Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Uluru - Kata Tjuta National Park

It's an image every Australian has been overexposed to. Uluru. The Rock. I didn't have high expectations, but when I first saw it on the horizon, I was still left breathless. It really is awe insprining.

Uluru - Kata Tjuta National Park, NT

The rock climb. I'd be interested to know, how many Australians who visit the park do the climb. Is it mostly internationals? The climb is not noted on the map amongst the other walks, the distances and times are not mentioned. There is no information on how to access the walk, only a request not to climb it, and safety advice should you wish to, including listing the symptoms of a heart attack.

The national park was created in the 1950s, the land excised from the adjoining Aboriginal reserves created in the early 1920s. In 1983 the federal government agreed to close the climb. In 1985 the park was returned to the local indig people, on the condition the land be leased to the government - to be jointly managed as a national park - and they reneged on the climb - it was to remain open. There is no longer any real discussion as to whether the climb should be open or not, it now a matter of when it will be permanently closed. Last year, in a draft of the next 10 year management plan, it was recommended that the climb should be permanently closed.

Uluru or Ayers Rock? Well, since dual naming was officially adopted in Australia in 1993, either, both. So in December 1993 Ayers Rock was renamed Ayers Rock / Uluru. Then, in 2002, the order was reversed, Uluru / Ayers Rock. Most Australians though simply refer to it as Uluru. The road signs are a real mixture, near Alice, Uluru or the dual name. Closer to the rock, they revert to using Ayers Rock. In the national park, exclusively Uluru.

Then there is Yulara, the town created in 1984 some 20 kilometres from the rock. When it opened, all the existing motels, airstrip and other buildings at the base of the rock were demolished and the land remediated. The road signs point to Yulara, but when you get there, you are left wondering if you are about to turn off into the town or not. There is no mention of the Yulara name, it is called Ayers Rock Resort. The town was created by the NT government - hotels, motels, caravan park, supermarket, all the hallmarks of a designer town. When the town in it's enterity was divested of by the government to a private company in 1997, that company adpoted the name Ayers Rock Resort. No Uluru, no Yulara.

Modelling the socks and sandals look, my feet were too injured for those hiking boots, I hiked the short circuits of Kings Canyon, Kata Tjuta / The Olgas, and a walk I was particularly looking forward to, the base walk around Uluru.

The Valley of the Winds walk, through Kata Tjuta / The Olgas, is pretty special. We are not overexposed to images of the Kata Tjuta, so it is all a pleasant surprise. Just 30 kilometres from Uluru, each visible from the other, they are similar, yet very distinct from each other. Uluru is an inselberg, the term monolith now frowned upon. Contrary to popular belief, it is not Australia's largest inselberg. Just down the road, it number three, Mt Cromer. Think western movie, Utah, the granite plug look. Over in WA, Mt Augustus claims the first prize. 1,000 kilometres inland from the coast, it looks every part a mountain, covered in trees and plants, and nothing like a single rock. Uluru, the second biggest, but every bit rock. Kata Tjuta is a different type of rock to Uluru, Uluru being granite, Kata Tjuta being conglomerate. It is a a series of 36 steep-sided domes, plenty of trees and grasses spread throughout it. Pretty special walking.

I saved the best till last for my four month holiday. I had been looking forward to this, the 10 kilometre base walk around Uluru. To see it close up, to see the waterfalls and vegetation that benefits from the rainfall running off the steep sides.

Uluru Base Walk map

Download kml file of the Uluru Base Walk to view in Google Earth or adapt to use as a navigational aid in a GPS unit

The Valley of the Winds Walk, Kata Tjuta

Download kml file of the Valley of the Winds Walk in Kata Tjuta to view in Google Earth or adapt to use as a navigational aid in a GPS unit

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