The Red Centre – Kata Tjuta / The Olgas

Following on the heels of an enjoyable day at Kings Canyon, our tour got up bright and early to continue our drive into the Red Centre. Despite being in the same area, the drives between the 3 major highlights are still considerable – our drive from Kings Canyon to Kata Tjuta was still over 200km long. Again, an immense area.

There isn’t much in the Red Centre, it is mostly flat outback scenery. So when something starts rising on the horizon, you take notice. This happened as we were driving towards Uluru and Kata Tjuta, and our tour driver said ‘Uluru on your left!’

As you might be able to tell, that is NOT Uluru, but Mt. Connor. It is often jokingly called ‘Fooluru’ as people will initially mistake it for Uluru as it is the only noticeable landmark rising from the Outback while you drive along the highway. Indeed, Uluru was still quite a distance away and we weren’t going to see Mt. Connor up close – it is on private land.

But we did glimpse another salt pan. This one we didn’t have time to explore though, the actual pan is quite a long distance away. Others started to head towards it…but turned back when they realized our 10 minute break would not even give them enough time to reach the edge.

Having already played around on a salt pan, I instead loved the sand here. It looked like paprika. Didn’t taste like paprika.

Eventually we made it to the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. After paying the considerable fee for entrance ($25/person for 3 days access), we ventured towards Kata Tjuta. We passed Uluru, but I didn’t bother taking any photos just yet – we’d be spending a lot more time there later. Instead, today was about the odd formations of Kata Tjuta.

Kata Tjuta is combined with Uluru as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s of the same type of formation as Uluru, but at different angles…and with more than one rock. It’s also considerably larger, rising at point over 500m above the surrounding plains.

We took the main hike through the region, which would take about 3 hours and give us the grand tour. The hike was called the ‘Valley of the Winds’.

Some sections we would climb over the raised rock in the valleys, but for a lot we were still on dirt and loose rock. Even here vegetation was present, though sparse.

Standing at the top of the Valley of the Winds, we get a great view onto some lovely greenery below, as well as more of Kata Tjuta in the distance.

A big group shot during our break. We got cookies to munch on and enjoy the scenery.

From there we walked down into the valley and outwards. How Kata Tjuta was formed is something of a geological oddity, and it was formed at the same time as Uluru (or around then). Some ~500+ million years ago.

In a very general sense, 800-300 million years ago there was a sea covering this area. During this time sand and mud deposited and the forces exerted caused a massive rock base to form. At certain events (earthquakes and such), the earth would buckle and fold, causing some of these rocks to break away and thrust up through the newer sand deposits in the sea. They were shoved up at different angles – the rocks of Kata Tjuta are angled upwards at 10-20 degrees from the horizon, while Uluru is nearly 90 degrees, so standing on it’s end. Eventually, 300 million years ago or so, the sea disappeared and the rocks that had been thrust up above the mud now rose above a great plain.

Walking around this area, the geology is baffling to look at but also mesmerizing. It’s again on a grand scale, as these rocks will tower hundreds of meters above you. They aren’t smooth upon close inspection but still give the appears of a relatively solid rock, just with pock marks and water grooves that have been worn in over millions of years of weathering.

Kata Tjuta was a fantastic place to visit. It gets hot during the summer, so visiting at winter time was ideal for me. 30C was more than hot enough to spend 3 hours hiking in, and by the end of our hike many of us were quite exhausted.

From there we jumped back our on bus and headed towards our evening viewing…of Uluru.

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