The drop in temperature was quite noticeable during the night. The high teens didn’t feel anything like an Irish/UK summer. We were all pretty cold and sluggish when alarms went off and the floor of the shower blocks felt like ice. We need to remind ourselves of washing our hair in glacier water or when the boiler broke in the flat years ago. It was a unanimous vote that fleeces came out of the duffel bag – something that we thought we had put behind us along the east coast. Aussie sitcoms, documentaries and films owe us an apology for false advertising about glorious hot weather and the outback being a scorched, desolate, barren landscape. But, to turn the other side of the coin, the desert oaks, spinifex and upside down plants brought life and colour, contrasting their shades of green against the rich red of the soil.
We pulled in to the car park sunset viewing area for an early morning shot of Uluru. Katherine completely freaked out a French family when she spoke to them in French to offer us taking a photo of them in front of the iconic rock. I think I took a beautiful photo of them to the side with the landscape framed perfectly. It was not the same when they returned the favour and the dad aligned the three of us up so that the image captured a sliver of sandstone either side of our heads. Completely deflated with our photo we drove down the road to the cultural centre. It wasn’t at all what I was expecting, with the information on the walls being the same as that along the base walk of Uluru, no displays with tools, diet (plants, animals or food), or even items preserved over the generations. There was a video playing that was made by the traditional owners and a few old photos near the cash register in the gift shop. I absolutely love the paint work, the first time I saw the Aboriginal style was on a t-shirt a friend of the family brought back from Oz years ago. But, at extortionate prices for small pieces and Katherine having a thing about dots and circles, there was no real point looking around the three separate art shops.
The equally impressive Kata Tjuta (the Olgas) were about 50km away from the cultural centre towards the Western Australia border. There was talk of us doing a road trip just to say we had visited all the states. But, we discounted it even before we saw the road which was a 4WD trip into the wilderness. The Olgas are a striking group of domed rocks huddled together in a small area. Kata Tjuta, means ‘many heads’ and the 36 boulders shoulder to shoulder form deep valleys and steep-sided gorges. They are of great importance to the Aboriginal men of the area, not sure if it was Pitjantatjara or Yankuntjatjara or for both tribes (who refer to themselves as Anangu), but one is asked to stick to the tracks. So, off we went on the 7.4km Valley of the Winds loop tracks.Supposedly one of the most challenging and rewarding bushwalks in the park, it winds through the gorges, giving excellent views of the surreal domes and traversing varied terrain. It wasn’t particularly arduous, but the loose rubble and occasional steep sections made it a slow walk more than a hard one. We were spoilt… the sun trap in the valley meant we could take off the fleeces and the sights were spectacular. One spent as much time looking backwards as forward, for the different angles on the rock face revealed new features and each one just as breathtaking. I think the best section would have to been the long section on the plains under the domes, with views to the horizon, lizards basking on the rocks and not a single soul around except for the three of us. With some grumpy people complaining that ‘Oh Mon Dieu, these are not steps’, on the last section getting close to the car park, and Katherine deciding to try and swallow a fly it, the walk was over before we knew it. Lunch was a quick affair, with the flies being a real nuisance and swarming around face and food constantly. So, we had a predicament about what to do: return to the sunset car park for a good spot, or do a bit of another walk at the Olgas. With Katherine being a little worse for wear from her flu-like symptoms, we opted for the car park. Setting up the new camera took a bit of time and getting it to sync with the wifi on the phone was a stressful few minutes. But, we had a hilarious time taking photos in front of Ayers Rock with us able to press the button on the phone to take several shots without running back and forth to the camera. Without a usual sunset due to cloud cover, we went to the shop, had an early dinner and drank wine while the Ninjas wrote blogs (nice change) and I sorted out camera batteries and SD cards before bed.
Saturday 20th August 2016