Kata Tjuta plays second fiddle to Uluru, her big brother. He dominates the national park they share. The Rock has become so well known overseas as an Aussie icon that it rivals the Sydney Opera House as “the” Australian tourist drawcard. Few tourists have heard of Kata Tjuta, even under their former name, The Olgas.
But, they are really missing out. Kata Tjuta is remarkable.
Today we are planning to take the Valley of the Winds walk into Kata Tjuta. It is one of two walks that are still open to tourists. Most of Kata Tjuta is closed now, except to the local aboriginal people who come here to carry out their traditional ceremonies.
From a distance, Kata Tjuta seems to bubble up out of the depths. There are thirty six curvy domes in this cluster of rocks. She shares her colours with Uluru, the same dark red rock, the same sultry burgundy shadows.
It is another cool, bright day. We trudge up the sandy path from the car park to the start of the walk. It is not busy, but there are a few walkers here. Some Germans stride by dressed in full walking regalia, carrying walkers’ sticks. A group of twenty somethings straggle past, chatting in French and Spanish. A Scandinavian couple stroll along, she has one bare foot, one clad in a walking shoe. It is not clear why.
We are lucky, the cool breeze seems to be keeping the flies away. No need of the fly net today.
As we walk into Kata Tjuta, we are immediately in awe at the size, shape and texture of the red domes. We pass into a channel between two towering walls of rock. The sound of the wind grows louder but changes in nature. I hear waves breaking on a beach. It’s a calming, relaxing sound, like the womb noises modern mums play their babies as a lullaby.
Although it is 11 o’clock in the morning, the sun has not risen high enough in the sky to warm all of the rocks inside the channel. As we walk the sun begins to scale the last rocky barrier and sets a dramatic contrast between the dark shadowy rock on our left and the glowing pink red slope, bathed in sunlight on our right. We pick our way carefully between the two, yin and yang.
The path turns to the right and we are walking into a valley, lush and green around a dry creek bed. Zebra finches flit through the trees around us. Budgies wheel and turn, flying between us at head height to investigate who goes by.
The huge red rocks cradle us. We are held in a Kata Tjuta embrace. This is a magical place. I feel the same nurturing power I felt at Tnorala, the site of the celestial impact. I have heard some people suggest that sites that are still cared for by the ceremonies of their local people retain a power that was once felt across the land. Perhaps there is some truth in that.
Looking up as we walk along, we see curves, hollows, rounded caves and pools high up in the rock. The varied shapes work as one to sing a harmony in stone. A note called in one cave is echoed in a hollow below and forms a chord with a triplet of pools on the opposite wall. The rock sings in the wind.
We climb further into the centre of the red domes of Kata Tjuta.
We scramble up steep, slanting faces of rock and stand in a cavern that glows pink red then darkens to shadowy blue black. Birds fly high above us and perch on ledges on the rock faces, singing their songs of freedom.
The path becomes steeper and more challenging. The rock falls away beside us to another fertile meadow filling the rocky landscape with trees and grasses found only here in this unique ecosystem.
We climb higher and higher. Knees begin to feel the strain as we lever ourselves up the rocky path. We can’t see the top of this climb, but we can hear the voices of walkers ahead of us. Finally, we reach the summit of this testing red rock track and look through a natural window on to an expanse of green, a heavenly valley. We gaze out from the darkness of our perch to the sunlit valley below, like birds preparing to take flight.
Sitting still and reflecting on the view, we become cool after the exertion of the climb. Time to move on. We complete the walk, drinking in the unique sights and sounds of this place.
Eventually we find ourselves back on the path to the car park. We pass walkers who are on their way in and smile a greeting. They will understand when they return.