We were hoping to catch a sunrise at Uluru, so the official wake up was at 5 am, with departure from camp promptly at 5:30 am. I surprised myself by waking up when my tent mate did, and having a shower and washing my hair that morning, despite the chilling temperatures. After a quick cold breakfast and some lovely hot tea, we headed to Kata Tjuta (also called The Olgas), a “lumpy bumpy” collection of rock formations, a short distance from Uluru. The Kata Tjuta, like Uluru, are sacred sites for the aboriginal people, and the Kata Tjuta is used in male initiation ceremonies.
Aboriginal women are not allowed in the area, and us tourist only have a limited access to the site. Uluru is available for a full base walk, but there are sections which are culturally sacred and where photography is restricted. Also, the native people ask that no one climb Uluru as it is sacred to them, and from what I understand, few people do. When we walked around the base the previous day, we saw the spot where the climb starts. Nope. No way. Nu-huh. You couldn’t make me climb up there even if you paid me! It is steep, slippery, and very dangerous and people have died making the climb. On our tour the previous day, the climb was actually closed due to the rain which would have made the climb stupidly irresponsible, rather than just really risky.
We hiked around one of the standing rocks, and through a narrow path between two of the rock formations, a distance of some 6 km. Even though Uluru is not the smooth, unbroken rock face you might imagine, Kata Tjuta was even more varied in landscape. As the sky was completely overcast that morning, we had skipped sunrise at Uluru, unfortunately, but it meant that we could head to Kata Tjuta earlier. We started our walk when it was still pre-dawn and the sun came up somewhere behind the rocks while we trekked. These rocks are best seen in dawn or dusk lighting, which brings out the glorious many hued oranges, browns, and blacks.
The Anangu tribe revere both Uluru and Kata Tjuta as a kind of illustrated mythology, where their stories have been carved in the rock by wind and rain over millennia. On our climb up one cliff face, I spotted a crevice in the rock wall that looked decidedly labial. Our guide later pointed it out and explained that the tribe uses it in the sex education of the young men going through their secret initiation ceremonies. Not sure if he was serious, after those “pygmy possums” he spotted in a tree branch earlier (and which turned out to be creepy tiny toy koalas). Good story, though!
After a lovely morning of walking, we had burritos for lunch, with a bean veggie option, and then drove to our next camp site in the King’s Canyon for dinner. The distance between the two is about 320 km so with stops it took us about four hours. We arrived at the next camp site only to find out that it had flooded due to the rain and our guide had to scramble about for alternate accommodations. We ended up sharing a camp site with another tour company, which was both good luck and back luck. The good luck was that these tents were an upgrade from the basic ones the day before, with nicer mattresses and even pillows! The bad luck was that there was no fire pit or communal get together spot in the middle of the camp as we had the night before. And we had gone through so much trouble gathering an enormous pile of dead wood from the road side on our way over there! Our original camp site was at a spot where the restrictions for open fire didn’t apply for some reason, but the alternate camp site had to follow the rules and thus, no fire.
But, our alternate camp site was at the King’s Canyon village, so there was a pub! After our dinner and settling in our tents, we headed to the pub to listen to vowboy hatted and booted singer and drink lots and lots of beer. Well, the others did. I had two small Glenfiddich whiskeys and headed back to the tents around 9 pm. We would be having another early morning and a long day ahead of us, so I made the sensible, if boring choice.