, some steep rock domes to climb, challenging decent (I find that descending is much more treacherous the climbing and ll my falls and skids are on loose gravel and stones on rock steps and paths. I walking between sheer walls, up steep “staircases” and felt exhilarated by the challenge.

 

Leaving the lookout we had to negotiated some steep rocky terrain to enter the Valley of the Winds.The valley crossed the plain below through the dry grass, dry creek beds, spinifax, and desert flora and fauna and it becomes a true experience of the Australian outback. I had that feeling of being in the middle of no where. I could see towering rusty red domes, wildflowers, a clear blue sky, gentle winds and a variety of outback vegetation. This desert atmosphere is dry, very dry and though the sun was not yet of the scorching as one might experience in the summer months I felt a real need to consume minimally a liter + of water to keep hydrated. The dry air evaporates the moisture around me and even with the water I managed to get dehydrated. The one advantage of this, though I don’t recommend it as a technique, is not having to duck into the sparse bushes to eliminate the excess water!!! I wonder how all of the plants can survive I wonder how all the plants survive in this arid rocky area?

We all agreed at the end of the walk that it was exciting, challenging and much preferred as a hike to the flat terrain of the circumvention of Uluru. We still had to break camp and wanted to be on our way to Watarrka (Kings Canyon) and had a 350 km yet. So we managed to be out and the road by one o’clock, backtracking first the 50k to Ayers Rock campground and then on to the Lurijata Road to the Kings Canyon Resort. When I hear the word “resort” I mostly think of an moderately upscale hotel/motel with many amenities. The outback resorts are much more rustic in my opinion. We checked in and headed to the communal camping “lawns.” We had several areas to choose from. One was near a noisy gas station and bar, another right by the pool and the camping area for the busloads of high schoolers, and the third was a large empty red dirt lot, spare of trees. There was little vegetation (nothing resembling what I think of as a lawn) on it and the dirt was so fine I kept thinking of chili powder or paprika. We opted for the far end of the red dirt lot which had a spindly tree for shade and we hoped protected from the worst of the noise. We finally found the communal stoves for cooking in between a dreary looking bank of mortal room. The car hood was our table and we found ways to not have to sit in the chili powder. Here we needed to make sure all food was secured in the car due to the dingos roaming the area As it was getting dark we realized the “loud couple” and there loud friends were setting up camp right next us in the middle of this dirt field. We were a bit dismayed at the inconsiderateness of there rather noisy conversations and robust laughs that went on pat our bedtimes. Fortunately we all were tired enough to eventually fall asleep.

 

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