Kata Tjuta is sacred to the Anangu people, who have inhabited the area for more than 22,000 years. The sandstone domes of Kata Tjuta are believed to be around 500 million years old. Can you believe that? It is something that filled our minds and our hearts as we stopped and pondered that for a while.
Aboriginal owners continue to have a strong connection with their land here, and still look after it.
Kata Tjuta is translated from Pitjantjatjara Aboriginal to mean “many heads” and that’s exactly what it looks like.
It seems incredible to us now, that for many years Kata Tjuta was known widely as “The Olgas”. The same as Ayers Rock thankfully now called the proper name of Uluru.
Here’s an excerpt from Wikipedia:
The alternative name, The Olgas, comes from the tallest peak, Mount Olga. At the behest of Baron Ferdinand von Mueller, Mount Olga was named in 1872 by Ernest Giles, in honour of Queen Olga of Württemberg (born Grand Duchess Olga of Russia, daughter of Tsar Nicholas I). She and her husband, King Charles I of Württemberg, had marked their 25th wedding anniversary the previous year by, amongst other things, naming Mueller a Freiherr (baron), making him Ferdinand von Mueller; that was his way of repaying the compliment.
On 15 December 1993, a dual naming policy was adopted that allowed official names consisting of both the traditional Aboriginal name and the English name. As a result, Mount Olga was renamed Mount Olga / Kata Tjuṯa. On 6 November 2002, following a request from the regional Tourism Association, the order of the dual names was officially reversed, to Kata Tjuṯa / Mount Olga.
Some people admit they find Kata Tjuta to be more mesmerising than her more famous neighbouring Uluru, and once we had been in and around both places we could say that is somewhat true for us.
The highest point is 546 meters, which is 200 meters higher than Uluru (both higher than the Eiffel Tower!).
The circumference of Kata Tjuta is 22klm, a lot greater than Uluru’s 10klm. So you can see that there is a big difference in magnitude of these 2 significant Australian icons, and I can’t imagine as relaxing a walk around the base of Kata Tjuta like we did Uluru.
There are designated hikes throughout parts of Kata Tjuta and visitors are welcome to explore as long as instructional signposts are respected. We spent hours walking and climbing through the 7klm Valley of the Winds and a lot of it was much more challenging than I had expected. And more crowded than we would have liked, certainly more than we’d encountered at Uluru.
It was school holidays so the place was littered with surly teenagers not wanting to be traveling with their parents and whining toddlers with their squeaky voices. And then of course the poor parents, exhausted from cajoling and yelling at their kids.
We’d been recommended to arrive really early to start the walk before the crowds arrived, but we’re up for slower starts and so ended up mingling in with the “happy” families. When I say crowds, I don’t mean like lunch time in the Queen Street Mall, but just people around where you’d like there not to be.
Nonetheless, it was the most brilliant day of hiking and climbing through crevices, around canyons and over waterways and a great time of year to be there. A lot of up and down climbing in 28C July is better than 38C in Summer.
There were massive boulders that I thought I’d never be able to climb and yet somehow (with Dave’s urging and encouragement) I found a way forward and upward and then felt pretty good with myself, without too much complaining.
We crossed sturdy foot bridges over caverns and paused at thoughtfully placed viewing platforms. We were really surprised to find pristine natural water courses and lush green foliage in the most unlikely places.
Once we reached a summit the views seemed somehow more spectacular because of the effort involved in getting up to that point. The effort just kept on as we then had to push through and make our way back out.
Honestly, I didn’t know if I’d be able to walk ever again, my hips were screaming murder at me. Of course I had no choice but to keep going but at a much slower pace than our initial enthusiastic strides. And with not too much complaining 😉
We did take on the other walks in Kata Tjuta that were certainly less strenuous and yet equally as striking, but I’m so glad we made the effort for the Valley of the Winds. Once the burning pain subsides the memories last a lifetime. Little did I realise that we’d be pushing ourselves even harder in a couple of days at Kings Canyon.
I write this post from our hotel room in Singapore, as we start what we hope to be six months of meandering and exploring around South East Asia. Our Central Australia trip was one of the most memorable for us and rates at the top of our favourite travel experiences. I really will try to write more about the rest of that journey before I embark on chronicling our new adventures.