Uluru (Ayes Rock) And Kata Tjuta (Olgas)

Trip Start Apr 01, 1990
Trip End Aug 21, 2002

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Flag of Australia  , Northern Territory,
Monday, August 19, 2002

We were up pretty early as we were as usual in for a big day. Taking in the view from the Curtin Springs camp ground one could be forgiven for thinking they were gazing on the fabled rock, when in fact we were still 90 odd km away. We were actually looking at Mt Conner which in itself is quite spectacular however is not famous like Uluru which has the distinction of being a single solid rock or monolith. Unfortunately we did not have time to take in Mt Conner or to visit (camel treks operate from Curtin Springs) so we had breakfast and headed down Lasseter Highway to Uluru.

We were not long on the road when Uluru came into view as the only distinguishing feature on the horizon. The landscape is very flat, with the rock standing out, guarding its kingdom and earning a substantial place in Aboriginal dream-time. The rock started out as Uluru an aboriginal name and renamed Ayers Rock to commemorate its discovery by European explorers, but in recent times was returned to its rightful original name. Uluru is the most recognizable monolith in the world and because of its location, its ability to turn on unbelievable displays of colour and beauty is a photographers joy. Lets say it is the Elle of the rock world. However it is also claimed to be the biggest monolith in the world, wrongly as it turns out as this honour falls to Mt Augustus in Western Australia. Unfortunately for Mt Augustus it has growth on it (a bloke who has not shaved rather than an Elle) and does not have the ability to turn on shows to the same extent, hence not as famous. Of course Uluru was also thrust into the world spotlight as the scene of a dingo taking baby Azaria and the wrongful murder conviction of her mother Lindy.

At the base of the Rock is a very expensive resort, Connellan airport and the township of Yulara. We stopped long enough to fuel up as we planned to continue directly on our journey after the Olga's.  We paid our national park entry fee and found ourselves standing at the foot of the climb up the rock face. This is a dilemma for visitors, the traditional aboriginal owners the Anangu have a belief that the rock should not be climbed and ask visitors not to, out of respect, however only actually close the climb in times of weather extremes. We do respect their rights, as we do all religions and cultures, and will always attempt not to offend however we also do not follow and agree with everyones beliefs. We climbed the rock.

The climb was exhausting, when one is at the top and looks out over the view, while reflecting on how stuffed you are, you appreciate that 1.6 km is a big climb. From the top the tourist buses take on a matchbox toy look, and the Olga's some 40km away are very clear. We were surprised that even though it was calm at the bottom of the climb it was very windy at the top. At one point Avan turned into the wind causing him to lose his footing, luckily on a reasonably flat section, and while not overly dangerous, was a good reminder to stay alert. We would suggest that the climb is very strenuous and should only be attempted by the fit, and able to balance the cultural need, and be prepared to feel euphoric and humbled by the experience. For those not wishing to attempt the climb it is possible to take a walk or tour around the base of the Rock and learn of the various carvings caused by wind and water, rock paintings and their aboriginal significance.  

Next stop was the features known previously by the European name the Olga's now the aboriginal Kata Tjuta. They feature 35 domes spaced over an area of 35km. The domes reach up to 546m high. This area also has high aboriginal significance and much has restrictive access however an allowed walk of 6 km which wends its way through the domes is accessible. We felt we still had enough gas in our tanks after the Uluru climb and set off on the walk (PS thankfully we took a water bottle) at a brisk pace. The walk takes a route through the 'Valley of the Winds' a narrow, and as the name suggests, wind tunnel between the dome structures. The walk is well worth doing and while the landscape is hot and dry it has a stark beauty, and on the day we went, plenty of roos and bird life.     

The road we are to take which leads to the NT/WA border is TJUKARURU road but once it crosses the border into WA it becomes the Great Central Road. Tjukaruru Road commences at the Olga's and as it was getting late and it still 140km of outback road to our planned night stop at Lasseter's cave we set off. 

Footnote: The Uluru- Kata Tjuta National Park is UNESCO World Heritage listed. Uluru is featured in the book Unforgettable Places to See before you die.
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